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RESOURCE CENTER AND ARCHIVES

Nahum 1:79, 1213; 2:813; 3:1819 comment (0)

January 3, 2013

By Michael Wilson

Related Scripture: Nahum 1:79, 1213; 2:813; 3:1819


Bible Studies for Life 
Director, Resource Center for Pastoral Excellence, Samford University

NAHUM: A MESSAGE OF GOD’S JUDGMENT

Nahum 1:7–9, 12–13; 2:8–13; 3:18–19
Many Old Testament books include examples of God’s mercy, even when judgment was being demonstrated. However, in Nahum’s prophecy the Lord is merciful and compassionate only to those who trust in God. The name Nahum means “comfort” or “consolation” yet the prophet does not voice consolation for the wicked. He declared there would be no mercy for Assyria, a cruel nation that cared nothing for the God of the Hebrews. In an earlier time the people of Nineveh responded to the call to repentance given by Jonah. But things changed. Reverence for Yahweh waned. Evil again prevailed. Nahum declared judgment would come to the Assyrians; freedom and hope would come to those they abused. God demonstrated consolation to the Hebrews by executing judgment on their Assyrian oppressors.

God Tempers Judgment with Mercy (1:7–9, 12–13)
It might seem a contradiction for Nahum to describe the Lord as “good” and also announce God’s complete destruction of Nineveh. Verse 8 can also be rendered “God’s enemies chase darkness,” which emphasizes the pointlessness of a life lived contrary to the way of obedience to God. Darkness is a powerful metaphor in Scripture and is often used to represent evil. The wrath of God would come like a flood to those who chased darkness and were merciless toward God’s people. However, the mercy and steadfast love of God would wash over all who sought God for refuge. We know from Scripture how God demonstrated steadfast love and faithfulness to the covenant He made with the Hebrew people. We also know of the frequent unfaithfulness of God’s people. Sadly, then as now, folks like you and me still find it easy to turn from the way of God and God’s love, grace and refuge, choosing rather to chase darkness. 

God Judges Evil Nations (2:8–13)
During Nahum’s lifetime the people of God witnessed the divine judgment of Assyria. Though the nations of Babylon and Media acted together as the “shatterer” that broke the powerful Assyrian dynasty (2:1), God was at work for good on behalf of the Hebrew people. Yet God’s patience with them would later be tested as they chose evil and disobedience over faithfulness. How ironic that God’s judgment would again include using the Babylonians as a shatterer — but this time of the heart-hardened Hebrews. Theologian P.T. Forsyth described God’s judgment in this way: “If [God] cares enough for us to be angry, [God] cares enough to redeem.” Matthew’s Gospel (21:42–44) records Jesus’ words regarding “the stone the builders rejected becoming the cornerstone.” Jesus said those who fall on this stone will be broken. But those on whom the stone falls will be crushed. Better to be repentant and broken over one’s disobedience than to experience crushing, shattering judgment. 

God Judges Sinful Leaders (3:18–19)
The closing sentences of Nahum’s prophecy are reserved for the Assyrian king. The words read like a taunt. The king’s leaders are sleeping the sleep of death. His once- powerful armies are in disarray, having fled to the mountains, with no one to lead them. The king himself has suffered a mortal wound and nothing will ease his pain. In a final jab, Nahum says in effect, “When word gets out you’re gone, everyone will shout woo-hoo!”

Maybe you recently sang, “I Heard the Bells On Christmas Day.” One stanza goes, “And in despair I bowed my head: ‘There is no peace on earth,’ I said, ‘For hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth, goodwill to men.’” In a way, our situation is similar to Nahum’s. But because The Light of the World has come, we know “the wrong shall fail, the right prevail.” God’s justice, righteousness and love will surely make it so.

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