We read in the papers, we watch the evening news, and we scan the internet and discover that the electorate is very angry this election year. Let’s be perfectly honest here. They are angry because a black man has been president for 8 years and the white majority had little to be happy about in the last two elections. Justified or not, if you can envision that anger and translate it to God’s anger, and how mankind has abandoned Him not for 8 years or even 800 years, but for thousands of years; Then maybe you can get a clearer vision as to what Nahum was writing about in the old testament.
Reading the prophet Nahum’s poetic “burden” is shocking to the sensibilities, unsettling if you don’t “know” God and yet consoling to the righteous who grasp the apocalyptic message.
Nahum the “consoler,” writing at the peak of Assyrian power as God’s people were oppressed by the world power headquartered in Nineveh, paints God as few today see him. Nahum’s poem openly asserts God’s jealousy, vengeance, furor and slow, but powerful, wrath on his enemies. Nahum says God will not acquit (find guiltless) the wicked. The prophet peels back walls of ignorance to reveal a Supreme Being who is the “stronghold” of his trusting, righteous people, but an “overwhelming flood” of destruction to his enemies.
Nineveh stands in history as a figure of the world. An ancient city founded by Nimrod, the great grandson of Noah, it was strong, had stood for centuries, and was the ruling power of the day. A bloody city, full of lies, robbery, brutality, cruelty and idolatry, Nineveh struck pure terror into the hearts of its enemies through torture and atrocity.
But Nahum’s message is an artfully crafted psychological terror itself. He preaches that Nineveh will reap what it has sown in “the day of the Lord.”
He gives insight into the real “terror of the Lord.” The brutal Ninevites, who piled the corpses of their enemies in heaps, are promised a judgment of parallel but dramatically greater proportions.
At the approach of judgment the faces of Ninevites will drain of color, their hearts melt and their knees shake as they finally acknowledge the power of Almighty God.
Terror is a relative thing. To the righteous it is one natural, emotional reaction – but to the terrorist himself it is magnified by the mental images of his own past terrorism and sin.
God, through Nahum, calls Nineveh a great whore and vows that in punishment her “skirts will be lifted over her head” to expose her nakedness and her shame. History confirms the dramatic fall of Assyria and its capital, just as Nahum had predicted.
The picture Nahum paints of God coming in judgment, terrorizing the wicked, devouring his enemies like stubble, humiliating evil men like whores caught in the act, destroying in raging, jealous vengeance, is hard for most to accept.
Is the God of the Old Testament a different God than the one we read about in the New Testament? Just read the book of Revelation – after you’ve read the book of Nahum – and decide for yourself.
Our God of love is not destroyed by knowledge of his terrible anger over sin. In fact, for the righteous, this knowledge adds to our admiration of his love. You see, we read of God’s fury over sin before we read about his love in sending his Son to die for sinners. Can you imagine the degree of love that must be involved to sacrifice a Son for people involved in something you hate so bitterly?
The book of Nahum, like the book of Revelation, consoles the righteous. As those martyrs under the altar cried out, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, until you judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?”, so the faithful today wait in anticipation of justice.
The message of Nahum still rings in the words of the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:11: “Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men.” Christians know that the Lord will come like a thief in the night, taking vengeance on those who know not God and that obey not the gospel of Christ (2 Thess 1:7-9). Faithful Christians don’t fear this coming, they welcome it. Those who fear it are those who have not kept the Will of God. And even if they don’t have the knowledge to fear it, the wrath of God is coming upon them sooner than they can even imagine.
Nahum instructed the Ninevites about the terror of God when the time for change was gone. Let us pray we learn the lesson before that great and mighty Day of the Lord. Let us change when change is necessary and let us refuse to change when change is forbidden. And the only way we shall know the difference is to study God’s Word and rightly discern it (2 Tim 2:15). “He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: Of how much sorer punishment, suppose you , shall he be thought worthy, who has trodden under foot the Son of God, and has counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and has done despite unto the Spirit of grace? For we know him that has said, Vengeance belongs unto me, I will recompense, says the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb 10:28-31).