61. Nahum 2: “Who Are You Dealing With?”
South Woods State Prison in Bridgeton, NJ –Men’s Evening Chapel on 4/17/2016
(edited December 2020)
(Note: It had been almost two years since I had the privilege of preaching to the incarcerated. A new Chaplain had arrived on the scene at the Salem County Jail back in 2014 and “cleaned house” as far as our local Aldine United Methodist Church Jail Ministry was concerned. It was discouraging for me to see our ministry at the Jail come to an abrupt end, especially since it had been my idea originally for our church to send a team into the Jail many years before.
Even more than myself, it seemed to really bother Pastor Don Polk, at Aldine Church. Don had called me on the phone back in the Fall of 2015 when I was preparing for my knee replacement surgery and unable to attend church. Besides concern for my physical and spiritual health, he was adamant that it was time we start looking for another jail or prison and re-start our church’s ministry to the incarcerated.
South Woods State Prison in Bridgeton, NJ is the largest prison in New Jersey and is a medium security facility with thousands of residents. I called their chaplain soon after speaking with Pastor Don but was unable to get through to anyone. In fact, I couldn’t get through to anyone at any other correctional facility in our area. But later in 2016, Pastor Don called South Woods again and a very helpful and wonderful woman named Carol Malone answered the phone. Carol was not the chaplain, but filling in for him at the time as Volunteers Coordinator for the prison. The next thing I knew, after some fast-track training, I was standing before a large group of men and sharing this message. The facility looked to me like a large college or a small city except, of course, for the massive razor wire on the walls and all the security.)
Men, it’s a great privilege for myself and our team to be here with you tonight. Before I start, I want emphasize that I am not a trained clergyman and the opinions I express tonight about the Scriptures are strictly my own. Also, tonight’s little message was not something I “cooked up” just for you all. As is always my practice, everywhere I go, I am simply sharing with you my personal Bible study chapter for this week.
In Nahum chapter 2, the Old Testament prophet, Nahum, is writing about the city of Nineveh which was coming under God’s judgment at that time. Nineveh was the ancient capital of Assyria. It’s in modern day Turkey near Iraq and Syria on our today’s maps. The Ancient Assyrians had actually been used by God as a tool of judgement against His Old Covenant People in Israel. Several years earlier the Assyrians had attacked, conquered, and carried away treasures and many captives from the Northern Kingdom of Israel. How God’s People went from being conquerors of the Promised Land to being conquered in the Promised Land is a long, sad, story. But the one we are telling tonight occurs after that has already taken place.
By the time of the Prophet Nahum’s writings, God is saying that it is now Assyria’s turn to be judged and conquered. History tells us that Nahum’s prophesy was, in fact, fulfilled when Nineveh was overrun by Ancient Persia and Babylon some time later.
Verse 1: “He that dasheth in pieces is come up before thy face: keep the munition, watch the way, make thy loins strong, fortify thy power mightily.”
Get ready, Nahum tells the Ninevites. Look out, now your judgement is at hand!
Verse 2: “For the Lord hath turned away the excellency of Jacob, as the excellency of Israel: for the emptiers have emptied them out, and marred their vine branches.
Ancient Assyria had been used to victory, not defeat. God had let them defeat His own People, Israel, and have rule over them. But after winning, the Assyrians took everything of value out of Israel, and just squandered it.
Verses 3-4: “The shield of his mighty men is made red, the valiant men are in scarlet: the chariots shall be with flaming torches in the day of his preparation, and the fir trees shall be terribly shaken. The chariots shall rage in the streets, they shall justle one against another in the broad ways: they shall seem like torches, they shall run like the lightnings.”
The violence they had dealt out to others is about to come back on them, and soon.
Verses 5-6: “He shall recount his worthies: they shall stumble in their walk; they shall make haste to the wall thereof, and the defence shall be prepared. The gates of the rivers shall be opened, and the palace shall be dissolved.”
Assyria never fully acknowledged that their strength and victories had come by God’s permission as He allowed them to become a curse against Israel. And their strength, on its own, would soon fail against the forces of Babylon and Persia.
Verse 7: “And Huzzab shall be led away captive, she shall be brought up, and her maids shall lead her as with the voice of doves, tabering upon their breasts.”
They had been dragging captives around through victory parades for years. But now, they will become the victims and the ones to lose their rights and freedoms:
Verses 8-12: “But Nineveh is of old like a pool of water: yet they shall flee away. Stand, stand, shall they cry; but none shall look back. Take ye the spoil of silver, take the spoil of gold: for there is none end of the store and glory out of all the pleasant furniture. She is empty, and void, and waste: and the heart melteth, and the knees smite together, and much pain is in all loins, and the faces of them all gather blackness. Where is the dwelling of the lions, and the feedingplace of the young lions, where the lion, even the old lion, walked, and the lion's whelp, and none made them afraid? The lion did tear in pieces enough for his whelps, and strangled for his lionesses, and filled his holes with prey, and his dens with ravin.”
We need to remember, that the guy saying all this about Nineveh is Nahum, a Jew. The Assyrians had overrun his country. As a Prophet of the Lord, Nahum was led by the Spirit of God, but I wonder if he, on some level, didn’t take a certain pleasure in predicting the downfall of the enemy of his people? Of the ones who had killed and enslaved so many of them. Could he have enjoyed sharing their bad news? Was he tempted to lay it on too thick about their troubles to come?
In the end, I don’t think he did that. Nahum was just repeating what God told him to say. That’s what true Prophets did! You know, Nahum wasn’t the Assyrians problem. This was their problem:
Verse 13: “Behold, I am against thee, saith the Lord of hosts, and I will burn her chariots in the smoke, and the sword shall devour thy young lions: and I will cut off thy prey from the earth, and the voice of thy messengers shall no more be heard.”
Nahum was no threat to them. In fact, it took a lot of courage for him to speak out and predict all this stuff. It couldn’t have been easy for him. His nation, Ancient Israel, was in disarray all around him. They had no organized army left to seek revenge on Assyria. Like Assyria, they were being judged by God for their own sins against Him, which had been many.
The point I’m trying to make tonight, and I know we are constrained by time, is that ALL of us, back then and today, need only submit to being judged by God and by Him alone! Not by the Church, not by religion, not by religious people. Not by any man, but ultimately only by our Creator.
Is it fair that God judge us? Well, one thing about God’s judgement, it’s not a sneak attack. It’s not like being judged by mankind. There always a fairness in God’s Judgement. The Assyrians had already been warned by God 150 years before Nahum ever came along. You can read about it in the Book of Jonah in the Old Testament. After Jonah was puked up by that whale on the beach and preached at Nineveh, they actually repented at that time, but it didn’t stick. Ancient Israel had been warned by God too, over and over again, since the days of Moses. But they mostly didn’t listen. What’s all that got to do with us? Well, what about us? We’ve been warned too, haven’t we, by Christ? Look at what Jesus says to you and me, in the New Testament:
A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things. But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned. Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, Master, we would see a sign from thee. But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here. The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for she came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here.”
Who is qualified to judge people? I don’t mean making observations about someone’s behavior. Sometimes, that’s just using our God-given common sense. But to condemn a person to Hell or to save a Soul: that is a judgement that only the Lord Himself can make.
Are you seeking His mercy today? Have you been searching for Him? Have you become frustrated in that search? I know I often have been. But did you know that He gets frustrated too? Afterall, He’s already sent us Solomon, Jonah, and Nahum. And finally, He has sent us His Only Begotten Son. Have you heard The Son of God call you? If you can’t find Him today, I can understand that. It’s not always easy to do. But don’t forget that He’s seeking after you, too!
And there isn’t going to be another Savior. The One to listen to is Jesus and the time to respond to Him, and avoid God’s eternal judgement, is now. Amen?
Thank you so much for your attention tonight and for your patience with me. Brother Gary is gonna come up and close us out in prayer.