Today's passage: Nahum 3
Fires are destructive. Fires produce billows of smoke which signal to others something is wrong. Fires can be so hot that people have to stand afar off, they have to stay away. The brightness of the flames catches attention, the toxicity of the smoke fills the lungs. Fires spread and spread, until they are eventually extinguished.
Nearly fifty years before Nahum, Assyria had conquered Thebes, one of Egypt's most prominent cities. God reminds Assyria of this conquest. He reminds them how Thebes thought she could never be destroyed. He reminds them how Thebes had all of Egypt, Ethiopia and Libya to aid her in fighting them, but to no avail. The Assyrians were known to be unusually cruel in their methods when toppling other nations. It is one of the reasons Jonah refused to go. He was fearful and he was bitter about how the Ninevites had treated their captives (for those of us VeggieTale fans, it was far more than fish-slapping). Now, God tells Assyria that she will fall victim to her own devices. Nahum goes into great detail about how Assyria will fall. He tells them explicitly and graphically what their future holds. It is not pretty. Obviously, the reason God pronounces judgement on them is because they refused to recognize Him as Jehovah God. But does it go farther than that?
In verse 4 he says, "Because of the multitude of the whoredoms of the wellfavoured harlot, the mistress of witchcrafts, that selleth nations through her whoredoms, and families through her witchcrafts." Well, that is certainly a comparison. What caused God to pour His wrath upon Assyria? Her influence. With every nation she had seized, she forced her polytheistic beliefs. She required her captives to worship like her. She spread her beliefs among the nations, sold them like, well, you just read what the verse says. Assyria had not simply refused God, but she had caused others to turn from God as well. The last verse of Nahum says, "There is no healing of thy bruise; thy wound is grievous: all that hear the bruit of thee shall clap the hands over thee: for upon whom hath not thy wickedness passed continually?" Her influence was so widespread, that the only way God would be able to stop it was to wipe her off the planet. He would extinguish her flame. Nahum says that she will be "laid waste", that she will be hid. People would try to find the city of Nineveh and all they would find were sand dunes. It wasn't just that she didn't worship Him, it was that she led others away from Him as well.
God takes my testimony very seriously. This has been ingrained in me for as long as I have been a Christian. My influence can lead others to Him or lead others away from Him. An atheist may not believe in God, but if he keeps that to himself, God can work with him and persuade him to accept Him. When he starts spreading his lies, and convincing others that God is not real, then he is going to be in big trouble. God put us here to be a witness. I am either a bad witness, or a good one. Not one of us will be a perfect witness, because none of us is perfect. I make so many mistakes that I could write a book about them, make that several books. God does not expect me to never make mistakes, but do I weigh my decisions before I proceed? Do I think to myself, if I do this, go there, say that, watch this, am I affecting what people are going to think about Jesus? Not what are they going to think about me, because that isn't really what is important. What are they going to think about my God? If Assyria, an ungodly nation, was judged for her influence, how much more will God judge me for mine? If I, as a Christian, do not "abstain from all appearance of evil" (I Thessalonians 5:22) who might I be taking down with me? If I do not consult the Lord about everything I do (yes, that seems burdensome, but its what God expects of me) and I do things that may not even be wrong, but questionable, shouldn't I just not do it? I know, I know, now I'm getting into Christian liberty. Well, the Bible doesn't say not to do this or do that. Sure, there are a lot of things the Bible is vague about or doesn't talk about at all. That isn't really the point. If I am with other people, I need to be mindful of what I do or say because what I do makes a difference.
We live in a dark, dark world. God wants me to be a light. My light can be dim, it can be bright, or it can be like a fireball, exploding and extinguishing. What kind of light am I? Am I like a fire, spreading toxins and destroying everything in my path, keeping everyone at a distance with my ungodly ways? Will God have to extinguish my influence as He did Nineveh's? Lord, help me to be mindful of everything I do, everything I say, everywhere I go, so that I will not be a hindrance to anyone. Let my influence point people to You, and not away.