Nahum 1:2 - The Lord is jealous and avenging . . . and maintains His wrath on His enemies. Nahum 1:3 - The Lord is slow to anger and great in power and will not leave the guilty unpunished. Nahum 1:7 - The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble and He knows those who trust in Him. Read the book of Nahum.
What do you know about Nahum? Who, what, huh? Let's hope that our response is not quite that ignorant. Unfortunately, however, many growing Christians don't know much about Nahum. They probably know that he was one of the Minor Prophets who wrote a short book contained in the Old Testament. And if they are on a read-straight-through-the-Bible-in-a-year program, they might know that the book of Nahum comes up on the schedule for one day every September. But other than these incidentals, most Christians know very little about Nahum. What is this little Old Testament book all about, anyway? The book of Nahum is a prophecy about the destruction of the city of Nineveh, the capital of the ancient pagan Assyrian empire. It was written in poetic form by the Hebrew prophet, Nahum, in the 7th century B.C., a number of years prior to the fall of the great city. In 612 B.C. the Medes and the Babylonians conquered the city in direct fulfillment of Nahum's prophecy. In fact, the historical details on how the flooding of the Tigris River would be the means of Nineveh's end are literally predicted in Nahum 1:8 and 2:6-7. God sent heavy rains which caused the mighty Tigris to overflow its banks and undermine the city walls, thus allowing the attacking soldiers access to the well-fortified Assyrian capital. Chapters 2 and 3 of Nahum are a most vivid description of the ensuing battle within the city in which the Babylonian forces overwhelmed the Assyrian defenders. You can almost sense the pulse on the fighting as you read this inspired Hebrew poetry. See the chariots with their flashing steel axle knives darting through the streets, cutting down the opposition (2:3-4). Smell the smoke of the burning city as the once proud Assyrian lion (a much used symbol in Nineveh) goes up in flames (2:11-13 and 3:13-15). Listen to the cracking whip and thundering hooves of the charging horses (3:2). Hear the swishing swords and the thudding spears as the body count of dead Assyrian soldiers mounts (3:3). Nineveh the great is desolate, disgraced and devastated (2:10; 3:5-7). She is fallen to rise no more (1:14; 3:19). Today the unearthed ruins of this ancient city stand as a silent witness to the accuracy of the Word of the Lord through His prophet Nahum. This inspired prophecy adds support to the Bible's claim to be a supernatural Book. But is this all we are to glean from Nahum? Is the book of Nahum just an accurate and vivid prediction of the fall of Nineveh in the year 612 B.C.? No, there is much more food for the soul in this portion of Scripture. Throughout Nahum's prophecy we learn the reasons for the coming destruction of Nineveh. (See 1:11, 14; 2:2, 12; 3:1, 4, 19.) As we come to understand why God brought down the Assyrian empire, we become more aware of the righteous character of God revealed in these chapters. This, by the way, is one response we should have upon reading any of the Old Testament prophets. As we read the constant denunciation of sin in these prophetic books, it may seem tedious and even redundant at times. However, as a result, God's righteousness is revealed in no uncertain terms. In fact, it is particularly in the writings of the Old Testament prophets that we sense the mind and heart of God calling out for holiness. In the first chapter of Nahum, three distinct aspects of God's righteous character are revealed. In verse 2 we are told that the Lord is jealous and avenging. Now that doesn't sound too holy, does it? But the idea here is not sinful envy or retaliation. It is rather the idea of bringing justice to bear on the situation. For example, suppose a terrorist broke into a peaceful home, beat up the children, assaulted the wife and ran off with everything of value. It is only right and proper for the returning husband to exhibit a righteous "jealousy" and desire for justice. God looked on the nation of Judah as His own wife and children. The Assyrians had terrorized them. In 722 B.C., the northern kingdom of Israel had fallen into the hands of the treacherous Assyrians. These cruel pagans not only robbed the country of Israel of its wealth but also subjected many of the people to various kinds of torture. And then in 701 B.C., the Assyrians under King Sennacherib besieged Jerusalem, the capital of the southern kingdom of Judah. (Nahum 1:11 probably refers to King Sennacherib.) Wall reliefs found by the archaeologists in Sennacherib's palace near Nineveh document his advance on Jerusalem. The fall of the outlying city of Lachish is vividly portrayed, including the torture of Jewish captives by impaling and flaying. But Jerusalem never fell to Sennacherib. God directly intervened and miraculously delivered the city from the Assyrians. (Read the whole account in 2 Kings 18-19 or 2 Chronicles 32 or Isaiah 36-37.) God had permitted the Assyrians to afflict His people as a means of discipline. (See Isaiah 10:5.) But now in Nahum's day the time had come for the Assyrians to experience the wrath of a jealous and avenging God. Nineveh would be no more! Such "good news" called for a celebration (1:15)! What a blessing to know that we are the people of a jealous and avenging God. His protective love will allow no rival to get away with attacks on us. He may permit us to experience all kinds of antagonism from ungodly people now, but let us remember that our God is jealous for us. We do not have to retaliate and take out own revenge because we can be sure that our avenging God will ultimately bring about complete justice on our own behalf. (See Romans 12:19 and 2 Thessalonians 1:6.) Whether or not He chooses to deliver us now from those who afflict us, we can be confident that we will eventually celebrate His righteous ways. Verse 3 assures us that regardless of how unjust things appear now, the guilty will not go unpunished. God has the power to deal with the wicked immediately, but He does not act impulsively. He is long-suffering and slow to anger. What a wonderful aspect of God's righteous character. God's long-suffering was certainly demonstrated in His dealings with Nineveh. More that a hundred years before Nahum's prophecy of doom, the prophet Jonah was sent to the wicked city of Nineveh with God's message of judgment. As a result of Jonah's preaching, Nineveh repented of her evil ways and there was a great revival throughout the city. God graciously withheld His judgment from Nineveh at that time, but the revival was short-lived. It wasn't long before the Assyrians spurned God's mercy and returned to their wickedness. In His long-suffering, the Lord delayed his judgment for another 150 years, but the guilty city would not go unpunished. The time of Nineveh's judgment was not far off when Nahum wrote his prophecy. Nineveh must not think that she could escape God's judgment. Just as God could disrupt the normal course of nature (1:4-5), so He would disrupt the proud and complacent Nineveh. While Nahum's message was primarily directed against Nineveh, and therefore was a word of encouragement for Judah, there was a word of warning here for Judah as well. They were not perfect. Many of the same sins for which Assyria was guilty were also being committed within Judah. Although God was slow to anger, eventually His wrath would have to come down upon Judah as well for their increasing sins. Judah did not listen and learn the lessons of Nahum's prophecy. Thus in 586 B.C., their glorious Temple was destroyed and they were taken into captivity by Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians. In this Scripture there is encouragement and warning for the growing Christian today. Encouragement, because we can be sure that the guilty will get what they rightly deserve. It may seem at times that God doesn't know or care when the wicked appear to be getting away with their unethical and immoral ways. However, this Scripture assures us that although God is long-suffering, He is certain in His punishment of the unrighteous. There is also a warning here for the growing Christian. Let's not think that we can get away with sin! Although the eternal penalty for our sins has been paid for by Christ our Savior, the consequences of sin cannot be avoided. God is "slow to anger," but our heavenly Father must discipline us when we depart from His standards. (See 1 Corinthians 11:31-32 and Hebrews 12:5-11.) If we cheat on exams or income tax returns, we will surely suffer the consequences. If we lie to teachers or bosses, we should expect our heavenly Father to punish us--for our own good. If we rob employers of time or tools or even "trivial" items, not only do we give Christianity a black eye, but in due time we will "reap what we have sown" (Galatians 6:7). If we get involved in sexual sin, eventually we will be judged, even though the affair may be all pleasure now. (See Hebrews 11:25.) The Lord is slow in His anger but sure in His punishment of sin. In verse 7 we find another aspect of God's righteous character. He is good to His people and defends them from the enemy. After reading about God's anger and vengeance, we might tend to think that the Lord is not good, but that is distorted reasoning. The Lord is good! His holy wrath is concentrated against the enemies of righteousness. For His own people, He is a strong and safe refuge from the enemy. In Old Testament times, when an enemy approached, the people would run for the stronghold--either a walled city or a fortress. When King Sennacherib attacked Jerusalem, the people of Jerusalem turned to the Lord and found Him to be a Stronghold far greater than the walls of Jerusalem. The schemes of the Assyrians against the city of God met with failure then, and the Assyrian Empire itself would be brought to a complete end in 612 B.C. (1:9). Unfortunately, Judah did not continue to turn to the Lord as a Stronghold in the day of trouble. As a result, they too eventually suffered defeat at the hands of the Babylonians. The Lord is still a Fortress for all who trust in Him. We can turn to Him in the day of trouble and know for sure that He will care for us. He knows us personally and will not fail those who take refuge in Him. (See Hebrews 13:5.) Have you found the Lord to be your Stronghold in the day of trouble? There is no trouble in your life that is too great or too insignificant for the Lord. He wants to "comfort us in all our troubles" (2 Corinthians 1:4). All our problems are opportunities for us to trust the Lord and find that He's our goodand strong and personal Defender.