Tag Archives: Dynasty

Smack-Talk

Where now is the lions’ den,
    the place where they fed their young,
where the lion and lioness went,
    and the cubs, with nothing to fear?
Nahum 2:11 (NIV)

When I was a younger man, I enjoyed being part of groups of friends who would compete in on-line pools in which we tried to pick which teams would win each week. I listened to a lot of sports radio while I was on the road. But, I grew weary of the constant braggadocio, belittling of others, and never-ending “smack-talk” in which people played this kind of verbal “king of the mountain.” They would gloat over the fans of the teams they hate, until the tables turned and the gloating went the other way. It was stupid. So, I still enjoy being a fan of my favorite teams, and I find it fun to casually follow them. Otherwise, I try to avoid the world in which sports is taken seriously.

That sub-culture of smack-talk in sports came to mind this morning as I read today’s chapter because Nahum’s entire prophetic poem is an ancient version of talking smack against his people’s greatest enemy, Assyria. Choose your favorite sport, Assyria was the big-market dynasty that never loses and has been dominant forever. Nahum is part of a small market team that had a few good seasons back in the day but has been nothing but a doormat ever since.

If a fan was going to talk smack against the New York Yankees, let’s say. You’d want to take well-known things about the Yankees and then turn them into negatives:

“The house that Ruth built will be reduced to rubble.”
“Black pinstripes will turn blood red when they are slaughtered.”
“Aaron will be ‘Judged’ and found wanting.”

That’s exactly what Nahum is doing with Assyria, thought it’s easily lost on modern readers.

When Nahum writes:

The Lord will restore the splendor of Jacob
    like the splendor of Israel,
though destroyers have laid them waste
    and have ruined their vines.

He’s alluding to Assyria’s earlier domination over the northern tribe of Israel and Assyria’s insult-to-injury tactic of destroying all of an enemy’s vines so that they will have no wine to drown their sorrows. Nahum is proclaiming that the little underdog will rise again, while the mighty dynasty of Assyria is coming down.

When Nahum writes:

The shields of the soldiers are red;
    the warriors are clad in scarlet.

He’s referencing a common Assyrian boast of their shields and robes dripping with their enemies’ blood. Nahum is turning the tables, saying it will be Assyria’s blood coating the shields and robes of their enemy.

When Nahum writes:

The river gates are thrown open
    and the palace collapses.

He’s referencing the network of reservoirs and irrigation canals in and around Nineveh. When the dams are opened the river floods, making the Nineveh palace weak and compromised.

When Nahum writes:

Plunder the silver!
    Plunder the gold!
The supply is endless,
    the wealth from all its treasures!

He’s referencing the incredible wealth of Nineveh which they hoarded by plundering other peoples. This time, it will be a conquering army that plunders all of their treasures. By the way, in the late 20th century the tombs of Assyrian queens were discovered. Click here to view an online book that catalogs the hoard of gold and treasures they found (scroll past page 220 or so to see the images). It gives you an idea of the treasure that awaited those who conquered Nineveh.

When Nahum writes:

Where now is the lions’ den,
    the place where they fed their young,
where the lion and lioness went,
    and the cubs, with nothing to fear?

Ashurbanipal defeating a lion.

He’s alluding to the fact that Assyrian kings were closely associated with lions. Ashurbanipal, who was likely on the throne as Nahum is writing, was often depicted with lions or hunting lions. Statues of him always show him holding a lion. Nahum is saying that “the lion’s den” of Nineveh will be desolate after their defeat.

In the quiet this morning, I can’t help but think about how hollow Nahum’s smack-talk must have sounded when he wrote it. No one could have imagined Assyria’s defeat, and Nahum would have been laughed at and mercilessly derided for suggesting such a thing.

But, he was right. He might not have been right in the moment, but he saw the handwriting on the wall. He would be proved right in time.

That’s the way it is as a follower of Jesus. Having faith in justice and believing that the Great Story will unfold as prophetically predicted rings hollow for most people. You can find plenty of people who laugh and shake their heads. And, it neither surprises me nor do I ever think that will change. Still, I believe that justice will prevail one day and that Love wins, just as Jesus claimed it would.

But hey, I’m a Cubs fan. I’ve learned that “someday” does actually arrive.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

It’s No Wonder We Constantly Miss the Point

David with the Head of Goliath
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Lord, where is your unfailing love?
    You promised it to David with a faithful pledge.
Psalm 89:49 (NLT)

On occasion I will like a song and, after getting to know the song for a period of time, I will learn that the song is really about a particular person or event. Having not known this when I became enamored with the piece, it will suddenly layer the song I thought I knew with new meaning. It may even cause me to dig in and learn more about the person or event that inspired the song. You begin to realize that you don’t truly know the song unless you understand the story behind it.

This is the case with Ethan the Ezrahite’s one hit wonder in Psalm 89. While there are certainly lines of the lyric that are inspiring in and of themselves, it is the larger story that strikes me most profoundly. In this case, the song is about King David. David (of David and Goliath fame) was chosen by God to be king and anointed such by the prophet Samuel. This didn’t happen right away. It took many years, but David eventually united the bitterly divided tribes of Israel, established Jerusalem as the capital, and became a hugely successful warrior king.

God sends word that He is establishing David’s throne for eternity and everyone prepares for a long and glorious reign through the centuries. But, as tends to happen with human governments, everything started falling apart within two generations. David’s kingdom fractured in two when his grandson took over the throne. The northern tribes established their own king which did not follow David’s line and continued to be known as the nation of Israel. The southern tribes continued to honor David’s line in keeping with God’s promise and became known as the nation of Judah (which was David’s tribe).

Fast forward a couple hundred years. Invaders like Assyria and Babylon have decimated the area. David’s descendants in Judah have proven faithless and weak. David’s kingdom is ended. Jerusalem is destroyed along with the temple that had been David’s dream.

For the first 37 verses of Psalm 89, Ethan revisits the glory of the warrior King David. He reminds us of God’s promise to establish David’s throne forever and those glory days when it appeared David and his descendants would have a successful earthly dynasty as had never been seen before. Ethan then waxes eloquent on God’s greatness in view of these wonderful times. Then we get to verse 38 and Ethan makes a painful 180 degree turn. The current reality for Ethan is horrifically different than what everyone had been proclaiming. David’s royal line appears to be all but snuffed out. The glory of the Davidic kingdom has been reduced to rubble. Ethan’s song suddenly becomes a screaming lament of disappointment and terrorizing questions:

What happened to the promises?
What happened to the glory of David?
How long will this go on?
Where is your love, God?
What happened to your faithfulness?

I have come to believe that what we think will happen rarely happens the way we think it’s going to happen and almost never in the time in which we believe it will happen. When people tell me how convinced they are that God is going to do this or that at such and such a time, I smile and politely acknowledge the possibility that they may be right. Quietly, however, I remember my history and the lesson of Ethan’s one hit wonder. What, how, and when we think something is going to happen rarely comes to fruition. God is the most amazing author. What you think is going to happen in the story rarely does, but then when you look back with 20/20 hindsight in later chapters you realize how simple it all seemed.

Today I am reminded that we see our own lives and times with such finite eyes. We perceive all around us with such limited, earthbound thinking. We tend to hear only that which we can easily process and compartmentalize.

It’s no wonder we constantly miss the point.