Habakkuk 1

Vs. 3, “Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrongdoing? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds.”  Habakkuk is interesting because the whole book centers on dialogue between him and God.  Habakkuk twice has questions for the LORD, and twice, the LORD responds.  The first set of questions (vs. 2-4) ask why does the LORD allow wrongdoing (wickedness – NASB) to prevail.  Judah had lost their good king Josiah and now things were getting worse.  Corruption was rampant and violence was increasing.  Sadly, I think we can relate quite well with Habakkuk in some ways.  Question: How does God respond?  The LORD reminds Habakkuk of the increasing power of the Babylonians.  In fact, the LORD stuns Habakkuk by saying this evil nation who easily defeated the Assyrians and the Egyptians will be coming for Judah (vs. 5-11)!  Needless to say, Habakkuk responds again with questions about how God could not only allow wrongdoing, but allow a more evil people to overcome His own people (vs. 12-17).  Habakkuk uses the metaphor of fisherman who find joy in their catch with how the Babylonians find joy in catching and killing others (vs. 14-17).

Regarding application…Why God?  Vs. 13b, “Why then do you tolerate the treacherous? Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves?”  Question: Is it sinful to question God?  Why does it seem the wicked prosper and righteous suffer?  Why is it so difficult to live a Christian life today?  How long is this suffering and trouble going to last?  The fact that Habakkuk could ask such poignant questions shows us the relationship he had with the LORD.  Secure children are able to freely ask their parents questions without the fear of being punished.  Questions with a sincere heart show reveal sincere faith.  Certainly, we can mock the Lord by asking questions with a hard heart.  But, even in the lines of questions, notice Habakkuk’s recognition of God’s grace and power (vs. 12-13).  In Habakkuk, we see how to deal with our questions and the death and destruction that surround us in this life.  It’s okay to be honest, just don’t ever forget that God is faithful.  The more you know God and His word the more your faith will be grounded!

Nahum 3

Vs. 1, “Woe to the city of blood, full of lies, full of plunder, never without victims.”  Yikes, this is not easy reading, but one that chronicles the reality of the sins of Nineveh and the Assyrians.  When the word “woe” is used, this signals a very stern warning.  I have commented in the past concerning the outright evil deeds of the Assyrians.  They treated human life worse than we treat animals.  They tortured people beyond comprehension.  They were given chances to repent, but now the battle would begin (vs. 3-4).  Again, we are reminded that the LORD is against Assyria and that her deeds will now be exposed (vs. 5-7).  Nahum proceeds to use the Egyptian city Thebes as an example to Nineveh (vs. 8-13).  Ironically, it was the Assyrians who had conquered this impregnable city, now they would be conquered by the Babylonians.  In the last part of our book of Nahum (vs. 14-19), we are given the final word of destruction for Ninevites.

Regarding application…God is Just.  Vs. 19, “Nothing can heal you; your wound is fatal. All who hear the news about you clap their hands at your fall, for who has not felt your endless cruelty?”  Question: Is God just in dealing with the evil actions of the Ninevites/Assyrians?  I suppose, we must address “evil” in the first place.  Many theologians describe evil simply as the absence of good.  In the end, it is a very debated topic and one that cannot accurately be addressed simply in a few sentences.  In the end, we must have faith in the providence of God and that God has his intentions for allowing evil to exist.  Certainly there are many examples as we study the bible of evil and how God deals with it.  My encouragement to you is to know that God is just and put your trust in Him in all situations.  Know that if God allows destruction to come to His creation, He did everything He could to reconcile them back to Him.  God saved the previous generation of Ninevites but brought destruction to a new one.  God saved previous Israelites, but brought destruction to many unrepentant ones later.  God is just.

Nahum 2

Vs. 1, “An attacker advances against you, Nineveh. Guard the fortress, watch the road, brace yourselves, marshal all your strength!”  Nineveh withstood an initial attack in 614 B.C., however, the Medes teamed up with the Babylonians and two years later they won.  In the end, it was the LORD who was against Nineveh/Assyrians.  Nahum describes in vivid color the impending attack (vs. 3-5).  The red color would have belonged to the Babylonians.  It would have been nearly inconceivable to the Assyrians that their great city that could house over 300,000 people would fall (vs. 6-10).  The lion was a symbol of power for the Assyrians.  The reference to the lions’ den (vs. 11-12) is a metaphor for how the Assyrians would take captives to be killed and tortured publicly.  It is a grave thing to do such evil and even more serious when the LORD is against you (vs. 13).

Regarding application…A Stern Warning.  Vs. 13, “I am against you,” declares the Lord Almighty. “I will burn up your chariots in smoke, and the sword will devour your young lions. I will leave you no prey on the earth. The voices of your messengers will no longer be heard.”  To give us perspective, the Assyrians were being attacked by the Babylonians because of their unrepentant hearts.  There was another prophet who lived in the time of Nahum, his name: Jeremiah.  About 15 years later in 597 B.C., the same empire that would attack and be victorious over the Assyrians would now turn their gaze upon Judah.  The warning that is given to us is that God is against anyone who does such evil.  For the reader today, it seems obvious that the warnings of the prophets like Nahum and Jeremiah should have been taken seriously.  There are warning labels on many of our products that we purchase.  One of the big warnings is for us to check the seal before opening our package (food, medicine, etc.).  If the seal has been broke, that means it could have been tampered with.  Many of us are very keen to ensure that we check these warnings for our physical safety.  How much more than should we heed the warnings throughout God’s word to flee from sinful past and turn to the Lord?

Nahum 1

Vs. 3, “The Lord is slow to anger but great in power; the Lord will not leave the guilty unpunished. His way is in the whirlwind and the storm, and clouds are the dust of his feet.” Nahum’s message is an oracle (prophecy) against the Nineveh and the Assyrians.  It’s important to note that ten times the LORD (Yahweh) is mentioned in our chapter today.  Question: Why?  Because Nahum wants to make sure we realize the power of God vs. the supposed power that God’s people feared in the Ninevites/Assyrians.  There is a tendency with a narrow scope to think of God only as loving and rainbows.  I’m reminded of the blockbuster movie “The Avengers” and this description is exactly what God is doing here in this chapter.  He is avenging His people and bringing wrath against those who do not do good, but delight in evil (vs. 9-11).  Though the LORD is slow to anger, there is a point of consequence.  Nahum gives us a vivid illustration of God’s mighty power (vs. 3-6) as we are reminded God controls even nature we live in.

Regarding application…God is our Refuge.  Vs. 7, “The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him.”  This is very reminiscent of a few of the Psalms (9:9, 46:1, 62:8).  What a wonderful section of hope!  It was not easy for the LORD’s people in this time and the thought of more chaos to come might have been fearful.  Yet, God through Nahum offers a ray of hope.  Question: Where are you finding your refuge?  A refuge is basically a place where we find shelter in the storm.  I grew up in Indiana where tornados were always a threat.  When I moved out to the west coast, it dawned on me that there were no basements.  I actually found this to be a bit unsettling for me.  Growing up, when tornados would come, we always would go downstairs because that was the safest place to be.  Question: Where do you run in times of storms?  Do we run to relationships, movies & television, drugs & alcohol, etc.?  The apostle Peter would encourage us to, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” (I Peter 5:7).  Turn to the LORD our God today and know that there is always hope in all situations.

Jonah 1

Vs. 2, “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.”  The LORD, Yahweh gave a very specific command to Jonah to go to the Ninevites.  Question: So what’s the big deal?  First off, the Ninevites were the very epitome of evil incarnate and enemies of God’s people!  Historical records tell they were so evil they would literally tear people’s faces off and rip open stomach’s of pregnant women!  Nineveh was a great city in the Assyrian empire and located about 550 miles northeast of Jerusalem.  But Jonah wants nothing to do with these evil people and so he flees (vs. 3).  Jonah gets on a boat that is to sail Tarshish, but the poor sailors would learn quickly that something is amiss (vs. 4-12).  God is sovereign over all things even nature, and so a great storm ensues (vs. 4).  Jonah’s attitude and feelings of defeat that God would ask him to do such a thing would even result to him requesting to be thrown overboard (vs. 12).  Jonah knew that if he stayed on board, the whole ship would be destroyed along with the sailors.  We can’t hide from God.  To the sailor’s credit, they tried the best they could to not have to throw Jonah overboard (vs. 13-15).

Regarding application…The LORD Provides.  Vs. 17, “But the Lord provided a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was inside the fish three days and three nights.”  Question: What did God provide?  Grace.  Nineveh did not deserve a hand of mercy from God.  Jonah did not deserve to be used by God after his disobedience.  The sailors did not believe or fear God at first.  Yet, God provides.  We are told the sailors feared the Lord, sacrificed to Him and even made vows to Him (vs. 16).  These pagan sailors become saved.  God provided salvation for them and a great fish to save Jonah from the storm.  There was certainly God’s discipline with the storm in Jonah’s disobedience.  But while we call this the book of Jonah, it really is about the amazing grace of our God!  Question: What situations in your life are you going through where you perhaps are running from God?  Think about the ways God has provided for you in the past?  Give the glory to Him and pray that you would be obedient to wherever God is directing your path!

Hosea 8

Vs. 3, “But Israel has rejected what is good; an enemy will pursue him.”  Hosea’s reminders are not easy to read.  We would much rather focus on the grace of God, but here we are reminded of the power of God.  He alone is worthy of ALL of our attention.  Israel had become bankrupt and their ungodly acts that we have seen in Hosea would bring destruction.  They had the opportunity to turn back, but they took the freedom God had given them and chose unwisely (vs. 4).  They were no longer turning to God for guidance.  They thought they could have friendship with the world and still appease God by empty sacrifices (vs. 7-11).

Regarding application…Awakening.  Vs. 1, “Put the trumpet to your lips! An eagle is over the house of the LORD because the people have broken my covenant and rebelled against my law.”  Question: What was the trumpet for?  A blast of the trumpet was meant to alert the people to wake up!  The enemy (Assyrians) were coming.  Israel was spiritually asleep.  I read an example of a Pastor comparing this to losing something and then forgetting where you put it.  The item is not technically lost.  It’s like the concept, “Out of sight, out of mind.”  When you don’t have God in your sights on a daily basis, you no longer have the mind of turning to God.  Question: Do you hear the trumpet call?  I am reminded of the Apostle Paul’s encouragement to the Colossians, “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”

Hosea 5

Vs. 3, “I know all about Ephraim; Israel is not hidden from me. Ephraim, you have now turned to prostitution; Israel is corrupt.”  It’s hard to see our own sins and mistakes.  Hosea would have to point out the sins of Israel for turning away from God.  It’s important to see that God would force them to turn back to Him.  This was a heart matter.  God’s people wanted Him, yet were in love with the other god’s of this world.  Eventually, they turned completely from God.   God would bring consequences and judgment (vs. 8-15).

Regarding application…Break Us Down.  Vs. 14, “For I will be like a lion to Ephraim, like a great lion to Judah. I will tear them to pieces and go away; I will carry them off, with no one to rescue them.”  In Proverbs, we are reminded that Pride goes before destruction (Proverbs 16:18).  God would have to break down all that the people held dear to their hearts.  Though He would use the Assyrians to scatter, it was for the purpose of drawing them back to the Lord.  Don’t forget that missing in the verses is the heart of our Father.  Israel is like a rebellious teenager who thinks they know the right way.  Being broken down by God is not easy, but know His love never fails!