is all hell — William Tecumseh Sherman

Nahum 2:5–9 (NKJV)

He remembers his nobles;
They stumble in their walk;
They make haste to her walls,
And the defense is prepared.
The gates of the rivers are opened,
And the palace is dissolved.
It is decreed:
She shall be led away captive,
She shall be brought up;
And her maidservants shall lead her as with the voice of doves,
Beating their breasts.

Though Nineveh of old was like a pool of water,
Now they flee away.
“Halt! Halt!” they cry;
But no one turns back.
Take spoil of silver!
Take spoil of gold!
There is no end of treasure,
Or wealth of every desirable prize.

I like to use many different translations because by reading them all I learn details that I would miss if I only read one. But the various translations of this passage differ so greatly that if you read it in another translation, you can think you’re on the wrong page. That’s because it details war. The vocabulary of war is strange and constantly evolving.

“War is all hell.” — William Tecumseh Sherman

When people are uncomfortable with a subject, they talk differently. They don’t use common words. Thus, ancient descriptions of war are hard to translate.

This passage depicts siege warfare. The details are horrible—things like diverting a river to flood Nineveh and then hauling off everyone and everything that wasn’t destroyed by the flood.

Sherman knew what he was talking about.

Thank God most of us will never see the horrors of siege warfare. But what about spiritual warfare?

The Exorcist is a scarier movie than Saving Private Ryan—and for good reason. We understand Saving Private Ryan; the Exorcist, not so much. That’s what makes watching The Exorcist so scary. People don’t know exactly what’s true and what’s not true, but they know that something is true.

Much of what is true is explained in Revelation 12:4, Matthew 22:30, Mark 12:25, and Daniel 10:13. We learn from Revelation that one third of the angels fell and became demons. We learn from Matthew and Mark that they do not reproduce; there are a fixed number of them. They are incapable of time travel (otherwise, the angel in Daniel wouldn’t have to explain why he’s late.) They are thousands of years old.

Spiritual warfare is dreadful stuff. Our enemies are incredibly experienced in the art of deception.

There’s no way we can outsmart enemies like that. Depend on God or lose big every time.

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Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.

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