Monday, April 22, 2013

Nahum 2:7-13 (Part 3)

7 its mistress is stripped; she is carried off, her slave girls lamenting, moaning like doves and beating their breasts. 8 Nineveh is like a pool whose waters run away. “Halt! Halt!” they cry, but none turns back. 9 Plunder the silver, plunder the gold! There is no end of the treasure or of the wealth of all precious things. 10 Desolate! Desolation and ruin! Hearts melt and knees tremble; anguish is in all loins; all faces grow pale! 11 Where is the lions’ den, the feeding place of the young lions, where the lion and lioness went, where his cubs were, with none to disturb? 12 The lion tore enough for his cubs and strangled prey for his lionesses; he filled his caves with prey and his dens with torn flesh. 13 Behold, I am against you, declares the LORD of hosts, and I will burn your chariots in smoke, and the sword shall devour your young lions. I will cut off your prey from the earth, and the voice of your messengers shall no longer be heard.

Another passage of Scripture which speaks to the same event is the following:

Zephaniah 2:13-15 And he will stretch out his hand against the north and destroy Assyria, and he will make Nineveh a desolation, a dry waste like the desert.  Herds shall lie down in her midst, all kinds of beasts; even the owl and the hedgehog shall lodge in her capitals; a voice shall hoot in the window; devastation will be on the threshold; for her cedar work will be laid bare. This is the exultant city that lived securely, that said in her heart, “I am, and there is no one else.” What a desolation she has become, a lair for wild beasts! Everyone who passes by her hisses and shakes his fist.

This theme runs all throughout the Scriptures. Note:

Proverbs 21:18 - The wicked is a ransom for the righteous, and the traitor for the upright.

Isaiah 43:3 - For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. I give Egypt as your ransom, Cush and Seba in exchange for you.

Barnes writes, ”The argument is, that if he had suffered Egypt, Ethiopia, and Seba to be desolated and ruined instead of them, or in order to effect their deliverance, they had nothing to fear from Babylon or any other hostile nation, but that he would effect their deliverance even at the expense of the overthrow of the most mighty kingdoms. The word rendered 'ransom' here is כפר kôpher. It is derived from כפר kâphar - means literally to cover; to cover over; to overlay with anything, as pitch, as in Genesis 6:14. Hence, to cover over sins; to overlook; to forgive; and hence, to make an expiation for sins, or to atone for transgression so that it may be forgiven Genesis 32:21;Exodus 30:15; Leviticus 4:20; Leviticus 5:26; Leviticus 11:24; Leviticus 16:6; Psalm 65:4; Psalm 78:38; Proverbs 16:14; Jeremiah 18:25; Ezekiel 45:20; Daniel 9:24. The noun (כפר kôpher) means: A ransom; a price of redemption, or an expiation; so called because by it sins were covered over, concealed, or removed Exodus 29:36; Exodus 30:10, Exodus 30:16. In such an expiation, that which was offered as the ransom was supposed to take the place of that for which the expiation was made, and this idea is distinctly retained in the versions of this passage.”

God’s judgment of the wicked and His saving of His people are two sides of the same coin. If we don’t see this, we will misread most of the Old Testament and large portions of the New. Revelation 6:9-11 comes to mind. The souls of martyrs cry out before the throne of God for justice while they await the rest of their brethren who will die for the faith also. The separation of the ‘sheep and the goats’ in Matthew 25 is another picture.

And I will punish Bel in Babylon, and take out of his mouth what he has swallowed. The nations shall no longer flow to him;             the wall of Babylon has fallen. “Go out of the midst of her, my people! Let every one save his life from the fierce anger of the LORD! (Jeremiah 51:44-45 ESV)

Zechariah 9:9-16 – The Triumphant Entry of Christ signals the inauguration of judgment against God’s enemies and the salvation of His people.

then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, (2 Peter 2:9 ESV)

But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly. (2 Peter 3:7 ESV)

The message of Nahum is the message of the Gospel: God saves His people. He saves them from their sins and from His just wrath upon it. The wrath of God against sin must either fall on us or upon Christ for us. The God-man was named Jesus because He would save His people from their sins! This is perhaps the most overlooked aspect of the Gospel. We, with our incessant reliance on the broken Covenant of Works, obsess over our infractions of God’s law, as if this will put us out of His favor, or as if Christ did not atone for this. We should rather think of God as a “father who pities His children” (Ps. 103:9-13). Our sins are either atoned for or they are not. If they are not, then let’s revert to Romanism, where at least we can offer Mass for our continued forgiveness of our sins. If they are, then we must rest in Christ’s perfect obedience and know that nothing can separate us from the love of God. God does not punish us for our sins, because He punished Christ for them. He chastises us from them, not for them. And there is a world of difference between the words “for” and “from!”

The power of the Gospel is not contingent upon your performance, but on Christ’s. And as long as you see performance as the pivot or hinge upon which everything turns, you will never see the Gospel in the Old Testament.

How were pious persons saved before the coming of Christ? By believing in a Savior to come. How did they show their faith? By offering sacrifices on God's altar. What did these sacrifices represent? Christ, the Lamb of God, who was to die for sinners. This is the core of the Gospel and it is the pillar upon which rests all of God’s dealings with His people in the Old Testament. To miss this is to miss everything.

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