Assyria invades (v.5): Who is Assyria? In Daniel 2 king Nebuchadnezzar had a dream – its meaning was of human empires, the first being Babylon, the second Medo-Persia, then Greece and a fourth. Babylon is the great human empire that speaks of human effort and pride that pits itself in independence against God. It began with Nimrod in Gen 10 and ends in Rev 18. Its typology and significance is clear in Scripture but there was another great empire that is in the Bible before the rise of the Babylonian empire, that played an important part in God’s dealing with His people – Assyria. What is the significance of Assyria? I will look at this in more detail when we look at the book of Nahum which is a prophecy directed against Assyria. But this prophecy is talking about Assyria invading Israel. Egypt is the world, Babylon humanism, Amalek the flesh …Who is Assyria? Assyria was a great empire that ruled the world before the rise of the Babylonian empire yet, in the vision in Daniel, it is not counted as preceding it – it is of a different origin and spirit. Assyria was a threat to Israel, particularly the northern kingdom and was used as God’s instrument to discipline his people when they went away from Him. Assyria, like Babylon had its origins with Nimrod, the mighty hunter (Genesis 10:8-12 Now Cush became the father of Nimrod; he became a mighty one on the earth. He was a mighty hunter before יהוה; therefore it is said, “Like Nimrod a mighty hunter before יהוה.” The beginning of his kingdom was Babel and Erech and Accad and Calneh, in the land of Shinar. From that land he went forth into Assyria, and built Nineveh and Rehoboth-Ir and Calah, and Resen between Nineveh and Calah; that is the great city.). It was a rich and powerful regime but also very cruel – it gloried in military strength and worshipped violence. This is what characterized it – so I thought what does Assyria portray? – it portrays man getting his own way and getting wealthy by might, by violence and assertiveness – a spirit very much alive in our present society [Assyria = assertive]. Micah is prophesying the coming invasion of Israel by Assyria but the context is very much in the end times. This prophecy wasn’t literally fulfilled – Israel did not shepherd Assyria with the sword, Babylon defeated her. Where is Assyria today – largely in the British museum, the French and Germans also got many relics, under mounds in Iraq – the Assyrian race doesn’t exist today. Does this Scripture no longer have any relevance, is it now obsolete? How come an end time prophecy still refers to Assyria? Because Assyria still does exist! Man still asserts his own way, gets wealthy by defeating others and by use of force. So what does this prophecy say about Assyria?
Assyria will be shepherded by the sword (v.5, 6): - Assyria will invade the land and trample it – and they did, leading the northern kingdom of Israel into exile – but the seven shepherds did not come to deliver Israel – there is a fulfilment yet to come. There will be perfect leadership, a whole new kind of regime. Strong and powerful rule that will put down the mighty that oppress and invade. Assyria, the enemy, will come and trample the fortresses, but will be defeated. Shepherds, leaders, guides and rulers will be raised up to lead the people to defeat the foe. v.6 – Instead of Assyria being over them, they will rule Assyria. These will not be gentle shepherds - they will shepherd Assyria with the sword. Governors appointed by יהוה to govern the land of Assyria on behalf of the King, Jesus the Messiah, they will administer it with strict discipline - harshly dealing with any who oppose Jesus’ decrees (cf. Psalm 2 ‘You shall break them with a rod of iron, You shall shatter them like earthenware.’ ” Do homage to the Son, that He not become angry, and you perish in the way, for His wrath may soon be kindled.). The references to entrances, refers to the gates of the cities where judgement/court sat - righteous justice will be administered. No more will Assyria be allowed to cruelly oppress - those that they have oppressed will be delivered from their hand. When Assyria comes to the land of God’s people - they will be rescued. He comes to trample our territory but he will not succeed because of the leaders raised up. Note not "they will deliver" but "He will deliver" - though it is through appointed leaders, it is יהוה Himself who delivers - it is from Him that salvation comes. Bless His Name!
Those of different spirit – the remnant (v.7): They are not of man. There is a contrast in this chapter between Assyria, the rule of might, and God’s rule [write “man’s might” “ יהוה’s power”]. There is Assyria, the assertive and powerful, they dry up a place but, praise God, there are those of a different spirit, who are not of man, who don’t live by assertiveness and might but bring refreshing wherever they are – they are not of human spirit – it is from above, dew from heaven. The remnant of God’s people, true believers, will be among the nations as a witness - as salt and light - to bring refreshing - life-giving water. They will minister the life of Jesus (the life-giving water that flows from His millennial throne) to the nations which they are among. Dew from יהוה is refreshing, reviving - sustaining life - bringing freshness to a dry place. They will keep the place green - cause growth to continue. They will provide this life-giving nourishment, this source of life from יהוה Himself, at the appropriate time - regular, unsolicited. The rain and dew come without us having to ask (pity help our situation if our rain supply depended on us asking!). God knows what and how much and when we need, and supplies. So too, these restored, believing people of God will provide the appropriate requirement to sustain spiritual growth. The remnant will bring refreshing, spiritual blessing but they will also avenge the wrongs done and destroy יהוה’s enemies.
Weak remnant becomes strong (v.8, 9): -They do not live by assertiveness and might, they are the meek but they become strong and exercise יהוה’s might, His rule. Again, יהוה reiterates that the remnant of Jacob, believing Jews, will be among many nations. A Diaspora, but not in punishment, rather as emissaries - representatives of יהוה’s government of peace, righteousness and justice - justice of the severe and retributive king (cf. Psalm 2). Not only will they administer יהוה’s kindness but also His severity – there are two sides to God’s nature (cf. Romans 11:22 Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God’s kindness, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off.). We need to ensure which side of His nature we will encounter. This remnant will be fierce like a lion, tearing to pieces all rebellion and opposition to the King. None can rescue from their hand. There is no deliverance for those who set themselves against יהוה! No more will God’s people be defeated in battle - rather they will be the invincible force which, if they choose to attack, none can escape. v.9 - No enemy will prevail against God’s people. They will raise their hand in power to execute יהוה’s judgement on their enemies - those who for centuries have persecuted and oppressed God’s people. They will be utterly cut off! Hallelujah! No more will the wicked triumph over God’s people and persecute them. Israel has forever been trampled, now the boot is on the other foot – how terrible it will be for those who have oppressed her. The day of the LORD will be a big turnaround!
The Day of the LORD (v.10-15): יהוה is going to have His day, when He rules and sets things right. The Minor Prophets have much to say about the Day of the LORD. That’s why we have to be familiar with them because that day is coming soon. It will be a day of retribution and vengeance. יהוה will be against those who oppose Him. Does this passage refer to Assyria or Israel – doesn’t really matter – it is a message of VENGEANCE, יהוה cuts off those who:
Live by military might (v.10): - Instruments of war shall be done away with. "יהוה declares"! This will happen! The mouth of יהוה has spoken! This introduces a new prophecy. יהוה is speaking to His apostate people again and also to the heathen nations (see v.15) - all the godless peoples- who trust in man not in יהוה. "In that day" - refers to the day of the LORD - the day of final judgement. In that day יהוה will destroy all props on which man has relied: military strength, religion and spiritual forces - everything on which man depends that isn’t יהוה will be cut off (cf. Hebrews 12:25-27 See to it that you do not refuse Him who is speaking. For if those did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape who turn away from Him who warns from heaven. And His voice shook the earth then, but now He has promised, saying, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth, but also the heaven.” This expression, “Yet once more,” denotes the removing of those things which can be shaken, as of created things, so that those things which cannot be shaken may remain.). Man relies on his own strength - his military power but יהוה will annihilate it - war will no longer be possible because the instruments of war will be destroyed by יהוה (cf. Micah 4:3 And He will judge between many peoples and render decisions for mighty, distant nations. Then they will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; nation will not lift up sword against nation, and never again will they train for war. Psalm 46:9 He makes wars to cease to the end of the earth; He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two; He burns the chariots with fire.). יהוה Himself acts to destroy them: "I will cut off ..."; "I will destroy ...." In (v.10-15) יהוה says, "I will" 9 times (in the Hebrew). "That day" will be a day of "cutting off" (4x) by יהוה, a day of destruction - "destroy" (2x). Look at Saddam Hussein and Bush in Iraq, the Palestinians in Israel, the Soviets, Hitler – man still thinks that might is right. We all universally deplore war – but we still use our weapons. And on the individual level, we still fight – be it not with guns, we still fight to try and make our way prevail – assert our will.
Rely on man made security (v.11): - They had built their cities, had strong walls and fortified refuges – they were secure, nothing could touch them. But יהוה would cut them down, destroy them. We too build up our means of security – our insurances, our nest egg, security systems. We are very much occupied in warding off potential disaster – man made security. יהוה would destroy their offensive strength (v.10), but He will also destroy their defensive strength. All their strong, fortified cities in which they trusted and boasted - יהוה will cut off. The city is the epitome of man’s organisation, his collective strength and enterprise (cf. Gen 4:17; 10:8-12; 11:1-9; Rev 18:2,3, 10, 16-24). יהוה will destroy it all! Hallelujah! (cf. Rev 19:1-6). The great defences man builds will prove a false security and trust - יהוה will tear them all down. Glory be to Him alone! All man’s strength, security and reliance will be utterly put to shame and revealed for what it truly is: puny and futile. What is man and his power and enterprise before יהוה the LORD of all the earth?! We may not be relying on literal fortresses – but we still rely on man made security. But if it is human based it will not provide any security in that day.
Use demonic power (v.12): -. When יהוה sets up His Kingdom He will destroy all forms of human reliance, man’s strength and resources, be they military (v.10, 11) or spiritual and religious (v.12-14). יהוה will cut of the use of demonic power. You know man will resort to anything rather than trust God - superstition, magic. This may seem far removed from us today but these are not just practices of the past - even in today’s "scientific", "educated", "enlightened" world, still many rely on magic, and turn to the occult. The practise is almost universal in France (where registered fortune tellers out number priests) and Germany (where very few business deals are carried out without first consulting astrologers). Sane, educated people read horoscopes - I work with educated, rational science orientated people – how many of them rely on horoscopes to direct their personal lives. May seem trivial but in the end time the powers that rule this world will be demonic inspired and empowered. This is not something with no relevance. Demonic power is around and powerful. It is effective and we have to be careful that in our desire to see results we don’t resort unwittingly to such power – I have seen it in churches where more reliance is paid on mystical, magical "revelations" and experience than the truth of God’s Word. Fortune telling, under the guise of "prophecy"/"word of knowledge" is extremely popular and sought after – with much the same motive that a horoscope is consulted. Magic "healers" who have the power or "anointing" are the centre of attention, rather than genuine Divine acts where God alone is glorified. Mass hypnotism, ability to "slay in the spirit" - all sorts of occult magical practices and reliance on omens (spiritual superstition) are prevalent. The church itself is shot through with sorcery and fortune telling! But יהוה Himself will cut them off and remove these practices. Hallelujah!
Worship the work of their own hands (v.13, 14): - יהוה Himself will root out idolatry. All idols He will cut off. An idol is something man made, that is worshipped and whose power is relied upon. יהוה personally cleanses the world from defilement, in order to set up His pure and righteous Kingdom. The "pillars" are phallic symbols; the Asherah, female fertility goddesses associated with the sexual act, prostitution, in fertility cults. Sex is still worshipped - they still are our gods and goddesses - the models, the actors, actresses and singers paraded before the public. Idolatry is worshipping that made by man - the work of his hands, rather than glorifying יהוה as Creator of all things. It is man worshipping his own prowess - today we worship what man has made: technology, our homes, cars, boats, sport, TV - all the product of man’s prowess. We glorify man rather than God, to whom alone all glory is due. יהוה is a jealous God who tolerates no rivals. He will cut off all worship of objects that are not Him (cf. Exodus 34:14 for you shall not worship any other god, for יהוה, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God). v.14 - יהוה will totally extirpate all idolatry and purge the land from all objects of worship. He alone will be worshipped when He sets up His Kingdom! This idolatry is in our midst! - near, among us! Our society is shot through with idolatry - worship of that which is not יהוה. All that man has made, the product of his hands, his ingenuity, his planning, his cooperation will be rooted out - your cities - the centre of man’s activity and cooperative effort, reliance on man rather than God - will be destroyed (cf. Gen 11:1-9; Rev 18). This is the one that hits close to home. We live in a culture where we have so many things, we live in the technological age. Man has made some amazing machines that can do amazing things. We rely on them, marvel at what can be done – thirty years ago, we would not believe what can be done, just a hundred years ago – no cars, phones, little electricity etc. Now our society is totally based upon them. We marvel at what medicine/science/ technology can do. We devote our time and energy to acquiring and using these objects – we can’t live without them. Our lives revolve around the works of man’s hands, the wonderful things he has made. We worship them! They can become gods!
Are disobedient (v.15): - The Day of the LORD will be a day of wrath, a day of vengeance, the day of God’s wrath. Do you know that יהוה is a God of wrath? If not, then you do not know Him! יהוה Himself will act in great anger upon those who do not obey Him. This is the bottom line. Man has gone his own way instead of God’s. We think our lives are our own to use as we decide. No! We were created by Him and for Him! To disobey is to reject God! To place yourself and your will above God! We do what we decide to do instead of hearing יהוה‘s voice and doing as He commands. The nations will be punished because they have not heard His voice. The word “obeyed” is actually the word “heard”. The vital necessity is to listen to יהוה’s voice and to act according to His word - to hear is to obey. To not hear is to incur the full wrath of יהוה, Lord of all the universe! - a truly terrifying prospect (cf. Hebrews 10:30,31 For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge His people.” It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God. 12:25-29 See to it that you do not refuse Him who is speaking. For if those did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape who turn away from Him who warns from heaven. And His voice shook the earth then, but now He has promised, saying, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth, but also the heaven.” This expression, “Yet once more,” denotes the removing of those things which can be shaken, as of created things, so that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; for our God is a consuming fire.). God will personally judge and exact vengeance on all the nations who have not obeyed Him! Let us take heed to what He is saying!
The spirit of Assyria is alive and well! The Assyrian has invaded the land. The slogan “might is right”, the way of assertiveness, prevails. Men live by might, by assertiveness, getting wealthy and living in luxury by aggressive action against those who cannot withstand them. They have been used of God to discipline His people but their day is coming. We look around us and assertiveness seems to work – might and power does win the day. That is man’s way but we called to be different (cf. Matthew 20:25-28 Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”). Might seems to rule but don’t be tempted to try it – it is not the way of יהוה and it will be cut off. Jesus is coming to rule with might and will use violence against the violent “those who live by the sword will die by the sword.” It is the weak and lowly, the humble and meek who will prevail and rule. There is the way of human assertiveness and there is a completely different spirit, that of Jesus, who humbled Himself and submitted to the Cross. We, even as Christians, can be tempted to use the method that prevails, that “works”, is successful. But we need to look to the end, to the way that will ultimately prevail – what does it profit if you gain the whole world and lose your soul?