“TURN OR BURN!”
& David P. Nolte
Last week we noted that those who, by stubborn persistence in sin, make themselves God’s enemies will discover that He is a Formidable Foe. Nineveh was a stubbornly sinful city. But 140 years before Nahum came along, under the preaching of Jonah, the wicked Ninevites repented. Now they were on the friend side of God and learned that He is a Faithful Friend. Many want a one-dimensional God – all love, patience, kindness, tolerance – but never, never must He be angry or wrathful. Well, such a God is a fig newton of their imagination. God is love – but He is also holy and righteous. He does forgive fully and freely, but there is no forgiveness for the unrepentant. So, God sent Jonah and forgave wicked Nineveh when they repented.
Now, since the days of Jonah,140 years have passed and so has Nineveh’s repentance. They are back in sin so God sent Nahum. He never poured out wrath without warning and giving a chance to turn from sin.
His warning to Nineveh – and to all stubborn sinners, is strong and clear. “Turn from your evil ways or perish!” But also strong and clear is His willingness and promise to forgive those who forsake wrongdoing. Today let us hear His warning to Nineveh restated.
“Your enemy is coming to crush you, Nineveh. Man the ramparts! Watch the roads! Prepare your defenses! Call out your forces! Even though the destroyer has destroyed Judah, the LORD will restore its honor. Israel’s vine has been stripped of branches, but he will restore its splendor. Shields flash red in the sunlight! See the scarlet uniforms of the valiant troops! Watch as their glittering chariots move into position, with a forest of spears waving above them. The chariots race recklessly along the streets and rush wildly through the squares. They flash like firelight and move as swiftly as lightning. The king shouts to his officers; they stumble in their haste, rushing to the walls to set up their defenses. The river gates have been torn open! The palace is about to collapse! Nineveh’s exile has been decreed, and all the servant girls mourn its capture. They moan like doves and beat their breasts in sorrow. Nineveh is like a leaking water reservoir! The people are slipping away. ‘Stop, stop!’ someone shouts, but no one even looks back. Loot the silver! Plunder the gold! There’s no end to Nineveh’s treasures— its vast, uncounted wealth. Soon the city is plundered, empty, and ruined. Hearts melt and knees shake. The people stand aghast, their faces pale and trembling. Where now is that great Nineveh, that den filled with young lions? It was a place where people—like lions and their cubs— walked freely and without fear. The lion tore up meat for his cubs and strangled prey for his mate. He filled his den with prey, his caverns with his plunder. ‘I am your enemy!’ says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies. ‘Your chariots will soon go up in smoke. Your young men will be killed in battle. Never again will you plunder conquered nations. The voices of your proud messengers will be heard no more.’” Nahum 2:1-13 (NLT2).
I. LISTEN TO GOD’S CHALLENGE:
A. “Your enemy is coming to crush you, Nineveh. Man the ramparts! Watch the roads! Prepare your defenses! Call out your forces!”
1. It sounds like God says, “throw the first punch! Hit Me with your best shot.”
2. He is challenging Nineveh and every enemy to bring out their big guns because God’s guns are even bigger.
3. It would be like a battle between the British Redcoats and the Green Berets or the Confederate Rebels and the Army Rangers or the Spanish Armada and the Navy SEALS.
B. God has always challenged and defied evil to do its worst or best or both. “Bring it on!”
1. His challenge to idolaters, “‘Present the case for your idols,’ says the LORD. ‘Let them show what they can do,’ says the King of Israel. ‘Let them try to tell us what happened long ago so that we may consider the evidence. Or let them tell us what the future holds, so we can know what’s going to happen. Yes, tell us what will occur in the days ahead. Then we will know you are gods. In fact, do anything—good or bad! Do something that will amaze and frighten us.” Isaiah 41:21-23 (NLT2).
2. His challenge to Satan himself as Jesus faced him in the wilderness after fasting for 40 days.
3. His greatest challenge was to Satan at Calvary. “Do your worst, evil one – I will let Jesus die – and you will see what happens in three days!”
C. God will never back down from, or be defeated by, or negotiate with any enemy. Not Satan, or any league of demons, or unbeliever – He doesn’t turn and run – He looks them in the eye and says, “Let’s get it on!” He challenges His enemies to a duel – they armed with pea shooters and He with a bazooka.
D. It is for certain that G^od challenges His enemies to change their thinking so they repent and are saved.
E. Let me illustrate God challenging what is wrong; wrong attitudes, wrong living; wrong teaching,: I have two – you can take your pick:
1. For centuries people believed that Aristotle was right when he said that the heavier an object, the faster it would fall to earth. Anyone, of course, could have taken two objects, one heavy and one light, and dropped them from a great height to see whether the heavier object landed first. But no one did until nearly 2,000 years after Aristotle’s death. In 1589 Galileo challenged that false teaching and summoned learned professors to the base of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Then he went to the top and pushed off a ten-pound and a one-pound weight. Both landed at the same instant. The power of belief in the teachings of Aristotle was so strong, however, that the professors denied their eyesight. They continued to say Aristotle was right.
2. A scientist said to God, “God, science has advanced so far that we could create everything You created, so we don’t need you anymore.” “Hmmm,” God said, “Then let’s see you create a man out of the dirt of the ground.” Smugly, the man reached down to scoop up some dirt. But God said, “Oh, no you don’t! You create your own dirt!”
In spite of God’s challenge, many decide to just keep doing wrong. God issued a challenge to the Ninevites and wanted them to change their ways. But they didn’t. Next, we can
II. TRUST GOD’S COMPETENCE:
A. “The king shouts to his officers; they stumble in their haste, rushing to the walls to set up their defenses. The river gates have been torn open! The palace is about to collapse! Nineveh’s exile has been decreed, and all the servant girls mourn its capture. They moan like doves and beat their breasts in sorrow. Nineveh is like a leaking water reservoir! The people are slipping away. ‘Stop, stop!’ someone shouts, but no one even looks back.”
1. God made no idle challenge – He could back up His words.
2. All the pomp and splendor and military presence of the enemy is inadequate against the Almighty God.
3. All the, then, cutting edge weaponry was like a pop-gun next to today’s technology.
4. To God, it was a foregone conclusion: God wins!
B. And His competence was not overstated as was that of the ones in these stories.
1. Confederate General Robert Tombs was leaving for the front he was approached by a southern belle who asked, "General, can we whip the Yankees?" "Why, my dear," Tombs replied, "we can whip those Yankees with corn stalks." Back home after the war was over, the defeated general ran into the same belle, who confronted him with "General, you said we could whip the Yankees with corn stalks. What happened?" "We could have," Tombs replied, "but the [so and so’s] wouldn't fight with corn stalks." Ignorant self-confidence led to incompetence.
2. When Travis was a wrestler, he faced a very muscular opponent who sneered at Travis’ wiry frame and growled, “I’m gonna wipe the mat with you.” Big mistake – Travis pinned him so fast he didn’t know what hit him! Arrogance led to a whoopin’
C. But God is competent to defeat, and to enable us to defeat, our foes: Satan, the world and the flesh.
1. He makes us competent in tribulation and troubles: Jesus said, "These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world." John 16:33 (NASB).
2. He makes us competent in all temptations of life. Paul wrote, “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13 (NASB).
3. He makes us competent to do or be what He calls us to be or do. With Paul we say, “Such confidence as this is ours through Christ before God. Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant--not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” 2 Corinthians 3:4-6 (NIV)..
D. No matter what opposition or adversary or trouble we may, and will, encounter – He is our confidence! Israel had long been oppressed by the Syrians (among other enemies) and their confidence had ebbed to lower than low tide. So God said, “Even though the destroyer has destroyed Judah, the LORD will restore its honor. Israel’s vine has been stripped of branches, but He will restore its splendor.” He renewed their confidence.
E. No matter how severely the enemy of our souls may have defeated us thus far, we can be confident of victory in Jesus. I’m not talking about self-confidence but God confidence. Like the old preacher who was being mugged by a thug. He said to the baddie, “You can’t harm me unless your father gets permission from my Father.” “I don’t even know my old man – what’s he got to do with anything?” The preacher said, “Your father is the devil. My Father is God and He is greater than your father.” With a confused look on his face the thug made a quick retreat. That old man had confidence in the competence of his Heavenly Father – so must we.
When we do, we can :
III. ANTICIPATE GOD’S CONQUEST:
A. ”Loot the silver! Plunder the gold! There’s no end to Nineveh’s treasures— its vast, uncounted wealth. Soon the city is plundered, empty, and ruined.”
B. God won then and He wins now. We, too share that conquest;
1. Against the influences of this world: “This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.” 1 John 5:4-5 (NIV).
2. Against the tempter, Satan: “But you belong to God, my dear children. You have already won a victory over those people, because the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world.” 1 John 4:4 (NLT2).
3. Against the weakness of our flesh: Paul confessed, “Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.” Romans 7:24-25 (NASB).
4. Against all the exigencies of life: “If God is for us, who is against us?” and Paul continues,”Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written, ‘for your sake we are being put to death all day long; we were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’ But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.” Romans 8:31-37 (NASB).
5. Against the final enemy, death:“ Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 15:55-57 (NLT2).
C. I want to preach a summary of the book of revelation–here’s the sermon–are you ready to take notes? The summary is this: “God won and with Jesus Christ we, too, win!”
D. The Conqueror has triumphed, death and hell have been defeated and we win!
E. In 1973 three men from the mission church in Kabale were to be executed. The missionary had permission from the authorities to speak to the men before they died. Their faces were all alight with an unmistakable glow and radiance. One of them said: "Missionary, thank you for coming! I wanted to tell you. Heaven is now open, and there is nothing between me and my God! Please tell my wife and children that I am going to be with Jesus. Ask them to accept him into their lives as I did." The other two men told similar stories, excitedly raising their hands, which rattled their handcuffs. The executioners were standing there with guns cocked and bewilderment on their faces. The three faced the firing squad standing close together. Then shots were fired, and the three were with Jesus. Though dead, the men spoke loudly to all of Kigezi District and beyond, so that many turned to the Lord there.
What a mighty and merciful God we serve, Who confronts sin with severity and comforts the repentant with kindness. Paul wrote, using the figure of an olive tree, referring to Jew ad Gentile branches “Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God's kindness, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off. And they also, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again.” Romans 11:22-23 (NASB).
Today, God challenges anything and everything that would oppose Him in our lives, and warns us of the danger of pursuing them. He is competent to carry out His warnings and to fulfill His promises. He has conquered and will share the victory with all who make Jesus Lord of life.
And none of tat do we deserve. For in the midst of His wrath to sin is His grace to sinners, not just grace, but amazing grace. IT IS AMAZING BECAUSE DEPTH, ENDURANCE, POWER, AVAILABILITY, FREE!