What Happened To The Assyrians?


Jonah was God’s prophet. Granted, he didn’t always happily declare God’s message as he was instructed to do. But apparently God can use a reluctant prophet because when Jonah finally made his way to Nineveh, where God sent him, the people of this warrior country heeded the warning of calamity and repented. All of them, from king to commoner.

A hundred years later the prophet Nahum is once again speaking into the lives of the Assyrians to deliver God’s message of warning. This time, apparently, the response was nothing like it had been to Jonah. Instead, in a matter of years the very thing that Nahum said would take place, did in fact happen. Assyria collapsed, devolving into a series of civil wars until their territory was taken over by the Medians. They have never regained their standing as an independent and powerful nation.

So what happened? From repentance to calamity in a couple generations. Of course the Bible doesn’t tell us, but clearly, the people who repented in Jonah’s day did not successfully pass on to their children and their grandchildren the need to bow in humble repentance before the Living God.

In some ways they remind me of the people of Israel. God rescued them out of the hand of Pharaoh, miraculously provided for them to cross the Red Sea on dry land, and then met with Moses to give him the Ten Commandments. The people were completely on board with the idea of following and obeying God. They vowed to do so. Until they didn’t have enough water. Until they didn’t have any meat. Until they got tired of eating manna. Until they faced another enemy who wanted to destroy them.

At each of those turns, the people grumbled and complained, essentially accusing God of wrong doing against them. God, You shouldn’t have brought us here. God, You should have left us in Egypt. God, there are giants in this Promised Land of Yours, and we aren’t going up against them.

From gratefully vowing to do what God required, to complete rebellion. And it didn’t take them a hundred years to get there.

How easily we humans turn our backs on God. The Assyrians were no different. How could they be? We suffer with a nature that basically tells us we should be on the throne of our own lives. We should get to determine good from evil on our own.

So no wonder that today, some atheists deny a moral right and wrong. Those don’t actually exist, they say. Rather society simply decides what they as a group believe will be good or . . . not good. They don’t actually believe in evil, any more than they believe in a fixed morality, an absolute standard.

But God Himself is that fixed point, that unchanging standard, that Absolute Truth. We can either embrace Him or turn from Him.

Not that we necessarily turn from Him in one swoop. Repentance might sweep the city like it did Nineveh when Jonah preached, but turning from God seems to happen more slowly, over time.

It might start with our own grumbling against God by excusing our complains with the idea that God is big enough to handle our anger or God wants us to be authentic or God is so gracious and merciful, it’s OK if we vent to Him.

The thing is, all those are true, but so is the road to apostasy the people of Israel took on their way to their homeland. So is Paul’s statement to the Philippians:

Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world (Phil. 2:14-15).

So who was a light to the crooked and perverse world of the Assyrians? Who stood in the gap for that nation?

Of course, the Old Testament prophets are so relevant today because they show us our choices. We can respond with repentance, as Assyria did in Jonah’s day, or we can respond by ignoring the warnings, as Assyria did in Nahum’s day.

Because of Jesus Christ, God has made those who follow Him

A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9)

In some senses, we are no longer called to stand in the gap for a nation but for the whole world since Christ’s command to make disciples extended to the uttermost parts of the world. There is no limit to whom or where we are to proclaim God’s excellencies.

The early Church is a great example. The more they were persecuted, the more they were martyred, the more they grew.

Oddly, here in the US, the more we fight for our rights, the more we seem to lose significance. It seems we live in a strange tension. We can and should stand in the gap for our culture, our post-truth culture that wants to walk away from God as completely as if they were turning to a Buddha or a Baal or to the Egyptian sun god. But we ought not confuse the symptoms with the problem.

The problem is not a drift from our Constitutional rights. The problem is not a change from Biblical morality to reliance on feelings and perception. The problem is that our culture, our friends and neighbors, our family, need to know the Truth because the Truth will set them free, just like He has set us free.

Yes, He. Jesus Himself declared that He is the way, the truth, the life, that no one comes to the Father but through Him.

Coming to the Father is exactly what the Assyrians neglected. I wonder, in a generation will someone ask, What happened to the American Christians?

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The Love Of God


Sometimes I take God’s love for granted. Then I run across someone who doesn’t believe God is love. Frankly, I was unprepared to read some of the nasty, snide things some people say about God, all the while claiming that they don’t think He exists. I don’t really understand why someone would slander Someone they consider to be an imaginary figure. I mean, do we make disparaging remarks about Bigfoot or the Easter Bunny?

But that’s beside the point. Their clear disdain, even hatred, for God has made me think all the more about His love. The bottom line is quite clear: if God didn’t love us, we would not be here. Why should He tolerate, let alone adopt, a bunch of wayward, selfish, prideful people who spend more time watching TV than talking to Him?

But adopt us, He did. Those of us who walk according to the Spirit, Paul says, who are being led by the Spirit of God, we are sons of God. We were not given a spirit of slavery leading to fear, but a spirit of adoption, by which we cry Abba, Father. (See Romans 8.)

I mean, it’s one thing to say that God saved us. He could have rescued us so that we could be His servants. That would be cool. I mean, I was a fan of the BBC show, Downton Abbey. I saw how the downstairs servants took pride in their jobs. Not all of them, but for the most part, they were happy to be working, happy to have their position, happy to have a place to stay and regular meals to eat. Imagine if the master of the house said that instead of having them as servants, he planned to adopt them as his heirs!

Well, that’s what God has done for us. And the amazing thing—there is no limit to the number of adoptees He will bring into His family. He hasn’t said, only people with a certain IQ or only those who are tall enough or who work out regularly or do a set list of “spiritual” things. He hasn’t said, only blue collar workers or only people in the Southern Hemisphere or only people who resemble Jesus with his dark skin and rough carpenter hands. No. He loves us all. He welcomes us all.

In fact, Christians are the most diverse group of people on the planet. But again I digress (see how easy it is to get sidetracked from God?)

The thing about God’s love that most people miss is that He waits patiently for us. When He sent the prophet Jonah to Nineveh to announce their coming judgment, He was first patient with Jonah. The guy willfully ran from God. He didn’t want God to extend mercy to the Assyrians, and he knew that was likely what God would do. Why? Because that was true to God’s character.

God did exactly what Jonah feared: “When God saw that they turned from their wicked way, then God relented from their calamity which He had declared He would bring upon them. And He did not do it” (Jonah 3:10).

Thing was, God first extended His mercy to Jonah. He was merciful to send a storm and a fish to swallow him instead of taking off his head. He was merciful to give Jonah another chance to obey. And when Jonah pouted about God’s extending mercy to the Assyrians, He graciously taught Jonah what was right. Some prophet of God, that guy. But God loved him.

And He loved the Assyrians. They were a violent nation and so wicked He determined to bring judgment upon them. Until they repented, fasted, and prayed.

God extends His love to the whole world—no exceptions. He isn’t filtering out bank robbers or gossips or womanizers—at least if they do what the Assyrians did and turn from their wicked way.

The turning, the repenting, is just a way of accepting God’s love.

I know it’s harder for people today to understand this because in general parents and children don’t have the same relationship they once did. Once, parents would say, Don’t play with matches, and if you disobey me again, I’ll have to spank you. A time out is better than what most parents do today. But again I digress. Parents never took matches away from kids because the parents wanted to bully their kids or to be mean to them or to keep them from what would make them happy. They’d stop them from playing with matches to keep them safe.

God is like THAT. His love is greater than any desire to be liked, as if we could vote God as Person of the Year if only He’d let us have what we want. God’s love means that He makes the tough calls. God’s omniscience means He understands far better than we ever could, what the outcome of actions will be. So His love and His wisdom and knowledge mean there are times when He has to tell His kids, No. We’re asking for matches to play with, or chocolate for breakfast. He loves us too much to give us something so dangerous or unhealthy.

On top of that God loves us so much, He cares more about out spiritual lives than our temporal lives. After all, these bodies are tents. They only house the part of us that is everlasting, and it is the everlasting that is most important. God doesn’t ignore our lives here and now. He loves us that much. He will provide for us, better than for the lilies of the field or the sparrows. But what He wants above all, is for us to become like His Son.

I feel like I’m just getting started talking about God’s love, but this article is long enough. Suffice it to say, I could write all my blog posts about the love of God without coming to an end of it. Oh, I would likely come to an end of my knowledge about His love, but there are so many people like Jonah, like the Assyrians that illustrate God’s patience, which is really just an aspect of His love. It’s an inexhaustible subject.

Published in: on March 2, 2018 at 5:42 pm  Comments (5)  
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