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Daily devotional

September 12 – Haughty lion thrown down

Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered. – Revelation 5:5 Scripture reading: Nahum 2:10-13 and Rev. 5 In a British museum, you’ll find a carved Assyrian stone lion: 15 tons and fierce. The lion is at the base of a large, imposing pillar. Assyrian warriors paraded war prisoners past such lions to intimidate and humiliate them before the royal court. Nations bringing tributes from far off lands had to pass by these lions before giving their lavish gifts to the king. The lion was the symbol of Assyrian power. Now the lion’s den of Assyria will be plundered by the LORD. The tearing lion will be hungry, desolate and ruined. The Assyrian lion will be completely defeated. The nations which had trembled in fear when a messenger of Assyria rode out to declare war against them, will find they are no longer the prey of Assyria. Assyria is fallen and great is her ruin. The LORD of hosts is greater. To name the LORD as the LORD of Hosts is to emphasize His power, His angel armies, His great command of all nations and all history. No one can stand against Him. The book of Revelation depicts Jesus as the Lion of Judah. He is the Great King, Overlord above every ruler of all nations, throughout all generations. Jesus is a conquering, tearing lion. Not one of His enemies can stand against Him. Even today, all who disregard the warning of Nahum will find God to be ferocious. All who turn to Jesus, confessing their sins and hating their rebellious ways, will find  in Jesus, the Lamb of God, Who has taken away their sin. Suggestions for prayer May our nation’s leaders bow before the Lion of Judah. May our lands turn to Jesus. Ask the Spirit to show you the attitude of your own heart. Are you humble before Jesus—is He, for you, the Lamb of God Who has taken away your sins? Rev. Richard T. Vander Vaart serves as a visiting prison chaplain in Moncton, New Brunswick for Redemption Prison Ministry. A few years ago he and his wife Carolyn became members of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. They both enjoy hosting friends for dinner and games nights. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

September 11 – The Lord’s Day restores clarity

You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory. – Psalm 73:24 Scripture reading: Nahum 2:4-9 and Ps. 73 Confusion. If asked to summarize these verses in a single word, that is the word I’d choose. A mighty people, once the haughty plunderer of nations, is now thrown down. Instead of orderly waves of chariots going out to battle, panicked charioteers are independently trying to save themselves. Some are protecting their possessions. Some remember they are supposed to be soldiers and they see to the defences of the city, but courage is draining away. Soldiers are melting away. Riches are carried away. It is as if the city, overflowing with pomp, wealth and power, is draining like a bathtub with a pulled plug. How long had the people of God hated the Assyrians and yet been jealous of their wealth? How long did they envy the armies which once swept across nations and desired the gains of gold and silver? It is easy to fall into the trap of admiring the rich and powerful. It is tempting to think, as the Psalmist does, that they never have any problems, “Until I went into the sanctuary of God, then I discerned their end” (Psalm 73:17). Tomorrow is the LORD’s Day. We are reminded that all mighty armies and seemingly unassailable kings and tyrants answer to one Master. As the people of LORD worship, the decrees of God are confirmed, proven in Jesus Christ. The Spirit helps believers to see there is only One eternal power and He is our strength and portion forever. Our God brings order to the confusion of our lives. Suggestions for prayer Have you been envious of others and their successes? Confess it before the LORD; ask that the LORD of power will give you insight into His sure promises which one day will result in the open exaltation of Jesus Christ before Whom every knee will bow. Rev. Richard T. Vander Vaart serves as a visiting prison chaplain in Moncton, New Brunswick for Redemption Prison Ministry. A few years ago he and his wife Carolyn became members of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. They both enjoy hosting friends for dinner and games nights. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

September 10 – Believe it or not, judgment is on its way

For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. – I Thessalonians 5:2 Scripture reading: Nahum 2:1-3 and I Thess. 5:1-11 How was the message of terror broadcast through the streets of Nineveh? Was the message received with awe and seriousness? Perhaps there was a mocking tone that accompanied the report relayed to the King of Assyria. “Oh no, an army is coming against us! Ha ha ha.” The prophetic words are brutal. The shields of the mighty men coming against Assyria (whose capital city is Nineveh) are red. It is an indicator they are covered in the blood of their defeated enemies. No one will be able to withstand the onslaught of this army. The spears are cypress—perhaps meaning they are symbols of power. Or it might mean there are as many spears as there are trees in a cypress forest—such a great number of them will be coming to terrify and overthrow. From our vantage point in history, Christians know the words of the LORD are true. Though the Assyrians ignored the clear warning of the LORD, the judgment fell exactly as it was prophesied. As we read Nahum, we know and believe that the words of our Warrior God are true. The warning to Nineveh is a warning to us as believers also. Be faithful in your loyalty to King Jesus. Day by day, live for His glory. The Day of the LORD will come as a thief in the night, at a most unexpected time. Live in security, knowing no matter how vile and evil the days are, the LORD is brandishing His strong spear of judgment; victory for our King is near at hand. Suggestions for prayer Believers encourage one another with the truth that Jesus is not neglectful; He will return and claim us as His own and bring judgment on the wicked; pray for holiness in your own life which should accompany such a promise of the Lord’s salvation. Rev. Richard T. Vander Vaart serves as a visiting prison chaplain in Moncton, New Brunswick for Redemption Prison Ministry. A few years ago he and his wife Carolyn became members of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. They both enjoy hosting friends for dinner and games nights. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

September 9 – Powerful imagery foreshadowing the New Testament

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. – John 15:4 Scripture reading: Nahum 2:1-2 & John 15:1-13 The interplay of two names for the people of God is significant. It is easy to read a passage and miss this. In our short verse the elect are called Jacob and then Israel. When you read Genesis, you learn that Jacob is a sneaky deceiver. Though he is of the chosen line which will lead to Jesus, he is not an honourable person. Just before Jacob, now married and the father of many children, returns from a distant land to his parents, he encounters a stranger who wrestles with him. The reader learns this is a striving with God. Jacob’s name is changed by this encounter. The LORD calls him Israel. This means he strived, or he wrestled with God (Genesis 32:22-32). Why does this matter? When a person encounters God, the LORD of heaven and earth, he will be changed. Some, like the people of Nineveh, hear and ultimately reject the revelation of God. Others, like Jacob, are transformed by the encounter. Israel will be restored in majesty and Nineveh will be a pruned branch destined for destruction. Though earlier generations had responded to the word, the nation has ultimately rejected the Vinedresser. The New Testament reveals Jesus Christ as the true vine. Those who reject Jesus prove this by their words and life, and are cut off and burned. Those who believe in Him are grafted into Him. They may experience hardship, a pruning, but this will be for greater fruitfulness. The greatest evidence of fruitfulness is love for God and love for one another. Suggestions for prayer Thank God, our Father, for His attentiveness and mercy so that His people bear fruit; pray for our nation, that her leaders may heed the warning to be fruitful for the glory of Christ our True King. Rev. Richard T. Vander Vaart serves as a visiting prison chaplain in Moncton, New Brunswick for Redemption Prison Ministry. A few years ago he and his wife Carolyn became members of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. They both enjoy hosting friends for dinner and games nights. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

September 8 – Interesting name for the Lord: the Scatterer

Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings… – Psalm 17:8 Scripture reading: Nahum 2:1-2 and Deuteronomy 31:30-32:12 The short lines and quick staccato phrases give a sense of urgency to these words. The prophet is declaring the sure work of the LORD, verse 1. When the Assyrian nation, whose capital is Nineveh, would invade and conquer a nation, they’d take the defeated people and scatter them throughout their empire. This is a terrible and effective way of breaking down resistance. There’d be no critical mass of people in any one area to regroup and rise up against their scatterer. Now, these proud people are going to be humbled. They will experience the very insult and defeats they’d inflicted on their enemies. Hear the taunts: Sure, man the ramparts—put your soldiers in the most strategic places—if you think that will make any difference. You can meticulously prepare for battle and still be thrown to the winds, never again to rise up in rebellion. This becomes a Name for God: the Scatterer. Through endless generations the Scatterer is undefeated. Why is the LORD doing this? He has linked His reputation and His glory to that of Israel. Anyone who touches Israel, touches the apple of God’s eye. You know how sensitive your eye is. Even the strongest man will crumble when something touches the pupil, the apple of the eye. The LORD will react, protecting His dearest people. Dear to Him for He has redeemed Israel at the cost of His own dear Son. Dear to Him because they are helpless to bring about their own salvation. They need their Redeemer, their Warrior-King. Suggestions for prayer Thank God that He considers His people as precious, as the apple of His eye; pray for the nations in rebellion against Him, those who will experience the scattering of judgment, that while there is yet time, may many repent and know the blessedness of belonging to Jesus. Rev. Richard T. Vander Vaart serves as a visiting prison chaplain in Moncton, New Brunswick for Redemption Prison Ministry. A few years ago he and his wife Carolyn became members of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. They both enjoy hosting friends for dinner and games nights. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

September 7 – Confronting worthless counsellors

For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. – I Corinthians 15:25 Scripture reading: Nahum 1:9-11 and Ps. 2 What folly it is to be an enemy of the LORD. It is as if an educator were deliberately seeking to erase the LORD from curriculum; this person proves to be worthless. The original language names this person as a counsellor of ruin. It is a direct accusation against Nineveh. The expression “from you” is feminine, a reference to the city of Nineveh. Such advice ultimately will bring ruin because it has not factored in the might of the LORD. What will happen to plotters of folly? It’ll be like a cruel army making battle strategies without any reference to probable counterattacks. What will the result be? They will look so foolish in hindsight, mocked for marching right into a thicket of thorn-filled brambles and wild bushes. Their ineptitude will make them seem like an army of drunks, falling down in a stupor, making them objects of ridicule. Why? Any plans which are formulated against the LORD will fail. The LORD will not be mocked. He has set His King on His holy hill—it is a reference to the Davidic monarchy, and ultimately to Jesus Christ—David’s greater son, Jesus enthroned as the eternal One, Ruler of Heaven and Earth. None of His plans can ever fail or be thwarted. Take great encouragement when you face plotters of ruin, for the LORD Who oversees all of history, Whose plans are yes and amen in Jesus Christ, is triumphing even now. The eyes of faith will see it. Suggestions for prayer Remember teachers and professors who are teaching this new school year. Pray for the spiritual protection of our children and youth that they may discern who is wise to the plans of the LORD and who are counselors of ruin. Praise God His plans never fail. Rev. Richard T. Vander Vaart serves as a visiting prison chaplain in Moncton, New Brunswick for Redemption Prison Ministry. A few years ago he and his wife Carolyn became members of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. They both enjoy hosting friends for dinner and games nights. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

September 6 – An oracle, a burden

The LORD is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him. – Nahum 1:7 Scripture reading: Nahum 1:1, 6-7 and Proverbs 13:1-5 Happy Labour Day! It is part of the creation order for men and women to work. When God placed Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, He gave them the instruction to work it and keep it (Genesis 2:15). Work can also be a burden. Nahum declared, as the superscription to his writing, “an oracle concerning Nineveh.” That word oracle is an important one to understand. The KJV translates this word oracle as burden. Think of it this way. A Christian parent might say, I have a burden for my children. I know they are grown up and have moved away, but I am still burdened for them, concerned because they have wandered far from the LORD our God and the mercies of Jesus Christ. What will such a burdened parent do? A loving mother will go to the throne of grace, where Jesus is seated and pray for her dearly loved children. A faithful father will speak, warning his children, so they know they are removing themselves far from the blessings of God. Nahum’s inspired use of the word oracle shows he is not celebrating the downfall of Israel’s enemies. He is urgently concerned for their salvation at that time and in eternity. He is aware that the punishment of the Living God is beyond anything humans can inflict. To live a life mocking the Holy One is to invite His wrath. No wonder Nahum was burdened. As long as God granted him breath, he would work to speak, calling for repentance. Suggestions for prayer Thank God for the gift of work and pray to be faithful in the task He has given you; pray, as one burdened, for the salvation of family members, friends and co-workers who do not know Jesus Christ and His glorious salvation. Rev. Richard T. Vander Vaart serves as a visiting prison chaplain in Moncton, New Brunswick for Redemption Prison Ministry. A few years ago he and his wife Carolyn became members of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. They both enjoy hosting friends for dinner and games nights. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

September 5 – The sacred sanctuary in time

But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task, until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end. – Psalm 73:16-17 Scripture reading: Nahum 1:14-15 and Ps. 73 The Jewish Theologian-Philosopher, Abraham Heschel (1907 – 1972), wrote of Sabbaths as a sanctuary in time. “The Sabbaths are our great cathedrals, the Jewish equivalent of sacred architecture.” Why is that significant on this Sunday? Look at the prophetic commandment given to the people of God. They are to keep their feasts. They are to continue in their worship of the Living God. Judah’s anticipated protest: But the enemy is still at our doorstep! The Nineveh conquerors still oppress and terrify us. Here Psalm 73 aids our understanding of what is going on. Sometimes the people of God look at the wicked and are shocked at their successes. It becomes too discouraging. Worship seems pointless. However, on the Sabbath, the Day appointed for worship, the people of the LORD remember the saving work of the LORD and are reminded of the sure defeat of the wicked. His blessings are poured out on the righteous. God created the Sabbath, a sanctuary in time when His people meet with and delight in Him. At the Covenant making in Exodus 20, the LORD affirmed the Sabbath Day as the time His people meet with Him. In the New Testament, Jesus rose from the dead on the first day of the week. Sunday is the Sabbath for Christians. Beloved in Christ, meet with God’s people, renew your love for the God Who saves. The wicked are defeated. Those made holy in Christ are saved to delight in the LORD. Sing Christ’s victory to the Father’s praise, in faith, by the strength of the Spirit. Suggestions for prayer Pray that worship of the Triune God among His people will be a renewed delight for you; pray for the Spirit of God to bring believers back to Jesus and deepen their commitment to public worship; pray for preachers, chaplains, missionaries and evangelists that they have the God-given strength to bring Good News. Rev. Richard T. Vander Vaart serves as a visiting prison chaplain in Moncton, New Brunswick for Redemption Prison Ministry. A few years ago he and his wife Carolyn became members of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. They both enjoy hosting friends for dinner and games nights. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

September 4 – Where is Elkosh?

So that you are not lacking any gift, as you wait for the revealing of the Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end. – I Corinthians 1:7-8 Scripture reading: Nahum 1:1 and I Corinthians 1:4-9; 26-31 What do we really know about Nahum of Elkosh? The location of his hometown is unknown. Was he one of the deported people, a displaced person in Nineveh anointed by the Spirit of the LORD to daringly proclaim this warning? Was he part of Galilee, the region of Northern Israel that constantly had invaders running through it? He’d be part of the despised of Israel – those people – who’d intermarried with foreigners. Some think he was from Judah; that is the opinion of many scholars. Reflecting on this man’s ministry leads me to think he is incredibly brave. Think of it. If he were one of the deportees, his bold testimony about the downfall of Nineveh would amount to treason. No doubt the enemy would want to silence him. If he lived in Galilee, then others from Israel might mock him as a hick from a backwater town. If he is from Judah, he might be despised by the people from the other ten tribes, who were so oppressed by the Assyrians. When the LORD takes hold of a man or a woman, He calls this person to serve Him, regardless of the consequences. When the LORD our God raises you up in Jesus Christ, He gives the Spirit so that you can serve with holy boldness. Know this, being a servant of the LORD comes at a cost. You may feel nameless. God knows you intimately. Jesus is your Ruler; therefore, your true citizenship is in heaven, where Jesus is. Suggestions for prayer Thank God for His Spirit’s work compelling men and women to serve in difficult places; bless God for the call He has placed on your life and the Spirit He gives so that in all circumstances you can call on the Name of Jesus. Pray for seminary professors who have the awesome task of training up the next generation of leaders. Rev. Richard T. Vander Vaart serves as a visiting prison chaplain in Moncton, New Brunswick for Redemption Prison Ministry. A few years ago he and his wife Carolyn became members of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. They both enjoy hosting friends for dinner and games nights. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

September 3 – A parade of God’s power

When he ascended on high he led a host of captives… – Ephesians 4:8 Scripture reading: Nahum 1:3-5 and Ephesians 4:1-17 Why do nations have military parades? To show the power of that nation’s army, tanks, and artillery to the world. It has in it an implicit threat, a dare to anyone who might consider advancing against them. Nahum is presenting the LORD of Hosts and verbally parading His power. The purpose is to get the attention of these warlike people who are feebly standing up against a power about Whom they have no concept or understanding. Desert dust storms are a real threat. It is reported that hundreds of millions of tons of dust are blown off the Sahara Desert each year—let that sink in. The violence of a sandstorm stops armies and causes the most hardened person to rush for cover. This is the power of the LORD our God. Mountains quake before him—those immovable pillars of rock of massive stature seem so impervious to any threat. These dance before the steps of the LORD. He rebukes the sea. All it takes is a word from the LORD and even mighty rushing waters are held back. The credentials of the LORD are well-known on this. Think of Exodus, where the LORD parted the Red Sea (Exodus 14:21ff). Dearly loved people of God, when the world and its powers threaten you, be reassured that this LORD of power and glory rides the heavens to bless those who, in Christ, turn to Him. Yet, His power to curse is real, gathering against all who hate Him. Today, as He parades His power to bless, humble yourself before Him. Suggestions for prayer Praise God for His mighty acts of power and His salvation; ask for help and strength in the areas of your life where you feel weak against the power of the enemy. Rev. Richard T. Vander Vaart serves as a visiting prison chaplain in Moncton, New Brunswick for Redemption Prison Ministry. A few years ago he and his wife Carolyn became members of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. They both enjoy hosting friends for dinner and games nights. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

September 2 – The Lord the Avenger

The LORD is a jealous and avenging husband. – Nahum 1:2 Scripture reading: Nahum 1:1-3 and Isaiah 54:1-5 There is an expression out there that perhaps you are familiar with: “There is no fury like the fury of a woman scorned.” Have you heard of it? You can now pipe up and say, “Actually, there is a fury that is greater than that!” Nahum, speaking on behalf of the LORD, explains why the LORD’s fury is infinitely greater. Several translations capture the reason for the great fury of the LORD – the key is the original language which names the LORD as an avenging husband. This makes sense. There are many places in the Bible where the LORD describes Himself as the husband to His people, His bride. You can read Ezekiel 23 or Hosea, yes, the whole book of Hosea which is a prophecy describing the way in which the people of God chase after idols and other gods that are no gods; therefore the LORD calls this whoring, adultery of the worst kind. You might object and say this was so long ago – I mean the prophet, Nahum, ministered more than 2500 years ago! True. The warning is still as fresh as the day it was delivered. The LORD is faithful in and to every generation. As He called His people to repentance with the words of Nahum, so He calls us, as His people, to be faithful to Him. In fact, Revelation depicts the marriage feast of the Lamb, Jesus Himself taking the Church as His bride (Revelation 19:6ff). What a glorious picture that is. Suggestions for prayer Pray for the Spirit of God to give you a deeper and fuller understanding of what it is to be the Bride of Christ and to be faithful to Him in all things; and for all of us, single or married, to encourage one another in faithful living which is devoted to the LORD our promise-keeping God. Rev. Richard T. Vander Vaart serves as a visiting prison chaplain in Moncton, New Brunswick for Redemption Prison Ministry. A few years ago he and his wife Carolyn became members of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. They both enjoy hosting friends for dinner and games nights. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

Introduction to the month of September

Nahum is a book that is likely not too familiar for many readers. To be honest, I can’t recall ever preaching from this book. It is a regular practice of mine to read through the Bible each year, so this short, prophetic book is one I have read fairly frequently. When I was approached to prepare the devotions for the month of September, I immediately knew I wanted to explore this book. Through His prophet, Nahum, the LORD of all nations, is renewing His claim over the people of Nineveh. The LORD is calling His people to return to Himself, while there is yet time. He is calling for them to make a fresh start. About fifty to perhaps a hundred years before the time of the prophet Nahum, the prophet Jonah spoke to Nineveh. The people heard Jonah and repented. Now, so many years later, the LORD raised up another prophet to speak and warn this recalcitrant people. To me, September is a time for fresh starts. Students start the school year. Workers return to sharper focus of work after the refreshment of vacation times. It seems to me September is a time of new government initiatives and programs. In view of these things, it made sense to me to encourage you, the reader, to listen to the message of Nahum and consider making a fresh start in your walk with God. The Lord is jealous for His people “The LORD is a jealous and avenging God.” – Nahum 1:2 Scripture reading: Nahum 1:1-3 Suppose a momma sees her child walking towards danger. Momma will shout, slightly frightening the child, who had not perceived the danger. The words of warning are critically necessary so that the child can be kept from harm. Nahum is like that, broadcasting the shouted warning of God, the Compassionate, to a warrior people who are rushing headlong into destruction. A century earlier, the LORD had sent the prophet Jonah to Nineveh. That reluctant prophet did not want to share the mercies of God with a cruel nation that had conquered so much of the known world. Yet, at his five-word call to repentance, the whole nation, from the king on the throne to the lowest servant, put on sackcloth as a sign of humility and fasted, praying to God for His mercy. The nation of Nineveh has made a hard turn away from the LORD. She has returned to her sinful ways and is heading towards destruction that is complete and total. The LORD is described as “Jealous” because He is calling His people back to Himself—calling them away from their sinfulness. He longs for them and would rescue them. Dear reader, have you experienced the mercies of God in the past? Have you seen His great care and love poured out? Then these words are for you, today. God is jealous for your whole-hearted attention. In Christ, He made the way open to Himself. Hear this warning and turn to One Who is jealous for your whole heart and mind and strength. Suggestions for prayer Ask the Spirit of God to show you where you might be wandering from God, the Compassionate One, Who is jealous for your whole heart. Pray for renewed love and faithfulness to Him. Rev. Richard T. Vander Vaart serves as a visiting prison chaplain in Moncton, New Brunswick for Redemption Prison Ministry. A few years ago he and his wife Carolyn became members of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. They both enjoy hosting friends for dinner and games nights. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....