Tuesday, March 17, 2020

The Old Testament Book of Nahum

Why an Old Testament Book? I live in the age of grace… In short, Old Testament books tell us the history of Israel as well as display God’s attributes and characteristics. Not only can we see how and why Israel fell, but we can learn from their failures. We can see where God protected them and how he prospered them. We can also see a picture of the God we worship and have some insight into why He so deserves our worship. Ignoring the Old Testament is like ignoring the Declaration of Independence. Not knowing how we got to where we are today dooms us to repeat the same mistakes as those in the past. There are many more reasons to read Old Testament books – that’s a post for later.

I encourage you to read each chapter of Nahum for yourself and allow the Holy Spirit to guide your thoughts on this book and how it can be applied to your spiritual life as well as your carnal life.

In order to understand this book, it helps to know that Nahum was another prophet with a message of doom for the people of Nineveh. During this time, Jerusalem had “experienced near destruction” by the Assyrians. Judah was oppressed by Assyria and, more specifically, by the people of Nineveh. All we know about the prophet Nahum is from the book bearing his name. Scholars have cross-referenced the text with other religious texts and historical accounts of the time period to say that he likely ministered during the time of Hezekiah around or after 663 B.C. Nahum predicts the 612 B.C. destruction of Nineveh.

Chapter 1

Among many things we can glean from this chapter, Nahum provides a comparison and contrast of God’s character. In verse 2, Nahum refers to God as being jealous, revengeth (vengeful), and furious. While we may see those things as negative characteristics in human life, these indicate God’s zeal for righteousness in not only His people, but in how others deal with His people. The last part of verse 2 says, “he reserveth wrath for his enemies.” We can take comfort in the knowledge that the Lord our God fights battles for us and seeks justice for us. Although we may not see that justice take place immediately, it does come. It may be days, weeks, or even years, but the Lord executes his judgment on those who wrong us.

I think this is a good time to note that while we desire justice or vindication, the Bible also tells us that we are not to revel in the despair of others. So, we may not personally get to see how God brings about justice against someone who has wronged his children possibly for the purpose of keeping us from falling into sin ourselves. It is a sad thing to see another experience some kind of calamity or trial even if we realize it is a result of their own wrongful actions. We can be glad that God exacts justice, but we should also be sad that they reached the point of having to reap what they have sown.

In contrast, verse 3 says the Lord is slow to anger. I don’t know about you, but I have angered the Lord by putting my own desires ahead of His. I am blessed that I serve a God who is slow to anger. If he weren’t slow to anger, I would probably not be here now. In the same verse, Nahum said God is great in power. The whirlwind, or tornado as we call it, and the storm obey him. How great is it that our Lord controls the storms? We often look at storms and fear swells inside us. Kids panic when the sky gets dark and wind blows hard. Some of us adults do as well. But, we need not fear. Yes, we need to go inside and seek a safe place. I don’t think the Lord gave us brains to be irresponsible. Even the animals, which the Bible tells us we have dominion over, seek shelter in the storm. If you ever drive by a pasture during a storm, you will see the animals hunkered down together. The Lord designed them that way. So, yes, we should do the right thing in seeking safety, but we shouldn’t let fear fill us when we have a God so great that he has “his way” with the storms.

On to verse 4, these places listed were once fertile, beautiful sites to behold. Because of the sins of the people, Israel as well as their neighbors, God poured out judgement on the land. Our Lord can hold back the water from any place. Likewise, he can pour out the water on any place and in amounts of his own desire. Sometimes, we forget just how powerful our Creator is. He made everything. Creation obeys him, yet we still try to do things our own way instead of depending on him. We look at things as being “ours.” The Lord can take every thing we have back at any time.

Furthermore, Nahum continues to describe the power of the Lord in verses 5 and 6. “Who can stand before his indignation?” Verse 7 answers that. “The Lord is good, a strong-hold in the day of trouble; and he knoweth them that trust in him.” Hope. We have hope in the Lord. I know I have tried to put my trust in self many times. That rarely worked out. When it did, it was a time of great stress for me and those around me. When I put my trust in God, I don’t feel stressed. I have peace and hope knowing that he is in control and his will is perfect. The children of Judah were in a bad place spiritually and physically in the book of Nahum. They didn’t have to be. Their lack of trust and wayward hearts brought them to that place. I have to remind myself, that putting my trust in God is better than any scheme I can think up. The Lord is my strong-hold and he knows when I am trusting him to handle things in my life.

I encourage you, if you don’t already have your Bible open to this passage, open it now and read the passage. Nahum predicted the utter destruction of Nineveh with great imagery. In verse 9, Nahum predicted that Nineveh would be destroyed and not rise up a second time. They had been spared once when Jonah preached to them, but it didn’t take long for them to return to their brutal ways again. This time, the Lord would completely destroy them. As predicted, Nineveh was destroyed by the Babylonians in 612 B.C. The city is still in ruins today. The Ninevites afflicted God’s chosen people and he executed fierce judgement on them.

We know from other books, both Old and New Testament, that the children of Israel had been warned that they would have God’s hand of protection as long as they followed his commandments. Even though God executed judgement against Nineveh, it was also judgment against Israel. God’s mercy is shown in the latter part of this chapter. He promises that “the wicked shall no more pass through thee.” Although the Lord had punished the children of Israel, he also loved them. Many times, we think of God as being a God of love. And, he is a God of love; however, he is also a wrathful God. He is just. He is righteous. He expects his people to follow his statutes. Sin separates us from God’s love.
I don’t know how anybody else was raised, but I was raised to show respect and follow the rules that my elders set. I remember my grandfather being the kindest, gentlest man I ever knew. I knew he loved his children and grandchildren. I also know he executed judgement swiftly when someone he loved broke the rules. We can’t expect our heavenly father to look the other way while we break the rules any more than we can expect a father or grandfather to look the other way while we break the rules. God loves, but God also chastises us and punishes us when it is necessary.

On a different note, we can see a future bigger than Judah’s liberation from Assyria in the first chapter of Nahum. Verse 11 says there is one that is a wicked counselor. Satan imagines evil against the Lord. He does not want any person to come to know Jesus as Savior. When one does come to know Jesus as Savior, Satan works to mar their testimony. In verse 12, there is the promise that evil will be cut down. There is coming a day when all shall stand before God. He has promised that Satan and those who have rejected God will be cast into the eternal fire. Verse 13 says God will break the yoke and the bonds. He sent Jesus Christ to die on the cross to break the bonds of our sins. Jesus is the only door to heaven. He did live a sinless life and he did die on that cross taking on our sin debt. Jesus rose from the dead and is a mediator between us and the Father.