Tag Archives: Lion

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.

Some Things Earned; Some Things Given

btw, Rev 5:5 is tatted on my right shoulder!
Personal Trivia:I have a Rev 5:5 tat!

Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.”
Revelation 5:5 (NIV)

Part of my business is the assessment of the quality of service that individual customer service agents provide over the phone to their company’s customers (e.g. “your call may be monitored to ensure quality service”). In the 25 years I’ve been doing this, I’ve come to find that there are some very strong opinions  and philosophies about the standards by which people should be measured.

My company has always advocated a high standard of performance because we believe that the ultimate test is a customer’s satisfaction. In my experience, most companies say that they deliver a high level of service, but when you survey their customers you find that relatively few customers agree. In order to differentiate yourself in the mind of the customer your service has got to be really good. So, we set the bar high and encourage Customer Service Representatives (CSRs) to work hard at delivering a consistently above average level of service. When CSRs reach their goal they generally feel a sense of accomplishment and pride.

In other words: Many olympians compete in a race, but only one earns the gold medal.

There are a lot of people who don’t like this approach. I’m constantly running into those who are advocates of setting the bar low enough for the vast majority to reach it with little effort. In this approach, it is believed that every CSR should get a perfect score on almost every call even if we have to water down the standards or obfuscate the measuring approach to make it attainable. Exceptionally good service is not what this measurement approach strives for, but simply avoiding exceptionally bad service. I find it to be the celebration “good enough.” Admittedly, CSRs do like this approach as they are largely rewarded for maintaining the status quo.

In other words: Pretty much everyone who shows up for the race should get a gold medal.

I have come to realize that these conflicting approaches have spiritual implications. Speaking of “only one gets the prize,” I found it interesting in the chapter this morning that only One was worthy of opening the scroll and the seven seals in John’s vision. The Lion of Judah, the Lamb who was slain (a.k.a. Jesus) was the only one worthy to open the seals because of the blood sacrifice He had made and the price He paid through His death and resurrection.

I have found that, in the Kingdom of God, there are things which are unattainable, things which are given, things which are sacrificed, and things which are earned. The key is to learn and know the difference; to understand which things are which.

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