A few years ago, I inherited a small, thin hard-cover devotional book, Devotions and Prayers of John Calvin. So, the material in each 2-page spread (devotional thoughts on 1 page, a prayer on the other) is about 500 years old. Calvin wrote in French, and the text was translated into English—when, I don’t know, but the language is a bit stilted to the modern ear. Nevertheless, I came across one entry I found particularly timely and worth considering.
His text was a single verse from the prophet Nahum:
Though Nineveh of old was like a pool of water, now they flee away. “Halt! Halt!” they cry; but no one turns back.– Nahum 2:8
The prophet here anticipates a doubt which might have weakened confidence in his words, for Nineveh not only flourished in power, but it also confirmed its strength during a long course of time; and antiquity not only adds to the strength of kingdoms, but secures authority to them.
Accordingly, as the imperial city of Nineveh was ancient, it might even seem to be perpetual.
“Why! Nineveh has ever ruled and possessed the sovereign power in all the East. Can it now be shaken, or can its strength be now suddenly subverted? For where there is no beginning we cannot believe there will be any end.”
The Ninevites, no doubt, boasted that they had been eternal, and as they were fixed in this conceit concerning their antiquity, no one thought they could ever fail. This circumstance shall not, however, prevent God from now overturning its dominion.
How much soever, then, Nineveh took pride in the notion of its ancientness, it was yet God’s purpose to destroy it. From this passage we ought to learn that no trust is to be put in the number of men, nor in the defenses and strongholds of cities, nor in ancientness; for when men excel in power, God will hence take occasion to destroy them, inasmuch as pride is almost always connected with strength.
In our land of plenty, prosperity, and power, we could do with a healthy dose of humility—beginning with a healthy dependence on God’s mercy and desperately needed grace!