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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Published in: on May 4, 2018 at 5:55 pm  Comments Off on What Happened To The Assyrians?  
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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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CSFF Blog Tour – The Telling by Mike Duran, Day 2


“A prophet never loses his calling, only his way.” So reads the tag line for Mike Duran‘s recent release, The Telling, a contemporary supernatural suspense.

The premise brought to mind a couple Biblical prophets. The first was Jonah, a good model for the main character in The Telling, in my opinion. Both received a call from God, both renounced that call, both suffered consequences and came to a place of despair, only to have God pull them out of the depths and give them another chance to obey Him. Of course, Jonah’s story doesn’t end there whereas the fictitious Zeph does experience redemption at the end.

Jonah “pulled up a chair” to watch the destruction he had prophesied. When it didn’t come, he sulked. God gave him an object lesson to show him how lacking in compassion he was.

The fictitious Zeph wasn’t lacking in compassion. He simply didn’t realize that his lack of obedience was causing others to suffer. Once he came to that realization, things began to change.

The second Biblical prophet I thought of was Balaam, perhaps not as well known as Jonah. He was hired by one king to curse the people of Israel. God’s people. Apparently Balaam was a prophet of God, so this was an ironic situation, a prophet of God asked to curse God’s people. Balaam had the sense to say he would only speak the word which God gave to him. But somewhere in the process, he lost his way. We know this because of context and the interpretation of other Scripture verses.

First the context. God gives Balaam the OK to accompany the messengers to see the king who wants to hire him, but He says Balaam must only speak His words. On the way, an angel comes out to kill Balaam. Say what?!?

Clearly, something happened between God giving His permission for Balaam to go and the angel waiting in ambush. I can only surmise that Balaam lost his way and planned in his heart to speak words God did not give him to speak.

As it turned out, Balaam’s faithful donkey saw the angel, three times, and saved him by refusing to pass within the angel’s reach. Who knew an angel was limited in such a way that a donkey could thwart his intentions?

At any rate, Balaam arrived at the spot where he met the king. Three times this monarch asked Balaam to curse the people of Israel and three times he blessed them instead. But his story doesn’t end here either. Apparently after delivering God’s blessing, he then advised the king how he could trip up Israel. This we know from other scriptures interpreting the original story, culminating with Revelation 2:14b.

You have there some who hold the teaching of Balaam, who kept teaching Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols and to commit acts of immorality.

I’d say Balaam lost his way. I’d say Jonah lost his way. I’d say the fictitious prophet Zephaniah lost his way when he renounced the gift God had given him because of the bitterness and anger and doubt and despair that filled his soul.

Other prophets faced similar depression, if you will. Elijah, after triumphing over the 450 prophets of Baal ran off when he received the message that Jezebel was going to kill him. He hid and in the process cried out to God bemoaning the fact that he was the last (he thought) to believe. He simply wanted to die.

God responded by giving him a break, a companion, a promise, and a vision of the future.

Jeremiah was another depressed prophet. In fact he is called the weeping prophet. His emotional condition was a mixed bag, I think. He did feel forlorn because of his circumstances. He was targeted for death, after all, because he was prophesying that Judah would face consequences for their sin. But he also lamented for his nation. He knew that the exile was coming. He counseled the king to repent, to surrender, knowing that this would spare Jerusalem and save many lives. How each passing day of disobedience must have grieved his heart.

Clearly Jeremiah, though pushed to the limit, did not lose his way.

It’s an interesting study, I think, to consider why one gifted man of God would lose his way and another of like stripe would not. The Telling is a tale about one who did lose his way. There’s much in Zeph’s background that explains why he made the choice he made, but there’s enough there to make me wonder, was he in fact a man gifted by God or a man used by God? Is there a difference? I think so. God can use even the rocks of the field to give Him praise, but He called twelve men to come and follow Him.

Published in: on September 25, 2012 at 4:00 pm  Comments Off on CSFF Blog Tour – The Telling by Mike Duran, Day 2  
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God Causes


I’m posting on Saturday! That’s to make up for not posting yesterday. I’ve been tinkering with my work schedule in order to be more efficient with my time, but obviously what I did yesterday didn’t work! So that leaves me with a Saturday post.

No problem really. I wasn’t sure what to say yesterday, but today as I read in the book of Habakkuk, something clicked.

I’d already noted when I read through Jonah all the things that God directly caused in order to get Jonah where He wanted Him. First He sent His prophet a message. An order, really—Go to Nineveh and give them My message.

Jonah boarded a ship and high-tailed it in the opposite direction. So God “hurled a great wind on the sea” bringing up a great storm.

To stop the storm from crashing the ship and taking the lives of all on board, Jonah told the sailors to throw him overboard. Eventually they did. Then God appointed a great fish to swallow Jonah.

After three days Jonah thanked God for saving Him and remembered his commitment. Then God commanded the fish to vomit Jonah onto dry land.

Jonah went to Nineveh and preached, warning of God’s judgment on them because of their wickedness. Who wouldn’t believe the message of someone bleached albino-white by fish stomach acid and smelling of fish throw-up? OK, that’s all conjecture on my part, but the truth is, the people of Nineveh repented because they believed in God. They mourned and fasted and called on God earnestly that he might relent of the judgment Jonah had declared.

God heard them and did just that.

Which made Jonah mad—maybe because he hated the Assyrians, maybe because he knew that a prophet’s words were supposed to come true, so some might now question his role. At any rate, he decided to wait out the time (forty days) to see if by any chance God would still judge Nineveh.

God appointed a plant to grow to shade him, but the next day He appointed a worm to destroy the plant. Jonah grieved the death of the plant, and God used the object lesson to teach him something about compassion.

What struck me in the story was all the things in nature God caused—or appointed, as the NASB says. The wind/storm, the fish to swallow Jonah, the fish to throw him up, the plant, the worm.

How can we read a story like Jonah’s and not understand that God rules nature? He didn’t wind it up and let it go. Instead He holds it together. The “laws of nature” are no laws but observations of how God works. The “natural” things are the way they are because that is how God ordained them to be and how He maintains them to be.

At any moment He can check those “natural laws,” reverse them just as He reversed the sun and made shadows retreat instead of advance as a sign to Hezekiah, just as He “relented” and staid His hand against the Assyrians.

But I mentioned Habakkuk. God told the prophet He was doing something he would have a hard time believing: God was raising up the Babylonians “to march throughout the earth/To seize dwelling places which are not theirs” (Habakkuk 1:6b). Interestingly He says a verse later “their justice and authority originate with themselves” (Habakkuk 1:7b).

Here’s the point. What Man can observe is incomplete at best. We don’t know what God does behind the scenes unless He tells us, as He did in Jonah. How many other “great winds” were anomalous events God caused for a particular moment, a particular reason. Storms arise in the natural course of things—the God sustained natural course of things. But He also sends storms or prophets or cruel nations.

To observe weather patterns or political trends or human nature and believe we can figure out how to manipulate our environment is shortsighted at best and idolatrous at worst. We are not God. We ought to stop trying to take on His role.

Published in: on May 22, 2010 at 10:09 am  Comments (3)  
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