Bible reading for weekend December 3 -- 5
Dec 3 -- Nahum 1 and Luke 17
Dec 4 -- Nahum 2 and Luke 18
Dec 5 -- Nahum 3 and Luke 19
"The LORD is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him. But with an overflowing flood he will make a complete end of the adversaries, and will pursue his enemies into darkness." (Nahum 1:7-8)
TIME'S UP FOR NINEVEH (Nah 1-3). The prophecy of Nahum is God's word to the people of Nineveh, part two. Jonah was part one, chronicling a city-wide repentance of Assyrians in the capital about a hundred years earlier. The closing bookend is Nahum, and the Assyrian empire is big, powerful, and aggressive. Notice the references to chariots (2:3-4, 13; 3:2). The Assyrians were a militarily advanced culture, and cruel in their warfare. Whatever spiritual receptivity they had at the time of Jonah was gone by the time of Nahum. Nahum may not have actually visited Nineveh, for it seems the book was written primarily to give encouragement to the Jews (1:15; cf Isa 52:7). The Lord is patient and long-suffering toward nations throughout history (Ex 34:7), but there's a time when the clock runs out. Even as the gospel has been advancing around the world since AD 30, the light of salvation burns brightly in one nation and another, and then moves on to others. Societies may be receptive to the gospel for a season, but over time the culture grows cold. God is good to those who seek refuge in him (1:7), but he will "make a complete end" of his enemies (1:8). As the Apostle Paul would later write, "Behold then the kindness and severity of God..." (Rom 11:22 NAS). There are only two destinies, and time is running out for planet Earth, just as it did for Nineveh.
"But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, a sinner!' I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted." (Luke 18:13-14)
FAITH, FORGIVENESS, AND THE RETURN OF CHRIST (ch 17). Read my comments here.
JUSTIFIED (ch 18)! Luke includes some events that we have seen before in Matthew and Mark, especially related to humble, childlike faith (18:17). But Luke includes a teaching not found in the other gospels. Two men are seeking to approach God by prayer in the temple. One, an observant Pharisee, thanks God for the good things he (the Pharisee) is doing for the Lord. The way the prayer is phrased it seems that he is humbly thanking God for these things, though he casts a sidelong, judgmental glance at the other man. The other man, a despised tax collector, does not even lift his eyes to heaven, but acknowledges his sinfulness and asks for God's mercy. He looks to God alone for atonement. Jesus said, "this man [not the other] went down to his house justified..." (18:13). This would have been shocking to most upstanding Jews of the day, that Jesus taught that the first man, who seems to be sincerely trying to keep the law, would not be considered righteous (or just) in God's sight, but the second man (and who knows all the wrongs he has committed?) would be considered by Jesus as "righteous". This word "justify" (Gr. dikaio) is the same word that the Apostle Paul would use in Romans and Galatians to speak of "justification by faith." Saving faith involves finding our righteousness not in our own works -- nor in anything in us or in comparison to anybody else -- but in God's grace and mercy in Christ Jesus alone. Notice the repeated phrase: "Your faith has made you well" (17:19; 18:42).
ANOTHER CITY CONFRONTED (ch 19). Read about being up a tree, and then getting down to business, here. Just as Nahum condemned the sins of Nineveh, a great pagan city, so Jesus confronts another city, Jerusalem, a city that professed to follow the true God. Our Lord speaks of the judgment coming upon that city, which fell to the Romans in AD 70.
CONGRATULATIONS AGAIN to those of you who have been reading through God's word this year. I began this newsletter project two years ago. We read through the NT and Psalms each year, along with the first half of the OT (2020) and the second half of the OT (2021). Here's the first post in 2020 in case you want to begin again in Genesis this January. I plan to give my typing fingers a rest at the end of this month. There may be other projects coming, and I'll probably post once or twice a week about them, beginning in January. So, feel free to stay subscribed or be unsubscribed, as you wish. It's been a wonderful adventure!
Image credit: drawing of an Assyrian war chariot, based upon an ancient bas relief, from Wikimedia Commons. About this newsletter: I'm Sandy Young, and I post three times a week on my Bible reading, following the Robert Murray M'Cheyne (RMM) two-year reading schedule, as arranged by D. A. Carson. Subscribe for email at Buttondown.email/Sandy. Scripture quotations, unless otherwise noted, are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. A very helpful resource is the NET Bible with its excellent notes at netbible.org.