Introduction to Week 31…
It’s complicated! This week in our reading we are going to see a complex story unfold. On one hand we will see God continue to discipline His people for their sin and idolatry, but on the other hand we will see God pour out judgment on Israel’s enemies. We will see a good king rise up to lead Judah into repentance then we will see that king die on the battlefield because he failed to listen to the warning of God. We will read in Isaiah of the glorious future hope that awaits the people of God but the book ends with a picture of hell that will echo throughout the New Testament.
Like I said, it’s complicated. But let’s work through what we are reading this week beginning with the book of Nahum.
Something to meditate on…
The prophet Nahum was given a divine proclamation about the fate of the city of Nineveh, the capital of Assyria. Nahum’s name means comfort and this prophecy would have been a comfort to the people of God because in it they learn that God is not blind to the sins of Assyria nor the injustices that they’ve carried out against God’s people. But wait a minute, is this the same Nineveh that Jonah called to repentance? Yes, it is.
Jonah’s ministry to Nineveh, which was a huge success, would have taken place more than 100 years before the prophecy of Nahum, but from the looks of things the repentance that Jonah saw in Nineveh did not last very long. In 745 BC, Tiglath-Pileser became king in Assyria and he led his nation to become the leading military power in the Near East. He did so with incredible brutality and by 722 BC he led the northern tribe of Israel into exile.
Now this is made more complicated by the fact that God used the nation of Assyria to discipline Israel for their sin and now He is going to bring judgment on Assyria for their sin. This book and the all the history that surrounds it are meant to make it clear that nobody will get away with sin. All sin will be addressed by our righteous Judge in His time and in the way that He sees fit. God will by no means clear the guilty.
But at the same time we see gospel hope in this book. “The Lord is a jealous and avenging God…who will make a complete end of the adversaries.” But in chapter 1:15 we also read, “Behold, upon the mountains, the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace.” There is but one way to find refuge from the wrath of God and it is to find shelter in God himself. This book helps us to see that no sin goes unpunished but it also causes us to long for the good news to come down and tell us about how to have peace with the God.
Take some time to meditate upon the judgment of God and the salvation of God. Think about how God used the nation of Assyria to accomplish His purpose of discipline in Israel. Think also about how God used Jonah to call the Assyrians to repentance. Meditate on the unfolding plan of God to raise up nations and bring them down. But also, think on the complexity of God’s justice and His grace. With the same breath He declares the just judgment is coming and with it comes the good news of peace.
Something to discuss…
The last few chapters of Isaiah are cause for celebration because they hold out hope for the future. In these chapters God is holding out promises for the day that is to come. On that day, the creation will be renewed and salvation will be consummated. On that day, judgment and salvation will be poured out together when the Lord, “rends the heavens and comes down,” kindling the fire of judgment and then making peace inviting people to His table.
The day that is coming will be terrible for those upon whom God’s justice falls but for those who find refuge in the Suffering Servant this will be a day of celebration and final rest. As you read these chapters it almost seems that God is eager for these days to come. He is eager to display His glory to the world and He is eager to usher in the new heaven and new earth that will be His chosen dwelling place.
But what does this mean for us? What does this mean for our nation? What does this mean for the people of the world? What does this mean for the church? Where does hope lie?
The call of these chapters is for all who hear to turn from their sin and trust in God’s appointed deliverer. Hope is to be found in Jesus Christ alone. What are the implications of this for us today? Should this change the way we live? Should this change the way we interact with others? Take some time to read over these chapters and discuss how it should comfort us, warn us and motivate us to live our lives.
Something to pray about…
The last thing I want to look at this week is the story of king Josiah. Josiah was clearly one of the best of Judah’s kings. He did what was right in the eyes of God. He restored the worship of God in the temple. He destroyed all of the pagan worship sights throughout the land and he even reinstituted the celebration of Passover which had not occurred since the time of Samuel.
Josiah led the tribe of Judah in a time of incredible reformation and it all started when the priests found the book of the law. They discovered the Word of God in the temple, they gave it to the king who read it and immediately began to turn the nation away from idolatry and back to God. Don’t miss the fact that the reading of God’s Word led to this massive revival and reformation in Judah.
God still speaks through His Word and our labor to read through the Bible this year is more important than we know. Let’s pray that God would show us things in His Word that we need to see. Pray that God would reveal things that will break out hearts, comfort our souls and bring peace into our lives. Pray that God would do a work of revival and reform in us, our homes and our church as we read and follow the His Word.