Nahum 1-3 In 1935 there was a huge dust storm in the US. It crossed the midwest and carried more dirt than was dug from the Panama Canal all the way to the ocean on the east. It was called Black Sunday. Nahum describes a similar scene; “[God] marches out in the whirlwind and the raging storm; dark storm clouds billow like dust under his feet.” [Nah 1:3] One hundred years earlier, when Jonah spoke all of Nineveh, both man and beast, put on sackcloth and ashes in repentance; but, now, they had returned to their cruel ways. Although God’s mercies are new every morning, if repentance is not real, He will bring judgment.
God is slow to anger not willing any should perish, but all come to repentance, [2Pet 3:9] yet He is also zealous and will avenge. Whereas the former king repented and Nineveh was spared, the new king was indolent and unrepentant. God allowed the winds of the Babylonians to come in and destroy Assyria for this unrepentance. The point is that God is looking for true repentance. Is our repentance real or fake?
Assyria was destroyed, and their idols burned yet scoffers say: “where is the promise of his coming? It is as it always has been.” [2Pet 3:4] Amazingly, in 1845, an archaeologist stumbled upon Nineveh’s site and found an extensive library proving Nahum’s words were true and accurate.
Beloved, God is merciful, but He will be patient just so long. If Jesus were to return today, would you be ready?
2Chron 33 There is nothing like hooks in your nose, bronze chains, and extradition to a foreign land; a prison cell, cold gruel, day-old bread, and water to awaken your senses, and that is what happened to King Manasseh. He then “realized that the Lord is the true God” and repented. It was because of the mercy of God that he was released and returned to his kingdom. God’s mercy is overflowing!
God has placed this event to remind us that it begins with how you pay attention to the Lord and His Word. A word of caution here: his sin, just like ours, does impact family and children. His unrepentant son Amon is proof of that.
The Chronicler records these words: the annals record all his sins and unfaithful acts, and identify the sites where he built high places and erected Asherah poles and idols “before he humbled himself.” [2Chron 33:19] Mark that last phrase: he humbled himself, and that is what God is seeking.
You can listen and repent now, or you can do it later, but beware because God doesn’t guarantee there will be a tomorrow. Unfortunately, Amon learned that lesson the hard way; his life ended in an assassination.
2 Kings 20 God has placed this story of King Hezekiah to teach us several wise lessons. The backdrop began in the life of Hezekiah when he endured a terminal illness. Perhaps you can relate because you, too, are facing a terminal illness. When we hear devastating news, do we go to God, who is the author and finisher of our lives as Hezekiah did? How we respond reveals our heart. God not only heard Hezekiah’s plea but, in His graciousness, chose to heal him miraculously. God was gracious and gave him a sign of his answered prayer for healing, and the addition of fifteen years added to his life. How do we respond to the good news?
Not long after, some Babylonian visitors came supposedly to encourage Hezekiah and he revealed all of the treasures of Israel. Did all of their false overtures blind Hezekiah? Why did he not take them to see the House of the Lord? By showing them the riches of Israel, Hezekiah revealed a proud heart. When confronted by Isaiah, Hezekiah’s response in vs. 19 seems out of character, but is it? How we respond reveals our heart. Hezekiah was like those who accomplish much and take the credit upon themselves. How do we respond when others gush over our accomplishments?
The lesson we can glean from Hezekiah is that our words and actions reveals who we truly are. What is your response?
Isaiah 64 to 66 If you have ever worked on a jigsaw puzzle or tried to find the path in a maze, you know that you must have patience as you search for that piece or that path. God is a master at puzzles and mazes, and He has no problem. He knows which piece fits, and the right path. Isaiah, as God’s prophet, has been faithfully piecing the puzzle pieces and the right path of the maze. Although he will never see the birth and life of the Messiah, the Holy Spirit has graciously shown him the finished product. He has faithfully written the words that the Holy Spirit has given to him. Some were harder than others, and some were praiseworthy.
In a tough time, Isaiah pours out his heart and looks for when the Lord will come to rescue them. But, God the Almighty tells Isaiah that He will not come “yet.” Their sins are like scarlet, and their so-called righteousness is as filthy rags, and their praises are not for Jehovah but for the idols they fashion. But, God had promised centuries before, and He will again: I will not abandon my children.
The patience of God is amazing. He will not leave his children even as sinful as they are; He is not slow but is patient because he does not wish any to perish but for all to come to repentance.
Isaiah 61 Messiah knew that the Lord had chosen and commissioned him. He recalled the words of Isaiah 61 as he spoke before the audience in his local synagogue: “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, Because the LORD has anointed me To bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to captives And freedom to prisoners;” [Is 61:1 & Luke 4:18=19]
Centuries later, the Apostle John wrote: “Nevertheless you have an anointing from the Holy One,” [1Jo 2:20] Peter wrote:
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own, so that you may proclaim the virtues of the one who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” [1Pet 2:9]
Messiah knew his calling, his anointing, and the reason God chose Him. God gave him the spiritual insight to see men’s desperate need for healing of the soul, mind, and body. Today, this same Holy Spirit has anointed you to fulfill these same areas of need in the lives of those around you.
To whom should you go and speak a refreshing word from the Lord. It might be a parent who sees a child who has made a wrong choice, someone who has lost their job, a pastor who has heavy responsibilities, or a missionary in a far-off land that is lonely—or perhaps a friend or an acquaintance.
Remember, God has called and anointed us for His service.
2Kings 18-19, Ps 46, Ps 80, Ps 135 “How to Handle a Bully.”
King Hezekiah was a righteous king who followed the Lord but faltered when the bully King Sennacherib sent his emissary to taunt King Hezekiah. King Sennacherib is what we call a bully, for his words do not match his actions unless we capitulate to his demands, which Hezekiah did the first time. Bullies, seek to shame, ridicule, tease and yes even slander our faith. When you concede, you give a bully the right to up his demands, precisely what Sennacherib did. The second time, Hezekiah did not falter but took the demand to the Lord. Why is it that we follow Hezekiah’s example? The answer is found in Prov 29:25 “The fear of man is a snare…” We fear men more than we fear God. But, don’t forget the last part of that verse: “he who trust in the Lord will be exalted.”
We should learn from Hezekiah how God works when we do not meet the bully’s demands but lay them before the Lord. When Hezekiah did that, Isaiah the prophet sent him the answer: Do not fear but trust in the Lord. So then, to cement that truth in Hezekiah’s mind and the minds of his kingdom, God sent his angel of death into the camp of the Assyrians and killed not just one but 185,000 in one night.
Lesson from Hezekiah’s playbook on how to handle a bully; humble thyself and seek the face of God. Trust in God that He will work to protect His own. He may not kill the enemy but then again He just might. The lesson for us is to stand back and watch God work!
Isaiah 43 to 45 Do you feel the overwhelming presence of the unknown before you? Do walk as on hot coals because the enemy has come calling to frighten you? Does he who is evil remind you of your past to keep you in his grip? Precious one, know this truth: do not fear, for He has paid your redemption price from the slave auction block of sin so that you may know He is God, and there is no other.
No matter what lies in your path, you can be assured of His presence whether you are facing the tossed waves of the Red Sea, the fiery furnace as in Babylon, Hagar’s wilderness, or the barrenness of Naomi. Lift your head and see; the pool of water is before you so that you may know “El Roi,” the God who sees me. He promises that whatever lies before you is in His sovereign control. Just as God asked Hosea to pay the redemption price for Gomer, God has paid the redemption price for you through the death of His Only Son. Step out and believe His promise: “you will hear a word spoken behind you; “this is the way, walk in it, whether you are heading to the right or left.” [Is 30:21]
We live in tumultuous times of uncertainty, and many men and women are troubled. It seems that our entire world is topsy turvy. Many say there is no peace; they wring their hands and moan. They ask where is God? It seems the Lord is unaware of what is happening! Yet Isaiah’s words from the Holy One are comforting:
“Don’t be afraid, for I am with you! Don’t be frightened, for I am your God! I strengthen you – yes, I help you –yes, I uphold you with my saving right hand!” [Is 41:10] “I am the Lord! That is my name!” [Is 42:8]
God is not only aware, but He is still on the throne and waiting patiently for men to turn to Him. “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” [2Pet 3:9] The evidence is overwhelming: “For since the creation of the world his invisible attributes – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, because they are understood through what has been made. So people are without excuse.” [Rom 1:20]
Whatever you are facing, know this truth: God is the Holy One; give Him praise for He sees, He hears, He knows. He is waiting for you to turn to Him.
In the 30’s Al Capone ruled Chicago. He taunted those who did not want to pay him for protection, and if they didn’t, he took note and sent his thugs to “take care of the problem.” Sennacherib was the Capone Hezekiah faced. His thugs were Rabshakeh and his contingent. They mocked God and repeated “Capone/Sennacherib’s” words: “what is your source of confidence….in whom are you trusting.” They surmised that Hezekiah would then be shaking in his boots and succumb to their threats. Hezekiah’s advisors Eliakim and Hilkiah returned to Hezekiah with their clothes torn as a sign they were demoralized just as Rabshekah had hoped.
This time Hezekiah took the letter with its demands to the Lord in the Temple. Isaiah the prophet told him because this time he sought God’s help, He would bless him. God would put hooks in the jaws of this “Capone” and send him packing back to his home country but not before God would provide evidence that He alone was God.
God gave Hezekiah three principles that teach us truths about living in a “Capone” world. Vs 31: remain steadfast—Paul said much the same in 1Cor 15: 58. Secondly, take root where you are; Col 2:7 firm in your faith and thirdly bear fruit; Matt 3:8 that proves your repentance.
God speaks to His children through Isaiah: woe to you who make alliances with those who are not My Sheep. You are a rebellious people who refuse to listen to the instruction of the Lord. You are saying we don’t want to hear any more about the Holy One of Israel. Don’t prophesy to us what is right but speak to us of pleasant words. Does this not sound just like today?
“For there will be a time when people will not tolerate sound teaching. Instead, following their own desires, they will accumulate teachers for themselves because they have an insatiable curiosity to hear new things.” [2Ti 4:3]
God asked his people: “What did you not learn after 430 yrs. of bondage? These are the very ones who held you captive, and only after ten plagues did they release you!” Their gods did not save them, and they won’t save you. So why do you trust in them instead of the Holy One of Israel? Have you forgotten this? “The fear of man brings a snare, but he who trusts in the Lord will be exalted.” [Prov 29:25]
Isaiah’s words are pertinent today. “For the Lord is our judge; the Lord is our lawgiver; the Lord is our king; he will save us.” Isaiah 33:22 If you are like these to whom Isaiah was speaking, return to Him, and trust Him. He alone is God. He is waiting.