Book of Nahum Chapter
Three Commentary by
Sermon 12/19/10 – Nahum 3
Read and Heed
The leaders and people of nations everywhere should read the words found in the little Book of Nahum. In this sermon series, we come to Chapter 3, where it can be seen that we should all be truly concerned and be drawn to surrender our hearts, lives and nations to the Lord.
It’s interesting to note how utterly AWARE the Lord is of you and me - He intimately knows the thoughts, intentions, words and actions of people everywhere in all times. The words expressed through the prophet in this chapter are like a laboratory X-ray of the government and culture of Nineveh, capital of Assyria, one of the most powerful empires in human history. He knew them just as He knows you and your nation. The Lord saw how careless they were of what we call “human rights;” how corrupt they had become. In this same chapter He declared their doom.
“Woe to the bloody city!” the Lord begins in Verse 1. He called it a place “all full of lies and robbery.” Their justice and political systems were utterly corrupt - they did not give judgments and pass laws because of what was right, but because of how much they received in bribes. The nations that surrounded them and their own citizens were like victims. Widows, orphans and everyone else who had any kind of weakness in their lives were badly treated and often they were killed outright. The downtrodden had no defenders.
In that culture, “the noise of a whip” continually filled the streets (Verse 2), mingled with “the noise of rattling wheels” of chariots, wagons and galloping horses. If you listen closely to the sounds of today’s culture, you typically hear trucks, cars, airplanes, doors slamming and sirens. In all too many places, the sound of tanks and gunfire is also common. Nineveh was one of the busiest commercial centers in the world. In Chapter 2, Verse 8, the place was compared to a “pool of water” because of the riches that continually flowed into and through that busy city. Nineveh’s leaders were wealthy, but used that wealth only for themselves – just like things are today!
No one opposed them because the “horsemen… with bright sword and glittering spear” of Verse 3 were everywhere in the city itself and throughout the districts around it. In the modern world we have our armies, navies, air forces, policemen and other uniformed peacekeepers and defenders. But “peacekeepers” is often the wrong word because in all too many places the enemy becomes the one who is supposed to keep the citizenry safe. That’s the way it was in Nineveh.
What is the government of your nation like? What are YOU alike? – Deep inside where nobody sees how you really are, the Lord Himself sees you and knows you. In Nineveh they had a problem, as witnessed, understood and judged by Almighty God – As a group they cared little for human life. The Lord saw “a multitude of slain, a great number of bodies, countless corpses – they stumble over the corpses” (Verse 3). The “unfit” had no voice and were destroyed.
How does their behavior compare with today’s world? The obvious answer is to read the daily newspaper or get the latest news from any source and see the wars and murders that fill our world, just like it was in the days of Nineveh. God sees all of this and He cares for the lost, not only those who lose their lives, but also even for those who kill them. He is reaching out to us all in this time of His grace.
There are more subtle acts of warfare and murder, and God sees them, too. He sees the murder of a reputation and the death of an unborn child. Put aside for a moment preconceived notions about protecting the mother, helping the parents avoid the pain of a deformed child, or protecting the child from living a poverty-filled life. God sees that child and intends that he or she will change us into people who give instead of merely take. Parents are helped to grow-up through sacrificing their own lives for that innocent, sweet child who has done no one any harm.
The “harlotries” or “whoredoms” of Verse 4, is a reference to what might be called “spiritual adultery.” God has created us to be in relationship with Himself, and people through the centuries have responded by worshipping false gods that are not gods. If you don’t think idolatry exists today, look at the “stars” of stage, screen and other media. They are literally worshipped by fans, who shout, wave, faint and sing-along with those they adore. Look at the blind devotion to politicians and other celebrities, and the anger that follows when the "great ones" fall.
God’s response? – “’Behold, I am against you,’ says the Lord of hosts.” He intends to bring us, as He brought Nineveh, DOWN from the place of false pride and arrogance, and lift us up to salvation in Christ, changing us into people who, in humility, serve others out of love.
Have you ever been embarrassed? - REALLY embarrassed, to the point where you thought you could not go on in life! Perhaps all of us have been, at least to some extent. But it likely has not occurred to most that the Lord had a great purpose in allowing what happened. He said the astonishing words to Nineveh, “I will show the nations your nakedness… I will cast… filth upon you… make you a spectacle…” (Verses 5-6). All in that time and place knew that to expose someone’s nakedness publicly was a typical way that harlots were punished. Our trouble, our naked embarrassment has the potential to cause us to call out to the Lord.
The “No Amon” in Verse 8 is actually a reference to the ancient city of Thebes in Upper Egypt, an “impregnable” city that fell to Assyria in 663 BC. It was located on the Nile and it had many defenses. The Lord then named other places that were known to the Assyrians as places that had been defeated, including Ethiopia, Egypt, Put (Libya) – Nineveh was to be next.
The Empire of Assyria, led by the great city, Nineveh, had placed many foreign kings and other leaders into lives of abject slavery. Assyrians had “cast lots for… honorable men and (they) were bound in chains” (Verse 10). People had seen their children “dashed to pieces at the head of every street” and the survivors had been sold as slaves to the highest bidder.
The Assyrians were being told by God that they would experience the same horrible fate which they had inflicted on others. In trying to defend themselves it would be like they were “drunk” (Verse 11). They would be like “ripened figs” shaken from fig trees, falling “into the mouth of the eater” (Verse 12). Their mighty soldiers would be like “women” and the massive gates that protected them would be “wide open” for their enemies. Fire would destroy those gates.
They were advised to protect themselves, to prepare, to supply themselves with water and other supplies, to build their walls higher and thicker; but it would not be enough (Verses 14-15). They had built an effective capitalistic system of merchants and were a military might (Verses 16-17), but all of it, all of them, would soon be gone. As it continues in Verse 18, “Your shepherds (your leaders will) slumber” in the sleep of death, causing the people to be “scattered on the mountains and no one gathers them." And the Book of Nahum concludes: “Your injury has no healing, your wound is severe. All who hear news of you will clap their hands over you. For upon whom has not your wickedness passed continually?” They would be destroyed and their cruelty was to be no more. We need to read about Assyria and heed what happened to them.
There has been a “mystery” through the centuries that has been revealed to us, “which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). Yes, we in our generation have sinned like the Assyrians. But He, the Lord, will actually come into our very being and on the basis of the cross and our willingness to believe, He will save us - forever. Let’s go to Him now.
Lord, please forgive my sins. Heal me, heal my family and my nation. Save us; protect us. Come into my heart and life, Lord Jesus. I need You now, I need You always. Thank You for saving me. In Jesus Name. Amen.