Destruction Draws Us Inevitably Like Moths to a Flame

The Minor prophets preached about gloom and doom., reminding their audiences that people who worshipped idols and thumbed their noses at God were headed for trouble of the worst kind. If you read their warnings, it seems like we humans can’t avoid the destruction God’s holy wrath will bring.

Is God just really mean, or that sin is just really deadly? The prophets provide certain generations warnings about the cycle of sin and destruction. But if you consider the number of messages they preached, it makes you realize that perhaps their warnings are for ALL generations. Sin is deadly. It always brings destruction. As we go through life doing what we want, we keep giving in to temptation, being drawn into sin like a moth to a flame…

destruction moths

“The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him…” (Nahum 1:7, NIV) Nahum is mainly full of dire predictions about Nineveh’s coming destruction. Remember the story of Jonah, and how he didn’t want to preach to Nineveh, and got bent out of shape when they were spared from Judgement? Well, apparently the sweeping repentance that happened as a result of Jonah’s preaching there (Jonah 3:10) didn’t last forever.

The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same

Jonah went to Nineveh around 760 BC, and 100 years later they were back to their adulterous, idolatrous, wicked ways. (Nahum calls her a wanton, lustful harlot, and decries her carved images and temple idols; they have forgotten their sackcloth and ashes, and fallen back into the corrupt pagan practices that had been their downfall just two generations ago…). Apparently the Lord still wanted people to follow him, not just to escape judgement but to find fulfillment.

Nineveh was spared once before, but returned to sin like a moth to the flame. They probably didn’t want to at first, but they just couldn’t help themselves. Even though Nahum says “the Lord is slow to anger” in 1:3, He had finally reached the end of His patience with this cruel pagan city, and Nahum says His justice was going to fall upon them like a consuming fire (3:15) or an overflowing flood. (1:8)

And yet, in the midst of this ultimate prediction of destruction, there is a reminder that the Lord “cares for those who trust in him”. There is an affirmation that God is good. And there is the promise that he is a refuge in times of trouble. Nahum is preaching about the coming destruction, and within his sermon there is also the promise of refuge to “those who trust in him”.

The Equation That Never Changes

I get the feeling that even now at the eleventh hour, even as the wheels of justice are being set in motion to grind Nineveh to dust, there is an extended offer of hope. God is amazingly consistent like that, and there is a simple equation that holds true about God’s character that never changes: When we turn arrogance towards the Lord, we will always encounter a righteous judge; when we turn repentance towards the Lord, we will always find a comforting refuge. Nahum’s prediction of judgment is inexorable, but so is God’s promise of goodness and grace. The variable in this equation is us.

The Variable in the Equation

Is it just that God is cruel, and loves to hate the sinner?
Does he hate mankind so much that He must be the winner?
Or could it be that God is loving, offering us His grace,
And calling us to refuge from the midst of our disgrace?
Sin is deadly, offering sinners nothing but destruction,
And yet God offers grace if we will follow His instruction.

Here’s a simple way to see if you are on His path,
And this is always true no matter how you do the math:
If we choose rebellious sin, then judgment’s sure to fall;
But if we all repent, then God will offer grace to all.
The God of love and light cannot abide malignant sin,
But offers you His grace and love, no matter where you’ve been.
Question God if you desire: debate, discuss, and cuss–
But He remains the same. The only variable is US.

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

The Locusts of Sin Destroy Everything they Touch

I remember seeing an old movie about some settlers on the prairie who were attacked by a swarm of locusts. The insects literally darkened the sky like a cloud and brought darkness and fear everywhere they went. These clouds of millions of bugs literally consumed all of the crops in their path. These kinds of swarms of Locusts came sweeping through Biblical lands from time to time, eating crops, consuming future food supplies and leaving devastation in their wake…

locusts

Why Judgment?

Here in the 30th book of the Bible, Joel compares the judgment day of the Lord to such an event, a time of fear and devastation. “The day of the Lord is great; it is dreadful. Who can endure it? “Even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.” Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity…Do not be afraid, land of Judah; be glad and rejoice. Surely the Lord has done great things! “I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten…“ (Joel 2:11-13; 21; 25, NIV)

Since you and I have probably never been swarmed over by millions of locusts, it’s instructive for us to consider what does indeed bring destruction into our lives, and what causes pain, loss, and devastation. It’s also what connects us irrevocably to God’s judgment. which the Minor Prophets are so good at pointing out. We live in a fallen, broken world, and we are subject to the Lord’s judgment because of sin. Our self-will and disobedience bring the locusts destruction into our lives even though (as Joel points out) our Father’s desire is to be gracious and compassionate.

Not so Minor

The “Minor” prophets delivered messages that warned about the impending Day of the Lord, a day of judgment and calamity brought about by the unfaithfulness of Israel. God’s intent to allow judgment to fall on Israel is a major theme in the Minor Prophets. Israel is warned that if they keep following little gods, they will indeed encounter justice at the hands of the Living God.

There is, however another theme that stands out like a beautiful flower growing alone on a rough mountain ledge: restoration. God sends the warnings repeatedly to call Israel back to Himself. We have the benefit of hindsight, and yes, Israel left God; they experienced the total devastation akin to locusts eating all of their crops. At the risk of trivializing calamity,  the warnings God gave are actually more significant than the real tragedies that befell Israel.

Truth and Consequences

God’s consistent message was: Sin has consequences, and if you choose to live in sin, you will experience devastation and death. Stay with me, and you’ll be safe and protected. Return to me in genuine, heart-felt repentance, and you will know nothing but grace and compassion. If you don’t choose the locusts of sin, you’ll have my blessing instead!
Two thoughts occur to me here: we all have a tendency to “rend our garments but not our hearts.” First, acting like a Christian for others to see is not the same thing as being yielded and sold out to God. (I know this from years of experience). Remember that He looks upon our hearts, not just our outward behavior.

Second, when we turn to our Father with genuine humility, God will restore us. In Old Testament times, people who felt compelled to repent made a public display of it, tearing their clothes and laying prostrate on the street. Joel tells us to turn to the Lord, to rend our hearts and not just our garments. He says that God intends to make us whole, and to rebuild what our sinful choices have torn down, what the locusts of sin have destroyed. (I also claim this is true, based on years of experience.)

After all that Job went through, after all of the devastation and loss, when he turned back to God, his life was restored. Job 42:10 says “After Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before.” His repentance resulted in restoration and revival. It didn’t undo all of the damage that had been done, but it did give Job restoration and a fresh start. So, rend your heart instead of your garments! If you are acting like a Christian but harboring locusts, clean house!

After Locusts, Restoration

Farmers labored every day to earn a living from their fields,
Applying muscle, toil and sweat to try to get the greatest yields.
And then the cloud appeared– you couldn’t even do the math–
As locusts by the millions brought destruction in their path.
They ate the crops, the flowers, and they even ate the grass;
They only thought of selfish appetite when they would pass.

Well, sin is just like that. It only thinks of selfish things,
And doesn’t even care about the destruction that it brings;
It comes into your life and can destroy your peace of mind,
Without regard to all the pain and death it leaves behind…
God said, “Turn to me with all your heart, and not for show–
And I will give you grace, and let compassion overflow.”

If sin has hurt and knocked you down, don’t think that you are beaten
For God says he’ll repay you for the lost years that were eaten!
If you can turn away from sin, and simply trust the Lord,
You may just be surprised to see the things that He restored.

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread