The wicked here that Nahum is referring to are not common sinners. We are all sinners. These are abject sinners in unrestrained rebellion against God, and in this case, of course, Yahweh. And it's important to point that out because if you just read it that the Lord is going to take vengeance upon the wicked, the sinners, then we're all without hope.
That is not what's intended. This is Cross-Reference Radio with our pastor and teacher Rick Gaston. Rick is the pastor of Calvary Chapel, Mechanicsville. Pastor Rick is currently teaching through the book of Jonah.
Please stay with us after today's message to hear more information about Cross-Reference Radio, specifically how you can get a free copy of this teaching. But for now, let's join Pastor Rick in the book of Nahum, chapter one, as he begins his message, The Downfall of the Soul. If you have your Bibles, turn to the table of contents. And there, look for the prophet Nahum. We are in Nahum, chapter one. Nahum, chapter one. We'll take verses one through three in a moment.
This text is entitled The Downfall of the Soul. Nahum, chapter one, verses one through three, The Burden Against Nineveh, the book of the vision of Nahum, the Elchashite. God is jealous, and Yahweh avenges. Yahweh avenges and is furious. Yahweh will take vengeance on his adversaries. He reserves wrath for his enemies. Yahweh is slow to anger and great in power and will not at all acquit the wicked. Yahweh has his way in the whirlwind and in the storm. The clouds are the dust of his feet.
Now you might be a little intimidated by that. The wicked, we'll talk about that in a moment, but the text is verse three, and only a portion of it. Yahweh is slow to anger and great in power and will not at all acquit the wicked. The wicked here that Nahum is referring to are not common sinners. We are all sinners. These are abject sinners in unrestrained rebellion against God, and in this case, of course, Yahweh. And it's important to point that out because if you just read it that the Lord is going to take vengeance upon the wicked, the sinners, then we're all without hope.
That is not what's intended. God did not give us the scripture to skim over. These lesser known books of the Bible are every bit as much of God's word as the more popular books of the Bible. These unused sections of scripture are so, they are unused or passed over often because God's perfection is not realized there. You may come to the book of Nahum and you just don't see it.
You're not blessed by it. If you take, for instance, the artwork of Vermeer, Johannes Vermeer, whose artwork I like very much, it requires education to really appreciate in the eyes of the beholder just what is, what they're looking at. With Vermeer, the way he handles light and the colors, if you look at his painting of the geographer, for instance, how the sunlight comes into the room. Well, if you just look at the painting and you're not told what you're looking at, you may just see, look at that, a piece of artwork.
The guy can really draw. And then someone comes up and says, but look at this. What makes it so special is you can't do it and hardly anybody else can do it. Then you begin to appreciate what you're looking at. And so God has given to the church teachers to do this very thing, to take a book like Nahum and say, let me tell you what you're looking at in case you've missed it. Learning, learning the word of God allows us to reflect Christ. As moonlight reflects the sunlight driving in this morning, it was a full moon. And it was a very bright, of course, the moon has no light of itself.
That light is a reflection of the sunlight. And this should speak of the Christian life. I find this inspiring.
I find it inspiring that I can learn God's word and that I can reflect God's word. Or am I too quick to absorb light and sluggish when it comes to reflecting light? I mean, some people wonder why no one likes them, why they have no friends. There's a reason for that usually. And maybe it is because they are doing more of the absorption than the reflecting. A black hole does not let light out, it's said.
The gravity is too intense. Well, I don't want to be that way and I want to learn about these things and I want to do something with them for God because God wants to pour into all of us so he can pour out from us. That's true of every believer.
I wouldn't even say that's true of every human being. If God could just get his hands on their soul, if he could fill them, he could use them. As we consider these things going a little deeper by just taking on the prophet, and we haven't even begun to open up the prophecies of Nahum.
We will, of course, in a moment. But we want to go below the surface or beneath the surface and not just take the meanings that are on top in the scripture. For a child, in the story of Jonah, the fish is the big deal.
But for the adults, they go deeper. It's those lost souls that Jonah was sent to. That's the big deal with the book of Jonah. And so I hope to go beyond the obvious with the meanings of Nahum because they're right on the surface.
They're right on the surface. God's judgment. God's verdict. God is vindicated from his judgment. But there's, again, so much more to this book and its meaning and its application as there is with all books in the Bible.
And so I hope we go beyond, again, the obvious meanings in this prophet's writings. Speaking of Jonah, Nahum forms the sequel to the book of Jonah. A hundred years, over a hundred years separate the two prophets. Both of them were sent to the city of Nineveh.
Nineveh belonged to the Assyrians. When Jonah went there, the Assyrians were not yet the vicious people they would become. They were now very vicious, very cruel. They would skin their victims and hang their skins over the wall.
They would do all sorts of, they were just mean. And they were very wealthy from all of the loot that they had acquired from the people that they had conquered. Nahum goes through that as he details why the judgment is going to be upon them. But at this point in their history, Assyria was at the height of her power. She recovered from that incident at Jerusalem where God had taken out over 180,000 of them. That and Isaiah 37.
Now she is strong again. No one liked Nineveh except the Ninevites. By this time in her history, she had no friends in heaven and no friends on earth. Nineveh had no regret or sorrow for their sin and their cruelty.
They were just cruising right along. This is the second time, as I said, that God has addressed Nineveh. That, in fact, with Jonah, God had gone out of his way to deal with Nineveh. God sends Jonahs and Nahums, if necessary, to nations and to individuals as well, particularly to the individuals. And that's when the book becomes a little bit more real to me, when I remember that God deals with individuals. Individuals will impact society. Alexander McLaren, an old Scottish preacher, said, The message of Christianity is primarily to individuals and only secondary to society. It leaves the individuals whom it has influenced to influence the mass. In other words, to influence the society, the numbers of people. The Word of God comes to individuals, and those individuals are to reflect the Christ that they have encountered in the Scriptures and are indwelt by the Holy Spirit and they are to go out into the world and make disciples.
It's very basic. For Nineveh, in the end, it was as if the prophet Jonah had never been there. How tragic. Subsequent generations were lost forever.
Why? Because they received the light and then those subsequent generations abandoned it. This awful tendency, talked about it somewhat Wednesday, where we saw David the King loving the Lord, Solomon upholding the kingdom, and then the third generation of Rehoboam moving away from God. One generation fights for their faith, the next assumes it, and the third abandons it.
This is a pattern. It's not absolute, but it does exist. And the question is, you who have devout grandparents, are you listening to this? Because if the grandparents love the Lord, and your parents love the Lord, are you going to be that generation that departs from the Lord, or are you going to continue it and raise your children to understand as much? Nahum, the prophet here, speaks of the vengeance of God. He wrote to the benefit of his people, the Jews. Unlike Jonah, we have no indication that Nahum was dispatched to Nineveh itself. He clearly addresses the question that the Jews would have been asking, because at this time, the Jewish people were suffering raids from the Assyrians.
Ultimately, the Assyrians would conquer the northern kingdom and take it away. He answers the questions, why does God allow cruel Nineveh to continue? And this is what his prophecy deals with. It is a burden on Nineveh, not a blessing. So if you look at verse 1, it says, the burden against Nineveh. And everything that follows is about Nineveh and their wickedness. Well, what does that have to do with the individual? Well, if that individual is wicked, if that individual is, in the eyes of God, an opponent to God, then they are too lined up for the vengeance of God.
This is very serious stuff. The gospel is good news, but it does not come without bad news. When there was no cloud in the Assyrian sky, metaphorically, when there was no cloud on their horizon, Nahum was called to preach its downfall. It's not the city, it's the souls in the city.
It is the downfall of the city because of the downfall of the souls. It matters. It matters what you believe, it matters what you think.
You may say, nobody cares what I think. Oh yeah, God does. Every idle word is registered by God. Nahum's prophecy against Nineveh has been so completely fulfilled.
As you read his three chapters, it's so completely that armies have marched over the city of Nineveh, unaware of the existence of its ruins beneath their feet. That's how thorough, that's how thorough the prophecies were fulfilled. There is something radically wrong with God if he does not judge sin, and I don't know why people don't get that, because we as individuals, we are incensed when a wrong has been committed against us and no one deals with it. We say there is no justice. Well God says, well yeah, there is. There is justice, and we'll get to why it takes a long time for God to execute justice in a moment.
Well, in a good moment. But as we look at this, chapter one, there is the verdict of vengeance. Chapter two, there's the vision of vengeance, because it was a vision. He could see what was going to happen. He named it. He said the flood waters will come in and breach the city, and that is precisely what happened to Nineveh.
The Euphrates overflowed, the Tigris River, and the waters came in, and those sun baked bricks were just dissolved. In chapter three, he speaks of the vindication of vengeance. In other words, God is justified in his wrath.
There's a good reason for this. We'll get to the part about salvation, don't worry. Every good person sometimes prophesies just like Nahum. At some point, a righteous person looks for judgment against the wickedness and the evil that is found on earth.
Why? Because, in the Christian, God's love is in them. Because we hate and we despise cruelty and inhumanity and evil, and this is what he was facing, the prophet, in his day. These Assyrians were a constant threat to the righteous people of God and the unrighteous people, too.
They were a threat to everyone. Such prophecies of God, his vengeance, are always justifiable. God is never wrong, period.
Whether he is showing kindness or whether he is judging, he is always right. This is fundamental to Christianity. Be it in prophecy retrospect or prophecy in prospect. So you have a retrospect, that's the book of Naaman. In retrospect, we see it fulfilled.
It's all done. There is no more Nineveh. You won't catch a flight to Nineveh. In prospect, it is the great tribulation.
That's one. It will be fulfilled. As God's mercy was given to Nineveh when they repented, God's vengeance was given to their impenitent ancestors.
We would say it cuts both ways. These are stark warnings. They remain lessons for future generations, and that would include us, and these are the kind of things we should be preaching to people.
There's nothing wrong to open up your Bible and preach from Nineveh to someone who has no knowledge of the Bible whatsoever, because you're the one that's going to point out to them where the light is coming in, where the colors come from, that no one else can do this except God, like the Vermeer analogy that I used at the beginning. The prophets, they wrote and they spoke with astounding certainty, astounding. When they said something, it was like, this is going to happen. And many of their prophecies, they did not live to see. They didn't even live to see them beginning to be fulfilled. But they were sure they were going to happen, because God had given them the vision, God had given them the faith, and He does the same to us. He gives us what we need to be certain about the witness of Jesus Christ that we have observed. Jesus still points to Nahum's prophecies.
He does it indirectly. It was Jesus who beheld the city and wept over it, and while his tears were still on his face, he pronounced Jerusalem's doom. He says it this way in Matthew 23, see, your house is left to you desolate. It's a judgment. He could see it coming because of them. Always God offers mercy before he pronounces judgment.
That's why a book like Nahum is so important. It's like, where's this judgment coming from? What's going to happen to me? I am a sinner. I need mercy.
I need God to forgive me. Why didn't the Ninevites get it? They didn't come for it.
Well, not this generation. The others, the precedent was if they would just repent in sackcloth and ashes, God would forgive them. I'm not talking about the Christian who struggles with sin. With sin abounded, grace did much more.
I'm talking about a lost world that is depending on us and doesn't even know it. Jesus said this, woe to you, raisin. Woe to you, Bethsaida. For if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. This is Jesus speaking. There's a lamentation in his judgment, but it is a judgment nonetheless. And he's saying to the New Testament church, don't misunderstand.
I want to save, but there is a judgment. Matthew 23, 13. But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, for you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men, for you neither go in yourselves nor do you allow those who are entering in to go in.
There's such a train wreck, these religious people that he was talking about here, that no one could get to heaven because of them. Matthew 23, 14. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, for you devour widows' houses and for pretense you make long prayers. Therefore, you will receive greater condemnation. Matthew 23, 15. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, for you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves. So don't say the book of Nahum has no relevance.
All scripture is God-breathed. All of it is relevant. And if you don't see it, it's because it just hasn't been pointed out to you yet. Doesn't mean you can't see it. How obnoxious we would all be if you could be like me. It's a joke. How obnoxious would we all be if we just knew everything?
Who likes a know-it-all? Raise your hand. So, within Nahum's words, again, the lamentations of Jesus Christ. Jonah was sent to convict sinners to repent because of the value of the soul to God. Because Jonah had no value for their soul. Nahum was sent to condemn sinners for impenitence.
That is the downfall of the soul without God. These are the things we need to learn to preach. I learned in my days, early days as a Christian sharing the Gospel, that when I spoke about things of God from sections of the scripture that were totally foreign to the people I was speaking to, I held their attention better. If I just went to God so loves the world that He gave us a sofa, yeah, I don't, you know, over their heads. But when I took a book like Nahum or any of the other books of the Bible that are relatively obscure, arcane, I'd hold their attention because I would teach them what these things were meaning. With what God has to say about sin and wrath in our Bibles, none should ignore it. If God doesn't, we should not. Still, here is some Christian that will come along because they think this way unfortunately. And it's never mind what you have to make me holy, pastor. What do you have to make me happy?
What do you have for my teens? What do you, here, here's my, you know, child, fix them. John Wesley said it this way about churchgoers in his day and he was in the late 1700s. They came to church to enjoy religion instead of to learn how they could become holy. Well, I don't feel like as I pastor this church I have this issue, but I know it exists.
I know firsthand that it exists. I know that there are other churches that are this way. And I don't say this to condemn them. It's not necessary.
But pointing it out has value. That kind of thinking is not taking Christianity seriously. When you come to God's house only for yourself and not for him, something's not right.
I mean, again, we have our seasons. Sanctification. That is the development of the Christian. I mean, there are two elements to sanctification.
It is when you are justified and your sin is taken away, you are set aside by God, you are sanctified, you become a saint. When Paul wrote to the saints, they were all living. To the saints at Ephesus, to the saints at Colosse, to the saints at Rome.
They were not voted on. They were those who had come to Jesus Christ. They were separated, they were sanctified. But the second phase of sanctification is the development of the Christian walk. Ephesians 17 gets right out of chapter 4, verse 17.
Gets right into this. It takes work to develop as a Christian. It takes work to face the flesh, the sinful nature that you're born with.
And it takes constant work. It is by the sweat of your brow that you will enter into heaven. To hear the Lord say, well done. John, the Baptist, Jesus said, and the righteous are pressing in.
We are pressing in. It is work. And if you think Christianity is not work, you haven't tried it. The cross and the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the power of God. We all know that as believers. Unbelievers don't know this. And if they do, why are they still unbelievers? Because they don't believe it. Why do they not believe it?
Well, that is a million dollar question. God's message to forgive or to damn is wrapped up in His mercy. No question about it. Mercy does not mean that the recipient has gotten away with their sin. It's the opposite. Mercy means you've been busted.
You have been caught. And strength is being withheld. Judgment is being held back. God's mercy is lightning fast.
When He shows it, it is instant. His condemnation though, it plods along very slowly. And this is why Nineveh was getting away with murder for the seasons that belonged to them before their judgment. I want to say that again because it is critical to understanding the heart of God in a cursed world, a critical element. God's mercy is lightning fast. When you repent, your salvation is instant.
But for those who have not repented, the condemnation comes slowly. Luke's gospel, this is illustrated in the thirteenth chapter in verse six. He also spoke this parable. Jesus is now giving this parable. And a parable is a parallel.
It is a great truth in the story that runs right next to life. And he says, a certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard. And he came seeking fruit on it and found none.
Then he said to the keeper of his vineyard, look, for three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree and find none. Cut it down. Why does it use up the ground? That's me. That's what I would say. Cut that thing down. It's wasting time.
I put something better there. Here comes the reply. But he answered and said to him, sir, let it alone this year also until I dig around it and fertilize it. And if it bears fruit, well, but if not, after that, you can cut it down. See the slow response to judgment.
The keeper of the vineyard. Let's not rush to cut it down. Let's give it a chance. Thanks for tuning in to Cross Reference Radio for this study in God's word. If you've missed any part of this message or would like to explore more teachings, you can hear them by going to Cross Reference Radio dot com.
Pastor Rick is the pastor of Calvary Chapel Mechanicsville in Virginia. To learn more about this ministry, visit our website, Cross Reference Radio dot com. Again, that website is Cross Reference Radio dot com. We'd also like to encourage you to subscribe to our podcast. By doing so, you'll be notified of each new edition of Cross Reference Radio that we upload. It's a great way to stay connected to God's word. Just search for Cross Reference Radio in your favorite podcast app. That's all for today. Thanks for joining us here on Cross Reference Radio.
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