Recap intro: Remember the introduction to Nahum – who was the prophecy against? (clue v.1) – Nineveh, the capital of that cruel and wicked empire of Assyria that oppressed God's people for years. Do you recall what the name "Nahum" means? And do you remember what I said that Assyria signified? – assertive selfish man. So this was a message of consolation for God's people who had suffered under the hand of assertive, forceful, cruel men. Assyria was so powerfu1! They couldn't be stopped, who could withstand them?! What could you do against one with that power when you were so poor, small, insignificant and weak? What can the church, God's people, do? We are small and weak, the world is so powerful and ruthless, how can we prevail against them, how can we even survive when the forces of evil are pitted against us? Look at Assyria, they had conquered the world! Look at assertive man, he always prevails! What can we do? We look at the powerful oppressor – and there's the problem – we need to have a vision of our God!! Assyria may look powerful but it looks mighty puny when we see יהוה! Are you oppressed by the assertive powerful, do you feel overwhelmed and impotent? Do those you contend with seem to strong? I mean how can we prevail with the Gospel - we are a tiny fellowship in the midst of a spiritual hostile people. We need to look to the greatness of our God! Know who He is! If you don't feel the powerful coming against you now there is coming a day when this prophecy will apply – powerful man is going to come with all their might against God's people, against Jerusalem. In the days to come we have to know our God, know His surpassing greatness. This prophecy contains a tremendous revelation of יהוה - words too awesome for mere man to expound. They are weighty words, an "oracle" or "burden" – prophecy was not easy it came as a burden on the prophets as they had to speak of dreadful events. They carried the weight of God's wrath and men's misdeeds on their shoulders. In the face of an overwhelming aggressor יהוה gives His people a revelation of who He is - we all need a vision of Him. I want to present you with a vision of God! - so let's pray.[Read Nahum 1]
What is your vision of God like? (v.1)‘
Jealous and avenging (v.2): Is your concept of God meek, mild, infinitely tolerant, or perhaps unconcerned with man’s affairs? A different picture of God’s character is portrayed here in His Word! He punishes, exacts retribution, takes revenge upon those who do evil and those who harm His people (cf. Genesis 12:3 And I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse.). He is jealous for His people and jealous for His honour. His Name is bound up with His people. Those who oppose them, oppose God - those who maltreat them are in essence doing so to יהוה Himself. This is a statement of who God is (יהוה 3x, אֵל1x). Three times it states that He is avenging. Loving? but wrathful also! He takes vengeance upon the persecutors of His people, upon His adversaries, those who oppose Him. He stores up wrath to be released upon His enemies in the day of His wrath. People think that God ignores their evil ways, that they have got away with their cruelty to His people, and their opposition to God - but in fact all they are doing is causing God’s wrath against them to accumulate until it reaches such a level that it will be released in a mighty blast! (cf. Romans 2:2-6 And we know that the judgment of God rightly falls upon those who practice such things. But do you suppose this, O man, when you pass judgment on those who practice such things and do the same yourself, that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance? But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who will render to each person according to his deeds:). The jealousy of God reflects His concern that all men recognise His glory, that they recognise Him for Who He is. It also reflects His deep concern for His people, He watches over them as a father over his children, they had been badly ill-treated by Assyria, and now God will reward those who have done it. His vengeance and wrath will come on them. The same will eventually happen to all who mistreat His people. It had been delayed on Assyria. But at last it had to come. The mills of God grind slowly, but they grind exceeding small. ‘יהוה avenges and is full of wrath.’ We like to stress God’s love and compassion. And that is very true. But here we have the other side of the picture. He also takes vengeance on those who sin, and that includes those who treat His people badly. There is coming a day when a jealous God will take vengeance – this prophecy is yet to be fulfilled.
Slow to anger (v.3): יהוה does indeed take vengeance, but it seems that He does nothing, ignores the evil oppression of the assertive, the reason is that He is slow to become angry - for this reason we think that He doesn’t get angry - but it is slowly building up and up until the time when it is released with mighty force - for He is great in power! יהוה only gets angry when there is overwhelming cause - for slowness to anger is an essential and intrinsic aspect of who He is (cf. Exodus 33:18-23; 34:5-7 Then Moses said, “I pray You, show me Your glory!” And He said, “I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you, and will proclaim the name of יהוה before you; ....... יהוה descended in the cloud and stood there with him as he called upon the name of יהוה. Then יהוה passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “יהוה, יהוה God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in loving-kindness and truth”). יהוה does not act hastily. He does not lose His temper. He is ‘slow to anger’. His wrath is revealed only when it is fully and finally deserved. But the guilt of the Assyrians (and shortly mankind in general) had built up to such an extent that that great patience of יהוה had been exhausted - His very long fuse had been used up! Now He would act, for He is ...
Great in power (v.3,5):– יהוה Himself is coming in judgement! The earth itself trembles at His rebuke! It has taken a while to arouse His anger but fierce wrath is to be poured out upon Assyria. The storm of יהוה’s wrath, the heat of His anger is released and the earth trembles - even the mighty, everlasting mountains are shaken – such is the terror and awesomeness of His judgement. The hills dissolve, the land is upheaved – that is power to be reckoned with! What is the might of assertive man before such power?! Assyria is puny in comparison with such might. Are you weak, unable to withstand the forces against you – look to the might of your God! All those dwelling in the world are in upheaval! יהוהּ is angry! Who can stand it?! It is terrifying! A dreadful time! יהוה is ALMIGHTY! Who can withstand Him when His anger is poured out in power?! – and it will be! When you are under the hand of the powerful it is good to know and consider the greatness of God's power. Assyria should have remembered how great and powerful He was by the way that He had delivered Jerusalem (Isaiah 36 - 38). But rather they had thought that they could mock at יהוהּ. He is great in power. His slowness to respond to sin is not because of weakness but because of strength. He is powerful enough to be able to delay judgement until He Himself determines that it is necessary. But when He does decide to judge, nothing will prevent Him and He is well able to rescue the weak from the claws of the powerful. Did the mountains quake when Assyria was defeated? Did the hills dissolve? Well, is this prophecy just being poetic or is it really going to happen? יהוה will come to judge assertive man and when He does the mountains will indeed quake at His presence and the whole world be upheaved! There is a fulfilment yet to come. Do you know the greatness of יהוה 's power? It is good to meditate upon it.
Punishing evil (v.3,4):- Though slow to anger יהוה most certainly will not leave unpunished. He is a God of justice and sin will be punished. His anger was now triggered, יהוה was coming in great wrath - in whirlwind and tempest. The storm clouds had gathered! His wrath was about to break forth! Who can stand when יהוה is angry?! His power is against those who do evil He will punish the evil, the assertive. יהוה is coming in judgement - He rebukes and the sea with its vast quantity of water dries up!! It ceases to be! (for the one thing the sea is, is wet!). Does man then think that he will be able to withstand יהוה’s rebuke?! If the sea ceases to be, so much more will guilty man cease to be. Similarly all the rivers will dry up. Who can withstand יהוה’s power?! for it is exceedingly great! יהוה dried the Red Sea, dried up the Jordan river in order to lead His people home – thus His power will bring to an end the restless evil of the nations. Anger is regarded as "hot" - the heat of יהוה’s anger causes all to wither and dry up, even the most fertile of regions. Imagine the heat required to evaporate the oceans! That is the heat of God’s anger that is to be released, that has long been accumulating! It will be released to punish the evil – they will not get away with their deeds any longer but will receive what they deserve. You don't get away with evil forever. God is slow to anger. This is not the norm, except as a consequence of long years of sin. He will by no means clear men unless they are worthy, that is, unless they abide by the covenant, which includes obedience and making use of the means of mercy and forgiveness. He calls them to account [Exodus 34:7who keeps loving-kindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations.”].
A God of anger (v.6): I said that יהוה is slow to anger but that doesn't mean He doesn't get angry – though that is how it seems at times and that is how some perceive Him. If יהוה is slow to anger it implies that He does get angry eventually.There is day coming when His anger will overflow - יהוה is coming in great wrath!! How does that fit with your idea of God? יהוה is coming in anger and who can stand? In fact He is a God of anger! (cf. Psalm 7:11 God judgeth the righteous, and God is angry with the wicked every day.). יהוה’s burning anger is poured out! His indignation and wrath is hot - it burns, it is like fire - consuming all in its path, destroying! Even indestructible rocks are broken up by Him. What hope is there for mere man?! Who can stand?! Who can continue to exist before such burning, all consuming wrath?! ‘Who can stand before His indignation?’ The answer is, no one, not even mighty Assyria. When God finally determines to deal with sin no one can stop Him. And one day all men will have to face Him. We know is God is love, do we know Him as a God of anger?
Good (v.7):What utter contrast! Yet completely in context. Although יהוה is full of raging, burning anger, at the very same time HE IS GOOD! Hallelujah! In the day of trouble He will prove to be a refuge, He will prove to be good. Praise His Name! (cf. Psalm 84:11,12 For יהוה God is a sun and shield; יהוה gives grace and glory; no good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly. O יהוה of armiess, how blessed is the man who trusts in You!). יהוה is good to those who trust in Him, those who are in covenant relationship with Him and seek honestly to fulfil their part in the covenant. Indeed when the day of trouble comes He is their stronghold, as Hezekiah and the people of Jerusalem had discovered when Jerusalem was besieged by Sennacherib (2 Kings 18-19). The idea here is that יהוה is essentially good – even His wrath in punishing evil is good. He only acts as He does because He is good. He acts on behalf of the weak and helpless against their oppressors. Know that whatever He does – God is GOOD!
A refuge (v.7): When His anger is burning all around, destroying everything, He is a refuge - a place of protection from the devastating, all consuming wrath. Bless His Name! On the day of judgement יהוה will be the worst terror or the most wonderful refuge, the Destroyer or Refuge - it all depends on how you are related to Him (cf. the Exodus). He knows those who trust in Him, who flee to Him for refuge, who rely wholly upon Him for their security and will preserve them. ‘He knows those who put their trust in him.’ - this means more than knowing in our sense of the word, it means that He has entered into a relationship with them, and therefore acts towards them as protector. This should be a comfort to us when we see society disintegrating around us. Even though everyone else is bad, if we remain faithful, God will notice us and reward us. (Proverbs 18:10 The name of יהוה is a strong tower; the righteous runs into it and is safe.) The day is coming when יהוה will judge the world in terrifying wrath – it is then that those who truly take refuge in Him will be revealed. They are safe even though a thousand may fall at their side, it will not come near them. That terrible day is not scary to those who take refuge in יהוה . He knows His own. Bless His Name! Do you know יהוה as your refuge?
A destroyer (v.8-10): But for those who do not flee to Him for refuge and trust in His goodness, they will be completely overwhelmed – יהוה will destroy them. Their place brought to a complete end as יהוה’s wrath is poured out and inundates the land. יהוהּ will not let up. He is a refuge to those who trust in Him, but His enemies He will pursue into darkness and misery. He will be impossible to withstand - the cleverest strategies will not save you. No matter what man may scheme up יהוה will make a complete end of it! Hallelujah! All the devises of man will come to an end! It will not take two attempts for יהוה to achieve His purpose - trouble will not arise twice because in one strike He will bring man to a complete end. It won’t be a difficult exercise at all - with one act, man and all his clever scheming will come to an end! Praise God! The end will be swift and not extend יהוה in the slightest, despite all man’s efforts. He will bring about a complete end. The oracle is of Nineveh - but the message has further implications and is a description of the judgement of the end times - the Day of יהוה. Nineveh (and assertive godless man generally) will make their plans to ensure their security but they will all be brought to a swift and sudden end by יהוה in His overflowing anger. They will be completely consumed. Like twisted, tangled thorns they have interwoven many complex clever schemes - but the tangled mess of human plans, like thorns, will be set on fire by the heat of יהוה’s anger and be completely consumed. Like drunkards their drink causes their own downfall - so too their plans will catch themselves out. Like the stubble that is left after the harvest and is of no use and so is set alight to burn it, so too there is no value in godless man and he will be completely consumed - completely withered up and useless. Men consume drink but it ends up consuming them - the Assyrians had employed violence, now violence would consume them. They did it for pleasure, for their own benefit, now it would return on their own head. This is the justice, the retribution and vengeance of the righteous God. Notice the reference to the overwhelming flood this was fulfilled by the flooding of the Khoser River and the flooding in of the enemies. Nineveh was destroyed by the Babylonians, Medes and Scythians in 612 BC who laid siege to the city for over two years. In the third year, the Khosr River, which ran through the city flooded, broke down the floodgates and part of the wall which allowed the enemy to come in, thus fulfilling the prophesy.
v.11 - In the context of Assyria, the wicked, worthless counsellor refers to the Rabshakeh who advised Jerusalem to surrender to Assyria (cf. 2 Kings 18:13-37). But in the dual fulfilment of the end time judgement of יהוה it refers to the "antichrist", the man of lawlessness, the son of perdition, who plots evil against the Lord. This is the true fulfilment - for it says "from you has gone forth" - the Rabshakeh went forth from Assyria to Judah, but "from you" also refers to the fact that the antichrist will come out of the Jews. He epitomises the evil, god-opposing, planning and scheming of man (cf. v.9). This is what characterises man - endless plotting and devising of schemes - reliance on human resources and abilities. The antichrist will be the epitome of this humanistic opposition to God. Such advice is utterly worthless and wicked. יהוה will slay him with the breath of His mouth when He comes. Hallelujah! He will not be able to stand before יהוהּ but will be brought to a complete and sudden end. All power and dominion, praise, glory and honour be to יהוהּ alone! His Kingdom is an everlasting kingdom and His dominion endures throughout all generations! Hallelujah! Man thinks: "we will conquer the world! I am and no one can stop me" - yet they will be cut off and pass away! Hallelujah! יהוה has spoken! Man in all his might, with all his scheming, will be destroyed and be no more - for יהוה will set Himself against them. Man in his pride will not endure.
Merciful (v.12): No, it is the humble, the lowly, the afflicted who will endure. God’s people have suffered, been humbled and afflicted, but now יהוה will have pity on them and will afflict them no more, He will have mercy upon them - He will raise them up. Bless His Name! (cf. 1 Peter 5:5-7; James 4:6-10). God was going to remove the oppression that Assyria had placed on His people. The one who was on top will be brought down. The one who is on bottom will be restored. This is the way God always operates. The Last will be First and the First will be Last. God humbles those who exalt themselves and exalts those who humble themselves. Assyria was God’s instrument for destroying the northern kingdom of Israel, but it went to their heads and they attributed success to their own power. Assyria was the ‘the rod of יהוה 's anger’ but whatever the situation was יהוה now promises His people that He would not use that rod to afflict them any more. Rather He would destroy Assyria’s power so that their yoke might be removed. יהוה would have mercy upon them - do you know the mercy of God?
A liberator (v.13): - Israel had suffered under the Assyrian yoke, the rod of discipline; and authority of a foreign power had been upon them. But now יהוה was going to break that bond. Their fetters that held them in slavery, subservience, to an oppressing power, were torn away. God’s people will be set free from the oppression the world places upon them! Hallelujah! "Now" - the time for deliverance had come - not some distant future promise - but "now"! (cf. 2 Corinthians 6:2 for He says, “At the acceptable time I listened to you, and on the day of salvation I helped you.” Behold, now is “the acceptable time,” behold, now is “the day of salvation”). God's people will be set free from the oppression of assertive men. Jesus came to set the captive free, to release those under bondage – this is the Spirit that was on Jesus and this is what He will do when He returns. Have you experienced the freedom that God brings – many Christians are still in bondage, they do not know their God.
Sovereign (v.14): יהוה has issued a command - and what He orders is done! His command concerns the king of Nineveh, the emperor of Assyria (the antichrist/wicked counsellor). His name will not be perpetrated - his line, his dynasty, will come to an end. No matter how "mighty" he is, he will have no posterity - what then is the point if it doesn’t last, if it doesn’t establish anything? The worst curse is to have your life to be of no account, to have no influence, no future. This great king would be assigned to the grave, be no more, with no posterity to live after him. This is יהוה’s judgement! He is contemptible - he has rejected the Living God and oppressed His people. But this is the record of human history - therefore man is also contemptible to God and will meet the very same end! Man has rejected God and instead worshipped the works of his own hands. What man has made will not endure. Assyria asserts itself but יהוה is sovereign – what He says goes! Hallelujah! Much of our trouble and strife would cease if we simply submitted and allowed God to be sovereign – He is anyway – to fight that is futile.
A saviour (v.15):The oppressor and afflicter of God’s people will be cut off and deliverance will come to them - peace, security, wholeness! This good news of peace is carried forth - messengers run from place to place spreading the good news: "Peace!" - what God’s people long for. Once more they are free to celebrate their feasts. They return to their God and celebrate with praise what He has done for them. It is shouted from the mountain tops "Your God reigns!" "Jesus is enthroned in Jerusalem, King over all the earth!" "Hallelujah! The Prince of Peace reigns! Praise the LORD! (Isaiah 52:7-10 How lovely on the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who announces peace and brings good news of happiness, who announces salvation, and says to Zion, “Your God reigns!” Listen! Your watchmen lift up their voices, they shout joyfully together; for they will see with their own eyes when יהוה restores Zion. Break forth, shout joyfully together, you waste places of Jerusalem; for יהוה has comforted His people, He has redeemed Jerusalem. יהוה has bared His holy arm in the sight of all the nations, that all the ends of the earth may see the salvation of our God. Zechariah 14:9 יהוה will be king over all the earth; in that day יהוה will be the only one, and His name the only one. Revelation 19:1-6 I heard something like a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying, “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God; because His judgments are true and righteous; for He has judged the great harlot who was corrupting the earth with her immorality, and He has avenged the blood of His bond-servants on her.” And a second time they said, “Hallelujah! Her smoke rises up forever and ever.” Then I heard something like the voice of a great multitude and like the sound of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, saying, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns.)! Hallelujah! The worthless one (antichrist cf. v.11) will never again pass through the land because he is completely cut off (again and again it says it). Hallelujah! יהוה has completely destroyed him! Praise the LORD! who works deliverance for His people. The wicked one is no more! Announce this great news! יהוה Has saved us from the evil one who oppressed us! Hallelujah!
This chapter reminds us of the greatness of God, the reality of His judgement, and yet of His mercy to those who call on Him. All is under His control and we respond or fail to respond to Him for good or ill. It reminds us that He is the protector of His people and will in the end punish those who ill-treat them, however great they may think they are. Before Him all are minute. Although times may be difficult we can be sure that in the end we will see on the mountains the feet of those who bring the good news of deliverance.