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assyriaFriday, January 13, 2022

Joy and Nahum

Warning

The prophets warn, threaten, exhort, and promise us that God is always present, even though we may not recognize this presence. The Old Testament prophecies foreshadow the good news of the New Testament, and they remind us that no matter our circumstance God’s joy rescues us from sure destruction, Christ’s joy redeems us from our recklessness, and the Spirit’s joy heals us despite the gravity of our wounds.  Today Nahum delivers a warning to the enemies of the faithful.

“Shortly before the fall of Nineveh in 612 B.C., Nahum uttered his prophecy against the hated city. To understand the prophet’s exultant outburst of joy over the impending destruction it is necessary to recall the savage cruelty of Assyria . . . in the wake of their conquests, mounds of heads, impaled bodies, enslaved citizens, and avaricious looters testified to the ruthlessness of the Assyrians”. (Senior 1147)

Nahum 3:19: There is no healing for your wound—it is far too deep to cure. All who hear your fate will clap their hands for joy, for where can one be found who has not suffered from your cruelty?

God says: Revenge is never a source of happiness and it is – in fact – a source of continued pain. When you inflict punishment on those who oppose you that punishment comes back to haunt you. Nothing is gained. All is lost. As my servant Paul so ably reminds you, “love does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth”. (1 Corinthians 13: 6) Keep this in mind when you see your enemies fall. Call on me when you feel the hand of vengeance grip you. When you hear a warning of impending doom . . . remember that I alone can mete out justice that brings new life. Explore the verses of my prophet Nahum and look for the words he uses to remind you that in your anger and fear you need only look to me . . . for I will keep my promises.

Look! On the mountains the feet of one
    who brings good tidings,
    who proclaims peace!
Celebrate your festivals, O Judah,
    fulfill your vows,
for never again shall the wicked invade you;
    they are utterly cut off.
(Nahum 1:15)

The prophecy of Nahum is a short one. Spend a bit of time with these verses this weekend and listen for God’s response to Nahum’s warning.


To learn more about Assyria, click on the image above or visit: http://www.ancient.eu/assyria/

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990. 1147. Print.

joyIf this week’s Noontimes call you to search for more ways to encounter Joy or urges you to investigate the New Testament, click on the word Joy in the categories cloud in the blog’s right hand sidebar and choose a reflection, or enter those words in the blog search bar.

Image from: http://www.ancient.eu/assyria/

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1 Kings 14: Death of Abijah

Sunday, November 24, 2019

The nameless woman returns to her city and as her foot touches the threshold . . .

This is a story which tells of the two kings of the split kingdom of David – Israel with her king Jeroboam in the north and Judah with her king Rehoboam in the south.  Notes, websites and histories can give us a visual of the lineages and a few are listed below.

What we miss when we read history without scripture is the detail, and we have it in abundance in this short chapter.  There is the child, Abijah, the two kings, the wife who is not named and Naamah, the mother who is.  There are other ancillary characters.  http://bible.cc/1_kings/14-1.htm

There are place names: Shiloh, Tirzah, Jerusalem.  Maps can help us find these places to see how they relate in space. http://bibleatlas.org/

We can put ourselves in the timeline and in the space to try to see, hear, smell and hear these sights and these people . . . but what strikes me is this . . . this is a story which might happen to any one of us.  And who am I?

Am I the nameless wife and mother who fears the death of her child?  Am I married to the son of Solomon who finds his kingdom split?  Am I the besieged king or the aggressor, the shield maker, the guard, the prophet, the chronicler?  Do I have a loyalty to the north or south?  Do I believe Jeroboam to be maligned or do I know him to worship idols?  Do I follow Rehoboam blindly or do I question?  In this vivid picture . . . Where am I?  Who am I?  What am I doing?

We know that Jeroboam feared re-unification of these split kingdoms because he would no longer collect the temple worship taxes which he now did since setting up his own capital.  We know that Rehoboam, son of Solomon, scrambled to keep these two territories united, fearing invasion from Assyria, Persia, Egypt and others.  We know that one king was buried with honor and the other was not.  And we know why.

I have such empathy for the nameless woman in this story.  She dies as she is bidden yet she is powerless before these men and apparently before her God.  She moves like a shadow.

I also have empathy for the woman Naamah whose son leads Judah to do evil in the sight of the Lord.  What does she think of the cult prostitutes the leadership has encouraged?  Does she agree that they are a means to worshiping God?  Does she dare to speak if she disagrees?

What do these women think?  What do they say?  What do they hold dear?

Today’s story calls us to think of our journey . . . do we travel light . . . do we travel alone . . . where do we stop along the way . . . what waters and feeds us?

The nameless woman in today’s story is told that her child will pass away as she returns home . . . so in that moment she knows that she will not see him again.  What does she feel?

The nameless woman in today’s story returns to her city and as her foot touches the threshold . . . her child dies.  What does she say?

The nameless woman in today’s story sees her child buried . . . with all of Israel mourning.  What does she pray?

Oh, Father in heaven, spare us from the tragedies which are too hard to bear.  Save us from the people from whom we might suffer irreparable damage.  Keep us always close to you.  Protect the ones we love.  Save us from harm.  Feed us.  Nourish us.  Be our column of smoke and fire and protect us on our way as you did the Israelites who journeyed out of slavery and into freedom with you always guiding.  Alert us to the dangers.  The noise of this world is sometimes so overwhelming.  Sound the alarm when we stray.  Hold us closely.  You are our rock and our refuge.  We give thanks to you, our awesome God.  Amen.


Written on January 13, 2008 and posted today as a Favorite.

Image from: http://www.womeninthebible.net/women-bible-old-new-testaments/naamah/

Other resources are: http://www.kchanson.com/CHRON/isrkings.html and http://www.bible-history.com/map_israel_judah/ and http://larryavisbrown.homestead.com/files/OT_history/unit1/Unit1a_geography.htm and http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/directory/A/1 and http://bibleatlas.org/ and http://bibledictionaries.com/ and http://www.womeninthebible.net/

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Isaiah 10: Social Injustice

Thursday, January 26, 2017 social-injustice

As we conclude our look at God’s inverted kingdom, we consider a Favorite from June 10, 2009, and we reflect on how Jesus might deal with the social injustice we find in our societies.

Isaiah 10 is book-ended by words that we hear so often during the Advent season: The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light . . . But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from this root a bud shall blossom.  These words remind us that someone is coming great enough to take all of us in . . . and indeed, this one is already among us.  Today’s Noontime reminds us of what pulls us away from God and it draws clear imagery with Assyria and Sennacherib as vehicles not only of pain and loss, but ultimate transformation . . . if we but follow the Light, the Christ.  The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light . . . But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from this root a bud shall blossom. 

Isaiah tells us clearly that when we trust the Lord we need not tremble before overwhelming odds.  If we move out of the darkness to stand in the light and obey the voice within, we have nothing to fear.  Do not fear the Assyrian, though he strikes you with a rod, and raises his staff against you. 

Isaiah reminds us that though we are small, we are also mighty . . . when we place our fear where it is best handled, in God’s capable hands.  The tall of stature are felled, and the lofty ones brought low; the forest thickets are felled with the ax. 

Isaiah repeats a theme often heard with the prophets: those who can remain faithful through the holocaust will be standing when all others have blown away like chaff in the wind.  The remnant of Israel, the survivors of the house of Jacob, will no more lean upon him who struck them; but they will lean upon the Lord . . . a remnant will return . . . only a remnant will return.

Allowing injustice to happen without speaking or witnessing is the broad path taken by many; but it is not the marrow path taken by the remnant.  As Jesus tells us in Matthew (7:3) and Luke (13:24), most of us will succumb to a system that allows injustice for many the sake of the comfort of a few.  This remnant that remains in God will have to bend before the force of the storm, but all of this bending will be worthwhile.  This is the message that Isaiah brings to us: The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light . . . But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from this root a bud shall blossom. 

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Isaiah 10Social Injustice

 Thursday, June 2, 2016renewal

Isaiah 10 is book-ended by words that we hear so often during the Advent season: The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light . . . But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from this root a bud shall blossom.  These words remind us that someone is coming great enough to take all of us in . . . and indeed, this one is already among us.  Today’s Noontime reminds us of what pulls us away from God and it draws clear imagery with Assyria and Sennacherib as vehicles not only of pain and loss, but ultimate transformation . . . if we but follow the Light, the Christ.  The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light . . . But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from this root a bud shall blossom. 

Isaiah tells us clearly that when we trust the Lord we need not tremble before overwhelming odds.  If we move out of the darkness to stand in the light and obey the voice within, we have nothing to fear.  Do not fear the Assyrian, though he strikes you with a rod, and raises his staff against you. 

Isaiah reminds us that though we are small, we are also mighty . . . when we place our fear where it is best handled, in God’s capable hands.  The tall of stature are felled, and the lofty ones brought low; the forest thickets are felled with the axe. 

Isaiah repeats a theme often heard with the prophets: those who can remain faithful through the holocaust will be standing when all others have blown away like chaff in the wind.  The remnant of Israel, the survivors of the house of Jacob, will no more lean upon him who struck them; but they will lean upon the Lord . . . a remnant will return . . . only a remnant will return.

Allowing injustice to happen without speaking or witnessing is the broad path taken by many; but it is not the marrow path taken by the remnant.  As Jesus tells us in Matthew 7:3 and Luke 13:24, most of us will succumb to a system that allows injustice for many the sake of the comfort of a few.  This remnant that remains in God will have to bend before the force of the storm, but all of this bending will be worthwhile.  This is the message that Isaiah brings to us: The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light . . . But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from this root a bud shall blossom.

A Favorite from June 10, 2009.

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Isaiah 22Euphoria

Louvre Museum: Sennacherib relief

Louvre Museum: Sennacherib relief

Saturday, August 22, 2015

A Favorite from July 4, 2009.

For the third day in a row we find ourselves in Isaiah’s prophecy and today we conclude the oracles against the pagan nations.  Interestingly, Isaiah includes Jerusalem in this litany.

Commentary tells us that here Isaiah warns against false hope – against relying on self rather than God.  Around the year 700 B.C.E. Sennacherib and the Assyrian invasion forces have been turned back from the city.  The people have mounted various defenses against the enemy and now they react with euphoria to the good turn of events.  Yet rather than rejoice in God’s loving providence that rescues and heals them for eternity, they celebrate their own skill which will not, in the end, save them from their own corruption and decadence.  They believe that their own planning, proficiency and leadership have saved them this day.  The leader Shebna is revealed for who he is: one who thinks of his own legacy and comfort at the expense of those he leads.  Eliakim is named as a loyal servant of God, a peg in a sure spot upon whom the glory of his family hangs.  Yet even this peg fixed in a sure spot shall give way, break off and fall, and the weight that hung on it shall be done away with; for the Lord has spoken.

wooden peg

Even the sure peg in the sure spot will give way, break off and fall . . .

When we survive disaster and come out the other side of a calamity intact and even renewed, we are to be joy-filled, we are to celebrate.  But today the prophet Isaiah cautions us to place our joy properly in God who saves rather than in ourselves.  We must never forget who it is who forms order out of chaos.  We must always be mindful that everything God creates is good, that God will convert harm to transformation, and that he rescues us because he loves us . . . not because he expects something from us.

We are creatures already set free, already liberated from the shackles we imagine.  When we find ourselves in bad times or with bad people, we seek intercession from God.  When we find ourselves in happy circumstances with wonderful people, we thank God who loves us beyond measure.  We return even our euphoria to the one who transforms.

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