Monday, March 11, 2013

Nahum 1:9-13 (Part 1)

What do you plot against the LORD? He will make a complete end; trouble will not rise up a second time. For they are like entangled thorns, like drunkards as they drink; they are consumed like stubble fully dried. From you came one who plotted evil against the LORD, a worthless counselor.

Thus says the LORD, “Though they are at full strength and many, they will be cut down and pass away. Though I have afflicted you, I will afflict you no more. And now I will break his yoke from off you and will burst your bonds apart.” (Nahum 1:9-13 ESV)

1:9-11 In the primary meaning of this passage (in its application to Nineveh), via Judah, God is proclaiming the destruction of the great city. Nothing they do will prevail against God. They have this one consolation though, if it can be called that, they won’t experience this twice. This is because God will so fully destroy them that they will not be able to muster another rising. All that they do will be confusion – like tangled thorns or the steps of a drunk.

Verse 11 speaks of a “wicked counselor.” It is most likely that this person is the current King of the Assyrian Empire. Since there is about a 50 year range within which this prophecy could have been given, we cannot say with 100% accuracy which one of the kings this would have been. However, what we know from ancient history is that any one of the Assyrian Kings could easily have fit this bill.

Here again we see the biblical principle of covenant solidarity. Think back to Israel’s Exodus from Egypt (which we are intended to do since this passage has so many ‘exodus’ motifs). All 10 of the plagues, including the last one which killed every firstborn male child in all of Egypt, were poured out upon the entire country, man and beast, because of their covenant solidarity with their Pharaoh. Think back even farther to the fall. All of mankind was involved in Adam’s violation of the covenant of works. The transgression of Adam cast all his posterity into the state of sin and misery known as Original Sin. God created Adam as the federal head, that is, the representative of all of mankind. When he acted in his probationary period in the Garden of Eden, he was acting as a covenant representative of all of his future offspring. In similar fashion, all those whom God has appointed to eternal life, those whom he chose in Christ Jesus before the foundation of the world, they are counted in Christ. Just as Adam’s sin was imputed to all his posterity, the perfect righteousness of Jesus is imputed to all those who are in Him. This concept of covenant solidarity runs through the Scriptures, in both the Old and New Testaments. This is an unusual concept for us since our society and general philosophy places so much emphasis on the individual and the individual’s responsibility before God. It seems very counterintuitive to us that the actions of one individual should reflect guilt or innocence upon anyone else. But both facts are true: God does judge the individual; but God also judges on a corporate level as well. So in this passage, we have the wicked counselor, no doubt the King, being personally responsible for his individual sin. But because he is the corporate head, representative head, of his nation they are punished along with him.

Not to harp on this point too much, but throughout Scripture we see God’s people displaying both a clear understanding of this principle, and a submissive acceptance of it. One thinks of Daniel. The very fact that Daniel and countless other Jews ended up in Babylon was due to this fact of covenant solidarity. The Babylonian Exile was God’s chastisement of His people for their covenant-breaking. Daniel, like many other righteous Jews, had been faithful to God’s covenant and was not personally guilty of the sins which brought this discipline upon their nation. When Daniel read the prophecy of Jeremiah and saw that the foretold 70 years was nearly up, he began to pray earnestly for the fulfillment of God’s promise. Just as an aside, this reminds me of our children’s catechism where the question is asked: What is prayer? The answer to which is: Prayer is asking God for things He has promised to give. Now, as Daniel prays, he prays in the person of the entire guilty nation of Israel. He repents for their corporate sins and he acts as if he is personally guilty of the sins the rest of the country has committed. There is no listing of any exculpatory facts which would exonerate Daniel from personal guilt in the sin of his nation. He understands very well that God deals with His people by covenant, so that if the larger majority of the covenant people are guilty of covenant breaking, the innocent, righteous and faithful saints may very well have to suffer through the corporate fate of the entire nation. (Daniel 9)

We can also cite examples from more recent history. I’m sure we’re all aware that many faithful Christians have suffered along with their compatriots during times of war, drought, famine or economic distress. If God continues to punish our country by casting us into a huge economic tailspin causing widespread unemployment and poverty, it would be very unwise for us to assume that because we are Christians we would somehow be immune to the effects of such conditions.

1:12-13 here God consoles his people who have been abused by Nineveh. Now we learn an important lesson here: God identifies very personally with His covenant people. In verse 11 the wicked counselor is said to plot evil against Lord. And here God is assuring His people of their deliverance. Part of Nineveh’s plotting against the Lord was its plotting against His people. There is a sense in which Israel, in the Old Testament and the Church in the New Testament should seem insignificant in the world. Yet God’s people have always been at the center of controversy or turmoil. The heathen resent the idea of a people chosen by God.

 It is very likely that the King of Nineveh was completely oblivious to the existence of the one true God. Likewise, many of those who are so vociferous in their attacks against Christianity, while aware of our belief in God, claim to not believe in His existence personally. This makes no difference. God does not believe in atheists. You’ll remember when Paul was on the road to Damascus that Jesus appeared to him and reprimanded Paul for persecuting Him. We know however that Paul was actually persecuting Christians. Christ takes an assault on His people as an assault on His person. If someone were to personally attack, or attempt to attack, the first lady or her children, this would be seen by all as an attack on the president. We all understand this. This is the way God views His people, only magnified to an infinitely higher degree.

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