Intro: Turn to the book of Nahum. You probably haven’t done that too many times, have you? It may be that this is one of those books that we come across in our daily Bible reading once a year, but seldom spend much time studying. That is too bad. This prophet gives us an intriguing picture of God. In some ways, Nahum’s God does not look a lot like our God. By that I mean, we have a difficult time viewing God as this prophet reveals Him. But before we get to that, some background:
I. Nahum, the prophet
A. His name (Nahum) means consolation or comfort. When we consider his stern and graphic depiction of God’s judgment against the nation of Assyria, his name does not appear to fit his work. But in a real sense Nahum is a consoler to God’s people, as he announces judgment against the nation who has oppressed them so severely. His message was intended to give Judah comfort.
1. We know very little about Nahum. Nahum 1:1 – The burden against Nineveh. The book of the vision of Nahum the Elkoshite. The opening verse describes him as “the Elkoshite, or one from Elkosh. Where was Elkosh? Do not know for sure. Some identify it as Capernaum, since that name means “village of Nahum”, but this is unsure. No hint about his occupation or family.
a. He was contemporary with Jeremiah, Habakkuk and Zephaniah. While Jeremiah and Zephaniah were speaking judgment against Judah, God’s people, Nahum was directing his attention to Judah’s enemy, Assyria. His burden is “against Nineveh” (Assyrian capital).
b. The date of his message is usually viewed between 663-612 B.C. He mentions the fall of Thebes (No Amon) in Egypt, which took place in 663 B.C. ; and he predicts the fall of Nineveh, which took place in 612 B.C. The northern kingdom of Israel was already in Assyrian captivity. (722) The Assyrians were very much a world power, but were in a state of decline.
II. Nahum’s Message, “Nineveh is laid waste” (3:7) – The words of Nahum resemble, and are considered by some to be, a Hebrew poem (acrostic in the original language). But this is no ordinary poem. It’s vision and message shocks our sensibilities, both in its graphic description of the fall of Nineveh, and is depiction of God. Nahum’s prophecy is complement to the prophecy of Jonah. Whereas Jonah offered Nineveh mercy 150 years before, by this time all mercy is gone, and judgment is certain and final. God tells Nineveh that he will dig her grave (1:14) Nah 3:19 – your injury has no healing, Your wound is severe. Why was God bringing judgment against Nineveh?
A. Nineveh, “the bloody city” (3:1). Nahum’s description was well earned by both the city and its empire. The Assyrians were feared throughout the world for their savagery and brutality. They were truly one of the most bloodthirsty civilizations ever known. They had a policy of world domination and conquest. Not only where the rulers of Assyria terribly cruel, they boasted of the cruelty on monuments that exist in museums to this day. Assyrian rulers bragged about putting the decapitated heads of their enemies on sticks that lined the streets; covering the walls of building with the skins of their slain enemies… dismembering the officers who rebelled.. burning captives alive.. God was well aware of their bloodthirsty deeds. Helps us understand why Jonah did not want them to repent. He wanted God to put an end to their terror.
III. Nahum’s God – the prophet paints God as few today see Him. In this Nahum’s words are helpful and challenging. The beginning of Nahum’s prophecy of coming judgment is a look at the Judge Himself:
A. God is jealous: Nahum 1:2 – God is jealous, and the Lord avenges; The Lord avenges and is furious. The Lord will take vengeance on His adversaries, And He reserves wrath for His enemies; Nahum sees Yahweh (used 4 times) as One who is ready to avenge the wrongs done to His people. He is angry and had His wrath reserved for His enemies.
1. God’s jealousy is not the jealousy born from selfishness or contempt. It is a jealousy born from holiness. God is holy and cannot overlook the unholiness of men. God revealed Himself as a jealous God in at the inauguration of His covenant with the Israelites as He warned them against idolatry – Ex 20:5-6 – you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, 6 but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments. God wants His people to serve Him alone.
a. The jealousy of God is twofold: Albert Barnes describes it this way: “It is an intense love, not bearing imperfections or unfaithfulness in that which It loves, and so chastening it; or not bearing the ill-dealings of those who would injure what It loves, and so destroying them.” His jealousy for His people is also a jealousy against those who mistreat or oppress His people. He stands ready to avenge His people. Notice how David views God’s anger (jealousy) Ps 7:9-11 – 9 Oh, let the wickedness of the wicked come to an end, But establish the just; For the righteous God tests the hearts and minds. 10 My defense is of God, Who saves the upright in heart. 11 God is a just judge, And God is angry with the wicked every day.
B. Nahum 1:3 – 3 The Lord is slow to anger and great in power, And will not at all acquit the wicked. Jealousy is the reason for God’s judgment. In verse 3 Nahum says 3 things about the Lord that explain the nature of His judgment.
1. The lord is slow to anger: God’s judgment is not rash or uncontrolled. He has been longsuffering with those who face His wrath, and given them time and motivation to repent. (Jonah).
2. The Lord is great in power: He is able to control Himself, and is not flying off at the handle against His enemies. This greatness in power is further explored by Nahum by referencing the visible manifestations of God ability to exert His wrath: Nah 1:3-4 – The Lord has His way In the whirlwind and in the storm, And the clouds are the dust of His feet. 4 He rebukes the sea and makes it dry, And dries up all the rivers…V. 5-6 The mountains quake before Him, The hills melt, And the earth heaves at His presence, Yes, the world and all who dwell in it. 6 Who can stand before His indignation? And who can endure the fierceness of His anger? His fury is poured out like fire, And the rocks are thrown down by Him.
3. The Lord will not acquit the wicked. Unlike men the Lord is just. He does not allow evildoers to go scot free. The righteous in Judah may have wondered how a just god could allow such a treacherous nation as Assyria to exist. But God was not finished with His judgment. Do you think God will let the sinner off the hook? Do you think He will ignore your sin?
C. God is good: Nahum 1:7 – 7 The Lord is good, A stronghold in the day of trouble; And He knows those who trust in Him. In every other prophetic announcement of a coming judgment we have seen a corresponding message of hope to the righteous. God has ever been willing to protect His people amidst great calamity, and these words point to the greater consolation of protection from the judgment against sin. Rom 8:1-2 – There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.
1. Three profound affirmations of the character of God appear in this single verse:
a) God is innately and inherently good (always does good).
b) Secondly, he is the incomparable refuge for his own in times of their distress, “A Bulwark Never Failing,” as Luther phrased it. Do you find refuge in your faith? Do you go to God when trouble arises, or does trouble send us further from God?
c) Third, he knows those who are His own, and who truly trust in Him. 2 Tim 2:19 – 19 Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: “The Lord knows those who are His,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity.”
2. It is interesting to connect these words with the words of Hezekiah as he encouraged the people of Judah to put their trust in Jehovah when Sennacherib, the Assyrian king, was laying siege to Jerusalem. “He spake comfortably to the people, Be strong and courageous; be not afraid nor dismayed for the king of Assyria, nor for all the multitude that is with him; because there be more with us than with him. With him is an arm of flesh; but with us is the Lord our God, to help us and to fight our battles: and the people rested themselves upon the words of Hezekiah king of Judah.” (2 Chron. 32:7-8)
IV. The Fall of Nineveh: In the second and third chapter, Nahum vividly describes the fall of the city. In the last verses of chapter one, the prophet clearly points out that what is coming is form Jehovah. Nah 1:14 – The Lord has given a command concerning you: “Your name shall be perpetuated no longer. Out of the house of your gods I will cut off the carved image and the molded image. I will dig your grave, For you are vile.”
A. The destruction of the wicked is good news to those who desire to serve God: Nahum 1:15 – Behold, on the mountains The feet of him who brings good tidings, Who proclaims peace! O Judah, keep your appointed feasts, Perform your vows. For the wicked one shall no more pass through you; He is utterly cut off.
B. God challenges Nineveh to prepare to defend themselves. Nahum 2:1 – He who scatters has come up before your face. Man the fort! Watch the road! Strengthen your flanks! Fortify your power mightily. 3:14 – 14 Draw your water for the siege! Fortify your strongholds! Go into the clay and tread the mortar! Make strong the brick kiln! Could they make their walls strong enough to keep God out? Nahum declares that they will be eat up by locusts. (destroyed quickly) and their strongholds will be like ripe figs that fall off the tree into the mouth of the eater when the tree is shaken (no resistance).
C. Nineveh is no better than No-Amon (Thebes in Egypt). Nahum 3:8-11 – This great city seemed invincible and was protected by it alliances with its neighbors. But Assyria destroyed it completely. God had announced in v. 5 – Behold, I am against you, says the Lord of Hosts” There are no invincible nations if God is against them. Can we learn this lesson?
Conclusion: God is a jealous God who cannot be turned back. Nineveh was the lion feared around the world. She took her prey wherever she wanted, and who could make them afraid?
- Nah 2:10-13 – 10 She is empty, desolate, and waste! The heart melts, and the knees shake; Much pain is in every side, And all their faces are drained of color. 11 Where is the dwelling of the lions, And the feeding place of the young lions, Where the lion walked, the lioness and lion’s cub, And no one made them afraid? 12 The lion tore in pieces enough for his cubs, Killed for his lionesses, Filled his caves with prey, And his dens with flesh. 13 “Behold, I am against you,” says the Lord of hosts, “I will burn your chariots in smoke, and the sword shall devour your young lions; I will cut off your prey from the earth, and the voice of your messengers shall be heard no more.”
Do you fear the sure wrath of God against sin? The only refuge is trusting the Lord. Are you in Christ?