Book of Nahum Chapter
One Commentary by
Sermon 12/5/10 – Nahum 1
Furious, but Full of Mercy
Not much is known about the prophet "Nahum," a word that is a shortened form of the name, "Nehemiah," which translates as "the comfort of Yahweh." Most conservative scholars believe that Elkosh, the city of Nahum's origin, was in southern Judah, between Jerusalem and Gaza. As to when his words were written, it should be noted that the fall of Nineveh to the Babylonians in 612 BC, was seen in this book as a future event. Nahum 3:8-10 refers to the fall of Thebes as a recent occurrence, and so the Book of Nahum was generated after 664 BC, when Thebes fell. This book was written between 663 and 612 BC.
The people of the city of Nineveh had been given the great honor of hearing the words of God through His spokesperson, the reluctant prophet, Jonah, 100 years previously, but here is Nahum the prophet, a century later, predicting its downfall. The Ninevites had once again returned to violence, idolatry and pride, and therefore, the city was to be destroyed to the extent that nothing of significance would remain.
The book starts out with a warning not only to Nineveh, but to us all: "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." It is very interesting in Scripture to see that God has feelings, and some of them are clearly observed in this verse. We are His children, His creation and He is hurt by our rejection of Him. He is angry when we harm one another and regards those who do such things as His "enemies." And note in Verse 3 that He loves us so much that He is "slow to anger." In that same verse, we glimpse that He is "great in power" like no one, nothing we have ever seen. He could destroy us in an instant and the fact that He has not yet done it is simply a reflection of His grace, His mercy and His love for you and me.
Note at the end of Verse 3 that He "will not at all acquit the wicked." Every one of us is utterly doomed in our natural state, which is why we need the Lord Jesus Christ, our Redeemer. "When we were still without strength, in due time, Christ died for the ungodly" (Romans 5:6). "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). What we could not do, would not do, the Lord did on our behalf. The cross reaches back in time to the beginning and it reaches forward until the time of His return. What we need to do in response is entrust ourselves to Him and the work He has done: "He who believes in Him is not condemned..." (John 3:18).
It's important that we know who we are encountering, and so the Lord, through the prophet, reveals something of Himself to us. In Verses 3-6, we can understand His words in a form easily recognizable in today's world: He is the One who dries up a lake or a sea or a river. Places like Los Angeles, London, Paris, Melbourne, Moscow and Beijing will wither and die at a time of His choosing. Earthquakes are admittedly His doing and volcanoes spew forth lava and smoke at His word. He concludes in Verse 6 that none of us are capable of standing before Him. His anger is great and we are small. The very earth that was provided for us as our home will become our enemy and will destroy us.
Yet Verse 7 provides an interlude, a glimpse of hope in a troubled world: "The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; and He knows those who trust in Him." Do you see it? Your purpose in life is greater than money, power, health or fame - You are made to be complete through faith in the Lord. In case you don't see that it was FAITH which made those in Old Testament times right with God, Hebrews Chapter 11 sums it up: "Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for He who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him" (Hebrews 11:6). Examples of those who had faith in the Lord are revealed in Hebrews 11 to include: Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Rahab, Gideon and more. Because You trust in the Lord, He will be your "stronghold in the day of trouble." You are SAFE in Him.
The city-state of Nineveh was the capital of the ancient nation called Assyria, which at that time was the strongest empire in the world. The ten-tribes of the nation called Israel had already been swallowed up by Assyria, and if the Assyrian Empire is compared to an enormous cannon, it was now aimed straight at Jerusalem, the capital of the little country called Judah. Beginning with Verse 9, the prophesy of Nahum is against Nineveh, and this time, unlike the ministry of Jonah, 100 years before, no opportunity for repentance is to be offered them. If you are given the opportunity to trust in the Lord, do it now.
The Lord now asked the question, "Why do you conspire(or devise)against the Lord?" And note that by merely rejecting His offer of righteousness through faith in the Lord, we are conspirators against Him. The people of Nineveh felt they were "safe," which can also be translated "at peace" or "complete," yet the Lord continues through the prophet, "in this manner they will be cut down." And now a brief aside is given, a reassurance to the people of Judah: "When (Assyria) passes through; though I have afflicted you, I will afflict you no more; for now I will break off his yoke from you, and burst your bonds apart" (Verses 12-13). For a time, Judah would be safe from foreign invaders.
In Verse 14, Assyria (through its capital city of Nineveh) is addressed once more: "The Lord has given a command concerning you: your name shall be perpetuated no longer. I will cut off the carved image and molded image. I will dig your grave, for you are vile." This prophesy would have seemed to be incredible to those who heard or read these words from God. Everyone in that part of the world was afraid of the Assyrian Empire and it would have not seemed possible that it would ever fall. And yet, in a few short years, it was to happen, just as God had said. The city had massive walls and clever, sturdy fortifications, state of the art for the time. And the city was impressively large. We saw in the Book of Jonah (2:3) that it took three days to walk from one side of the city to the other. It's circumference was twelve geographical miles; enormous for the time.
Verse 14 is also interesting because of God's mention that He would "cut off the carved image and the molded image." God would do to them what they did to other nations. It says about the Assyrians in 2 Kings 19:17-18 - "... the kings of Assyria have laid waste the nations and their lands, and have cast their gods into the fire, for they were not gods, but the work of men's hands. Therefore they have destroyed them." The Assyrians had burned the idols of the nations they conquered and now it would be done to them. When the Babylonians eventually overran Assyria, they would fulfill this prophesy by destroying the idols of that country.
And now in Verse 15, the Lord reached out anew to the leadership and people of Judah, reminding them (and reminding us as well) that the Lord is God and He is with His people. The "feet" referred to as "on the mountains" are an allusion to God's prophets who spoke His words to the people. The Lord Himself is higher than the mountains, beyond the universe actually, but He is very prone to express Himself through ordinary people like you and me. Those words of "good tidings" meant that God was proclaiming peace to those in the little nation of Judah, just as He is proclaiming peace to us right now. Jesus said, "Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world give, do I give to you. Let not your heart by troubled, neither let it be afraid" (John 14:27). Let's receive His peace, His good tidings:
Dear Lord, we place our faith in You. We have been afraid, but now we entrust ourselves to Your care. Forgive us our sins. We surrender all to You. Thank You for Your forgiveness and Your love. In Jesus Name. Amen.