Summary: The prophet Nahum delivers a sober message of judgment to Ninevah, but in the middle of his harsh prophecy he offers hope.
Pastor Bob Leroe, Cliftondale Congregational Church, Saugus, Massachusetts
How do we get ahead in life? According to the Survivor show, we succeed by being ruthless, conniving, deceitful, following a pragmatic, win at all costs, ends-justify-the means mentality. It’s no wonder that the show has been compared to the book Lord of the Flies. In today’s world it seems like good guys finish last…or at least that’s what people want us to think. Winning from God’s point-of-view is different. In the end you may not wind up with a million dollars, but you have God’s approval. True happiness in life comes from living right, with a clear conscience. When we trust in the Lord, we experience victory and we survive not only this world, but we have a guarantee for the world to come.
The prophet Nahum delivers a sober message of judgment to Ninevah, but in the middle of his harsh prophecy he offers hope, vs 7: “The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in Him.” God knows us and wants to protect us. Naham’s name means “comfort” or “consolation”. But for those who reject God, the prophet cries, 3:7, Where can I find anyone to comfort you?” Nahum presents God as our refuge, a shelter in the time of storm.
Protection doesn’t mean a carefree life. I spent 3 days of this week in the hospital, in considerable discomfort, yet with the confidence that God was my refuge. He was watching over me. I’m an experienced, former hospital chaplain, but it has been 20 years since I’ve been an inpatient. So the experience was useful for me and I’m sure it’s helped me better appreciate what others are facing. My experience was a gift disguised. When trials come we trust in God and seek His refuge. Faith requires trust without full knowledge; it means living with uncertainty. God chooses our circumstances and trials; we choose our attitudes and reactions to them. I’m reminded of an affirmation found written on a cellar wall in Germany where Jews hid from the Nazis: “I believe in the sun even when it is not shining. I believe in love even when I am feeling it not. I believe in God even when He is silent.”
Nahum wrote 150 years after the time of Jonah. Under Jonah’s reluctant preaching the Ninevites repented and God withheld His wrath. But now it appears their repentance has “worn off” and they have sunken deeply into all kinds of sin. Ninevah was again a place of unparalleled wickedness. It was also the wealthiest city in the world, furnished with priceless objects taken as plunder from conquered nations.
God makes it plain that He is angry at Ninevah. We don’t like to think of God as being angry, yet the Bible is clear that He hates sin. You’ve likely heard about billboards along the highway with messages from God. One says, “Don’t make Me come down there.” There’s an old children’s hymn that begins, “Gentle Jesus, meek and mild.” This is perfectly true about our Lord, but it is not all the truth. Jesus wept over the city of Jerusalem and prophesied that this city which rejected Him would be destroyed. The Hebrew word used by Nahum for anger literally means “heavy or hot breathing”. Yet even when God is angry at sin, He is patient with us. Verse 2 says “The Lord takes vengeance on His adversaries, and He reserves wrath for His enemies. This can mean God stores up wrath, but it also can mean that He holds back His vengeance. He waits for us to repent; He doesn’t slam dunk us the moment we step out of line. He is “slow to anger.” He has control over His wrath. He gives us many chances to repent. However, God clearly warns us in Genesis 6:3, “My Spirit will not contend/strive with man forever.” There is a limit to God’s patience.
Many people today are spiritually blind. They don’t believe God will punish sin, and they won’t believe that He will pardon sin through the blood of His Son. In John 3 we’re told, “God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already because he has not believed in the Name of God’s one and only Son….Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him” (vss 17-18, 36).
When we place our trust in Christ, God in His grace gives us what we don’t deserve—eternal life. God in His mercy does not give us what we do deserve! By rejecting Christ, people are turning their backs on eternal life—they will receive what they deserve--justice.