THE LORD OUR STRONGHOLD
Scripture: 2 Kings 19:10–20, 35, 36; Psalm 18:1–3; Nahum 1:2–8
Memory verse: Nahum 1:7
"The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble."
Provide a variety of materials that could be used in building a structure. Include paper, sand, rocks, a brick, a piece of glass, and a stick of wood. Display all of the materials on a tabletop.
Ask the students what the purpose of a fort or stronghold is. Let them tell about forts they have seen or read about. Explain that forts were built around a town or a supply of military materials to protect it. The walls were built of tough, sturdy materials that could withstand heavy punishment. Soldiers were positioned along the top of the fort to constantly be on the lookout for the enemy. All the gates or doors could be locked securely so only authorized people could enter.
Show the students the materials you have brought. Ask them what they would use if they were to build a fort or stronghold. Ask why they chose what they did. Explain that it is very important to choose strong materials. However, even the strongest fort could be invaded under the right circumstances. No man-made structure is completely secure.
Tell the students the prophet Nahum told about a stronghold that was secure forever.
Hearing God’s Word
The people of Judah were in definite need of a stronghold. The cruel Assyrians were ruthless enemies of Judah and all the surrounding nations.
The Assyrians Were Cruel
The Assyrians were a people to be feared. Their methods of warfare were far superior to those of Judah or other nations. They would surround a city’s walls and not let anyone in or out. A city could last only a short while without food and water. When the supply was gone, the city would have to surrender. Even those cities that were well prepared could not stand against the Assyrians. The Assyrians used heavy metal battering rams mounted on large wooden frames to break through strong walls and gates. They were experts at tunnelling under walls, burning gates, weakening the walls by setting fires, and other such tactics.
The Assyrians’ cruelty did not end after a city surrendered to them. They killed the men, made the women and children their slaves, and took away all the money and possessions the people had. Finally, the city was burned.
In spite of the warnings of the prophets, the northern kingdom of Israel had continued to rebel against God. So God let the Assyrians attack Israel. The defeat of Israel had been swift and final. All but the poorest people were forced to leave the land and were scattered to places where they would be powerless to unite and fight against the Assyrians. Israel disappeared as a nation.
The Southern Kingdom, Judah, had also felt the Assyrians’ fury. As the Egyptians and Assyrians fought for power, land, and wealth, the smaller nations in between found themselves in a difficult position. In the natural sense it was impossible to stay neutral. Only a superpower seemed capable of protecting a small nation against another superpower.
Like Israel, Judah made the mistake of turning to Egypt for help against the Assyrians. The people and their leaders trusted military might rather than God. The consequences were disastrous. (Have volunteers read 2 Kings 18:9–15.) But when Assyria tried to bother Judah again, King Hezekiah did the right thing. He trusted in God, rather than in the strength of his army or that of the Egyptians. God honoured Hezekiah’s faith and gave Judah a great victory (2 Kings 19:35).
Nahum Sends Encouragement
How, many years later, Judah was enjoying a time of prosperity. Although the Assyrians were still a feared enemy, Josiah, the new king of Judah, had refused to worship their false gods. With his whole heart, Josiah turned to the true God and followed His laws and commandments. But many of the people of Judah feared that Josiah’s order to destroy the temples of the false gods would be interpreted by the Assyrians as an attack. The Assyrians could bring swift and deadly punishment. Many of the people undoubtedly grumbled at what they thought was Josiah’s foolishness. God sent Nahum with a message of encouragement and hope to help these people in their uncertainty and fear.
Little is known about Nahum. Even his hometown of Elkosh has not been positively identified. We do know Nahum’s name means “comfort,” which fits well with the message God gave Nahum for Judah. What was this message of comfort Nahum was to give?
Basically the Book of Nahum is a prophecy about the destruction of Nineveh, the capital of the Assyrian empire. Many years earlier, the prophet Jonah had prophesied Nineveh’s destruction. When Jonah prophesied about God’s judgement, the Ninevites repented and turned to God. As time went by, however, the people of Nineveh returned to their sinful way.
God had been merciful to Nineveh and had given them a second chance. But Nahum reminded the people that this does not mean God does not care what we do. God never changes. He always has and always will hate sin. He did not like the Ninevites’ cruel ways. Through Nahum God reassured the people of Judah that the destruction of the Assyrians was sure. Nothing can stop the mighty power of God.
Nahum foretold the total destruction of Nineveh. In the natural sense, such destruction of this strong city seemed impossible. Nineveh’s fortifications seemed too strong to conquer. The city of Nineveh was protected by sturdy stone walls. The walls were so thick that four chariots could ride side by side along the tops. Rising from the walls were fortified towers from which Assyrian soldiers could rain down arrows, stones, and boiling water upon attackers. A deep moat surrounded the walls, which made tunnelling under the wall or using battering rams impossible.
God’s Prophecy Comes True
But all the Assyrians’ wealth and military might was powerless to save them from God’s power. Just as Nahum prophesied, Nineveh was captured and destroyed. The combined forces of the Mede and Babylonian armies besieged the city of Nineveh. God caused the Tigris River to flood, and it washed away part of their mighty wall. This allowed the Medes and Babylonians to enter the city, conquer it, and burn it to the ground. This was exactly what God had said through Nahum. (Let volunteers read aloud Nahum 2:6; 3:14, 15.) The Assyrians trusted in their own power, but they were powerless against God.
What about the people of Judah? As long as they put their trust in God, He would care for them. It did not matter that Jerusalem’s fortifications were no match for the mighty Assyrians. Neither the Assyrians nor anyone else, for that matter, were a match for God. That is why this week’s memory verse means. (Repeat the verse with the students.)
If any of the people doubted God’s ability to help them, they needed only to remember that when Hezekiah and Jerusalem trusted in Him, God delivered them from 185,000 Assyrian soldiers. The Assyrians’ rock walls, fortified cities, and superior weapons were nothing compared to the help God offers.
We Have a Stronghold
Today you may not have to worry about foreign enemies battering against your house, but you face other kinds of danger. Some students are afraid to go to school because they are bullied. Others face abuse by family members or friends. Some must struggle to resist the pressures of drug pushers or other bad influences.
Some enemies are not people. Death is an enemy some students face, either their own or that of a loved one. Divorce threatens many families today, as do poverty and illness. Whatever our enemies are, those who trust God can depend upon Him to be their fortress and refuge.
Are you facing an enemy in your life? Do you need a stronghold in which you can find refuge? Come to God. He will help you through your problems.
Accepting God’s Word
God is not removed from what happens here on earth. He is a personal God who cares about everything that happens in each of our lives. He wants to be our fortress and help. Each of us must choose individually to make Him our stronghold. We do that by first accepting His Son Jesus as our Saviour.
The night’s rest at a lodge in Lindi, Tanzania, was refreshing. Following a breakfast of scrambled eggs, toast and hot tea, I looked at a map with my tour guide as he pointed out the location of the Makonde village we were to visit. I was excited! The Makonde ethnic group is one of the five largest people groups in Tanzania, and its population of more than 1.1 million is the largest of any group whose homeland touches the coastline.
The village is located on the shore of the Indian Ocean, about 25 kilometres from the Lindi/Mtwara paved road. The map identifies the access route as a “village trail,” and the journey took us about an hour. Making this journey in a four-wheel drive vehicle with good seat belts was a definite advantage!
REMEMBER TO PRAY!
Pray for Makonde Villagers
1. Villagers to be open and responsive to God's messengers.
2. Christian teachers be assigned to village schools and take that opportunity to be a witness for Jesus Christ.
3. Makonde believers given a piece of land on which to build a church.
"I (God) will give you every place where you set your foot" (Joshua 1:3).
Remember: THE LORD OUR STRONGHOLD
Memory verse: Nahum 1:7
"The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble."
1. Trust God and He will care for you.
2. God's strength is greater than any enemy, trial or persecution.
3. Believers must choose individually to make God their stronghold and refuge.
Pray for Makonde Villagers.
Study 12 | All Peoples/The Prophets | africaatts.org/go-teach