Me Too, You Too, All Too

MeToo

Note Before You Indignantly Comment: Yes, I know that not all men do these things. I am not operating from the assumption that they do.

Yes, I know that men can be and are harassed and assaulted. I simply write from the perspective of womanhood.

No, I do not believe or claim that women are perfect and all men are monsters.

Gentle Reader,

I was 11 the first time a boy tried to grab my breasts. Several of us were playing on a trampoline. He lunged at me. I shoved him away. No, I was not mistaken as to his intent. He laughed when I shoved him. Made a rude comment.

Before that, long before that, boys made fun of me for being “too smart” and “ugly.” (To be fair, some of the girls made fun of me for these things, too). Freshman year of high school I even made it onto the official “ugly list.” Yes, the boys in my class made a list detailing which girls they liked and why (suffice it say that “intelligence” and “personality” were not factors). I remember some hand flapping from teachers, but nothing more than that. We girls were basically told to ignore them.

I attended a small, private Christian school for six years, so we got a “purity talk” every year around Valentine’s Day. Boys and girls split into separate classrooms. The boys’ talk lasted about 15 minutes. They went to the gym to play basketball. My junior year, the girls were lectured for close to two hours. Don’t put yourself in a situation where your purity will be compromised. Don’t wear a skirt shorter than this. V-neck shirts are not a good choice. Boys are boys; they can’t help themselves, so you need to have good boundaries.

The message was clear.

We were the responsible ones.

Our bodies, instead of being good, instead of being beautiful because God made them, were inherently dangerous. Seductive. Boys could hardly be expected to exercise self-control. They could hardly been expected to respect us.

Three girls (that I know of) were expelled from school because they were pregnant. One of those girls, her boyfriend attended the school. There was quite an uproar among the students because he wasn’t expelled. (To his credit, he chose to leave, although neither should have had to do so).

I have been groped, pinched, grabbed, slapped, screamed at, cussed out, manipulated, stalked. My “no” has been ignored. When I was a teen, grown men followed me around as I did my job at the library. Teenage boys used to pull my hair, snap my bra straps and even, on a few occasions, when they sat behind me, unhook my bra in the middle of class. I have received pornographic images from strangers on all of my social media accounts, despite having them locked down as tightly as possible.

I am far from the only one who has experienced these violations.

This is why the #MeToo Movement exists.

A movement that should prompt national mourning and reflection has, instead, pushed some to ask the same tired, old questions. Well, why did she/they wait so long to say anything? You know, she benefited from that, so what gives her the right to come forward? What was she wearing? Why did she put herself in that position? Why didn’t she just say “no?”

  1. Everyone knows why women don’t come forward: We aren’t believed. Even if/when we are believed, we aren’t a priority. In this country, there are tens of thousands of untested rape kits just sitting on shelves. Perhaps worse, the majority of perpetrators do not go to prison.
  2. Define “benefit.” And even if a woman did benefit, at one point, from someone doing something wrong, does that mean she can never raise her voice and say, “Yes, that was wrong”?
  3. It doesn’t matter what a woman is wearing. Women who wear burqas are harassed and assaulted.
  4. What position? Being alone with a man? Are we supposed to view all men as brutes who will hurt us? Are we supposed to be able to see the future, to know how this person will behave if we go on the date, take the meeting or have the drink?
  5. “No” is ignored. All the time.

Again, the message is clear.

The responsibility is on us.

This is all rage-inducing enough, but then throw in the fact that the Church – the worldwide people of God – is just as bad at dealing with sexual harassment and assault as everyone else and I genuinely want to tear my clothes and coat myself in ashes. Pastors – perpetrators – who should be permanently disqualified from the office are instead allowed to preach freely. Popular books encourage “lust management” instead of the soul-purity that Christ commands. Instead of the freedom to interact with each other as siblings, as fellow heirs and stewards, men and women are taught to view each other in terms of suspicion and danger – because, once more, men can’t control themselves and women are always and forever temptresses.

I like men. I married one. I have a dad and a brother. Grew up around several uncles and lots of boy cousins. Have always had male friends.

But some of you are wringing your hands. Some of you are saying that you don’t know how you’re supposed to act around women now. Come on. You aren’t that stupid. I know you aren’t.

Treat us with kindness and respect. Listen to us. View us as something more than breasts and a vagina. Something more than an object that exists to satisfy your desires.

Human beings.

Stop trying to roll your sin onto our shoulders. Your lust and bad attitudes – that’s you. Go before God and deal.

#MeToo is also #YouToo and #AllToo. Your sisters are screaming, exposing long-festering wounds to the light. Resist the urge to defend your fellow men. Hear the screams. See the tears. Absorb the full horror. Our torment is part of your experience, because we are family – adopted by Christ.

And family, when it functions the way God intended, sticks together.

Sexual sin – for that is what harassment and assault is – negatively impacts the whole Church. When one suffers, all suffer. There is no room for justifying, minimizing or rationalizing. Perpetrators are not to be coddled, excused, given a platform or hidden. Boys are not to be taught that they “will be boys,” but rather that they will be held accountable for their actions (just as girls are). The Church must become a community that emphasizes justice as equally as it does mercy.

Please, Church. Believe us.

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Photo Credit: Rachael Crowe
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The LORD Your God in Your Midst: Fierce Anger (3:6-8)

The LORD, the Mighty One

Gentle Reader,

I received some expected heat over last week’s entry. What I wrote was decidedly not politically correct. How odd that theology should be expected to be politically correct. Ah, no. Do we shape God to suit ourselves or do we allow Him to shape us?

The Bible – it is not meant to make us feel comfortable or affirmed in our sins, whatever those sins are. It is not to be manipulated, cherry-picked or brushed aside. Grace is not a blank check ensuring our ability to do whatever we want without consequences.

Christianity is a wide tent. There is plenty of room for legitimate differences over interpretation and application. What there is not room for is the thinking that “well, you can’t really trust the Bible on _________.” If you can’t trust the Bible on _________, then you can’t trust what the Bible says about anything. If you can’t wrap your head around x, y, or z being sin, and therefore something that separates us from God, then you question the entire concept of sin, which leads to questioning the need for Christ.

It’s all a puzzle that fits together so tightly that removing even one piece causes the whole picture to fall apart.

There is a discussion covering topics such as textual integrity and faith behind these brief paragraphs that I simply don’t have time to get into right now. I encourage you to think about the “hot button” issues of our day. How does Scripture address them? In specifics or general principles? How does this impact you? Do you need to change your thinking or behavior? Study some more?

I haven’t “arrived.” I am just as much a sinner as anyone, and probably worse. There isn’t a lot that I haven’t done or seen at this point. I need Jesus desperately. He gets pickier with me as we walk along together. Sometimes I ignore His conviction. I don’t always get it right. Nevertheless, I know, for sure and for certain, that His way is always best. Whatever He asks to lay down, however He commands us to submit, is, without fail, for our good.

On with the show.

Surely They Will Change

“I have cut off nations,
Their fortresses are devastated;
I have made their streets desolate,
With none passing by.
Their cities are destroyed;
There is no one, no inhabitant.
I said, ‘Surely you will fear Me,
You will receive instruction’—
So that her dwelling would not be cut off,
Despite everything for which I punished her.
But they rose early and corrupted all their deeds.”

– Zephaniah 3:6-7 (NKJV)

That phrase, “Surely you will fear Me, you will receive instruction,” informs the entire book of Zephaniah and even Scripture as a whole.

“Do I have any pleasure at all that the wicked should die?” says the Lord GOD, “and not that he should turn from his ways and live?”

– Ezekiel 18:23 (NKJV)

God doles out discipline because He wants people to turn away from death. He isn’t pleased when anyone chooses to live apart from Him. Those who are in covenant relationship with Him are called to repentance and the often difficult work of restoration when they choose to engage in sin. Those outside of that covenant are punished as a means God uses to draw them to Himself. He does not throw bricks for the fun of it. He does not delight in painful consequences. Anything that happens as a result of our beliefs and actions, whatever they are, can be a tool in His hands, used to move us deeper into holiness, whether we’re at the starting line or at mile 30.

Rashi writes that God had planned good things for the people of Judah and He didn’t want to have to cut that good off from them. (1) How did the people of Jerusalem respond to this? “…they arose early and corrupted their deeds.” This draws us to Romans 1, where Paul makes the argument that those who do not follow God actively suppress the truth. There is a choice involved. This is exactly what they were doing. They had been warned and the devastation would come. They chose to ignore what was right in front of them.

Zephaniah records that God essentially wonders what else it would take for the people to repent. This wondering is, of course, not a true wondering, for God knew already. (It’s a mystery to us, how He exists outside of time, therefore knowing all, yet does not force Himself onto anyone. We cannot unravel that). He knew that many would keep marching down the path of destruction.

So He turns His eye toward those who have remained faithful.

The Faithful Remnant

“Therefore wait for Me,” says the LORD,
“Until the day I rise up for plunder;
My determination is to gather the nations
To My assembly of kingdoms,
To pour on them My indignation,
All My fierce anger;
All the earth shall be devoured
With the fire of My jealousy.”

– Zephaniah 3:8 (NKJV)

In knowing that God doesn’t take pleasure in the death of the wicked, we could mistakenly come to believe that God is never angry. This would be wrong. We have trouble understanding how God can be angry yet not vindictive, because we assume He is like us. He is not. His anger is perfect, meaning that it is never expressed as a grudge or vendetta. He is holy and just. His character requires a response toward the sin that He cannot stand.

Yes, sin makes God angry. But He is not an abusive parent, boss, friend or spouse. He is not twisted. He doesn’t have a dark side. He doesn’t clap His hands and get all excited in His anger. His responses are always right. (What about the jealousy He brings up here? It is not jealousy of, because God is completely secure in Himself, but jealousy for. He knows what is best for each person He created).

Despite the mentioning of emotions and fire, the scene changes. Zephaniah’s head must have spun more than once with all the shifts in narrative throughout his short book.

In the face of such a dismal picture of human corruption as Zephaniah drew in 3:1-7, believers are exhorted to “wait” for the Lord to come as witness, to pour out His wrath against all peoples, and to purify a remnant who will seek refuge in Him. To “wait” for the Lord means to “long for” Him (Job 3:21; Isaiah 30:18) and to place one’s confident hope only in Him (Psalm 33:20; Isaiah 8:17, 64:4). (2)

Those who remained faithful to God are counseled to be patient in the midst of the oncoming storm. To place all their trust and hope in Him. The days were about to get dark. They were to cling to Him as the light in that darkness. To look for Him. To long for Him.

To love Him, even when the majority didn’t.

A New Focus

There is little in the way of commentary in this entry for good reason: we are crossing a bridge. God, through Zephaniah, is pushing the lever on the ViewMaster (not a sponsor).We have seen the depths of destruction and chaos. We understand why Judah was going to suffer. We understand why the surrounding nations were going to fall. We understand that God was (and is) perfectly just.

We have looked at the past. We have studied the events that would occur as a result of that past, perhaps within Zephaniah’s lifetime. Now our eyes will turn to the future, to another prophecy layer cake.

We are about to move into the hope.

Reflection

  1. Do you trust the Bible? Do you find it to be reliable? Read this as a jump off point. (Note: I dislike his use of the terms “liberal” and “conservative” because they are loaded; there is not much consensus on what it means to be “liberal” or “conservative” because the definitions are always biased).
  2. What is God asking you to give up? How is He commanding you to submit to Him?
  3. I’m calling on my Presbyterian peeps here to help us understand God’s emotions. How can God have feelings and yet remain constant? Read this. What do you agree with? Disagree with?
  4. Read Zephaniah 3. What stands out to you?

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Sources

(1) Zephaniah 3 Commentary, Rashi

(2) Chad Brand, Charles Draper, and Archie England, eds., Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary. Nashville, TN: Holman Reference, 2003. “Zephaniah.” p. 1706.

For all entries in The LORD Your God in Your Midst series, go here.

The LORD Your God in Your Midst: No Shame (3:3-5)

The LORD, the Mighty One

Note: In today’s entry, I name a few people that I consider to be false teachers. How I wish you could hear my tone of voice. I don’t approve of attacking people, but I also don’t approve of ignoring what is true. The hard words tucked into the below are not written in anger.

For the record, I have for quite some time now been the opposite of a fan-girl when it comes to Jen Hatmaker, Glennon Doyle Melton and Rachel Held Evans – a tough place to be as a female blogger. It is 100% not personal as I’ve never met any of them. This is all about what they teach. Please know that my issue with Hatmaker began long before the interview that recently appeared here.

I know I’m going to lose some of you because of this. I ask that you take the time to really look at what these women (and the more notorious men listed) teach and compare it with Scripture. In the end, it is God’s word that matters, no matter how unpopular or uncomfortable it makes us.

Gentle Reader,

Today we have before us a study in contrasts. The unrighteousness of humanity and the righteousness of God. Darkness and light. Salvation, the need for it and the answer for that need, encapsulated in just a few verses.

The Unrighteous

Her princes in her midst are roaring lions;
Her judges are evening wolves
That leave not a bone till morning.
Her prophets are insolent, treacherous people;
Her priests have polluted the sanctuary,
They have done violence to the law.
…the unjust knows no shame.

– Zephaniah 3:3-4, 5b (NKJV)

In this description, Zephaniah stands alongside Amos, the shepherd-prophet who ministered in the Northern Kingdom of Israel during the reign of Jeroboam II. (Scholars place Amos somewhere between 767-753 B.C., roughly 30 years before the Assyrian conquest and about a century before Zephaniah came on the scene). Like Zephaniah, Amos exposed the evil deeds of the ruling class, of those who should have been taking care of the vulnerable:

…Israel stands accused for crimes against fellow Israelites. They sell the righteous for silver, and the needy for a pair of sandals (2:6). They trample the poor into the dust (v. 7).

Israel’s crimes against persons are at the same time crimes against Yahweh’s holiness: the people profane his holy name (2:7); they desecrate his sacred altar by their unjust social behavior (v. 8); they profane his hallowed house by their reprehensible deeds. Furthermore, they have responded inappropriately to Yahweh’s gracious gift of the Promised Land (v. 9) and to his care in delivering them from Egypt and choosing some of their sons as prophets and Nazirites (vv. 10-11). Rather than accepting God’s gifts with gratitude, they made the intoxicant-abstaining Nazirites drink wine, and they commanded the prophets not to prophesy (v. 12). (1)

This is, of course, painting with a broad stroke, because there’s no doubt that there were some among the princes, prophets and priests that were part of the righteous remnant that the majority of the Old Testament writing prophets speak of (Daniel and his friends are a good example; see Daniel 1). And again, if any of the wicked among the elite had chosen to repent, God would have responded in grace. He knows each person intimately.

Caveats aside, those in power abused their power and they did so blatantly.

Princes

God expected the civil and religious leaders of the land to take His word seriously and lead the people in the way of righteousness. Instead, the leaders acted like ravenous beasts in the way they oppressed the people and took what they wanted from them. (2)

Reaching all the way back to roughly 739 B.C. and the first of the major writing prophets, we read:

The LORD stands up to plead,
And stands to judge the people.
The LORD will enter into judgment
With the elders of His people
And His princes:
“For you have eaten up the vineyard;
The plunder of the poor is in your houses.
What do you mean by crushing My people
And grinding the faces of the poor?”
Says the Lord GOD of hosts.

– Isaiah 3:13-15 (NKJV)

Oppression is not a modern concept. It is not a Western issue. Those in power have consistently, throughout history and across every culture, placed a boot on the neck of the poor and defenseless. (Yes, very broad strokes again, as there have been more than a handful of wise leaders. Yet looking at the scope of history, considering the rise and fall of nations, these wise leaders are few and far between). There’s a reason why it is said that, “The rich get richer and the poor get poorer.”

This was not how God’s people then were supposed to function and it is not how we are supposed to function now.

“You shall neither mistreat a stranger nor oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.

You shall not afflict any widow or fatherless child. If you afflict them in any way, and they cry at all to Me, I will surely hear their cry; and My wrath will become hot, and I will kill you with the sword; your wives shall be widows, and your children fatherless.” …

“If there is among you a poor man of your brethren, within any of the gates in your land which the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart nor shut your hand from your poor brother, but you shall open your hand wide to him and willingly lend him sufficient for his need, whatever he needs.”

– Exodus 22:21-24, Deuteronomy 15:7-8 (NKJV)

The government of Judah, the princes, the leaders, were treating the poor and vulnerable in precisely the opposite way. We’re talking real oppression here. As in violence, homelessness, starvation. Nothing at all like what we get so wrapped up in (bathrooms and pronouns – allow me that; no, I am not freaking out over who uses a bathroom because I really don’t care, only pointing out that there’s a chasm between that and, I don’t know, being kidnapped as a child and forced to serve in a guerrilla army) and so often exactly what we ourselves turn a blind eye to.

Do not mistake me. I do not promote the so-called “social gospel,” and neither does God in His condemnation of the princes. Caring for the marginalized and poverty-stricken cannot and should not ever be divorced from the Gospel. Which leads us to our second group.

Prophets

The prophets were unfaithful tot he Lord and His word and dealt treacherously with the people. They didn’t proclaim God’s truth; they only preached what the people wanted to hear. (3)

Go now and read all of Ezekiel 13.

Seriously.

God does not tolerate false teachers. He does not pat them on the head and say, “Oh, it’s okay, honey.” I often wonder if the misrepresentation of His word, and therefore Himself, doesn’t make Him angrier than any other sin. (Just a wondering. I know there aren’t hierarchies of sin). The Joel Osteen/Benny Hinn/Joseph Prince/Jen Hatmaker/Glennon Doyle Melton/Rachel Held Evans types and all the rest who slide on the scale of “all is well” and “I’m so much smarter than you” and “give me your money” must make Him seethe.

But then there are people who listen to them, people who should know better. I wonder how that makes Him feel.

(And now I’ve lost some readers. Farewell, dears).

False teachers are evil, period. It doesn’t matter if 90% of what they say is good. The 10% makes all the difference. I mean, really, if someone gave you a batch of chocolate chip cookies and told you that there was just a little dog poop mixed into the batter, would you eat them?

These bad-news dudes that stood against Zephaniah must have just annoyed him to the point of gritting his teeth. Here he is, doing his best to preach the message, the actual words of God, and he slams against a brick wall of capped-toothed grins. He keeps hearing that this sin or that sin is no big deal. He has to listen as Scripture is contorted to mean something it couldn’t possibly mean in order for people to feel good about themselves. Over and over again he hurls himself against that wall of fake cheer and ear-tickling. It must have been exhausting.

The problem really hasn’t changed, has it?

Priests

As for the priests, their very ministry was toxic and polluted the sanctuary! … Instead of serving God for His glory,the priests twisted the law to please themselves and gain what they wanted. (4)

The priests had a very specific role in society and a very specific way they were to play that role. Large chunks of Torah (the first five books of the Bible) are dedicated to outlining how they were to dress, who they could marry and how the sacrificial system was to work. God was exacting in His requirements. A certain group of people took care of the physical Tabernacle and the Temple after it. A certain group sang songs. A certain group performed the sacrifices. Only one, the High Priest, was ever permitted to enter the Holy of Holies, the place where the Ark of the Covenant rested, and then only once a year.

There job was to care for the spiritual state of the people. They were to teach them how to have a proper relationship with God. They were to help them maintain that relationship. By the time of Zephaniah, their eyes were focused elsewhere. As we discussed before, the reforms of King Josiah were the last gasp, the final effort to get Judah back on track. Barely a generation later, the Temple was filled with idols (see Ezekiel 8).

The Righteous

The LORD is righteous in her midst,
He will do no unrighteousness.
Every morning He brings His justice to light;
He never fails…

– 3:5 (NKJV)

I can’t even begin to imagine God in the middle of all this. Yet somehow He was, and somehow He is today, because He who cannot and will not abide sin remains completely loving. In His justice He must respond to those who reject Him. This is true. It is also true that He calls to the worst of sinners in the middle of their sin, flinging grace before them, working to draw them to Himself. But He is a gentleman. He forces no one.

So the light shines into the darkness, dispelling and exposing. Then as now, all who encounter this brilliance must choose: flee or fall at His feet.

Reflection

  1. Read Proverbs 14:31 and 2 Corinthians 9:6-7. How does God view generosity?
  2. Read 2 Peter 2. What are some signs of false teachers? What will happen to them?
  3. Read 1 Timothy 4:16. What steps do you need to take to guard your life and doctrine?
  4. Read Ezekiel 8. How does God respond to what’s happening in this scene?
  5. Read Zephaniah 3. What stands out to you?

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Sources

(1) Asbury Bible Commentary (under the “study this” tab)

(2) Warren Weirsbe. Be Concerned: Minor Prophets. (David C. Cook: Colorado Springs, 1996), 156.

(3) Ibid.

(4) Ibid.

For all entries in The LORD Your God in Your Midst series, go here.

The LORD Your God in Your Midst: A Place for Beasts to Lie Down (2:14-15)

The LORD, the Mighty One

Gentle Reader,

The herds shall lie down in her midst,
Every beast of the nation.
Both the pelican and the bittern
Shall lodge on the capitals of her pillars;
Their voice shall sing in the windows;
Desolation shall be at the threshold;
For He will lay bare the cedar work.
This is the rejoicing city
That dwelt securely,
That said in her heart,
“I am it, and there is none besides me.”
How has she become a desolation,
A place for beasts to lie down!
Everyone who passes by her
Shall hiss and shake his fist.

– Zephaniah 2:14-15 (NKJV)

With these words, Zephaniah wraps up the pronouncement of judgment upon the nations that stood against His chosen people. The great city of the Assyrians, Nineveh, will be reduced to nothing. Animals, beasts, will take over.

Mouths Filled with Boasting

We touched on Assyria and it’s relation to Judah a couple of weeks ago. These folks were the muscle of the region, until the Babylonian Empire arrived on the scene. Their style was one of total conquest, complete domination. They were not, however, any worse than any of the other ancient empires that rose and fell like the changing of the tide. Despite a famous reputation for ruthlessness, historians note of the Assyrian’s equally-famous preference for deportations,

The deportees, their labour and their abilities were extremely valuable to the Assyrian state, and their relocation was carefully planned and organised. We must not imagine treks of destitute fugitives who were easy prey for famine and disease: the deportees were meant to travel as comfortably and safely as possible in order to reach their destination in good physical shape. Whenever deportations are depicted in Assyrian imperial art, men, women and children are shown travelling in groups, often riding on vehicles or animals and never in bonds. There is no reason to doubt these depictions as Assyrian narrative art does not otherwise shy away from the graphic display of extreme violence. (1)

This does not mean that men like Sargon II or Sennacherib were cuddle-bears. They weren’t. Keeping deportees safe as they traveled into exile, into working for a foreign power, makes good economic sense. Though the evidence indicates that they weren’t outright abused, the people Assyria conquered were still forced into a life they did not choose. They were still under complete control of a king who wielded absolute power.

2 Chronicles 32:1-23 and Isaiah 36-37 record Sennacherib’s dealings with King Hezekiah and the prophet Isaiah. He sends his military commander, the Rabshakeh, to threaten and intimidate the citizens of Jerusalem:

“Hear the words of the great king, the king of Assyria! Thus says the king: ‘Do not let Hezekiah deceive you, for he will not be able to deliver you; nor let Hezekiah make you trust in the LORD, saying, “The LORD will surely deliver us; this city will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria.”’ Do not listen to Hezekiah; for thus says the king of Assyria: ‘Make peace with me by a present and come out to me; and every one of you eat from his own vine and every one from his own fig tree, and every one of you drink the waters of his own cistern; until I come and take you away to a land like your own land, a land of grain and new wine, a land of bread and vineyards. Beware lest Hezekiah persuade you, saying, “The LORD will deliver us.” Has any one of the gods of the nations delivered its land from the hand of the king of Assyria? Where are the gods of Hamath and Arpad? Where are the gods of Sepharvaim? Indeed, have they delivered Samaria from my hand? Who among all the gods of these lands have delivered their countries from my hand, that the Lord should deliver Jerusalem from my hand?’”

– Isaiah 36:13b-20 (NKJV)

Sennacherib was confident that there wan’t anybody, past, present or future, that would take him on and win.

How wrong he was!

Nineveh

Sennacherib’s sons assassinated him in his own palace (681 B.C.) This triggered the beginning of the end, a decline punctuated only by the last great Assyrian ruler, Ashurbanpial, who loved the arts so much that he commission a sculpture showing he and his wife at a picnic, with some heads and hands dangling in the tree limbs. You know. Pretty ornaments. (2)

Again, the Assyrians were really no worse than other ancient empires, but they were certainly no better. As with all great nations, the borders expanded beyond what could be reasonably governed. Ashurbanipal’s successors simply could not hold things together.

A century and a half before, God had sent the prophet Jonah to Assyria’s capital city of Nineveh to warn them of God’s judgment, and the people had repented, but successive generations went back to the old pagan ways, and Nineveh was destroyed in 612. B.C. Within the next few years, the once great Assyrian Empire simply vanished from the face of the earth, and Zephaniah saw it coming.

Because Nineveh thought it was an impregnable city, her citizens were careless and carefree when Zephaniah made his prediction, but God brought both the people and their city down into the dust of defeat. (3)

This is exactly what happened.

In 612 BCE Nineveh was sacked and burned by a coalition of Babylonians, Persians, Medes, and Scythians, among others. (4)

What We Want

It is important to notice that the people of this nation were given a chance to hear the message of truth. (If you haven’t read the book of Jonah, do. It’s interesting and funny and terribly convicting). God doesn’t judge them because of their ignorance. He judges them because they know better and choose to turn away from Him.

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.

– Romans 1:18-23 (NKJV)

The Assyrians had the testimony of creation. They had the sense that each of us has in our hearts that there is something more, something greater. They had a visit from a prophet (never mind that he was a cranky prophet). They lived in close proximity to the people of God; they did not collectively always do what they were supposed to do, but there were always some in the population who spoke and lived the truth.

The Assyrians were judged based on what they knew and how they lived.

Odd, isn’t it? This is what we so often claim that we desire. We flippantly say that we want God to judge us by how we live. Because we are, after all, “good people.”

This is the exact opposite of what we want.

What we truly want, what we desperately need, is for God to see us through the lens of Christ. We don’t want to be judged by our own lives. They will forever fall so very far short of the mark. We want to be judged by the life of Christ. We want His work, His earnings, applied to our accounts.

A Picture of the End

Prophecy has layers. There was an immediate fulfillment. There is a future fulfillment.

The fall of Nineveh, and of every empire before or since, points to what is to come.

Pause now and read Revelation 6.

I cannot and will not tell you when the end of things will come. If I tried, that would make me a useless and probably false teacher. The exact box on the calendar that will signal the beginning of the final days isn’t one I’m aware of. Only God knows. The point isn’t to try and figure that out.

The point, instead, is to remember that God is the Judge.

Is God gracious? Yes. Merciful? Yes. Compassionate, kind, good, faithful and loving? Yes. He also sits on the throne. He has the whole case spread out before Him. He has no need for a jury, for He alone decides.

“…the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?”

– Revelation 6:17 (NKJV)

Who can stand?

Those who choose, right now, to bow.

Reflection

  1. What is your view of God? Is He “Buddy Jesus,” someone who’s there to support you in whatever you want to do? Is He harsh and unknowable? Read John 17 and Revelation 19:11-21. Do these chapters change your view of God?
  2. It is difficult for our minds to comprehend that God will both forgive totally and judge totally. It is hard for us to accept that we come to Him on His terms, not our own. Read Hebrews 4:13-16. How do you respond to this passage?
  3. Read Zephaniah 2. What do you take away from the message of judgment on the Gentile nations surrounding Judah?
  4. We are 2/3 of the way through this book. What have you learned so far? What do you want to know more about

Signature

Sources

(1) Deporation

(3) Ibid.

(3) Warren Weirsbe. Be Concerned: Minor Prophets. (David C. Cook: Colorado Springs, 1996), 151-152.

(4) Nineveh

For all entries in The LORD Your God in Your Midst series, go here.