Lesson 63 ReviewWe've been talking about the Assyrian, Babylonian and Persian Empires. Our first question was: Why does God allow a nation as brutal as Assyria to conquer His people? Are the "go-and-come mechanisms" of missions involved here?
Before I give my answer to that, I want to comment a little on missiology. What is missiology? I also want to say that the kind of questions which we want to give you are missiological questions. I donít think weíve ever commented on what we mean by the word missiology, which is rather strange. Missiology is not the facts of missions. Itís rather looking at whatever─not just missions, but whatever─and trying to see the implications of what God is doing in terms of evangelizing the world. In other words, we could be talking about Hitlerís Germany and bring in a missiological question. We could be talking about the March for Jesus and bring in a missiological question. It doesnít matter what we talk about; missiology is the way we look at it. What is God doing that has impact on the nations of the world?So when we speak about the three conquering empires─Assyria, Babylonia and Persia─weíre not just interested in the facts. We are interested in facts because we need to know a bit about these empires in order to understand what God was doing. But we mainly want to look at the facts of history and question, What is God doing? Is it just that these things are happening and God has nothing to do with it? No, as a follower of God you know that He has His hand over all things. As it says in Scripture, even secular kings are underneath His control.
1. Why did God allow a nation as brutal as Assyria to conquer His people? Describe how the ďgo-and-come mechanismsĒ of missions are involved here.So our question here is a missiological question. Why did God allow a nation as brutal as Assyria to conquer His people? Of course, the first answer is the one thatís given repeatedly in Scripture: because He wanted to punish them. They had gone after other gods, and had disobeyed Him. And He had told them through Moses, back at the time of the Exodus, that if they didnít follow Him, if they turned aside from Him, He would allow them to be taken captive by other peoples.
But the other question here─Are the go-come mechanisms of missions involved?─is the missiological question, you might say. Yes, we believe these mechanisms are involved here. God wanted His people not only to be punished, but also to be forced into the midst of this brutal, brutal nation in order to be a witness to these people. You say, ďHow could slaves be a witness?Ē Well, we have examples throughout Scripture of slaves being witnesses. The prime example that you might think of is the little Hebrew girl who became a witness to the wife of Naaman, the Syrian, and told her about Elisha. Itís not Godís best way, of course, of sending missionaries. But if we understand history, we understand that often God has used this mechanism of forcing His people out involuntarily, in order to make them be a witness to a people group who were very brutal and very cruel, much more so than their own people.A follow-up question to that, which I didnít put on your sheet, was: Why is it that the first nation that conquered them, the Assyrian nation, was so much more brutal than the second, the Babylonian, which in turn was more brutal than the Persians? In other words, as they went along, it seems that each conquering empire was less brutal. Was this perhaps because of the witness of the Israelites during this time? By the time they got down to the Babylonians, you already had Nebuchadnezzar choosing Daniel to be a force in his empire. You have the magnificent chapter in Daniel 4, where thereís a wonderful testimony of Nebuchadnezzar, after he lost his mind and was out in the fields for those seven years, because of the testimony of Daniel. So you have evidence, especially in the Babylonian Empire, of the witness of the children of Israel.
But it must have been there also in the time of the Assyrian Empire. We know, of course, as our question #2 speaks about, that Jonah was a witness, at least in the city of Nineveh. Why is it surprising that the book of Jonah is in the canon? As far as I see it, itís surprising because Jonah didnít want to go there; he was very reluctant. Like Jonah, the nation was very reluctant─they were taken captive, but they didnít want to be a witness, either. They felt that the Assyrians didnít deserve it. To look at it from the human standpoint, they didnít deserve it; but they desperately needed it.
2. Why is it surprising that the book of Jonah is in the canon? How do you think this happened?Well, it must be that by the time they were putting together the books of the Old Testament canon, there were some people who were godly enough to see what God was doing. Maybe they knew and understood that this book was not just a book about a prophet going to Nineveh, but it was a book about Godís expectations of Israel, of His own people: that He wanted them to be a witness to the nations, even the most brutal nation. We have heard it said─I donít know if it's true─that of all the books in the Old Testament canon, the book of Jonah is the one that is never read in the synagogues today. If it isnít, it would be understandable, because again, itís really a very critical book of the stand of the whole nation, the people of Israel─and Iím using the word Israel here not to refer to the Northern Kingdom, but the descendants of Jacob. Itís a critique of them.
As a whole they were not willing to be the Suffering Servant. But there were some who understood what Isaiah was talking about when he talked about the Suffering Servant. Some may have thought he meant the Messiah, although I doubt that, because they didnít recognize Christ when He was the Suffering Servant. But a few understood that God intended Israel as a nation to be a suffering servant. Even today, there are a few godly rabbis in Israel who understand why Israel has had to suffer, not just for punishment, but in order to be a witness.
3. In Ezra, Nehemiah, and Daniel we have magnificent prayers of repentance on the part of these men, for their rebellious nation. But not a single one of them mentions anything about a failure to be a light to the nations, as Isaiah 49:6 implies that they should be. Why not?Coming on down to the next question, on Nehemiah, Ezra and Daniel: "we have magnificent prayer of repentance on the part of these men, for their rebellious nation. But not a single one of them mentions anything about a failure to be a light to the nations, as Isaiah 49:6 implies that they should be. Why not? Interestingly enough, the prayers that Iím referring to are each one in the ninth chapter of those books by that name─Ezra 9, Nehemiah 9 and Daniel 9. The answer would be, in a sense, the same as what we have today when we speak of the Walk for Jesus, which happened here in Pasadena recently; or the Pasadena for Christ movement; or any of the various movements you have in the various countries of the world, speaking of their desire for their people to turn back to the Lord.
Local evangelism is a wonderful, necessary thing; but it is different from what you see in the Concerts of Prayer, where there is always that other factor coming in─the desire to pray for the other nations of the world, not just for our own nation. I think that itís a tremendous temptation, especially when you have people that feel under bondage, not to look beyond your own problems; you know, asking God to solve your own problem. We all do this. Yet, for those who truly understand the Word of God, He wants us to look beyond our own problems and to pray not only for our own people, but for the other peoples of the world.4. Use your Hebrew concordance to trace the words translated as Assyria, Babylon and Persia, to get a feel for their distribution in the canon. Do the same for Sennacherib, Cyrus and Darius. Now, the fourth question: Use your Hebrew concordance to trace the words translated as Assyria, Babylon and Persia, to get a
feel for their distribution in the canon. Do the same for
Sennacherib, Cyrus and Darius. This is not a question that has an answer as such; but we just want you to get a feel for how prominent these particular words are in the Old Testament. Also did this experience of the Children of Israel in Babylon make as strong an impact on their national history as what had happened to them as slaves in Egypt centuries before?
After this period of time, we donít have any more books to be added to the Old Testament canon. Oh, you have a few when they were building the temple; but they had just come back from Persia under Cyrus. But we donít have the 400-year record following this time in our canon. So we donít know whether there was something that went through their souls, like went through the souls of the Hebrew children when the book of Deuteronomy was written. Most scholars think that the book of Deuteronomy was written even after the Babylonian captivity; and if so, then that would in a sense be the record. But why doesnít it say anything about their experience there? No doubt it did really stir them up; it did have a lot to do with it.We know that, during this next period of time, the synagogue pattern was set up. We know that during this time between the testaments you have the beginning of the Pharisees, who, according to Jesus, went all over the known world to where the Children of Israel had been dispersed in order to try to renew them in their faith. We know these things partially because of what is said about this period of time in the New Testament. But we know that this period of time─the captivity by Assyria first, by Babylonia second and by Persia third─was something which really reached deep into the Hebrew soul and changed their character. It should have prepared them for the Suffering Servant to come, who was Jesus. But we donít know that it really did that to most of them.
Ü Note that the four questions in maroon color are not the headings or the lesson. These questions are rather a direct quotation from Lesson 63 Study Guide.