Monday, April 29, 2013

Nahum 3:1-7 (Part 2)

1 Woe to the bloody city, all full of lies and plunder—no end to the prey! 2 The crack of the whip, and rumble of the wheel, galloping horse and bounding chariot! 3 Horsemen charging, flashing sword and glittering spear, hosts of slain, heaps of corpses, dead bodies without end—they stumble over the bodies! 4 And all for the countless whorings of the prostitute, graceful and of deadly charms, who betrays nations with her whorings, and peoples with her charms. 5 Behold, I am against you, declares the LORD of hosts, and will lift up your skirts over your face; and I will make nations look at your nakedness and kingdoms at your shame. 6 I will throw filth at you and treat you with contempt and make you a spectacle. 7 And all who look at you will shrink from you and say, Wasted is Nineveh; who will grieve for her? Where shall I seek comforters for you?

Verse 4. Compare to Revelation 17:2 and 18:3. Also compare with Revelation 2:14-15.

with whom the kings of the earth have committed sexual immorality, and with the wine of whose sexual immorality the dwellers on earth have become drunk.”

For all nations have drunk the wine of the passion of her sexual immorality, and the kings of the earth have committed immorality with her, and the merchants of the earth have grown rich from the power of her luxurious living.”

But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality. So also you have some who hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans.

The relationship which may exist between the mention of the Nicolaitans (Rev2:15) in close association with Balaam (Rev. 2:14) has also been noted. The two names (Nicolaitans, Balaam) have very similar meanings in their respective languages: Balaam is derived from two Hebrew words, בָּלַע [bālaʿ] (‘he swallows’) and עָם [ʿām] (‘people’). Interestingly, according to the derivative meanings of the names, the two groups troubling this church [Pergamos] were ‘swallowers of the people’ (i.e., the Balaamites) and ‘conquerors of the people’ (i.e., the Nicolaitans). If the similar meaning of their names is significant and their mention in adjoining verses in the letter to Pergamos is intended to show a relationship, then it is thought that the licentious tendencies of the Nicolaitans might be understood in light of the doctrine of Balaam.

Richard Trench writes: “Was there, in the first place, any sect existing at the time when these words were uttered, which actually bore this name? I believe not. The key to the right understanding of it is given us at Rev. 2:14-15; where those ‘that hold the doctrine of Balaam’ (Rev. 2:14) are evidently identical with those ‘that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans’ (Rev. 2:15). It may be observed that his name [Balaam], according to the best etymology, signifies ‘Destroyer of the people’ (from בֶלַע [ḇelaʿ] and עָם [ʿām]; and Νικόλαος (νικα̃ν τὸν λαόν) is no more than a Grecizing of this name. The Nicolaitans are the Balaamites - those who in the New Testament repeated the sin of Balaam in the Old, and sought to overcome or destroy the people of God by the same temptations whereby Balaam had sought to overcome them before.Trench, Richard Chenevix. Commentary on the Epistles to the Seven Churches in Asia, Wipf and Stock Publishers. 1861.

Now let me insert here briefly that I am not straying off into speculation for the sake of looking smart. The sins mentioned in these Revelation passages are the sins for which God criticizes His people constantly throughout the Old Testament period. And in this segment of Nahum, it is clear that their spiritually defiling influence of God’s covenant people is the primary impetus for God’s judgment against them.

Before expounding this notion and the sin in question, let me briefly defend the position I have taken by appealing to a feature of John’s writings which I take as a key to understanding this passage. It is a motif of juxtaposing Hebrew/Aramaic words and their Greek equivalents. This motif of setting Hebrew/Aramaic words side by side with their Greek equivalents is common in John’s writings. Revelation 1:7; 22:20 nai/amen; 9:11 Abaddon/Apollyon; Cephas/Peter John 1:42; Thomas/Didymus in John. In three places (John 11:16, 20:24 and 21:2) he is given the name Didymus (Δίδυμος), the Greek word for a twin. In fact, "the Twin" is not just a surname, it is a translation of "Thomas". The Greek Θωμᾶς — Thōmâs — comes from the Aramaic tômâ, "twin". Therefore, rather than two personal names, Thomas Didymus, there is a single nickname, the Twin. John 20:16 gives Rabboni/Master. John also does this with Golgotha, Gabbatha and the Pool of Bethesda. Suffice it to say that this is common in John’s writings, so it would seem to be the easiest way to handle the Balaamite/Nicolaitan connection.

The sin, or sins, under question were twofold. One the part of Balaam, as 2 Peter 2:15 says, it was a desire for gain even when it meant disobeying what one clearly knows to be God’s will. Balaam was hindered by God from pronouncing a curse against Israel, but he still wanted Balak’s money, so he devised another way to get them cursed, namely to get them to fall into gross sin and incur the rod of God for their disobedience. In contemporary Evangelical circles, we have countless “ministers” who are not accountable to anyone leading people into gross theological error because they can make a quick buck off of their audience’s credulity.

Last year, a pastor named Ed Young, did an event with an accompanying sermon, book, and a host of other related media materials called: “The Sexperiment.” For 24 hours, he and his wife had a sleep-in, not unlike John and Yoko’s. They lay in a bed on the roof of the church, all the while streaming themselves over the internet as they took questions from viewers about sex. Never mind the obvious tomfoolery of such a gimmick, let’s consider the logical inconsistency of what they did. First of all, the stunt was intended combat our society’s promiscuous treatment of sex. It is not something that anyone can have any time they want it. It is a private, intimate issue strictly confined within the bonds of marriage. Yet, this private intimate thing was broadcast over the internet from the roof of the church! We always interpret actions through the underlying assumptions exposed by the acts themselves. Will anyone in their right mind deduce from such a public display that to Christians sexual relations are guarded with the utmost vigilance? No. They will think that we treat it as tritely as the rest of our society does. The live event, as well as the whole glut of materials related to it made the Youngs a small fortune.

One also thinks of the book, The Prayer of Jabez. This book was a runaway best seller. The author must’ve made a fortune from this book alone. As if that weren’t enough, the publishers came out with a dozen editions of it for every imaginable demographic. There was The Prayer of Jabez for men; The Prayer of Jabez for women; The Prayer of Jabez for teens; The Prayer of Jabez for dads; The Prayer of Jabez for moms; The Prayer of Jabez for fly fishing enthusiasts, ad nauseum. The central feature of the book was a Gnostic claim to secret knowledge to unlocking wealth and success, which could be yours for the low price of $14.95. And if you call in the next 5 minutes, we’ll double the offer.

One the part of the people it was a perversion of God’s worship by eating food sacrificed to idols and by engaging in sexual immorality. Adultery is a constant Scriptural metaphor for spiritual infidelity to God or syncretistic worship. The sin which is being rebuked at Pergamos is lax morality due to far too casual interaction with the pagan world around them. They were desensitized by their interaction. This is not a call for monasticism, but a reminder that we are to be in the world, but not of it.

Pagan rituals were often rife with sexual perversions and blatant immorality. A Christian could eat the food sacrificed to this deity, who was in fact a non-entity, without being spiritually defiled, as Paul clearly argues in 1 Corinthians 8. The problem is when one assumes that since the idol is not real, one can show his spiritual strength by actually attending these pagan rites. By the very act of being present, the Christian is exposing himself to the conscience-defiling immorality associated with these rites. Simply consider that sexual promiscuity as it is practiced in and endorsed by our society is based upon a philosophy of atheistic naturalism, the pagan deity has been replaced by self-worship, and at bottom, what we see is just another, more subtle version of the same religious use of sexuality.

The same can be said of the pervasive violence of our culture, especially as it is embodied in the discussions about abortion and euthanasia. In both instances, men deify themselves and thumb their noses at the Godhood of God and His right over life and death, usurping to themselves that over which only God has authority.

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