“In all toil there is profit, but mere talk tends only to poverty.” (Proverbs 14:23, ESV)
Making plans before beginning any venture is truly wise. Fools do rush in without a plan, without advise, and without counting the cost. But there comes a time when we must quit talking about working and actually work. Planning a garden is fun, but there comes a time to pick up the spade and turn over some dirt. Planting tomatoes and watering tomatoes and pulling weeds in the hot sun is what gets you tomatoes.
This paragraph you are reading now is a perfect example. I have had the opportunity, and even the desire, to write short lessons like this for several years, but I didn’t sit down and do it.
Yes, there is some profit in reading and thinking about what I wanted to tell you, but the results only came when I actually put pen to paper.
“In all toil there is profit, but mere talk tends only to poverty.”
“Though I have afflicted you, I will afflict you no more. And now I will break his yoke from off you and will burst your bonds apart.” (Nahum 1:12b-13)
Is this a one time promise for one population? Or is this a general way, God deals with his people?
“For the yoke of his burden, and the staff for his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian.” (Isaiah 9:4)
“Therefore thus says the Lord GOD of hosts: “O my people, who dwell in Zion, be not afraid of the Assyrians when they strike with the rod and lift up their staff against you as the Egyptians did. For in a very little while my fury will come to an end, and my anger will be directed to their destruction. And the LORD of hosts will wield against them a whip, as when he struck Midian at the rock of Oreb. And his staff will be over the sea, and he will lift it as he did in Egypt. And in that day his burden will depart from your shoulder, and his yoke from your neck; and the yoke will be broken because of the fat.” (Isaiah 10:24-27) Scholars are not sure about the translation of that last phrase “because of the fat”, but the general idea is abundantly clear.
God is our redeemer, our savior, our rescuer, our deliverer. He also is our teacher and the one who correctes us, sometimes sternly.
What causes us such consternation is the time during our oppression, during our painful correction, during our hard training, and especially during the time when God is troubling an entire nation which we are part of, for sins we but not take part in. We think it is unfair when we are “colateral damage.”
When I am innocent but I live in a land that is guilty and is being purged of its rebellion I complain. When I am suffering because of where I live, not because of what I have done, I complain. It is hard to rest in God’s assurance that He knows my suffering and is watching over me, when it looks like my rescue is so far in the distant future. Though I trust God without reservation, patients in trial is still difficult.
But I know my Redeemer lives and will not fail in any of His promises!
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4)
Deliverance is sure, but until then, use the opportunity to be made perfect.
“Leave the presence of a fool, for there you do not meet words of knowledge.” (Proverbs 14:7)
It has been well said that you will be a reflection of the five people you spend the majority of your time with. Who do you spend your time with? If you roll with the pigs you are going to stink and if you sleep with the dogs you will have flees.
“Leave the presence of a fool, for there you do not meet words of knowledge.” This is self defense. If you want to be poor hang out with poor people. You will think about work and money like poor people. If you want to be a snob hang out with snobs. You will learn to look down on you “inferiors”.
This has nothing to do with being unwilling to be friendly with people who are different, who need to hear the gospel. Jesus hung out with the “sinners” and was ridiculed by the arrogant. But we are talking about two different situations – self defense, and ministry. Actually, this is self defense so that you are able to withstand the onslaught of the world as you minister.
If you want to be healthy hang out with people who eat right and who avoid unhealthy habits. If you want to be wise quit hanging around with fools. If you want to be godly…
I’m afraid, if you are arguing with me right now, that you do see the difference and don’t want to heed the Bible’s warning, “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.” (Proverbs 13:20, ESV)
“Thus says the LORD, “Though they are at full strength and many, they will be cut down and pass away. Though I have afflicted you, I will afflict you no more.” (Nahum 1:12)
Whenever we read scripture we must be aware of who is speaking, who they are speaking to, and who is being spoken about. Pay close attention to who “they, them, you, we” and such pronouns are referring to. It is not always clear on the first read-through, so take your time. Here we have Nahum quoting God, who is speaking.
The switch at the beginning of the verse and again in mid-verse is very important.
Verse 10 is speaking to God’s people about God’s enemies.
Verse 11 speaks to God’s enemies about God’s enemies.
Verse 12 begins speaking to God’s people about God’s enemies, and ends speaking to God’s people about God’s people.
“I will afflict you (My people) no more”. When God punishes his wayward people to correct them, the punishment has an end. When he judges His enemies, there is no such promise of an end to the affliction.
John Calvin begins the translation of this verse “though they be quiet and also strong” noting that Ninevah had promised themselves tranquility, safety from attack, because they were well defended by massive infrastructure and by a huge armed force. The charge was that they thought they could live a quiet life due to their strength. They had a big army, a big city, with big defenses, in a big territory, with a big economy. “Peace in our time!” Though it is not stated here it is logical to suppose they were proud of their in enlightened culture and the strength of their gods and religion. This is speculation but the strong and secure can always find “reasons” to praise themselves for their superior positions. Proud people will always praise themselves for their own cleverness. And God laughs!
Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits lacks sense. (Proverbs 12:11)
Of course this was written in an area and time when agriculture was by far the most common means of making a living. Today I can say “If you are a farmer, farm! If you are a teacher, teach! If you are a truck driver, drive! Whatever your work, work!”
Use your resources,
employ your skills,
and you will be able
to pay your bills.
The romantic idea of following you dream without giving a care in the world about how you are going to earn a living is appealing to many. Stop and think about it. “That idea is appealing to many.” When you hear that phrase, pay attention!
When something is lauded by the general population it may not be biblical. If it is touted as easy and fun and care-free, beware.
I’m not saying that choosing a career you enjoy over another that you don’t is wrong. I’m also not telling you hobbies or sports or nonpaying professions are wrong. But the most appealing ideas for many people are schemes to avoid work and to get pleasure now.
Sin’s allure is that way. Laziness is that way. Foolishness is that way.
Work first, play later. He who avoids hard work and instead follows worthless pursuits lacks sense.
“From you came one who plotted evil against the LORD, a worthless counselor.” (Nahum 1:11)
It looks like we are now getting to more specific accusations against some group or leader. Someone in a position of influence or authority hatched a plot of “evil against the Lord.” This plotter is called a worthless counselor. I see this as not simply an accurate assessment but as a sarcastic statement of ridicule. “You didn’t actually pay for such foolish advice, did you!?” Or even “OK, you were given a really stupid recommendation. But you TOOK it! Who’s the real fool here?”
Reread it with the sarcasm. Go ahead. I’ll wait here…
We are absolutely responsible for blindly following bad advice! Be very careful who you listen to.
“Whom have you mocked and reviled? Against whom have you raised your voice and lifted your eyes to the heights? Against the Holy One of Israel! By your messengers you have mocked the Lord, and you have said, ‘With my many chariots I have gone up the heights of the mountains, to the far recesses of Lebanon; I felled its tallest cedars, its choicest cypresses; I entered its farthest lodging place, its most fruitful forest.” (2 Kings 19:22-23)
This is the epitome of foolish bragging – plotting against God!
John Calvin points out that Nahum is warning God’s people, then and now, exactly why He is going to judge and destroy His enemies.
This is a theme oft repeated in scripture – warnings to both the plotters and to those who listen. For example, what do we see in the opening chapters of Psalms?
Psalm 1 is instruction to us against listening to bad advice.
Psalm 2 is God’s warning to those who plot and give bad advice.
Read them both now with this in mind.
How many people do you know who live paycheck to paycheck? One unexpected bill, or a few days off work, and they are in a financial free-fall. Are you living life on the jagged edge financially? For most people in this situation the thing that pushed them to the edge of disaster was not the transmission breaking or their overtime at work being cut last week. The problem was lack of diligence and wise planning that started years ago.
“Precious treasure and oil are in a wise man’s dwelling, but a foolish man devours it.” (Proverbs 21:20)
If you read that and conclude it is about how unfair life is because the rich have plenty and the poor have only enough to get by, you have missed the point completely.
The second part is the cause, not the effect. To state it as instruction, which is what Proverbs is, “A foolish man eats / devours everything he makes. A foolish man spends every penny he makes. On the other hand, a wise man spends less than he makes and saves for the times when income decreases or expenses increase.”
This morning I read a statement to the effect that most people in trouble never said of something that is wise “That’s stupid. I won’t do it!” They usually say “That’s pretty smart. I’ll try to get around to it sometime.” and never do.
Be wise. A wise man or woman learns what the Bible say AND DOES IT!
“For they are like entangled thorns, like drunkards as they drink; they are consumed like stubble fully dried.” (Nahum 1:10)
Three more analogies are used in this short verse to illustrate the utter futility of opposing The Almighty.
First, even at their best their opposition is pitiful. They see themselves as nearly impregnable, their fortifications as formidable, their safety a forgone conclusion. Nahum says they are as easy to overcome as walking through some briars. Perhaps a slight annoyance for a moment, but absolutely no impedance. This is how much trouble any of God’s enemies are for Him to defeat…
“The best of them is like a brier, the most upright of them a thorn hedge. The day of your watchmen, of your punishment, has come; now their confusion is at hand.” (Micah 7:4)
“like drunkards as they drink”
A drunk who has had his fill is not hard to defeat in any encounter. He is not even able to stand, much less defend himself. Utterly defenseless, that is the assessment of all who oppose even the servants of God!
“And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men.” (Matthew 28:2-4)
“they are consumed like stubble fully dried.”
Evil men are like dry brambles. No one wants to be around them but other brambles because they are so irritating and useless. Avoided, left to their own devises, this tangle of sinners support each other and congratulate themselves on invincibility. Until God acts. Then they are like the dry brush before the flames driven by California’s Santa Anna winds!
Oh you who boast against the Lord Almighty, against our great God and Savior Jesus, against The Holy Spirit of God, against His Revealed Word, against His Chosen Israel, against His Church… and you who should know better, who claim to belong to Him, consider what you are doing!
“For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.” (Deuteronomy 4:24)
To his chosen ones he says “Know therefore today that he who goes over before you as a consuming fire is the LORD your God. He will destroy them and subdue them before you. So you shall drive them out and make them perish quickly, as the LORD has promised you.” (Deuteronomy 9:3)
“Hear, you who are far off, what I have done; and you who are near, acknowledge my might. The sinners in Zion are afraid; trembling has seized the godless: “Who among us can dwell with the consuming fire? Who among us can dwell with everlasting burnings?” (Isaiah 33:13-14)
“Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.” (Hebrews 12:28-29)
One reason many are unemployed or are in jobs they absolutely hate is that they do not have marketable skills and refuse to develop any. To be paid for your labor you must be worth much more than the cost to hire you. Whoever hires an employee pays more than the take home pay and must make back at least all costs plus a little more or the whole process is not worth the effort.
For an employer to pay you $15 for an hour’s work (not time, but work – we’ll talk about the difference another time) you must be worth more than $15 per hour. To be paid $15 million you must produce more than $15 million in value. This is simple economics and has nothing whatsoever to do with your intrinsic value as a human being.
Do you want to earn more money? Make yourself worth more. Get better than you are now at what you do for a living. Add another skill to you list of talents. It is not your employer’s job to make you better at your job or to pay you more money without you providing enough value to cover his costs of employing you. If you want more, be worth more.
“Do you see a man skillful in his work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before obscure men.” (Proverbs 22:29, ESV)
Paraphrase that verse with me. “Look at the man (or woman) who has put in the time and effort to develop his skills. This person will have great opportunities to be employed, because of those skills, by someone who is willing and able to pay handsomely for such superb talent. The one who has not bothered to improve a marketable skill will simply not be in demand.”
“What do you plot against the LORD? He will make a complete end; trouble will not rise up a second time.” (Nahum 1:9)
Plan what you want. Plot and strategize as you will. It will do you no good. When God decides to destroy, destruction comes sure and complete. When the Almighty knocks you down you do not get back up to cause trouble again.
“Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against his Anointed, saying, “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.”
He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. (Psalms 2:1-4)
Speaking of Judah we read “I looked, and behold, there was no man, and all the birds of the air had fled. I looked, and behold, the fruitful land was a desert, and all its cities were laid in ruins before the LORD, before his fierce anger.
For thus says the LORD, “The whole land shall be a desolation; yet I will not make a full end.” (Jeremiah 4:25-27)
When God promises judgment then restoration, count on it.
When God promises destruction without restoration, as appears to be the case so far in Nahum, count on it.
Whenever the church takes a hit the world pulls out their prewritten funeral announcement. But God is her protector. He uses these hits for His own purpose, to purge her and to strengthen her. This we know.
When the godless take a hit we often do not know if it is God allowing them to reap the fruit of their rebellion or it is His divine active judgment. Will it lead to death or to repentance? We are wise to hold out tongues until God makes it clear. What we are sure of is that in the salvation of sinners, God is glorified. And in the destruction of sinners, God is glorified. We also know that until God makes it clear to the persons who are dead in sin, they cannot see the cause-and-effect relationship between their sin and their pain. Pray for those headed for destruction because in their sin-filled hearts they plot all day long how to thwart God and get away with their sin. “What do you plot against the LORD? He will make a complete end; trouble will not rise up a second time.” (Nahum 1:9)