God’s People, part 99: Ezekiel

Read Ezekiel 2

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear.” (2 Timothy‬ ‭4:3‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

img_1078Part 99: Ezekiel. The prophet Ezekiel is one of the most influential prophets in the Old Testament, especially in Christian Theology. All that we know about the prophet comes from what what was written of himself in his eponymous book of prophecy, which records six of his prophetic visions.The prophet in the book is identified as Ezekiel, son of Buzi, a priest. Thus, Ezekiel was born into a priestly lineage. His visions began when he was 30 years old.

In his visions, Ezekiel is referred to as “son of man” and he is in direct dialog with God, who “appeared like a man” and was seated on a throne. Recognizing it was the LORD, Ezekiel fell prostrate, face down to the floor. Then the voice of the LORD spoke out to him and told him that he was to go to the people of Israel and warn them of all that God was going to show him. The reason he had to “go” to the people of Israel was because he was the first wave of exiles that were taken when Babylon deposed Jehoiachin as king and replaced by Zedekiah. Thus, at the time of his visions, Ezekiel was living in exile in Babylon on the bank of the Kebar River.

In his visions, he is shown the destruction of Jerusalem and the destruction of God’s Holy Temple. He is shown many of the inhabitants of the city and surrounding area being destroyed by a foreign invader. There was much bloodshed and much horror throughout the city. On top of that, Ezekiel also prophesied that the surrounding nations that had tormented Israel throughout the centuries would also be destroyed. Those nations included the Ammonites, Moabites, Edomites, Philistines, the Phoenecian cities of Tyre and Sidon, as well as Egypt.

Of course, Ezekiel’s prophecy also had a promise of redemption as well. God was allowing these things to happen to a wicked people who had long forgot their God, evidenced by their corruption, oppressive regimes, and execution of injustice. God promised that, one day, Jerusalem and the Temple would be rebuilt and the glory of the LORD would return to be with God’s people forever.

As is usually the case, the people were too outraged at Ezekiel’s message despite the hopeful message. God warned him of this, “You must give them my messages whether they listen or not. But they won’t listen, for they are completely rebellious!” (Ezekiel‬ ‭2:7‬ ‭NLT‬‬) Indeed, God was right, the did not listen. Ezekiel spent his prophetic career incessantly prophesying and acting out the destruction of Jerusalem and its Temple; however, the rulers and leaders ignored his warning and opposed him for speaking out.

The truth is that people in power don’t like to be told that what they are doing is wrong. Instead of listening to God’s prophets and messengers, they tend to put forth their own prophets and messengers who falsely counter the truth in order to maintain the status quo. To people in power, the truth of God’s Kingdom is inconvenient because it means that they no longer get to be on top. In the Kingdom of God, all people will be on equal footing and a level playing field, for all people were created equally and are loved equally by God.

We see this resistance to truth in our own day and age. Just recently, the United States of America’s Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, used the Apostle Paul’s words in Romans 13:1 to justify the enactment and enforcement of the evil, cruel, and harmful policy of separating children from their parents. These people are not only immigrants crossing our borders illegally; rather, many of them have legal asylum status. With the Church (e.g. Roman Catholics, United Methodists, Presbyterians (PCUSA), Southern Baptists, and even the Rev. Franklin Graham) rising up against this policy, Sessions misused Scripture to justify what he and the adminstration are doing. This not the first time politicians have wrongly quoted that Scripture to justify their evil, for it was that Scripture and others that long kepts black people enslaved.

Let us, right now, remember that God sends prophets for a reason. The prophets’ words may be harsh sounding, they may pierce like daggers and feel ungracious; however, they are absolutely words of grace meant to give us pause and guide us to repentance when we are wrong. If we humble ourselves and heed the warnings given to us, we will avert many of the destructive consequences of our sins; however, if we don’t repent and give our lives over to God through Jesus Christ our Savior, we are destined to face an eternal God who knows our hearts and knows the vastness of our sins. Let us, in the name of Jesus Christ, repent and stand up for justice so that all may know the glory of the LORD.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” —Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

PRAYER

Lord, help me to be humble and honest about my sins. Forgive me, in Jesus name, and strengthen me to stand up for righteousness and justice. Amen.

God’s People, part 98: Exiled

Read Lamentations 4

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“On the ninth day of the fourth month the famine became so severe in the city that there was no food for the people of the land.” (2 Kings 25:3 NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

Circle_of_Juan_de_la_Corte_-_The_Burning_of_Jerusalem_by_Nebuchadnezzar_s_ArmyPart 98: Exiled. I always love when people say that they can’t read the Bible because it is “boring” and it “puts them to sleep.” It makes me laugh because it couldn’t be further from the truth. The Bible is comprised of 66 books, within which we find genres such as history, poetry, philosophy, action, adventure, mystery, drama, romance, suspense, and certainly horror. Don’t believe me on the last one? Then let us look at the events that led to exile.

As you know, from when we discussed King Zedekiah, Nebuchadnezzar II besieged Jerusalem because Zedekiah had double crossed him and allied himself with Egypt. It is easy, if we are not absorbing what we are reading, to gloss over this event as if it happened in a flash and was no big deal. If we are not intentional we can read it like we read a paragraph in an American History textbook summarizing the Battle of Gettysburg.

So, if you didn’t already, I want you to read 2 Kings 25:1-21 and Lamentations 4. Read them slowly and carefully and you will, no doubt, find your skin growing cold and your blood curdle in your veins. What happened during the siege of Jerusalem is nothing short of gory horror. The terror of the people of Judah can still be felt, their screams still echoing in the collective memory we find in etched in the Bible.

Flavius Josephus (b. 37 AD – d. 100 AD), a Jewish historian who was working for the Romans, recorded that the siege lasted 18 long months. On the other hand, the author of 2 Kings tells us that Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem, allowing nothing to enter nor to leave, on January 15th of the ninth year of Zedekiah’s reign. That siege didn’t end until July 18th of the eleventh year of Zedekiah’s reign according to the New Living Translation of the Bible. If you do the math, that means that the siege lasted somewhere between 18 and 30 months.

As you can imagine, it didn’t take long for people to starve. Lamentations paint the grisly scene in elaborate detail. If you are squeemish, you might want to skip past the next part:

The wailing of hungry children endlessly filled the air. People were begging and crawling through the garbage dumps to find anything they could to eat. The wealthy were as ragged as the poor, their faces blackened with dirt and soot. Once fattened by their wealth, they were now nothing more than walking skeletons.

The luckiest among the citizens of Jerusalem were killed by the sword or in some other violent fashion; yet, many were not so lucky. The living wasted away to nothing, slowly starving to death. Things got so desperate that the starving mothers began to cook their babies, eating the meat off of their little bones in order to survive. The Lamenter does not let us know whether the babies were alive or dead when they were cooked, but the horror of it is not something you can not easily shake off.

Boring, right? The kind of history lesson that just puts you right to sleep. Sarcasm aside, this was a horror that Jewish people still have in their collective psyche to this very day. From that point on, the Jews lost and never really gained their sovereignty back as a kingdom, minus a short century or so under the Hasmonean Dynasty. While Israel did become a nation again in 1948, the nation of Israel now bears little resemblance to the Kingdom it once was.

The city fell, Zedekiah tried to escape but he and his sons were captured. He was forced to watch his sons be slaughtered in front of his eyes, which were then gouged out of his head. He, and many of the Jewish aristocracy were exiled from their city, taken in captivity back to Babylon. The golden age of this great kingdom, the kingdom that David forged centuries earlier, was no more. The Lamenter gives us a clue as to why: “Our king—the LORD’s anointed, the very life of our nation—was caught in their snares. We had thought that His shadow would protect us against any nation on earth” (Lamentations 4:20 NLT)!

From Saul onward the Israelites placed their hopes in a human king to protect them, rather than relying on, trusting in, and obeying God. The question I would like us to reflect on is this, are we any different? Do we place our trust in God? Do we? Do we trust God enough to obey what God teaches us, or do we save the Bible for church, but place our trust in our nations’ leaders to protect and save us? In my observation, the latter seems to be the case by and large. If you are someone who places your trust in human leaders, presidents, prime ministers, kings, queens, or dictators, I would like to challenge you to reflect on the Siege of Jerusalem and the exile of God’s people.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
There is only one Lord and Savior: Jesus Christ. All others will fall extremely short every time.

PRAYER
Lord, steer me away from putting my trust in human leaders and help me to place my trust solely in you. Amen.

Episode 22 | Special Episode: The Time is Now

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-m7zyn-931f32

In this special episode of Life-Giving Water Messages, Rev. Todd R. Lattig and Rev. Sal Seirmarco discuss depression, anxiety, other mental illnesses and suicide. In this discussion, Todd and Sal get personal about their own struggles, as well as converse about the need for church communities to participate in destigmatizing and ministering to people who are suffering. The time for conversation and action is now.

IMPORTANT NOTE: We recognize that it is not just those who have mental illness, suicidal ideations, and/or have died by suicide who suffer; rather, the family and friends of those people suffer as well. While we do make brief mention of the families of suicide victims, and bring up resources (e.g. NAMI, see below), we thought we would mention it here as well. Often such people also endure depression, guilt, shame and other things as a result of losing someone they love in such a way. While we don’t address this at length in the podcast, we want to be clear that we believe the church, and society, should be reaching out compassionately and lovingly to them as well.

While this episode does discuss where our society, and the Church, are failing people (and their families) who are suffering…we do so to raise awareness and to spark dialog on this very pressing and important issue. The idea is not to guilt or shame people for the past, but to challenge all of us to rise up to address this issue in the present. We all do what we believe to be right in the moment, but we can always learn and grow. The past is past. The present is what matters and that will affect the future. The time is now. 

We welcome respectful and constructive engagement on Twitter.

Todd’s Twitter: @trlattig

Sal’s Twitter: @Sal_S1979

EPISODE REFERENCES:

  • The song at the end of this episode is entitled, “Find Me” and was written by Gene Taylor. Used with permission. Please click here to check out Gene Taylor’s Facebook Page.
  • If you are experiencing depression and/or are having suicidal ideations, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at: 1-800-273-8255
  • Click here to visit the web page for the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).
  • Click here to read Paul Tillich’s sermon, “You Are Accepted”.
  • Click here to find out more information on Brennan Maning, and click here to check out “The Ragamuffin Gospel” on Amazon.
  • Click here to check out the film, “Ragamuffin”, on the life of Rich Mullins

God’s People, part 97: Obadiah

Read Obadiah 1

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE “So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making His appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, ‘Come back to God!’” (2 Corinthians 5:20 NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

obadiah_tissot_640x425Part 97: Obadiah. You may be scratching your head right now and thinking, “Wait a minute, didn’t he already write about Obadiah?” Indeed, I have written about Obadiah; however, that Obadiah is not to be confused with this one. The first person with that name that I wrote about in part 70, if you remember, was a majordomo (aka someone who spoke on behalf of the king and was in charge of his affairs). He was, in that role, employed by the wicked King Ahab and sent by the king to speak on his behalf to the prophet Elijah; however, we also learned that this majordomo was a devout follower of the LORD and he was helping to save the prophets from being captured and executed by the king.

This Obadiah, however, was not the same person. This one was a prophet in Judah during the war with Babylon and the exile that followed it. His prophecy was written sometime after the exile and was directed not against the Kingdom of Judah; rather, it was against the Kingdom of Edom. In order to understand the reason for this prophecy, we need to understand who the Edomites were. This is where all of the lineage in the Bible becomes important to understand.

If you recall, Isaac, of whom I wrote about all the way back in part 9 of this series, had two sons: Esau and Jacob. Jacob had stolen Esau’s birthright and, thus, became the heir to his father’s lineage and estate. Esau, resentful toward his brother, hunted Jacob down for years and years hoping to kill him. While the two brothers did reconcile, Jacob went on to become the successor and Esau did not. Instead, Esau went on to become the ancestor of the Edomites, a related but lesser “cousin” to the Israelites who descended from Israel (aka Jacob).

Thus, the Edom was related to Judah (named after one of the 12 sons of Jacob). Yet, when the Babylonians besieged and entered Jerusalem to conquer it, the Edomites joined forces with King Nebuchadnezzar II and helped him loot the city. They rejoiced at the destruction of Jerusalem and they helped the Babylonians intercept and kill anyone who was trying to escape. Thus, Obadiah cried out, “Because of the violence you did to your close relatives in Israel, you will be filled with shame and destroyed forever.” (Obadiah 1:10)

This, for us, should be a reminder that our actions and attitudes do not end with us; rather, the carry on and on for generations and generations. Jacob wrongly stole the birthright from his brother Esau, who resented him for it. Regardless, the Israelites become the prominent people and the Edomites (descendants of Esau) became their subjects. During the reign of the kings of Judah, Edom was their vassal state. Thus, just as Esau became subject to his baby brother Jacob, so did the Edomites become subject to the Kingdom of Judah.

It is important for us to realize that our attitudes toward others, and the way we treat them, don’t die with us. We teach our children to think and act that way and we pass our biases and our sins right down to them. Their actions and attitudes eventually get passed to their children and so on and so forth.

What’s more, it is important for us to realize that apart from the grace of God, through Jesus Christ, there is nothing we can do to change the effects of sin on our lives and the lives of those we influence. With that said, if we just turn our hearts and our minds to Jesus, if we let Jesus take over and become Lord of our lives, then we can overcome the sin and begin to reverse the effects of it in our lives, in our children’s lives, and in the lives of people living in the world around us. In Jesus Christ, we can overturn the kingdom of sin and become ambassadors of the Kingdom of God.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY “I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation, and an assurance was given me that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.” – Rev. John Wesley

PRAYER Lord, I forgive me of my sins and navigate me toward your righteousness. Amen.

God’s People, part 96: Zephaniah

Read Zephaniah 3:1-13

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” (Romans‬ ‭3:23‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

 Part 96: Zephaniah. In order to talk about Zephaniah, we need to travel back to King Josiah. It was under the great reformer king that Zephaniah was a prophet. Again, we know very little about Zephaniah himself, other than what is revealed of him in the eponymous short book in the Hebrew Testament. Here’s what we know of him for sure. Zephaniah was the son of Cushi, who “was the son of Cushi, son of Gedaliah, son of Amariah, son of Hezekiah” (1:1b). If you follow the generations, Zephaniah was the great-grandson of King Hezekiah.

The first part of verse 1 states that Zephaniah was a prophet under the rule of King Josiah. Given the fact that Josiah, himself, is known to be a great reformer, it seems that Zephaniah was his greatest advocate. He, no doubt, spoke up against the critics that would have risen up against the reforms that Josiah was pushing to have put in place.

Zephaniah’s prophecy spoke against idolatry, pride, corruption, and those who “remain complacent in their sins”. His prophecy also pointed fingers at the surrounding nations and/or kingdoms that have defiled Judah with their idols, their religious practices, and their bloodshed against God’s people. Finally, Zephaniah held Jerusalem, the seat of power in the Kingdom of Judah, accountable. He called the city “rebellious and polluted…the city of violence and crime.” He charged the city with haughty arrogance, a city that refuses correction and that refuses to put its trust in God. He proclaims that its leaders are like roaring lions who hunt their victims.

‭‭He also brought charges against Jerusalem’s judges, which he said were “like ravenous wolves at evening time, who by dawn have left no trace of their prey.” The prophets, he proclaimed, were arrogant liars who are merely seeking their own gain; the priests defile the Temple by disobeying God’s instructions. It is easy to get hung up on the “wrathful God” language used in Zephaniah and other prophetic texts; however, when one understands the abuses of power and corruption that the prophets are crying out against, one can understand why God would be angry. ‬‬‬‬

Such corruption, arrogance, unfaithfulness and injustice brings about consequences and justice will have its day. Zephaniah does not leave us with a wrathful ending, either. God is just. God is merciful. God is looking for people to return into a right relationship with God. Forgiveness is available to the people who will humble themselves, admit where they have gone wrong, and change. In fact, that is all that God is asking for. The warning, itself, is a plea for people to repent and change.

Each of us have not been as faithful to God as we ought to be. Each one of us falls short of God’s glorious standard. God does not want destruction to fall upon us, but wants us to live life and live it abundantly; however, our arrogance, pride, unfaithfulness bears fruit that is counter to what God wants for us and the consequences are on us, not God. This isn’t just true individually but on us as a national people. Corruption, injustice, oppression, arrogance, deceitfulness and idolatry are everywhere in our nation and we, as a people, are being called to repent and to turn back to God. In Christ, through whom all things are possible, we can begin to reflect the honesty, justice, liberty, humility and right worship of God.gh

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“A man’s conscience, like a warning line on the highway, tells him what he shouldn’t do – but it does not keep him from doing it.” —Frank A. Clark

PRAYER

Lord, help me to humble myself so that I may see where I have strayed. I repent of such times and ask you to, in Christ, lead me back to you. Amen.

Can you believe it?

It was on May 26, 2017 that I began the “God’s People” devotion series. If you recall that started with part 1: Eve and was followed up by part 2: Adam! One year and two weeks later, we’re up to the 95th part and we haven’t yet gotten to the New Testament! What a joy and a blessing it has been to walk through the Bible and its major (and some minor) characters with you. I pray that you are finding as much meaning in reading this series as I am in writing it. God bless! Here’s to an ongoing journey through the Bible!

God’s People, part 95: Habakkuk

Read Habakkuk 1

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“I will climb up to my watchtower and stand at my guardpost. There I will wait to see what the Lord says and how he will answer my complaint.” (Habakkuk‬ ‭2:1‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

  Part 95: Habakkuk. An obscure prophet, of whom little is known, Habakkuk is believed to have lived around, or somewhere following, the rise of the Babylonians (aka the Chaldeans). Living during the seventh century BCE (ca. 612 BCE), he was an early contemporary of the prophets Jeremiah and Zephaniah. Thus, Habakkuk saw the rise of the Babylonian Empire and the imminent danger that empire was to Judah. 

His short prophetic book consists of a series of questions and answers, concluding with a song of praise to God. It starts off with Habakkuk question God. “How long, O Lord, must I call for help? But you do not listen! “Violence is everywhere!” I cry, but you do not come to save. Must I forever see these evil deeds? Why must I watch all this misery? Wherever I look, I see destruction and violence. I am surrounded by people who love to argue and fight. The law has become paralyzed, and there is no justice in the courts. The wicked far outnumber the righteous, so that justice has become perverted” (Habakkuk‬ ‭1:2-4‬ ‭NLT).‬‬

In this, as you can plainly see, the prophet was openly questioning the working of God. He reminded God of his cries for help and then accused God of not listening. He accuses God of ignoring the need for salvation and justice, leaving the wicked to far outnumber the righteous and, as a result, allowing justice to become perverted by wicked people.

Habakkuk has been praised by scholars for his literary genius, believing that he intentionally wrote his letter in this question and answer style in order to deliver the message with dramatic effect. Whether these prayers to God were prayers he actually prayed, or whether these prayers were articulating the serious questions of the “righteous” people of Judah, Habakkuk gives voice to the lament against God’s seeming inactivity in the midst of such corruption.

More than give voice to this kind of lament, Habakkuk actually gives people permission to lament in such ways, to pray in such ways, to pour out one’s heart to God in such ways. The prophet to does not record God’s response in a way that rebukes the inquirer; rather, God entertains the questions and gives answers to the specific work that God is doing.

This pattern happens in the second chapter and, in the third chapter, Habakkuk praised God for the work that God was doing, for God’s justice, and for God’s enduring presence. Thus, after a series of questions and answers, Habakkuk leads the reader into a song of praise of God, reinforcing the reality that God not only can handle our questions, but God will answer them.

This challenges the view of God that many people have, the view that God is distant and hard to approach. Have you ever felt that way? Have you ever found yourself questioning God? Have you ever felt guilty for questioning God? Habakkuk teaches us not only that God will enact justice and hold the wicked, the greedy, and those who abuse their powers accountable, but that God listens to us and does not get angry when we ask questions.

The challenge for us is to grow in our knowledge of God so that we can strenghten our relationship with God. The better we get to know God, the more we honestly and openly communicate (aka pray) with God, the more comfortable we will be with asking God the tough questions. The more we commuicate with God the better we will get at listening to God as well, and hearing God’s response. I pray, if you haven’t already, that you experience such growth.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“Those who are able to see beyond the shadows and lies of their culture will never be understood, let alone believed by the masses.” —Unknown Author, possibly summarizing “The Allegory of the Cave” from Plato’s Republic

PRAYER

Lord, lead me into a deeper and stronger relationsip with you, one where I ask questions and listen for answers. Help me to see you clearly, so that I may see truth beyond the shadows that surround me. Amen.

God’s People, part 94: Nahum

Read Nahum 2

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“There is no healing for your wound; your injury is fatal. All who hear of your destruction will clap their hands for joy. Where can anyone be found who has not suffered from your continual cruelty?” (Nahum‬ ‭3:19‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

  Part 94: Nahum. Since there is literally nothing biographical to go on, regarding Nahum, I am not going to focus on the prophet as much as I will the prophecy. In Nahum’s three short chapters, we find a scathing denunciation of the city of Ninevah. Nahum’s words are swift, pointed, sharp, violent and, at times, his language is rather vulgar: “‘I am your enemy!’ says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. ‘And now I will lift your skirts and show all the earth your nakedness and shame. I will cover you with filth and show the world how vile you really are’” (Nahum‬ ‭3:5-6‬ ‭NLT‬‬).

In order to understand the language used in the prophecy, one has to understand the city and the kingdom it was spoken against. Most of you probably remember the city of Ninevah from the narrative about the prophet Jonah. If you recall, Jonah was sent there to pronounce God’s wrath, and imminent destruction, upon the residents of that city. According to Jonah, the city collectively repented, put on sackcloth and turned their hearts to God, thus receiving God’s mercy and forgiveness.

The likeliness that the Book of Jonah offers a historical record seems fairly slim, as the text seems to have been written as a satirical allegory. What is clear is that by the time of Nahum (writing a couple of centuries later than when Jonah lived), Ninevah seems to be just as wicked as it was back then. It was a wealthy and powerful city, as well as the capital of the ancient Assyrian Empire (modern day Iraq). The Assyrians were a militant and brutal Empire that had conquered many kingdoms, including: the Chaldeans, Babylonians, Medes, Persians, Scythians, Cimmerians, and the Northern Kingdom of Israel.

What can be said about the Assyrians is that they were saber rattlers, militant, and boasted of a powerful military force. They were seemingly unstoppable and were feared by the entire region. Yet, there strength became their undoing…their vulnerability…their weakness. What’s more, Nahum foretold that such disaster would befall them for all of their wickedness, militancy, and cruelty.

Shortly after Nahum’s prophecy, the Chaldeans, Babylonians, Medes, Persians, Scythians, and Cimmeriancs joined forces in an alliance that brought down the Assyrian empire. Many in the city were massacred or driven out. Archaeologists discovered unburied skeletons at the site of ancient Ninevah, evidence that such a seige of Ninevah, and such an end to the Assyrian Empire, was truly a historical event.

This should remind us all that the larger something is the harder it falls. Think of all of the major empires in the world: Assyrian, Babylonian, Persian, Greek, Roman, etc. Each of these Empires, as powerful as they were, fell tremendously as a result of their power and over-ambitious reach. Nahum reminds us that God favors the weak over the strong. According to Nahum, it was God that brought down the Assyrian empire for its evil ways, its wickedness, its militancy, and its cruelty. It was God that put an end to this powerful empire, through the unintended consequences that came out of its military conquest.

This should be a red flag for Judeo-Christians who live in powerful countries. Many Christians today see hyper-nationalism, military might, and saber rattling to be the direction God has called us in. Many Christians are celebrating, or at least justifying, the separation of children from their migrant families. Many Christians are calling for schools, homes and churches to be weaponized. Many Christians believe that their nation’s interests (no matter which country they’re from) should be put first at all costs. Many Christians believe that the end justifies any means.

Yet, Nahum warns the reader that God is not on the side of boastful, militant, powerful nations, or peoples, who use their might to promote their own self-interests. Rather, God calls us to be peacemakers, to put our faith and reliance on God and not in our weapons of death and destruction, and to witness to God’s kingdom through justice, mercy and humility. The challenge for us is to evaluate our own beliefs and to measure them to what the prophets, such as Nahum, teach us about God. Do our beliefs align with God, or do they stand in opposition to God? I pray we honestly reflect, repent, and adjust as need be.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

Which do you put first, God or country? Whichever you put first is what you owe your allegiance to, everything else is subordinate to what you prioritize.

PRAYER

Lord, help us to put you first in our lives. If other things are in alignment with your will, so be it. Grant us the clarity to discern so that we can do what is right in all things. Steer us clear of anything that is against your nature. Amen.

A biweekly devotional