Each week we webcast Lord's Day Sabbath School at 10a, morning public worship at 11a, and p.m. singing and sermon at 2:30p (sermon at 3:30); and the Weds. Prayer Meeting at 6:30p

Saturday, February 13, 2021

What It Looks Like to Be Borne upon Eagles' Wings (2021.02.13 Pastoral Letter and Hopewell Herald)

Dear Congregation,

This year, I’ve been using Ben Shaw’s reading plan, which brought me this week through Exodus 19. v4 amazed me, “You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself.”

The second half of that verse is a pretty interesting way to describe the time since His destruction of the Egyptians at the Red Sea to their arrival at Sinai. It had taken them all of three days to complain that they were dying of thirst (end of ch15), then a few more weeks to complain that they were dying of hunger (ch 16), then ready to kill Moses and go back to Egypt from thirst again (first half of ch17), then the Amalekites had made war upon them (second half of ch17).

All of this had happened in just three months (19:1)! This is what it’s like to be borne by Yahweh on Eagles’ wings?

There’s probably some joke to be made here about the comparative length of time that it took to make the rest of the trip to Canaan, but what stands out is how marvelously patient God is with His sinful people.

Indeed, He bears us along despite much wicked unbelief and complaining in our hearts (or even with our mouths). Not only is He perfectly executing His plan for bringing us to complete and everlasting blessedness in glory, but along the way all of the mishaps are ultimately part of His bearing us upon on eagles’ wings.

And a big part of that bearing us upon eagles’ wings is His patience with us, and His faithfulness to correct and sanctify us. If we are believers, then our merciful God is absolutely determined to produce in us that holiness without which we will not see Him.

So, let us rejoice over the ordinary means of grace in His public worship! Yes, trial is part of what He providentially uses to sanctify us. But, He has especially appointed the means of grace as the actions by which He magnifies Himself, and gives us fellowship with Himself, in our assemblies. So, He has filled His worship with the very instruments by which His Spirit produces faith in us to join us to Christ and to grow us by the grace of Christ and the knowing of Christ.

In Him Who bears us upon eagles’ wings,

Pastor

2021.02.13 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 45:16–46:4

Read Genesis 45:16–46:4

Questions from the Scripture text: Who heard what in Genesis 45:16? How do they respond? What does Pharaoh tell Joseph to do (Genesis 45:17)? What are the brothers to bring (Genesis 45:18)? What will Pharaoh give them? What will they eat? What is Joseph to command the brothers take, for what purpose (Genesis 45:19)? About what does he say not to be concerned (Genesis 45:20)? Why? What is the response in Genesis 45:21? What provision for each man does Genesis 45:22 specifically mention? Who is singled out how? Whose provision does Genesis 45:23 single out? What is it? With what additional instruction does Joseph send them (Genesis 45:24)? When they arrive back (Genesis 45:25), and tell Jacob (Genesis 45:26), how does he respond and why? What does he hear, and what does he see, in Genesis 45:27? With what result? What is Jacob now called in Genesis 45:28? What is the first thing that he says? What is enough? What does he say that he will go do? What does he seem to think will immediately follow? What does he bring (Genesis 46:1)? Where does he arrive in verse 1? What does he do there? To Whom (what Name does verse 1 use)? Who speaks in Genesis 46:2? How (in what)? How does He address him—with what name, how many times? What does Jacob say? What two things does God say about Himself (Genesis 46:3)? What does God tell him not to do? Why—what does God promise that He will do? Who will go where with whom (Genesis 46:4)? What else will He do (cf. Genesis 50:24–25)? Who else will do what (Genesis 46:4)?

It’s very encouraging when God turns what we can see of the earthly tide in our favor. Imagine the encouragements to Jacob. He hears that Joseph is still alive (Genesis 45:27a). He sees the evidence of it (verse 27b). His son is now the governor over all the land of Egypt (Genesis 45:26). And the “all the words” of Genesis 45:27 include Pharaoh himself saying “Don’t even worry about bringing what you have (Genesis 45:20a), because this load of stuff from Egypt and chariots from Egypt (cf. Genesis 45:17Genesis 45:19) is just the down payment of the best of all the land of Egypt (twice, Genesis 45:18 and Genesis 45:20b).

But we all know that this can be an illusion. Earthly power or peace, like earthly prosperity, sprouts wings and flies away (cf. Proverbs 23:5). It vanishes like the morning mist. Even as the text subtly hints at the strengthening of Jacob’s faith by switching the personal reference to him from ‘Jacob’ in Genesis 45:27 to ‘Israel’ in Genesis 45:28, he is not buying into all the grandiose promises. His contentment is modest. It is enough comfort that Joseph his son is alive. It is enough to hope for that he might see him once before he dies.

But this is still a weakness of faith, because while Pharaoh’s promises are grandiose, Jacob does have better promises to cling to that are infinitely grand! And he knows of those promises. 

He comes to Beersheba, where there is the “well of swearing” that bears testimony to God’s faithfulness in the lives of Abraham and Isaac. It is a reminder that the Lord has strengthened His people among the Philistines in time past to be a blessing not just to them but to all the families of the earth. 

Importantly, it is the southernmost point of the promised land, and he is about to pass down now into “official” Egyptian territory. Here, he is reminded of God’s promises, and here he responds as his grandfather and father had done, with worship through sacrifices that point forward to the cross of their promised Seed, the Lord Jesus Christ.

But there is a phrase that the text uses in v1 that takes us back to Bethel. There, Yahweh had announced Himself as God of Abraham and Isaac (cf. Genesis 28:13), before proceeding to promise “I am with you, and will keep you wherever you go” (cf. Genesis 28:15). For his part, Jacob hasn’t seemed to operate much out of confidence in that promise. And the one who had said “then Yahweh shall be my God” (cf. Genesis 28:21) is still thinking of God as the God of his father Isaac (Genesis 46:1). 

But when Yahweh identifies Himself that way (Genesis 46:3), He is doing more than identifying Himself as the One upon Whom Jacob has called. “Jacob, Jacob!” He says. It is as if to imply that he ought to know himself as Israel but still knows himself far too much as Jacob. “I am God” would be identification enough. “I am the God of your father” would be identification enough. But when He pairs the two, He is emphasizing the covenant relationship—a covenant relationship that had been extended by promise and oath to Jacob. Jacob should not continue to be what he was, but Yahweh will always consistently be Who He is!

So, God gives Jacob something infinitely more solid and glorious to cling to than the promises of the most powerful man in the world. The best of all the land of Egypt are nothing compared to the dusty old promises to Abraham and Isaac. “I will make of you a great [all-families-of-earth blessing] nation there.” The best earthly prospects are nothing compared to the dusty old promises of Bethel, “I will go with you. I will bring you up again.”

Even in the most difficult and threatening earthly circumstances, we have something far more encouraging than the easiest and most promising circumstances: God Himself, and the promises that have their yes and amen in Christ! If Joseph had been dead, and the famine unsolvable, and the Pharaoh hostile, those things still should have held for Jacob. The most important part of God’s mercifully turning those things around for him was that it was a gentle earthly providence as a means of bringing about promises that must certainly have come true, regardless of however the Lord ultimately brought them about.

Whatever hardship or prosperity the Lord brings you into dear Christian, cling not to the circumstances but to the God of those circumstances who has made you unstoppable ultimate promises in the Lord Jesus Christ!

What can you know about God’s purposes for your current circumstances? What do you know about God Himself?

Suggested songs: ARP46 “God Is Our Refuge and Our Strength” or TPH257 “Children of the Heavenly Father”


Friday, February 12, 2021

Praying for Growth in Christian Love (Family Worship in Philippians 1:9–11)

What was it that the apostle was praying so joyfully for the Philippians? Pastor leads his family in today’s “Hopewell @Home” passage. In these three verses, we find that he was praying for growth in love—a growth that is the work of Christ, until the day of Christ, defined by the law of Christ, produced by the life of Christ, to the praise of God’s glory in Christ.

2021.02.12 Hopewell @Home ▫ Philippians 1:9–11

Read Philippians 1:9–11

Questions from the Scripture text: What is the apostle doing in Philippians 1:9? For whom? That what may abound? How much? In what two areas? How much discernment? What will these two enable them to approve (Philippians 1:10)? What two results would this have in the Philippians themselves? Until when? What would they be filled with (Philippians 1:11)? How do such fruits grow? Unto what? 

If the apostle’s love for them is an expression of the very love of Christ Himself (cf. Philippians 1:7-8), then we are not surprised that one of his hopes about the Lord’s ongoing work in them (cf. Philippians 1:6), is that their own love will increase. Surely, this is one of the reasons that he is writing to them. 

But, as he has acknowledged that it is ultimately the Lord’s work and the Lord’s love that must have the desired effect, he must first pray for them. If we are laboring but not praying, then we give the lie to the idea that we depend upon the Lord for the fruit of our work. We are commanded to do more than pray, but we dare not think that we are commanded to do less!

So he prays that their love will grow continually. “More and more.” Inactivity in the Christian life is always stagnating. We are in a constant battle (cf. Romans 7, 1 John 1, etc.), and if you aren’t actively standing or advancing, you will be passively (or actively) backsliding. He prays that their love will grow “more and more.”

And he prays that their love will grow definitively. “In knowledge and all discernment.” Christian love is not a nebulous and mushy thing, because Christ’s love is not a nebulous and mushy thing. He has defined everywhere in His Word the plans and purposes that demonstrate His love, ultimately and supremely the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ. And He defines for us everywhere in His Word the commandments and principles that direct for us what it is to love God, to love one another, and to love neighbor (even enemy-neighbors!). Biblical love is defined. And the apostle’s prayer is that they would grow in understanding and application of every aspect of that definition. “ALL discernment” leaves no part of it out.

And he prays that their love will grow superlatively. There is an endpoint in view of their being “sincere and without offense” in the day of Christ. Another good translation is “pure and blameless.” This is what they have been elected for (cf. Ephesians 1:4), and this is what the apostle is confident of (cf. Philippians 1:6). If that is the aim at the end, then that is the aim throughout the process: “that you may approve the things that are excellent [best].”

So, he prays that their love will grow organically and doxologically. That is to say as fruit from Jesus Christ unto the praise of God in Jesus Christ. Just as the apostle must not only work, but here pray, because he knows that this is the way in which love grows; so also, when the prayers have been fully answered, and the work is fully done, the ultimate end is that all will see that it has come from Christ so that all can engage in the praise of God’s glory in Christ.

Let us pray—and work!—that our love would grow continually, definitively, superlatively, organically, and doxologically!

In what expressions must your love grow? How can you learn the answer to that? Who will make it happen?

Suggested songs: ARP51AB “God Be Merciful to Me” or TPH433 “Amazing Grace”


Thursday, February 11, 2021

How to Plead with God in Our Pain (2021.02.10 Prayer Meeting lesson in Psalm 6)

Addressing God’s heart, v1
Appealing to God’s compassion, v2–3, 6–7
Aspiring to God’s glory, v4–5
Assuming God’s answer, v8–10

Recognizing and Taking Opportunities for Repentance (Family Worship in Luke 13:1–9)

How should we respond when calamity strikes? Pastor leads his family in today’s “Hopewell @Home” passage. In these nine verses, the Lord Jesus continues the theme, from the end of chapter 12, of being reconciled with God before we have to stand before Him at the judgment. When calamity and death befall others or threaten us, it is a fertile opportunity for us to examine ourselves, turn from sin unto Christ, and grow more fruitful by His grace.

2021.02.11 Hopewell @Home ▫ Luke 13:1–9

Read Luke 13:1–9

Questions from the Scripture text: What did some people tell Jesus about in Luke 13:1? What does Jesus recognize that these people had concluded about those who died (Luke 13:2)? What does Jesus say should have, instead, been their conclusion (Luke 13:3)? Concerning what other event does Jesus challenge them concerning their conclusions (Luke 13:4)? What same conclusion does He teach them to draw in Luke 13:5? To what does Jesus compare an unrepentant person in Luke 13:6? What does the property owner say to do with the fruitless tree in Luke 13:7? What does the caretaker say that He will do first in Luke 13:8? What will be done if it still bears no fruit (Luke 13:9)?

How should we respond to plagues? Government oppression? Economic disaster? Or other calamities?

It seems, from Jesus’s question in Luke 13:2 that they assumed that what had happened to the Galileans was punishment for some specific sin of theirs. And we know that in both the Old and New Testaments, the Lord did threaten and carry out particular punishments upon His people at particular times. So, maybe we have wondered if when something hard comes upon us, whether that’s a particular quid pro quo for a particular sin.

But unless the Lord has threatened something particularly, we do not have good ground to assume a direct relationship. There are many reasons that believers suffer, including to increase God’s wrath against their enemies, to have fellowship with Christ, to know their own weakness, to be sanctified and prepared for glory, and even just to glorify God.

But there is one thing that we must always do, with any kind of calamity: remember God’s wrath, repent of our sin, and cling to Jesus Christ. By introducing the second calamity (Luke 13:4), and saying the same thing about it (Luke 13:3Luke 13:5), the Lord Jesus makes clear that this is an all-purpose application. “Unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”

Jesus says that what we are to see is that God is very angry with sin. Look what sin has brought! And this is just the slightest display of it. Sin doesn’t just deserve for us to be slaughtered by Roman provincial governors or have towers fall upon us. It deserves the unquenchable flame of the lake of fire, together with undying worms that consume us from the inside out forever. Every calamity is a reminder of this.

But we are also to see that glorious word, “unless.” That the Lord is patiently calling us unto repentance. He is giving us opportunity to believe. And He is grabbing our attention and stimulating us to cling to Christ and bear fruit in keeping with repentance.

Calamities, says our Lord, function like the Lord digging down around us and fertilizing us to produce fruit. He is patiently provoking us to repentance. The question, then, is what will He find this effort has produced?

Of what do you personally need to repent? Of what your family? Of what your church? Of what your country?

Suggested Songs: ARP32AB “What Blessedness” or TPH340 “There Is a Fountain Filled with Blood”


Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Defeating the Deceptiveness of Pride and Passion by Devotion to Principle (Family Worship in 2Samuel 3:12–39)

How would the Lord bring David the kingdom? Pastor leads his family in today’s “Hopewell @Home” passage. In these twenty-eight verses, we see Abner’s pride in having positioned himself powerfully to consolidate the kingdom under David. The Lord does do it by using Abner—at his funeral? And we see Joab making show of concern about kingdom security, although the text makes clear that he is really being moved by fleshly revenge. Still, the Lord uses him—by humiliating him as the second-mourner-in-charge at the funeral of the man he murdered! Ultimately for David, the Lord used his commitment to do what is right before the eyes of the people to give him favor in the eyes of all the tribes through an action that ended up being exactly opposite what usually happens during regime-change.

2021.02.10 Hopewell @Home ▫ 2 Samuel 3:12–39

Read 2 Samuel 3:12–39

Questions from the Scripture text: Who claims to control the land in a message to whom (2 Samuel 3:12)? What does he ask David to do? What does he say he can/will do? What does David require first (2 Samuel 3:13)? What won’t Abner see if this doesn’t happen? To whom does David then formally make this request (2 Samuel 3:14)? But what had Saul done (cf. 1 Samuel 25:44)? What does Ishbosheth now do (2 Samuel 3:15)? With what initial result (2 Samuel 3:16)? But who intervenes? Of what does Abner remind whom in 2 Samuel 3:17? What does he tell them to do in 2 Samuel 3:18? What other reasoning does he add? Whom does he specifically address in 2 Samuel 3:19? Then to whom does he report their responses? How many people does he bring with him (2 Samuel 3:20)? What does David do for them? What does Abner say that he will do in 2 Samuel 3:21? What does he say that the people will do? What does he say that David will do? Where does Abner go? Then who immediately arrives from what (2 Samuel 3:22)? What does Joab find out (2 Samuel 3:23)? What does Joab say about the wisdom of this (2 Samuel 3:24-25)? Then what does Joab do (2 Samuel 3:26)? From whom does he keep this? What does Joab pretend to want from Abner (2 Samuel 3:27)? But what does he do instead? Why? When David hears about this, about what is he concerned before Whom (2 Samuel 3:28)? What does he declare? Upon whom does he call down the guilt (2 Samuel 3:29)? With what curse? How does 2 Samuel 3:30 summarize the entire incident? Whom, especially, does David command in 2 Samuel 3:31? And whom else? To do what? Who is the lead mourner? What does he do (2 Samuel 3:32)? Who follow this cue? Who composes what in 2 Samuel 3:33-34? About what specific circumstance of Abner’s death does he lament? What does he call Joab? What do the people do? What else does David do as an act of mourning (2 Samuel 3:35)? What do the people think of this (2 Samuel 3:36)? What else pleased them? What did they all now know (2 Samuel 3:37)? How does David summarize the event in 2 Samuel 3:38? What does he say was the effect upon himself (2 Samuel 3:39)? What does he say about Joab and Abishai? Whom does he have hope will do what about it?

Usually, when an ancient king arose, the first priority for him was to establish his power by eliminating or crippling all possible opposition. And we can see a hint of that in David’s request for Michal (2 Samuel 3:13). The resumption of that marriage with the daughter of Saul would be a step toward consolidating the house of Saul (and the rest of Israel) into his kingdom. And Abner is useful unto this end, not only overruling poor Paltiel to ensure the Michal transaction goes through (2 Samuel 3:16), but also making sure that the desired ultimate outcome is secured (2 Samuel 3:17-19).

So by ordinary human (fleshly) logic, it would seem not to be a problem that Joab would go from obtaining kingdom spoil (2 Samuel 3:22a) to eliminating kingdom competition (2 Samuel 3:24-25), even though Joab had not only obvious but divinely-emphasized (2 Samuel 3:27b2 Samuel 3:30b) ulterior motives. This is just the kind of thing that all the other kings did.

But David isn’t “all the other kings”! He’s the one whom Yahweh has anointed and sworn to enthrone (2 Samuel 3:18), who is more concerned about guilt before God (2 Samuel 3:28) than consolidated power—so that Joab’s “thanks” for breaking the covenant of peace from 2 Samuel 3:20-21 is a horrible curse(2 Samuel 3:29). 

And David’s first great act of leadership over the united kingdom is not levying legislation but rather leading lament. He’s the sack-clothed mourner in chief (2 Samuel 3:31), the keynote weeper (2 Samuel 3:32), the royal poet laureate (2 Samuel 3:33-34), and hosts not the inaugural ball but the inaugural fast (2 Samuel 3:35). All of this has the earthly appearance of weakness, and indeed David feels it (cf. 2 Samuel 3:38-39). But when God’s grace is your main program, He often conspires to be your Strength in the midst of your weakness (cf. 2 Corinthians 12:8–10), and He gives David the hearts of all the people (2 Samuel 3:36) such that lamentation leadership becomes a great galvanizing event in the newly united kingdom (2 Samuel 3:36-37).

Our forever-King, the Lord Jesus, is the ultimate guiltless One (cf. 2 Samuel 3:28), but He Himself has borne (and eliminated!) upon His cross our dreadful curse (much worse than 2 Samuel 3:29). And He perfectly leads us in lament (cf. much of the Psalms) and every other right response before God. Yahweh has sworn to Him (cf. 2 Samuel 3:18) that He will save us with a great and complete salvation, and that the nations and the ends of the earth will be His kingdom forever (cf. Psalm 2:7–8). Hail, God’s anointed King! 

What is an example of an earthly way of getting power in your social/work/political circles that you should reject?

Suggested songs: ARP7B “God Is My Shield” or TPH46A “God Is Our Refuge and Our Strength”


Tuesday, February 09, 2021

The Lord Himself Is Our Portion and Our Power (Family Worship in Psalm 73)

What does thankfulness look like? Pastor leads his family in today’s “Hopewell @Home” passage. In these twenty-eight verses, the Psalmist gets a glimpse of God’s glory and realizes that rather than an unrewarded servant, he has really been a wickedly ungrateful brute. But this God of infinite glory has also been to him a God of marvelous patience, and abounding generosity. In fact, God has given to sinners something greater than heaven and earth taken together: Himself. Himself as our portion and Himself as our power.

2021.02.09 Hopewell @Home ▫ Psalm 73

Read Psalm 73

Questions from the Scripture text: How does the Psalm summarize its teaching in Psalm 73:1? But what does the Psalmist immediately admit about himself, concerning faith in God’s goodness, in Psalm 73:2? What are some things that he had noticed about the wicked in Psalm 73:3-12? What did he conclude about himself and his godliness in Psalm 73:13? What circumstance from Psalm 73:14 had led him to decide that there was no point in being godly? But what would he have done if he had spoken like that out loud (Psalm 73:15)? When he tried to figure this out, what happened (Psalm 73:16)? What ended up making the difference (Psalm 73:17)? Whose end does he understand in Psalm 73:17-20? What does he conclude had been his problem in Psalm 73:21-22? Who is always with him (Psalm 73:23)? Who will receive him into glory (Psalm 73:24)? Whose end is he learning about now? What does that teach him about what to value in Psalm 73:25? What does that teach him about whom to depend upon in Psalm 73:26? What will happen to those who are far from God (Psalm 73:27)? What is good in Psalm 73:28? What is the ultimate purpose of trusting in the Lord in verse 28? 

Next week’s Call to Worship, Prayer for Help, Song of Adoration, and Prayer of Confession all come from Psalm 73, so that we will see that we are singing God’s thoughts after Him with Be Thou My Vision. Here, we learn one of the great benefits of true worship: it teaches us what a true life of thanksgiving looks like.

It looks like remembering what our end could have been (losing everything we have on earth, and falling into destruction as we are condemned by God). It looks like remembering what our end is instead (enjoying the glorious holiness of God forever and ever). It looks like realizing that we have, now already, Him who is the heavenliness of heaven. We are continually with Him! It is He who holds us by our right hand! It is He who guides us with His counsel! Who is He? The glorious One who will receive us into His own glory.

It looks like concluding that if we have Him, we have already, now, in heaven and earth, more property than we could ever hope to desire. God is our portion forever. It looks like concluding that if we have Him, we have already, now, more power than we could ever fear to need. God is the strength of our heart.

Is God near to us? Then we have not kept our hands clean in vain. Are we far from God? Then we are on the cusp of eternal destruction. Why have we trusted in God? Not so that we can get all the other earthly stuff that we love, but so that we can realize and tell all that God is more glorious and worthy than all else combined!

What trials do you have right now? What earthly things do you desire? How does God compare? How has your life been showing a desire to tell others His praise?

Suggested songs: ARP73C “Yet Constantly, I Am with You” or TPH446 “Be Thou My Vision”

Monday, February 08, 2021

The Divinely Judicial and Divinely Organic Causes of Christian Love

Christians love one another because it is right, and because the love of Christ Himself is growing in them.

Nahum 1:1–8 ▫ Have We Finally Found a Really Minor Prophet?: Minor Prophet, Major God


God is just: the vengeance of God. God is impressive: the majesty of God. God is near: the goodness of God.

Jonah 4 ▫ The Disappointing Grace of God: God Just Won’t Stop Messing with Me (2021 Winter Theology Conference, Session 3)


A disgusted servant. A patient tutor. The justification of God.

Jonah 1 ▫ A Wild God and a Servant without a Servant's Heart (2021 Winter Theology Conference, Session 2)


God makes the most massive assumptions. God pursues the most recalcitrant servants. God contrives the most amazing triumphs.

Joel 2:12–17 ▫ But What if We're Not Told What to Repent of? (2021 Winter Theology Conference, Session 1)


The puzzling mystery of repentance. The winsome incentive of repentance. The precise particulars of repentance.

2021.02.08 Hopewell @Home ▫ Nahum 1:1–8

Read Nahum 1:1–8

Questions from the Scripture text: What is this prophecy called (Nahum 1:1)? Against whom? What is the scroll called? Whose vision? From what place? What does God declare about Himself in Nahum 1:2? What does He say three times? What does He say twice? What fact about Yahweh makes His vengeance and fury even more notable (Nahum 1:3a)? What fact about Him makes His vengeance and fury so dangerous? What makes His vengeance and fury sure—what will He not do (verse 3b)? What indicators has He given of the greatness of His coming vengeance and fury (Nahum 1:3-5)? What questions do Nahum 1:6a-b ask? What is the implied answer? How do verse 6c–d illustrate that answer? What other fact about Yahweh does Nahum 1:7a introduce? What does this make Him (verse 7b)? To whom—whom does He acknowledge and with whom does He identify (verse 7c)? But what is He going to do to Nineveh, with what (Nahum 1:8a-b)? What will pursue whom (verse 8c)?

From Nahum 1:2 (“adversaries”/ “enemies”) to Nahum 1:8 (“enemies”), we have a dreadful warning: there can be nothing more horrific than to be an enemy of God. 

How great is the jealousy of Yahweh’s vengeance (Nahum 1:2a)! How great is the fury of Yahweh’s vengeance (verse 2b)! How essential to His relation to His adversaries is that vengeance (verse 2c)! How sure and immense is the storing up of that vengeance (verse 2d)! How ominous the slowness of His vengeance’s coming (Nahum 1:3a)! Because how great is His power! How absolute is His justice (verse 3b)! What dreadful witnesses He has given us of all this, in His providence to the fallen creation (verse 3c–e)! The most impressive and stable creatures—yea, even all the creation together—are weak and flimsy even before these witnesses (Nahum 1:4Nahum 1:5Nahum 1:6c-d)! How foolishly impossible to think that a rebellious man could survive Him (verse 6a–b)!

This is dreadful news for Assyria, and its capitol city Nineveh (Nahum 1:1Nahum 1:8). But Israel also have acted as an enemy (cf. Micah 2:8), which is why the Assyrians have devastated them (cf. Hosea 9:3, Hosea 10:5–8). So, why this horrifying “burden against Nineveh” (Nahum 1:1)? And how can there be such hope for Israel (Nahum 2:2), who have acted previously as an enemy? 

It’s true that Assyria was used by God to chasten Israel (cf. Hosea 10:10). But being used by God for good doesn’t free you to sin against Him! Most commentators focus upon the brutality of the Assyrians. And Nahum 3:1 does call Nineveh “the bloody city, all full of lies and robbery, whose prey never departs.” 

But when Yahweh of Hosts Himself says, “Behold, I am against you” in Nahum 3:5, it is because Assyria has sold nations and families through her harlotries as “the mistress of sorceries.” It’s her false religion—whether the Assyrian mythology, or (likely both/and) her trust in her own impressiveness—her saying with the nations, kings, and peoples, “We will not have this man to reign over us” (cf. Psalm 2:1–3; Luke 19:14). 

The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all unrighteousness of men, which has as its bottom the unrighteous suppressing of the truth that God has made all things for His own glory (cf. Romans 1:18–21). Sorcery, being an attempt to have divine power without the divine Lord, is an act of enmity against Him, and trusting in either idols or military might is a form of it. Just because Assyria was providentially appointed for the chastening of Israel doesn’t mean they can get away with violence, idolatry, or sorcery.

But as the holiness and justice and wrath of God come into view, it’s the second question that perplexes: how can there be such hope for Israel (Nahum 2:2), who have acted as enemies of the Lord (cf. Micah 2:8)? The answer is in Nahum 1:7: “Yahweh is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; and He knows those who trust in Him.” He has made provision of His own righteousness, for those who trust in Christ (cf. Romans 1:16–17). Christ has taken the enmity, so that those trusting in Him can have the righteousness (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:21). 

That’s what is so amazing about Nahum 1:7. Yahweh is a stronghold in the day of trouble, when the trouble is Yahweh Himself! But, He brings enemies to a faith that ends the enmity, and He “knows” them instead as His friends. He saves His elect Israel (n.b. Romans 9:6–8) from Himself, by Himself, for Himself.

How have you acted as Yahweh’s enemy? How can you be safe from His wrath? Are you safe from His wrath?

Suggested songs: ARP98 “O Sing a New Song to the Lord” or TPH109 “O My God, Whose Name I Worship”