Saturday, June 4, 2011

Sheep and a Prophet

Today's passage:  Nahum 1
     "And the LORD hath given a commandment concerning thee, that no more of thy name be sown:  out of the house of thy gods will I cut off the graven image and the molten image:  I will make thy grave; for thou art vile.  Behold upon the mountains the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace!..."
     Nahum was a contemporary of Isaiah and was given the unenviable task of announcing the destruction of Assyria, particularly Nineveh.  The Capernaum of Galilee that is often written of in the New Testament is believed to be his hometown.  The name Capernaum means "village of Nahum".  His prophecy comes many years after Jonah had gone to that city and called for repentance.  As Jonah tells us, to his great disappointment, the Ninevites embrace his message, repent of their wickedness and God spares them.  This must not have lasted long, for now Nahum is commanded to give them a message of doom.  I decided to do a little background study on Nineveh and was surprised to find that when archaeological excavations took place in the mid-1800's, the archaeologists located two mounds in modern-day Iraq they believed to be ancient Nineveh.  One mound was named "Many Sheep" (not surprising since sheep-herding is still prevalent in those parts) and the other was named "The Prophet Jonah".  I have to say, this piqued my curiosity.  Assyria had been a mighty empire with many mighty warrior kings, and all that remained, centuries later, were piles of dirt named for their livelihood and for a prophet from afar.  Somehow, after it's demise, for these two things was the city remembered.
     What happened after Jonah's visit?  They repented.  They called on the Lord.  God knows the heart, and they must have been sincere or God would not have called off his judgement.  They must have been genuine or Jonah (who did not want to go in the first place) would not have been so upset they had repented.  Now, in Nahum, God promises to destroy Assyria.
     In the first verse of Nahum, he refers to it as the "burden of Nineveh".  His message was not going to be pleasant.  It was going to be a great weight that he would deliver.   Nahum poetically describes how the Lord's anger is kindled against Assyria. At the end of the chapter, in verses 14 and 15, God makes them a promise.  They will no longer exist and messengers will deliver this good news back to Israel. The beautiful feet are referring to the Israeli scouts who were waiting to deliver news to their king.  Would they have to surrender, or would they miraculously be delivered?  They had good, no great, news. Can I read just a little more into this though, now knowing what I know years later about Assyria?  Neither of the two archaeological mounds were named after any of the Assyrian rulers, which kind of fulfills the part of the verse that says no more of their name will be sown.  But one of the mounds was named after a prophet of Israel.  Did not Jonah have beautiful feet, did he not bring good tidings to Assyria?  I'm just wondering if there is a further meaning here.  God knew what the excavation of Nineveh would yield.  He kept His name going in a land that had once worshipped Him and then fell away.  He kept His name there, over all of the historical rulers, over all of the many gods they worshipped.  God prevailed.
     The United States has been a nation under God.  But we are falling away.  If we end up as a heap of dirt, what will be found under all the rubble?  My guess is that it won't be the names of any President. It won't be our technology.  My guess is that it will be a Bible.  God will prevail.

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