Wednesday, February 29, 2012
The name, Nahum, means "comforter."
He was from the town of Alqosh, (Nah 1:1) but we don’t really know where that is.
Some scholars put it in Assyria, others in Capernaum, which are two locations many, many miles apart.
He was a very nationalistic and patriotic Hebrew.
What we really know for sure is that this man wrote his book about 600 years before Christ. His book is about the downfall of Assyria.
Assyria is one of those empires that we come across in the Bible that invaded Israel. The capital city of Assyria was Ninevah. In different parts of the Bible, we encounter Assyria as the threat that MIGHT invade the land. Jonah has to deal with Assyria by going to Ninevah to tell them to repent.
In Nahum, Assyria is about to run its course and come to an end.
So let’s take a look at Nahum:
1 A prophecy concerning Nineveh. The book of the vision of Nahum the Elkoshite.
The word Elkoshite means someone living in Elkosh. We have no idea where that was. Some people believe it was the city of Capernaum, which figures prominently in the New Testament because CaperNAUM means Village of Nahum. But other scholars place this town near Ninevah – we don’t really know.
The word that is translated as “prophecy” in the NIV is translated in some versions as “burden.” That is an interesting phrase. “A burden concerning Ninevah.”
In the Old Testament the English word "burden" is translated from the Hebrew word massa.
It is used of a donkey's burden ( Exod 23:5 ).
Another kind of burden is described in Numbers 11:11, 17, where Moses is bearing the burden of the people and the Lord tells him to gather the seventy elders so that "they will help you carry the burden of the people." In that instance, the burden is not physical but psychological and spiritual.
The same Hebrew word is used in reference to a prophetic utterance describing a threat or punishment on a nation or people. Isaiah uses the term in chapters 13 through 23. Ezekiel, Jeremiah, and Zechariah all have similar sections. Recent translations have tended to render the word "oracle" instead of "burden." The basic concept seems to be that Israel's sinful actions have caused God to be burdened. Therefore, in righteousness he is compelled to judge them.
This burden of Nahum is emphasized by a five-fold invocation of God’s name.
2 The LORD is a jealous and avenging God;
the LORD takes vengeance and is filled with wrath.
The LORD takes vengeance on his foes and vents his wrath against his enemies.
3 The LORD is slow to anger but great in power;
the LORD will not leave the guilty unpunished.
Sometimes the words we use to describe God are limited and based on human nature, and such strike us a bit odd.
The Lord is jealous.
We think of jealousy as negative.
Jealousy is used in the Scriptures in both a positive and a negative sense. When jealousy is used as an attribute of God, it is always used in a positive sense. Think of God as being jealous FOR the people, not jealous OF the people. The language is based upon the relationship of husband and wife and is frequently associated with Israel's unfaithfulness to God.
One thing that is very clear in this five fold invocation of God’s name – God is serious and not to be trifled with.
That 3rd verse is haunting
3 The LORD is slow to anger but great in power; the LORD will not leave the guilty unpunished.
God is slow to anger, but that is not a weakness. That is a strength. Because the Lord is God, he does not act impulsively. But when he does act, beware, he does not leave the guilty unpunished. The sinners are doomed – period. At least in verse 3.
But Nahum moves from that to describe the judgment of God:
5 The mountains quake before him and the hills melt away.
The mountains and hills – those are permanent fixtures. They are not subject to destruction, they last forever – but before God, they will melt away.
6 Who can withstand his indignation?
That is a good question, and as we move from verse six to verse seven, it is nice to see some hope.
7 The LORD is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him,
However, in verse 8 we read that when it comes to Nineveh, their time has come to an end.
8 but with an overwhelming flood he will make an end of Nineveh;
What you have up to this point is a description of the power of God. God is able to destroy the people of Assyria and Nineveh. But God does not destroy or punish simply because He can, but because the people have sinned. The Book of Nahum describes the sins of Nineveh.
9 Whatever they plot against the LORD he will bring to an end; trouble will not come a second time.
Trouble will not come a second time?
Think back to Jonah. Jonah and Nahum are two interesting books.
Jonah focuses on the prophet, Nahum focuses on the prophecy.
Jonah is a disobedient prophet, but Nahum appears to be a very obedient prophet.
Jonah is about the repentance of Nineveh. Nahum comes 50 years later and is about the return of rebellion in Nineveh and the judgment against that nation.
As Nahum says, “trouble will not come a second time.”
10 They will be entangled among thorns and drunk from their wine; they will be consumed like dry stubble. 11 From you, Nineveh, has one come forth who plots evil against the LORD and devises wicked plans.
In the verses that follow Nahum alternates between the destruction of Nineveh and the restoration of Judah to show a contrast.
12 This is what the LORD says:
“Although they have allies and are numerous, they will be destroyed and pass away. Although I have afflicted you, Judah, I will afflict you no more. 13 Now I will break their yoke from your neck and tear your shackles away.”
14 The LORD has given a command concerning you, Nineveh: “You will have no descendants to bear your name. I will destroy the images and idols that are in the temple of your gods. I will prepare your grave, for you are vile.”
15 Look, there on the mountains, the feet of one who brings good news, who proclaims peace! Celebrate your festivals, Judah, and fulfill your vows. No more will the wicked invade you; they will be completely destroyed.
The one who was on top will be brought down. The one who is on bottom will be restored. This is the way God always operates. The Last will be First and the First will be Last. God humbles those who exalt themselves and exalts those who humble themselves.
Assyria was God’s instrument for destroying the northern kingdom of Israel, but it went to their heads and they attributed success to their own power.
As Nahum begins chapter 2, you really get a good sense of this doom of Nineveh, promise to Judah duality.
1An attacker advances against you, Nineveh. Guard the fortress, watch the road, brace yourselves, marshal all your strength!
2 The LORD will restore the splendor of Jacob like the splendor of Israel, though destroyers have laid them waste and have ruined their vines.
3 The shields of the soldiers are red; the warriors are clad in scarlet. The metal on the chariots flashes on the day they are made ready; the spears of juniper are brandished.
Nahum describe the enemy army approaching with their red (copper) shields and red uniforms. This was a picture of the bloodshed that was coming. The reference to the torches and lightning flashes probably refer to the light flashing off the enemy chariots, the soldiers' armor and their swords.
5 Nineveh summons her picked troops, yet they stumble on their way. They dash to the city wall; the protective shield is put in place. 6 The river gates are thrown open and the palace collapses.
So, everyone is posed for battle, but it is to no avail, Nineveh can't stand before God's wrath. The Babylonians, Medes and Scythians are God's instrument and God opens the way for them.
9 Plunder the silver! Plunder the gold! The supply is endless, the wealth from all its treasures! 10 She is pillaged, plundered, stripped!
The wealth taken in all her conquests is now taken from her. According to the historian Diodorus Siculus, there was so much loot that the enemy didn't pursue the fleeing army. The soldiers started grabbing everything they could.
11 Where now is the lions’ den, the place where they fed their young, where the lion and lioness went, and the cubs, with nothing to fear? 12 The lion killed enough for his cubs and strangled the prey for his mate, filling his lairs with the kill and his dens with the prey.
The Assyrians had a fascination with lions. There are several reliefs that have been found which show the kings hunting lions. It was important that a king demonstrate his prowess as a hunter because if he could rule the animal kingdom, then he would be a better ruler over the people. We might laugh at that, but we elect military leaders and athletes to congress.
Ashurbanapal – the leader of the Assyrians during better times – is seen on an ancient Assyrian work of art. He is on a lion hunt and offering the lions to his god.
The lion has climbed into the chariot and the king kills the lion with a knife. It looks like he has been tamed a bit with an arrow through the head.
What do you do after a hard day of hunting lions? Ashurbanapal offers them to his god. The Assyrians prided themselves on being better than the king of beasts.
Assyria is compared to a lion because this lion fetish and because of her fierce conquests. Because Nineveh was the capitol of Assyria it is called the lion's den. And thus it now makes sense why Nahum would ask “where is the lion's den.”
While chapter 2 has Nahum telling the HOW of Nineveh’s doom, in Chapter 3, Nahum steps back once more to explain the WHY of Nineveh’s doom.
Assyria's conquests were bloody and brutal. Her philosophy was that you got rich by plundering others. They exacted tribute from other nations for “protection.” You've seen this in movies where the mafia goon comes into the place of business and asks the owner if he wants protection so people don't throw fire bombs through the window.
Nineveh’s judgment is deserved because of its character. In the Ancient Near East, they would make a spectacle of the prostitute by exposing her and then kill her.
8 Are you better than Thebes, situated on the Nile, with water around her? The river was her defense, the waters her wall.
Nahum reminds them of their former conquest and destruction of Thebes or No-amon for two reasons. The first reason is to point out their cruelty and further justification for their coming judgment. The main reason is to point out that just as Thebes was unable to repel the attackers, Nineveh would be unable to repel their attackers.
Thebes was supposedly undefeatable because it was surrounded on all sides by the Nile river and a canal. The Ninevites would have thought, “So are we.”
Thebes had great defenses. So did Nineveh.
Egypt had vassal nations as allies. So did Assyria.
Ninevah would have known all this -- because Assyria was the one who defeated Thebes. And now it is Assyria’s turn.
11 You too will become drunk; you will go into hiding
Interesting prophecy - Nineveh became a lost city and was hidden until its re-discovery in 1842.
Nahum is a short book, and it comes to an end with these discouraging words.
18 King of Assyria, your shepherds slumber; your nobles lie down to rest. Your people are scattered on the mountains with no one to gather them. 19 Nothing can heal you; your wound is fatal. All who hear the news about you clap their hands at your fall, for who has not felt your endless cruelty?
This judgment is coming because of the character of God.
This means we need to look at situations in the light of who God is. The book reveals quite a lot about the character of God:
(1) The Lord is Sovereign - He is in control of both nature and the nations. In history we see that God used the Babylonians to bring his judgment on the Assyrians. He also used a flood to help the Babylonians.
(2) God is Just - Assyria's judgment was well deserved. Although God used them to destroy Israel, Assyria became arrogant and attributed their success to their own power. God did not approve of that. God also dealt with the Assyrians appropriate to the way in which they had dealt with other nations. Many of the same atrocities they committed on others were committed on them. As the old saying goes, 'what goes around comes around.'
(3) God protects his people - Although God used Assyria to discipline Israel, he would take notice of those who were faithful.
Nahum is a message of condemnation for those who disobey God BUT it is a message of comfort to those who trust and obey Him.
Assyria compromised her values to gain wealth and power, so God took her down. That is something we struggle with today.
Wednesday, February 22, 2012
This morning we will look at the book of Micah.
The Book of Micah is the sixth of the 12 minor prophets. It records the sayings of the prophet named Micah, whose name means "Who is like Yahweh?"
The book has three major divisions, chapters 1-2, 3-5 and 6-7, each introduced by the word "Hear," with a pattern of alternating announcements of doom and expressions of hope within each division.
Micah reproaches unjust leaders, defends the rights of the poor against the rich and powerful, and preaches social justice; while looking forward to a world at peace centered on Zion under the leadership of a new Davidic monarch.
This sounds very much like the first verse of Isaiah.
1 The vision concerning Judah and Jerusalem that Isaiah son of Amoz saw during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.
Isaiah and Micah ministered at the same time.
HEAR – that is a clue in Micah that we are jumping into the first of the three sections. This section covers chapters 1, 2 and 3. It is an indictment on the people of Judah, especially the rich and the powerful.
Micah talks about the overwhelming judgment that is to come, and what he describes is a judgment against people who think that they are special.
Is this not Jerusalem???
We think this way about our own country. Or we think that way about our race. Or we think about that about our family.
We are special. We might sometimes fall to the wayside, but God will have mercy on us and we won’t be punished too badly. We’ll be forgiven.
But these two cities will be brought down in severe judgment.
And in verse 9
9 For Samaria’s plague is incurable;
it has spread to Judah.
That simple declarative statement, “for her wond is incurable,” must have been a shock to those who heard it. These people had been brought up with the belief, the fond belief that however much God might punish Israel for her sins, he would never actually allow her destruction, much less bring it about himself.
And here is God announcing the full and complete destruction on these two capital cities.
So, what are the problems in these people?
Some evil we stumble into. Temptation comes, and you yield to it. That’s bad enough, but this is evil that is planned. This is premeditated, carefully thought out and well planned evil.
This is wonderful imagery about “Those who plot evil on their beds! At morning’s light they carry it out because they have the power to do it.”
In Micah’s day, wealth consisted largely of real estate, and the people had a mania about accumulating houses and land. The people often gained property by manipulation and deceit, not through financial negotiation.
This is irony. The people are guilty of taking the land of others by force and deceit. But what is about to happen is that the Assyrians are going to come in and take everyone’s land. And the wealthy who have taken other people’s land, the Assyrians now take their land, and
But what is that cycle we see so often – sin, repentance and deliverance. Judgment and hope.
And that brings us to 2:12-13
Now we come to Micah 3:1
What does this mean to us? When we see the word “Hear,” or “Listen” addressed to the people, in Micah it means we are starting a new oracle or sermon.
The first thing Micah says in this second sermon is to reach out and try to reason with the people.
But Micah gives up quickly…
In this chapter, the first sin of the people is false religion, or false prophets.
The people did not trust the true faith of Micah, but they trusted simply the prophets they paid to tell them what they wanted to hear.
The other sin that Micah attacks is the belief that money talks
Where is the hope of this? We have the cycle of doom and hope – and the hope starts in Micah 4:1
The Mountain of the LORD
This is reminiscent of Isaiah
He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.
And remember – these words are flexible
Beat your plowshares into swords and your pruning hooks into spears.
Let’s skip to Micah chapter 5, and find a familiar passage:
Who is this in reference to?
Jesus Christ. Born in Bethlehem. A small, tiny little place near Jerusalem.
Now, the next verse makes you wonder – are we talking about jesus?
It is not unusual for the Bible to speak of two futures – the distant, distant future way over the horizon – meaning Jesus – and the more immediate needs, “he will be our peace when the Assyrians invade our land.
Our hope, sometimes, is in the ultimate future, that sometimes is far beyond our immediate needs and concerns.
In the last chapter of Micah, we see a wonderful example of doom and hope.
This is doom and gloom at its worst.
But then comes hope at its best.
Wednesday, February 15, 2012
There is one window that was prepared for the sanctuary at Chapel by the Sea that is not here today. Do you know that story?
The artist made a window of a whale, and the Reverend Don Javfert refused to let the church pay for it because there are no whales in our local waters. The artist told Don, “I’ve already made it. What should I do with it.” Don said he didn’t care, because it belonged to the artist, not the church.”
So the artist gave the window to Don, and Don put it in his house here at Fr Myers Beach, where I assume it still is.
That is the one thing everyone knows about Jonah, he was shallowed by the whale.
Though it is often called a whale today, the Hebrew, as throughout scripture, refers to no species in particular, simply sufficing with "great fish" or "big fish" (whales are today classified as mammals and not fish, but no such distinction was made in antiquity).
While some Bible scholars suggest the size and habits of the great white shark seem better fit for Jonah’s story of being swallowed, normally an adult human is too large to be swallowed whole.
Other scholars instead argue that the fish might instead be a reference to the basking shark.
In Jonah 2:1 (1:17 in English translation), the original Hebrew text reads dag gadol (דג גדול), which literally means "big fish." When the Old Testament was translated in Greek, it was rendered as ketos megas (κητος μεγας). The term ketos alone means "huge fish." When Jerome translated the book into Latin, he used the Greek translation of Jonah and translated ketos as cetus, which over time became a word that specifically means whale.
IS THIS STORY TRUE?
This is one of the Bible stories most ridiculed by nonChristians. Skeptics say that no whale could swallow a man in the first place, and, even if he did, the man would certainly never survive three days and three nights in his belly, as the Bible claims.
There are different approaches:
1. It is only an allegory. It was never meant to be understood as actual history. However, whenever the Bible writers used allegories or parables or other symbolic stories, they always either said so or else made it evident in the context. The book of Jonah is certainly written as though it were actual history. Jonah was a real prophet. He is mentioned also in II Kings 14:25. None of the ancient Jews or early Christians ever doubted the authenticity and historicity of the book of Jonah and its story.
2. It is a miracle. To deny miracles is to deny God’s power.
If true, HOW COULD JONAH SURVIVE
1. NATURAL. In the first place, it has been well established that the phrase "three days and three nights" in ancient Hebrew usage was an idiomatic expression meaning simply “three days,” and was applicable even if the beginning and ending days of the period were only partial days. Thus it could refer to a period as short as about 38 hours. There is always some air in the whale's stomach, and, as long as the animal it has swallowed is still alive, digestive activity will not begin. Thus, Jonah's experience could possibly have happened entirely with the framework of natural law.
2. MIRACLE. It is much more likely, however, that the event involved a divine miracle, as the Scripture strongly implies. The “great fish” was prepared and sent by God, as was the intense storm that threatened the ship on which Jonah was traveling. The storm ceased as soon as Jonah was cast overboard (Jonah 1:4, 15). In like manner, it was quite probable that God preserved Jonah's life miraculously all through the horrifying experience.
3. RESURRECTION. A third possibility is that Jonah actually suffocated and died in the great fish and then God later brought him back from the dead. There are at least eight other such “resurrections” recorded in the Bible, as well as the glorious bodily resurrection of Christ—of which Jonah's experience in particular was said by Christ to be a prophetic sign.
Let's take a look at this book. Turn to Jonah 1:1-3
1 The word of the LORD came to Jonah son of Amittai:
2 "Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me."
3 But Jonah ran away from the LORD and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the LORD.
We are usually pretty hard on old Jonah. But let's remember what he waws being asked to do. He was asked to go tell off Ninevah in the name of God.
Ninevah was not your average city. It was the capital of Assyria.
And Assyria was not your average empire.
Let me read read an average report from one of their military leaders, Assurnasirpal...
"At Kinabu, 600 of their warriors I put to the sword. 3,000 captives I burned with fire. I did not leave one among them alive as a hostage. Their corpses I formed into pillars. Their young men and maidens I burned in the fire. Their governor (I caqptured alive and removed his skin and placed his skin on the city wall). "From some I cut off their hands and their fingers. From others I cut off their noses, their ears, and from many I put out their eyes (WTB Prophets 34)
This is not an EXTREME example of Assyrian cruelty. It was typical. I could easily give more graphic, more grusesome descriptions of what the Assyrians were like.
Now do you think that you would have appreciated it if GOD had told YOU to go and tell a message of judgment to THESE kind of people? Jonah could feel his nose coming off already!
Let’s try to imagine this in more modern terms.
Imagine a Jew whose family has been captured by the Nazis and sent to one of the concentration camps.
Now imagine that God tells this one Jew, “I want you to go to Berlin and tell Hitler that I’m sending judgment for his wickedness.”
Jonah was not stupid. In fact, he acted like any sane person would have. Ninevah is to the East, he takes the next bus to the West.
Not only does he NOT go to Ninevah, he goes in the complete opposite direction.
He takes a boat ride, and while what follows is familiar even to our children. He wants to seek out the familiar and the comfortable, but instead he encounters distress and trouble, and this moves us into the second part of our outline, the Distress of Jonah. Let's read what happens next.
Someone read Jonah 1:4-10
4 Then the LORD sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up.
5 All the sailors were afraid and each cried out to his own god. And they threw the cargo into the sea to lighten the ship. But Jonah had gone below deck, where he lay down and fell into a deep sleep.
6 The captain went to him and said, "How can you sleep? Get up and call on your god! Maybe he will take notice of us, and we will not perish."
7 Then the sailors said to each other, "Come, let us cast lots to find out who is responsible for this calamity." They cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah.
8 So they asked him, "Tell us, who is responsible for making all this trouble for us? What do you do? Where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?"
9 He answered, "I am a Hebrew and I worship the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land."
10 This terrified them and they asked, "What have you done?" (They knew he was running away from the LORD, because he had already told them so.)
Jonah tried to hide from God, but one cannot hide from God, for there is no place where God does not exist.
Let’s take a look at Psalm 139…
7 Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
Let's continue our look at Jonah, with chapter 1:11-17
11 The sea was getting rougher and rougher. So they asked him, "What should we do to you to make the sea calm down for us?"
12 "Pick me up and throw me into the sea," he replied, "and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you."
13 Instead, the men did their best to row back to land. But they could not, for the sea grew even wilder than before.
14 Then they cried to the LORD, "O LORD, please do not let us die for taking this man's life. Do not hold us accountable for killing an innocent man, for you, O LORD, have done as you pleased."
15 Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm.
16 At this the men greatly feared the LORD, and they offered a sacrifice to the LORD and made vows to him.
Think about the faith of these people.
Jonah is the theologian. He knows ABOUT God, but he does not talk TO God in this part of the book.
The sailors know nothing about God, they worship their own gods and idols, but they instinctively know there is a God and they talk with God.
The narrative is more complementary to the faith of the sailors than the faith of the prophet.
17 But the LORD provided a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was inside the fish three days and three nights.
1 [a]From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the LORD his God. 2 He said:
“In my distress I called to the LORD,
and he answered me.
From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help,
and you listened to my cry.
3 You hurled me into the depths,
into the very heart of the seas,
and the currents swirled about me;
all your waves and breakers
swept over me.
4 I said, ‘I have been banished
from your sight;
yet I will look again
toward your holy temple.’
5 The engulfing waters threatened me,[b]
the deep surrounded me;
seaweed was wrapped around my head.
6 To the roots of the mountains I sank down;
the earth beneath barred me in forever.
But you, LORD my God,
brought my life up from the pit.
7 “When my life was ebbing away,
I remembered you, LORD,
and my prayer rose to you,
to your holy temple.
8 “Those who cling to worthless idols
turn away from God’s love for them.
9 But I, with shouts of grateful praise,
will sacrifice to you.
What I have vowed I will make good.
I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the LORD.’”
There is a pattern here –
“In my distress I called to the LORD,
and he answered me.
From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help,
and you listened to my cry.
6 To the roots of the mountains I sank down;
the earth beneath barred me in forever.
But you, LORD my God,
brought my life up from the pit.
3. Declaration of praise.
9 But I, with shouts of grateful praise,
will sacrifice to you.
What I have vowed I will make good.
I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the LORD.’”
Jonah is in the fish, and repents.
The next part is not something you want to see filmed in any graphic sense.
Read Jonah 2:10
10 And the LORD commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.
Again, this fish was under the authority of God.
Jonah is free again.
Let's pick up with verse 1 of chapter 3 and continue through verse 3.
1 Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time:
2 "Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you."
3 Jonah obeyed the word of the LORD and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very important city-- a visit required three days.
Now we move to the third part of our outline, the Declaration of Jonah...
4 On the first day, Jonah started into the city. He proclaimed: "Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned."
Imagine going to Hitler in Nazi Germany. Or to a modern dictator today.
You could guess what would happen. You'd be laughed at, at best. Killed or mutilated very possibly. But Ninevah does a strange, strange thing. Something very few preachers expect their congregation to do. They listen to the sermon!
Read, verses 5-10
5 The Ninevites believed God. They declared a fast, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth.
6 When the news reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust.
7 Then he issued a proclamation in Nineveh: "By the decree of the king and his nobles: Do not let any man or beast, herd or flock, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink.
8 But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence.
9 Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish."
10 When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened.
That makes a great book right there.
God tells Jonah to go and preach, but Jonah is disobedient.
God puts Jonah in distress until he repents and agrees to go to Nineveh.
Jonah makes his declaration to Ninevah and Ninevah repents and is saved.
Perfect ending to a good, short story.
But Jonah's book continues, moving us into the fourth and final section of the outline, the displeasure of Jonah.
How did Jonah respond to the fact that he, as a preacher, preached a word that was listened to? How did Jonah respond to the fact that as a man of God, people turned back to God?
Jonah was unhappy and angry.
Read verses 4:1-3
1 But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry.
2 He prayed to the LORD, "O LORD, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.
3 Now, O LORD, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live."
Why did Jonah flee from God to begin with?
At first, our impression is that he doesn't want to go to Ninevah.
That may or may not have been accurate.
Jonah says, long after the fact when he may or may not have revised his personal memory of the event, that he did it because he was afraid Ninevah would repent.
Jonah did not want Ninevah to repent.
Jonah was a racist and a bigot.
Just like many people wanted Germany destroyed after World War I and World War II, Jonah wants the enemies of his nation destroyed.
What would happen if all of Al Quadda repented tomorrow and professed Christ? Many Americans, including Christians, would still want revenge for 9-11
But instead of being destroyed, the people of Ninevah have repented. And God has had mercy on them.
Read verse 4
4 But the LORD replied, "Have you any right to be angry?"
Jonah does not answer God, because he knows there is no answer. He knows he has no right to be angry. So this is what he does.
5 Jonah went out and sat down at a place east of the city. There he made himself a shelter, sat in its shade and waited to see what would happen to the city.
6 Then the LORD God provided a vine and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was very happy about the vine.
7 But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the vine so that it withered.
8 When the sun rose, God provided a scorching east wind, and the sun blazed on Jonah's head so that he grew faint. He wanted to die, and said, "It would be better for me to die than to live."
9 But God said to Jonah, "Do you have a right to be angry about the vine?" "I do," he said. "I am angry enough to die."
10 But the LORD said, "You have been concerned about this vine, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight.
11 But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?"
Jonah could be concerned about a vine that died. God explained he could certainly be concerned about a city that included 120,000 repentant, thus innocent people.
Then the book ends.
It ends abruptly. God asks Jonah a question and there is no hint of an answer. Because it is not so important as to how Jonah responded, as it is how God responded.
Wednesday, February 1, 2012
Today we will take a look at Obadiah.
A little book that is never mentioned by Jesus.
Never quoted in the New Testament.
A tiny little one page book that many people have never even read.
When we look at a book like this, one might think, “what qualifies a book to make it into the Bible?”
There are lots of books that were written by men who said they were prophets. We have a book that is titled, “The Epistle of Jeremiah.” Why isn’t that in the Bible?
Paul’s letter to the Philippians mentions a fellow named Clement as one of his “fellow laborers.” (4:3)
We have two of Clement’s letters or epistles.
In one of them, there is this interesting line that is very appropriate for Chapel by the Sea.
"For the whole business of the Church is like unto a great ship, bearing through a violent storm men who are of many places, and who desire to inhabit the city of the good kingdom. Let, therefore, God be your shipmaster; and let the pilot be likened to Christ, the mate to the bishop, and the sailors to the deacons, the midshipmen to the catechists, the multitude of the brethren to the passengers, the world to the sea; the foul winds to temptations, persecutions, and dangers; and all manner of afflictions to the waves; the land winds and their squalls to the discourses of deceivers and false prophets; the promontories and rugged rocks to the judges in high places threatening terrible things; the meetings of two seas, and the wild places, to unreasonable men and those who doubt of the promises of truth.
Why isn’t Clement’s writings included in the Bible?
The books of the Bible are the inspired Word of God. For some people, that means that God dictated certain books word for word. I remember being in an art museum and there were four portraits – one of Matthew, another for Luke, Mark and John – the four writers of the four Gospels. They were each portrayed as being at a desk, writing a Gospel, and behind each was a ghostly image of an angel whispering into the ear of the writer.
That’s not the way God inspired the Bible. It was more complicated than that.
It was part of a process that took centuries.
The oldest books of the Bible were the first five books of the Bible. We often call these the Pentateuch, meaning five books. When they were written on one scroll, they were called the “Torah.”
By the way, as a matter of interest, think of the size of the Torah Scroll. If completely unrolled it would be over 150 feet long. As most sheep are only 2 or 3 feet long, it would take an entire flock of sheep to make enough sheep skin to contain a single Torah Scroll.
These books were copied by perfectionists – people who probably suffered from OCD, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. If they made a single mistake, they would remove that one panel – or single sheep skin AND the one that touched it – and throw it away.
This is why there are virtually no significant differences among the different ancient copies of these books. The so-called TRANSMISSION of these books is ultra accurate.
The Spirit of God was not only inspiring the writing of these books, but also the transmission of these books.
And the Spirit of God was guiding the development of the list of holy books – or Canon.
We don’t really know how this happened. In the 19th Century a theory developed that there was a gathering called the Council of Jamnia that decided what was in the Canon and what was not. I remember I was taught that in college. But scholars have pretty much disproved that theory. The Canon was set long before the Council of Jamnia.
The short answer is “God only knows.” We don’t know how the Canon came about, but by the time of Jesus the Canon of the Old Testament was universally accepted.
We can, however, determine that there were four criteria used in the selection of these sacred books.
First, the book was written in Hebrew – the only exceptions were chapters 2 through 7 of Daniel, written in Aramaic. Hebrew was considered the language of Sacred scripture, Aramaic was considered the language of common speech.
Second, the writing had to be sanctioned by usage in the Jewish community. For example, the book of Esther was used at the holiday of Purim, but the book of Judith was not – so Judith is not in the OT, and Esther is.
Third, the writing had to contain one of the great religious themes of Judaism.
Finally, the writing had to be composed before the time of Ezra.
The canon of the New Testament was defined by the end of the First Century AD.
There was some development in this canon. For example, the Gospel of the Hebrews was widely accepted as Scripture. There are several quotations from the Gospel of the Hebrews in some of the first and second century Christian writings, but the actual book was lost. There are no copies in existence. That’s the way the Spirit of God was at work – preserving some books, losing others.
The oldest copies of the New Testament are the Codex Alexandrius and the Codex Sinaiticus in the British Museum Library in
The oldest OT collections go back 1000 years. Small scraps and portions of the Scriptures exist in abundance, and they testify to the accuracy of the transmission of these Holy Books.
These books have been translated over and over. We all know that.
Translations go back to the beginning of the Scriptures. The OT was written in Hebrew and the NT was written in Greek.
In AD 382, Jerome translated the NT into Latin. We often call that the Vulgate. Vulgate for “vulgar” which doesn’t mean offensive, but “common.”
By AD 500, the Bible had been translated into over 500 languages.
But then, just one century later, it was restricted to ONLY one language – the Latin Vulgate. The Roman Catholic Church wanted Latin to be the universal language of Christianity so that no matter where you went, the language of worship was the same. But the problem was that eventually the only people who understood Latin were those who were well educated. Basically, this meant only the priests and very very few others could read the Bible.
The number one reason why we had the Protestant Reformation was the Bible – getting it into the language of the people and reforming the church back into the teachings of the Bible.
The history of the translation of the Bible into English is an interesting history, filled with blood and gore!
John Wycliff is often referred to as the first person to translate the Bible into English. Actually there had been portions of the Bible produced in English for centuries. But Wycliff and his followers translated the entire Bible from the Latin Vulgate in the 14th Century.
He was declared a heritic. Wycliff had a stroke and died, but the church insisted on digging up his body and burning it at the stake for good measure.
William Tyndale was a priest and studied under Martin Luther in
King Henry the 8th of
These were followed by lots of translations: The Coverdale Bible, Matthew’s Bible, Taverner’s Bible, the Great Bible, the Geneva Bible, another translation that was referred to as the Bishops’ Bible, and then the King James Bible.
New translations are coming out all the time. Some try to limit the vocabulary so that the most common person can read the Bible. Others are revisions of previous translations, others are new translations using the oldest manuscripts, and others are paraphrases.
Take a look now at Obadiah as an example of this process.
Obadiah would preached his prophecies and he wrote this book. The book was then circulated by being copied by hand and distributed to different cities and towns where people worshipped. The translations that we have of Obadiah are based on something called the Masoretic Text, which dates back to a century after the birth of Christ. Obadiah is also in the Dead Sea Scrolls, discovered in the mid-20th Century, and those copies are a 1000 years older, and yet there is no difference in the content.
If we find security and safety in the things “under the sun” then we are doomed. Think current economy.
But if we trust in God for our safety and security, we will find that God will never be shaken.
Obadiah literally means “Servant of the Lord.” This is a very common name in the Old Testament. There are a dozen other men with that same name.
There are some who believe that the Obadiah who wrote the book that bears his name is the same as the one mentioned in I Kings 18. That Obadiah was employed by King Ahab and helped hid 100 prophets of God. He encountered Elijah on the road and introduced Elijah to Ahab.
But that is questioned by a lot of scholars.
So we really don’t know much about the writer.
The animosity between the Edomites and the Israelites is one of the oldest examples of a discord in human relationships. It began even before their ancestors, Esau and Jacob, were born: “The babies jostled each other within her,” in the womb of their mother Rebekah (Genesis 25:22). Then, for a bowl of red stew, Esau eagerly sold his birthright to his younger brother Jacob (Genesis 25:29-34). Later Jacob stole the blessing from Esau by deceiving their father into believing Jacob was Esau.
Later, Edomites refused to let the Israelites pass through their land when the Israelites were on the way to the Promised Land (Numbers 20:14, 21). Even then, God told
The enmity between the descendents of Jacob and Esau is seen even in the New Testament.
What was so wrong about
1. Pride because of their safety and security. Obadiah writes:
1 The vision of Obadiah.
This is what the Sovereign LORD says about
We have heard a message from the LORD:
An envoy was sent to the nations to say,
“Rise, let us go against her for battle”—
2 “See, I will make you small among the nations;
you will be utterly despised.
3 The pride of your heart has deceived you,
you who live in the clefts of the rocks[a]
and make your home on the heights,
you who say to yourself,
‘Who can bring me down to the ground?’
How many of you know about
It is a great place, but very isolated. It is in the country of
I was there in the 1970s and at that time the only way you could get there was to take a long bus drive through the desert, then a long horse back ride through the desert and into the mountains. You enter the city through a narrow pathway in a canyon. No way could an army attack this place. Then you take a turn in the trail and suddenly you see this beautiful building carved out of the rock of the canyon.
The warning here is that
2. Pride because of arrogance.
4 Though you soar like the eagle
and make your nest among the stars,
from there I will bring you down,”
declares the LORD.
You might apply that to pride because of trust in technology.
But the real interpretation of this is that
And that is also a message for
Faith and politics are always a struggle to find a good balance mix, but there are some who would make
That is the pride of
3. Pride because of her hidden treasures.
5 “If thieves came to you,
if robbers in the night—
oh, what a disaster awaits you!—
would they not steal only as much as they wanted?
If grape pickers came to you,
would they not leave a few grapes?
6 But how Esau will be ransacked,
his hidden treasures pillaged!
Obadiah talks about
These thieves in the night – gotta watch out for them!
Think about the Sermon on the Mount: Matthew 6 –
19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
4. Pride because of her allies and political alliances.
7 All your allies will force you to the border;
your friends will deceive and overpower you;
those who eat your bread will set a trap for you,[b]
but you will not detect it.
We have some great and long time allies.
5. Pride because of her military power.
8 “In that day,” declares the LORD,
“will I not destroy the wise men of
those of understanding in the mountains of Esau?
9 Your warriors, Teman, will be terrified,
and everyone in Esau’s mountains
will be cut down in the slaughter.
I value our military and I have a sense of pride that our nation has a great military. It was wonderful to see the Seal Team Six rescue the two American relief workers held in the
I’ve been in several third world countries, and more than once I’ve found myself at some risk. When you are in a country that has no real police force and people begin rioting, it is nice to be able to look on a map and figure out – just in case you need it – three or four routes to the nearest US Embassy. Why? Because at the Embassy you can find the US Marines.
But – our security is not found in military might. Our security is in God.
6. Pride of considering "us" better than "them".
10 Because of the violence against your brother Jacob,
you will be covered with shame;
you will be destroyed forever.
In verse ten we see yet another pride of
This might be applied to persecution of God’s people, and it might also be applied to persecution of any of our “brothers and sisters” in humanity.
11 On the day you stood aloof
while strangers carried off his wealth
and foreigners entered his gates
and cast lots for
you were like one of them.
“You were like one of them.”
Thus, one might become guilty by inaction.
15 “The day of the LORD is near
for all nations.
As you have done, it will be done to you;
Martin Niemoller was a Lutheran Pastor in
First they came for the Jews
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the Communists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left
to speak out for me.
As you have done, it will be done to you, says Obadiah, a book that is never quoted in the New Testament.
But consider Matthew 24
31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
Obadiah warns us that the answer to that ancient question, “Am I my brother’s keeper,” is “Yes.”
We do not stand by and let harm come to others.
We do not cheer at the defeat of others.
When we come to the end of Obadiah, what do you think we find? Redemption and restoration for the defeated.
20 This company of Israelite exiles who are in Canaan
will possess the land as far as Zarephath;
the exiles from
will possess the towns of the
21 Deliverers will go up on[c]
to govern the mountains of Esau.
And the kingdom will be the LORD’s.