Read: Nahum 1-3
Jonah’s preaching was only a temporary fix for the city of Nineveh, soon they returned to their evil ways. Nahum primarily speaks against them in words that depict the final fall of the once great city, perhaps the jewel of the Assyrian empire. They will not continue to abuse people. The Lord speaks through his prophet with a short and pointed message.
It’s interesting how Nahum juxtaposes two thoughts:
- The Lord is a jealous and avenging God; the Lord takes vengeance and is filled with wrath. (Nahum 1:2) and
- The Lord is slow to anger but great in power; the Lord will not leave the guilty unpunished. (Nahum 1:3)
On one hand, the Lord is completely powerful, yet on the other he is slow to anger. Alyssa (one of our daughters) painted this verse for us:
The Lord is good,
a refuge in times of trouble.
He cares for those who trust in him,
It’s in our bedroom as a reminder of God’s desire for those who put their trust in him, a verse I’ve needed to read frequently over the last year or so. Even amidst great calamity, there is one to turn toward, someone who is there all the time, he is the Lord. Forever consistent and constantly calling out to his people, he wants a relationship with us.
Of course, Nahum’s message is mostly against Nineveh, so there’s a second half to the story and it seems the motivation for providing both sides of the coin throughout the text.
Jonah’s preaching at Nineveh obviously didn’t completely turn the people away from their wicked ways, but then again, neither did all the prophets that spoke against Israel.
The Lord has given a command concerning you, Nineveh:
“You will have no descendants to bear your name.
I will destroy the images and idols
that are in the temple of your gods.
I will prepare your grave,
for you are vile.”
Take heart Judah, the Lord will prevail as he said:
The Lord will restore the splendor of Jacob
like the splendor of Israel,
though destroyers have laid them waste
and have ruined their vines.
The Lord is about to take care of the lewdness of these people once and for all. Nahum’s words are rather poignant:
“I am against you,” declares the Lord Almighty.
“I will lift your skirts over your face.
I will show the nations your nakedness
and the kingdoms your shame.
For a people who took care to cover their bodies, there is great shame in exposing nakedness in such a public fashion. I don’t know how this was actually done, but the mere threat of such would be enough to cause great grief.
This is Nineveh, the pride of the Assyrians that swept away Israel into exile. Punishment is your reward:
Nothing can heal you;
your wound is fatal.
All who hear the news about you
clap their hands at your fall,
for who has not felt
your endless cruelty?
I’m having a hard time coming up with words that describe the picture I see in my mind when Nineveh falls and the people of Judah see Nahum’s words come to pass. What I see is a face that looks toward the once great city with sadness, anger, relief, bitterness and contempt all at the same time as God does what he said he would do. I see a man clap his hands once, twice, three times, not like applause, but more like a resounding crack of the whip. Tears stream from his eyes as he remembers the cruelty delivered by the people of that city.
Finally, God has done what no man could do. How I wish it had never happened, but at least it is over. Like liberating Auschwitz, no one could be happier that it was finally exposed, but the heartache that left so many lives undone is debilitating at times.
That’s the pain I see in the face of those in Judah and the pain I feel at times when the Spirit shows me the Nineveh’s of this day, people running toward themselves instead of reaching out to Jesus. People consumed with self-righteousness, lost in the lies of the great deceiver. Perhaps Nineveh exists today in lots of different ways. One thing we know for certain, the Lord will not tolerate this forever.
The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in Him.