NAHUM | Week 3: Great Injustice - Greater Comfort
Topic: Old Testament Passage: Nahum 3
Christopher Rich – March 11, 2018
NAHUM | Greater Comfort| Wk 3
Great Injustice – Greater Comfort | Nahum 3
Introduction | If God created Good what went wrong?
Good Morning Welcome to Damascus Road where we are Saved by Jesus Work, Changed by Jesus’ Grace, and Living on Jesus’s Mission. Today we begin a brief series on the Book of Nahum titled, Greater Comfort. We are going to spend three weeks walking through this old testament prophetic book learning about the nature and character of God and how He gives us greater comfort in the midst of great pain, chaos, and injustice.
Recap The Mission- Generations have passed since Jonah reluctantly came to Nineveh preaching a message of God’s Deeper Mercy. In Jonah’s day Nineveh was given the opportunity to repent of their ways and worship and the do! God grants them grace and they are spared as everyone from the least to the greatest turns to follow the God of the Bible. But this act of contrition does not endure and a century later Nineveh does not fear or worship the God of the Bible but instead worships themselves and strikes fear and loathing into the hearts of each nation or people they come in contact with their violent conquests. Nineveh represents man’s war against his fellow man. A second prophet, Nahum, who’s name means “comfort” passionately and artfully describes the coming fall of this city, this time without hope of the execution being stayed. In this, we see despite what can seem like the unending reign of violence, oppression, and injustice our God will come with His mighty hand bringing righteous vengeance and justice for the purpose of giving His people Greater Comfort. While this is an “oracle concerning Nineveh” The message is for God’s people in that present age and this one who have been living in the perpetual questions about God’s involvement in human history that seems more defined by great brutality against each other rather than greater comfort of God’s presence. God is alive and active. God is patient and powerful. He creates good, loves His people and hates sin. God is active in the storms of nature and human history and promises rest from both.
When good cities fall there is great sorrow from those who are fleeing oppressive regimes (Paris to the Nazis in WWII, Saigon to the communists in Vietnam), but when a wicked city that has violently terrorized legions of people for centuries falls “all who hear the news about (it) clap their hands”. There is a rejoicing that happens when evil ends and justice is served, as free people exhale from the tense threat of injustice.
PART I | Great Injustice | Nahum 3:1-4
Woe to the bloody city, all full of lies and plunder— no end to the prey! 2 The crack of the whip, and rumble of the wheel, galloping horse and bounding chariot! 3 Horsemen charging, flashing sword and glittering spear, hosts of slain, heaps of corpses, dead bodies without end— they stumble over the bodies! 4 And all for the countless whorings of the prostitute, graceful and of deadly charms, who betrays nations with her whorings, and peoples with her charms.
Woe is pronounced to Nineveh, a city defined by bloodshed, cruelty, and systemic injustice. Violence is seen in piled bodies. Deception, plundering, and spiritual adultery were more common in this city than any other city on the planet. It must end. Woe to a city of blood. No single city in the world at the time was more defined by cruelty and systemic injustice than Nineveh. I say systematic because there are always injustices that happen on a small scale or that impact an individual/community/family, but this city had injustice woven into the fabric of how their society was structured. When you suffer injustice but you can appeal to a higher authority you have a sense of hope. When injustice is baked in there is despair.
There was Violence (1-3) Bloody city. There were so many victims of Nineveh’s violence it seem as if there was no end to those preyed upon, that the bodies piled up over and over. You have whips, horses, swords, are the tools of their foreign policy. Being the end of a weapon characterizes the experience many had with Nineveh like we’d have tanks, machine guns, drone strikes, etc. today.
Deception – Full of lies When they would advance on a people they would give both threats and promises. Hey if you don’t surrender we’re going to annihilate you. Hey if you just surrender everyone will have their own fig tree and drink their own cistern (you get 40 acers and mule) or just move to this reservation and you’ll flourish. They led under false pretenses for their own gain.
Plunder – They have grown rich but not by their own doing but by taking from other nations wealth and resources. They are not productive they are consumers. They are not creative they are conquerors. There wasn’t great tales of the goods flowing out of Nineveh that have blessed others outside of Nineveh.
Spiritual Adultery - Your going after all these other gods. There was a broad pantheon of gods they would serve but really the gods they imagined are ones that would serve their needs and desires for violence. So you had aggressive pain inflicting animal gods, there was no bunny or puppy gods. Do we not have a bit of a spiritual adultery problem? We worship ourselves. We invent new religions, we take a bit of the bible and twist it. We’re pluralistic. We’re tolerant (except concerning the exclusivity of Jesus Alone)
What types of systemic or inherent injustice exist in our culture today? We’re the nation that was ok counting African Slaves 3/5 of a person to ensure proper representation. We’re the nation that commits 3,000 abortions a day. We’re a place where human trafficking and prostitution are rampant. People are enslaved by addictions and opiates. We’re not blameless. We’re not always popular. Not every action we’ve taken has been righteous as a nation, so lets not pretend. If you lived in a village in Vietnam in the 60’s – 70’s how would you see us? If you were in the mountains of Afghanistan in the mid 2000’s and your only interaction with the US was drone strikes. I am not leaving, I love the US there isn’t a place on the world I’d rather be. Generations ago we vanquished Hitler from Europe. But just because Babylon was used to take out Nineveh doesn’t mean Babylon should be counted blameless. This is not be anti American, but it is to remember where our citizenship finally rests and what our true hope is to be. We are too comfortable with injustice sometimes because we don’t see it or don’t want to be exposed what is really happening in the lives of other image bearers. At times God removes the filters we’ve put up.
PART II |Great Exposure | Nahum 3:5-11
Nahum 3:5-11 | 5 Behold, I am against you, declares the Lord of hosts, and will lift up your skirts over your face; and I will make nations look at your nakedness and kingdoms at your shame. 6 I will throw filth at you and treat you with contempt and make you a spectacle. 7 And all who look at you will shrink from you and say, “Wasted is Nineveh; who will grieve for her?” Where shall I seek comforters for you? 8 Are you better than Thebes that sat by the Nile, with water around her, her rampart a sea, and water her wall? 9 Cush was her strength; Egypt too, and that without limit; Put and the Libyans were her helpers. 10 Yet she became an exile; she went into captivity; her infants were dashed in pieces at the head of every street; for her honored men lots were cast, and all her great men were bound in chains. 11 You also will be drunken; you will go into hiding; you will seek a refuge from the enemy.
We are exposed to how vile God sees sin. (5-7) It is good for God to expose evil and wickedness. He mocks it as useless and vile. It should not be celebrated. A century ago it was Upton Sinclair with “The Jungle” exposing the meat packing plants. Two summers ago we had hidden cameras capture how Planned Parenthood is harvesting baby parts to sell for research. What is our roll as Christians to expose injustice?
We are exposed in how few true relationships we have. (7) Nineveh was friendless and not mourned. People were ready to align with Nineveh to appease them. They were ready to ally with them for safety the same way deli or convenience store in a neighborhood run by the mob might throw in for “protection” but when Tony Soprano is final off’ed those who have been under their oppression don’t grieve. Our world was complex when we did go into Iraqi people tore down the great statues of Saddam Hussein. When he was found, tried, and executed and later Kaddafi there wasn’t a global grounds swell of sadness and mourning but of relief because those who are so violent to their own people have been finally wasted.
We are to be exposed in how we are no better than any other great power that has fallen. Thebes has fallen, Nineveh has fallen, we will fall. Thebes was a great rival city of Nineveh on the Nile. She had geographic defenses of a river like Nineveh, she had supposed allies. But when an army from Nineveh came to take them out it all failed for them. What makes us think we should be spared? If we cannot imagine God bring justice to us we can only look to others as examples. Thebes was a strong as any city at the time but it to fell into exile and was overrun. Some how we think we’re immune or that we think more highly of ourselves than we ought. We have the “Yeah but not me” rule. We see things happen to others and in our pride assume we won’t deal with the same challenges. When people under go some sort of tragedy what do they always say? “I never thought it could happen to me.” This isn’t to drive us to fear or terror. But it is to ask us who or what are we relying on as our refuge in the day of trouble? Do we just think it’s not possible for us to have to deal with this? We are all under the same God. We are all under the same judgement. We cannot assume or presume to believe we are so special we are exempt from the judgement of God.
“Though some offenses may pass at first without reckoning, yet if men presume on such immunity, those old debts may accumulate at compound interest and may still have to be met when the moment comes for the final settlement of the account.” -British Historian, Herbert Butterfield
PART III | Great Exodus – Extinction | Nahum 3:12-19 12 All your fortresses are like fig trees with first-ripe figs— if shaken they fall into the mouth of the eater. 13 Behold, your troops are women in your midst. The gates of your land are wide open to your enemies; fire has devoured your bars. 14 Draw water for the siege; strengthen your forts; go into the clay; tread the mortar; take hold of the brick mold! 15 There will the fire devour you; the sword will cut you off. It will devour you like the locust. Multiply yourselves like the locust; multiply like the grasshopper! 16 You increased your merchants more than the stars of the heavens. The locust spreads its wings and flies away.
17 Your princes are like grasshoppers, your scribes like clouds of locusts settling on the fences in a day of cold— when the sun rises, they fly away; no one knows where they are. 18 Your shepherds are asleep, O king of Assyria; your nobles slumber. Your people are scattered on the mountains with none to gather them. 19 There is no easing your hurt; your wound is grievous. All who hear the news about you clap their hands over you. For upon whom has not come your unceasing evil?
When it is time to settle up we’ll see all that we’ve been building and working toward under our own banners and pride will be brought to nothing. We are not as strong as we think we are. The fortresses we’ve built for ourselves are so shaky when they’re pressed they’re like a wispy tree ready to drop it’s fruit. For Nineveh and the Ninevites there was an exodus of the things they have placed faith in.
Military and defense fail – Wall has already been weakened and breached. The officers that stumbled toward the wall in chapter 2 are leading soldiers are effeminate (meaning non-aggressive) and weaker than warriors in the face of the invasion. Their faith was in their strength and it’s gone.
Trying to fix the wall as it’s crumbling. There is evidence of these small make shift walls inside the perimeter of the greater wall. How sad. Even in the face of overwhelming destruction they’re still trying to saved themselves from judgement. This is a pathetic desperate attempt to use what they have always know for security and try harder to make it work. It’s exhausting and futile. Rather they should Repent and rest. We do this too when we try to build up our own walls back up again after they’ve been shown to be useless. What has been breached in your life that you were relying on? How have you attempted to rebuild yourself?
Money/Commerce fails – With all the wealth flowing in so they kept multiplying their consumerism with merchants as many as the stars. Business was good you could get whatever you needed or wanted if you were in the city so you had a sense this was THE place of prosperity and flourishing (if you were a Ninevite) But without it they scatter. All their money couldn’t buy them security. Their faith was in their wealth and it was taken away.
Government fails – They had built a massive bureaucracy and now it’s all falling apart. Everyone is looking for leadership and can’t find it. We’ve got a system and strong government where are they? I thought they were civil servants? Now things are tough and we’re out. Their faith was in their leadership and it runs away.
The end comes fast and furious- We go from invincible to invisible quickly. When have you seen vitality turn to vulnerability in then quickly to the end? We can go from I’m good to He’s gone quicker than we think.
And everyone rejoices and claps their hands. Why? because we want Justice to roll down like rain. We want injustice to be washed away. We need something that will never fail to put our faith and hope in. God’s Love, Mercy, power, and Justice. We need to have our hearts taken out of Nineveh. We can visit Nineveh but we cannot live her or forget that this is not the end of the Story. God brought judgement for Nineveh, there was a great purpose in this dark and intense episode. In doing so He preserved a place and people from whom the savior and King Jesus would come from. It was in Jesus that God endured the greatest injustice of all. Sinless man, fully God who came preaching peace, healing, breaking spiritual bondage, feeding thousands, coming not to be served but to serve, who came so that we could have live abundant. Who fulfilled the religious laws of God perfectly hand had so much fun he was accused of being a glutton and drunkard. Yeah, we need to off that guy. He was unjustly tried and executed for us. He suffered injustice for us so we would not have to receive justice for our sin. He rose and He reigns.
PART IV |Greater Comfort | Revelation 19 & 21
God promises deliverance and justice and He will bring it. God’s foes will not prevail. God who redeemed Judah in her distress does far more than that for us. This a comfort to us We have evil all around us, but it will end. We sing a celebrate the end of evil. Better song and City.
Rev 19:1-4 | After this I heard what seemed to be the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, crying out, “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, 2 for his judgments are true and just; for he has judged the great prostitute who corrupted the earth with her immorality, and has avenged on her the blood of his servants.” 3 Once more they cried out, “Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up forever and ever.”4 And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who was seated on the throne, saying, “Amen. Hallelujah!”
There is a celebration for evil losing. Right you’ve got the famous picture of a sailor kissing a gal at the end of WWII. The war is over. The evil has been extinguished. There is great relief. Heaven celebrates with evil loses. But Heaven is not simply looking at justice completed and executed and reveling in it. Yes there is a welcome finality to evil being no more. This is a good song, this alone is worthy of celebration, they praise God for bringing justice where there was injustice. But we have an even greater song. The hits just keep coming like a good album where the songs just get better as it goes.
Revelation 19:6-9 | 6 Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. 7 Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; 8 it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”— for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. 9 And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.”
It’s one thing to be invited to the execution of a convicted murderer. There is relief, there is justice but there is not joy. We’ve been invited to the marriage supper (wedding feast) of the Lamb! This is Jesus with His people. It’s a celebration not of evil losing and ending but of righteousness winning and enduring forever. We don’t live and hope to flee this world but to work in it to expose injustice. I pray we would have a heart that breaks for the thing that break God’s heart. That we would be impatient and intolerant of injustice and actively work to end evil and renew where we have ability and influence. We need to have hearts that and invite everyone to the feast, not as guests but full citizens of a new city. We rejoice not only the evil has ended and a city is fallen but that Goodness and righteousness will rise in a forever city. We need constant reminding of this forever city while we live and work in this one.
Rev 21:1-5 | Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” 5 And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
This is a city built by blood. Not our blood or the blood of the evil but of Jesus shed blood in our place. However, is not full of lies and plunder but righteousness and treasure. It is a grand city. Not godless or full of idols but of God Himself dwelling with His people. Communion and presence restored. There is no mourning, there is no grief, there is no tragedy because tears are wiped away. No more tears. Because there is no more death, no more pain. No more injustice or violence because those former ways of great sin have been replaced with our Greater God. What City are you putting your hope in? our Nineveh Or His next? We don’t just need old evil to end we need to be made new again. We have a God who is making all things new, including me and including you when we Trust Jesus.