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(Nahum 1) God is Good? or Vengeful? (Part 1)

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Nahum is a prophetic book promising the freedom of Israel from Assyrian rule and the total destruction of Nineveh. In the first chapter, Nahum describes God as working in two important ways. The book begins with a repeated description of God as zealous and vengeful. The author emphasizes God's power over water, land, and people (1:4-5). Nahum then questions the wisdom of rebelling against God. (1:6, 9) The entire section culminates in the prophetic promise of the total destruction of the city of Nineveh. (1:12-14) Though the main focus is God's vengeance against Nineveh; it also emphasizes that God is slow to anger (v. 3), a refuge to his people (v. 7), and Good (v. 7). As whole, Nahum defends God's justice emphasizing his goodness and patience along with his demand for vengeance.

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INTRODUCTION:
Today,
we will begin a study through the book of Nahum.
It is fitting to consider Nahum after having studied Jonah.
While Jonah describes God’s incredible mercy and forgiveness at the repentance of Nineveh.
Nahum describes God’s unrelenting vengeance against Nineveh for their idolatry, wickedness, and oppression of God’s people.
May I say,
- it is the message Jonah wanted to hear.
But God gave it almost 100 years after Jonah gave his message of mercy - the message he didn’t want to give.
A message that came after God allowed the Northern Kingdom of Israel to be conquered and his people put in slavery.
The southern Kingdom, Judah, continues to exist,
but is facing the unrelenting conquest of Assyria at it’s borders edge.
HOOK:
Now as we consider the first chapter of Nahum we should also consider:
One of the common reason’s people reject God - or at least a stated reason;
One of the common reason’s people reject God - or at least a stated reason
- is a belief that he is an unjust, mean bully.
ILLUSTRATION:
Perhaps you have experienced this when you have told people about the Gospel.
In love and compassion,
- you share the Gospel with someone who is in desperate need of Christ.
- You do this because
+ You can see in the emptiness and destruction of their lives
+ and their need for the peace that is only found in the Gospel.
So you share the good news of Jesus dying to save us and redeem us from the sin and corruptness of this world.
You can see in the emptiness and destruction of their lives.
But do they respond with thankfulness; accepting Christ
- Sometimes
- But other times,
They instead declare that God is an unjust, mean, in-compassionate, bully - who deserves no respect.
There stated proof:
an example, of their in eyes, when God ignored their suffering or didn’t answer their prayers.
an example, of their in eyes, when God ignored their suffering.
the legalism of their parents.
or the emptiness of their attempts at religion.
Or the idea of God eternally punishes unbelievers.
Or the idea of God eternally punishing unbelievers.
I draw your attention to their rejection;
because it touches on one of the basic questions of life.
What kind of God do we have?
One of the major questions of life is this-
What kind of God do we have?
And in that debate is the secondary question -
Is God good or is God vengeful?
What about Christians?
Do we struggle with understanding what kind of God we have.
The unbelieving world certainly struggles with whether God is good or vengeful
But when Christians observe suffering in this life - don’t we struggle with God’s goodness.
When God chooses to allow -
- The evangelist to die in car crash while traveling on the road.
- When our family members and children - walk away from faith in Christ.
- When our family and children - walk away from faith in Christ.
- When we can’t overcome our fears and anxiety.
- When our own sin or doubt causes us to question or forget his forgiveness.
At those times,
many Christians struggle with the question - Is God a good God?
So in our world - God’s goodness is questioned -
Or
By Unbelievers - who wonder >>>How can a vengeful God be good and just? Am I really deserving judgement and wrath.
God’s goodness is questioned -
By Believers - who wonder >>> How can God be good or just >>> if I suffer?
The Prophet Nahum,
Addresses the question -
Is God good or is God vengeful?
Nahum 1:1–14 ESV
1 An oracle concerning Nineveh. The book of the vision of Nahum of Elkosh. 2 The Lord is a jealous and avenging God; the Lord is avenging and wrathful; the Lord takes vengeance on his adversaries and keeps wrath for his enemies. 3 The Lord is slow to anger and great in power, and the Lord will by no means clear the guilty. His way is in whirlwind and storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet. 4 He rebukes the sea and makes it dry; he dries up all the rivers; Bashan and Carmel wither; the bloom of Lebanon withers. 5 The mountains quake before him; the hills melt; the earth heaves before him, the world and all who dwell in it. 6 Who can stand before his indignation? Who can endure the heat of his anger? His wrath is poured out like fire, and the rocks are broken into pieces by him. 7 The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him. 8 But with an overflowing flood he will make a complete end of the adversaries, and will pursue his enemies into darkness. 9 What do you plot against the Lord? He will make a complete end; trouble will not rise up a second time. 10 For they are like entangled thorns, like drunkards as they drink; they are consumed like stubble fully dried. 11 From you came one who plotted evil against the Lord, a worthless counselor. 12 Thus says the Lord, “Though they are at full strength and many, they will be cut down and pass away. Though I have afflicted you, I will afflict you no more. 13 And now I will break his yoke from off you and will burst your bonds apart.” 14 The Lord has given commandment about you: “No more shall your name be perpetuated; from the house of your gods I will cut off the carved image and the metal image. I will make your grave, for you are vile.”
If you would pause with me,
and contrast the book of Jonah we just finished and the book of Nahum we are beginning.
we will begin a study through the book of Nahum.
While Jonah describes God’s incredible mercy and forgiveness at the repentance of Nineveh.
While Jonah describes God’s incredible mercy and forgiveness at the repentance of Nineveh.
Nahum describes God’s unrelenting vengeance against Nineveh for their idolatry, wickedness, and oppression of God’s people.
May I say,
- it is the message Jonah wanted to hear - God’s vengeance against the Ninevites.
- But God gave it almost 100 years after Jonah gave his message of mercy - the message he didn’t want to give.
- A message that came after God allowed the Northern Kingdom of Israel to be conquered and his people put in slavery.
The southern Kingdom, Judah, continues to exist,
Questions that come about God’s working in Nineveh.
but is facing the unrelenting conquest of Assyria at it’s borders edge.
And we began in this first chapter,
Now as we consider the first chapter of Nahum we should also consider:
Notice the questions that arise out of God’s working in Nineveh.
The most obvious feature of this text is that God seeks vengeance has come against the Ninevites
The most obvious feature of this text is that God seeks vengeance against the Ninevites
To the Ninevites - Is God unjust in vengeance?
>>>The most obvious feature of this text is that God seeks vengeance against the Ninevites
To the Israelites - Is God unjust in allowing his people to suffer?
>>> They are being oppressed by the Ninevites - and why hasn’t God come to rescue them.
And those same questions arise today.
Is God unjust to punish unbelievers?
Is God unjust for allowing his people to suffer?
2600 years of time, and we wondering the same question.
From this text,
we are going to get birds eye view of what Kind of God we worship.
>>>>Is he God of goodness OR is he God of vengeance.
I think after we have considered this chapter,
we conclude that the answer to that question is - God is just.
And as we consider the first chapter Nahum,

PROPOSITION: We ought to believe God justly rules in our lives

TRANSITION: and this text gives us 3 reasons’s for why God is just.

The first reason we ought to believe God rules justly is because:

1) God is Patient.

Nahum creates a contrast of seemingly polar opposites as he describes God.
ILLUSTRATION:
It is like the jungle book calling the boy a man-cub.
Their polar opposites that seem contradictory.
But as we began to understand the polar opposites Nahum uses,
we began to understand the perfection of God.
declares God is -

a. Vengeful. (v. 2)

Nahum 1:2 ESV
2 The Lord is a jealous and avenging God; the Lord is avenging and wrathful; the Lord takes vengeance on his adversaries and keeps wrath for his enemies.
Our text declares -
God is jealous -
> he is jealous for the worship of the Ninevites.
> he is zealous to protect his people.
God is avenging.
> Our text calls God this twice, one after another.
God is wrathful.
> The original language declares he is the “Lord of Wrath”.
Which means he:
> Takes vengeance on his enemies.
> He keeps (or sustains) wrath against his enemies.
ILLUSTRATION:
Now if we were to describe a person who is like this -
> we might call him bitter, hater, or a vigilante.
> Vengeance in this sense is wrong and wicked.
How often do we find neighbors who are vengeful?
I remember one neighbor who yelled and screamed at my dad
I remember one neighbor who yelled and screamed at my dad because “our gophers” were coming on his side of the fence.
because “our gophers” were coming on his side of the fence.
In case you didn’t
I remember in the Navy being surprised by how vengeful people were. More than once I watched people passiv
I am not sure why they were our gophers, but you could see his anger and vengeance.
And Nahum understood this natural tendency to understand vengeance as wicked character quality.
So Nahum clarifies,
that though God is vengeful - he also

b. Patient. (v. 3)

Nahum 1:3 ESV
3 The Lord is slow to anger and great in power, and the Lord will by no means clear the guilty. His way is in whirlwind and storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet.
Before we jump the gun and conclude God is wicked for his vengeance.
May we first remember he is the almighty - that is great in power - who rules with slowness to anger.
In other words, he is patient.
- Patient to allow wicked people to repent
- Patient for allowing wicked people to seek mercy and forgiveness from the almighty.
Isn’t that what we saw with the book of Jonah?
God was prepared in 40 days to overthrow the great city of Nineveh.
But then every man and beast,
including the king
fasted, wore sackcloth, and called for mercy from God.
And God relented of his judgement.
So God does not sustain vengeance against his enemies for no reason.
He always shows longsuffering and patience - allowing the wicked the opportunity to repent and return to the Almighty.
When we consider that God is both vengeful and patient - we must declare he is just.
A Just God cannot as v. 3 say, leave the guilty unpunished.
ILLUSTRATION:
Who here would let their brothers murder go unpunished?
A Just God cannot as v. 3 say, leave the guilty unpunished.
NT APPLICATION:
As we consider the Gospel - God is vengeful and one day he will judge all unbelievers for their sin.
Jesus said in ,
Matthew 13:40–42 ESV
40 Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, 42 and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Matthew 13:40
Yet, God is not an in-compassionate bully who judges the world,
but , as Nahum declares,
- a judge whose is slow to anger
- and may add >>> quick to forgiveness.
There is day in which all unbelievers will face judgement,
but till then God has sent his son - that through the generations as many as would believe - would be saved.
Ephesians 1:7 ESV
7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace,
Wow,
isn’t God slow to anger.
Therefore,
God is not unjust for his vengeance.
Instead, God justly rules in our lives because he is both faithful judge who does not clear the guilty and a patient forgiving God.
The Second reason we ought to believe God rules justly is because:

2) God has the power to accomplish justice.

ILLUSTRATION:
Many of us had younger brothers and sisters.
And have you ever made your brother or sister mad,
but they were to little to do anything about it?
They say something like,
“I am going to get you”
OR
“Your going to pay for this”
But their attempts are useless.
- Maybe you run faster.
OR
- Maybe you simply put your hand on their head and hold them back.
OR
- Maybe you just sit on them.
They may have promised vengeance, but they had no power to bring vengeance.
They could never accomplish justice because they were just your little brother or sister.
Is God like that?
Sure, perhaps God is merciful, and slow to anger.
but is it really mercy if he is not powerful enough to bring vengeance against his enemies.
Being just is one thing, and being able to accomplish justice is another story.
Nahum turns from describing God’s justice as vengeful and patient,
to declaring the power of God to accomplish justice.
describes the incredible power that God possesses over creation.

a. God’s power over creation. (v. 4-5)

a. God’s power over creation. (v. 4-5)
Observe God’s:

1. Power over Water. (v. 4)

Nahum 1:4 ESV
4 He rebukes the sea and makes it dry; he dries up all the rivers; Bashan and Carmel wither; the bloom of Lebanon withers.
God’s power over water is significant for two reasons.
Notice
The high-river levels of winter time prevented army's from fighting.
((((Show PPT)))))
((((Show PPT)))))
This was true for centuries.
ILLUSTRATION:
Even during the American Revolution,
Winter time water levels prevented battles from being fought.
This is why Washington’s Army coming across the Delaware River was such a surprise.
This is why Washington’s Army coming across the Delaware River was such a surprise.
Because river levels provided natural defenses.
You either waited until Spring
OR
You carried enough boats for your whole army to cross rivers.
But God is the one who rebukes the rivers and drys them up.
ALLUSION:
Just like God parted the Red Sea in Exodus,
God can dry up the rivers as he marches against Nineveh.
He is saying rivers, cannot stop Gods coming vengeance.
It may stop every other Army,
but it is no defense against God.
Further,
2. The Bashan, Carmel, and Lebanon regions were crucial to Assyria’s power.
((((Show PPT)))))
a) The Wealth from these regions.
Kings boasted about traveling in these rich, fertile, crop producing regions.
The Ninevites were wealthy because they had conquered these regions.
More importantly
b) They were essential military supply lines.
If Assyria was going to conquer Israel,
they needed the Bashan, Carmel, and Lebanon regions to give food for the Army’s.
ILLUSTRATION:
Warfare has long been won,
not just by battle field tactics,
but by supply lines.
During WWII,
merchant ships crossing the Atlantic safely was incredibly important to winning the war.
The tank battalions in Africa won and lost battles based on water and gas.
Supply lines are essential to winning wars.
Modern warfare,
the big need is for equipment and diesel fuel.
But ancient warfare,
the big need was to keep enough water and food to satisfy 100,000 fighting men.
No Small task.
To say that these regions are going to have a drought
>>> meant that Assyria, the Ninevites, could no longer put Israel under siege.
It meant that Israel was free from Assyrian oppression
- because no Army could march across from Nineveh to Israel.
They would simply run out of food.
The fact that God controls the water,
>>both drying up rivers and causing droughts
means that God had the power to bring justice and vengeance against the Ninevites.
means that God had the power to bring justice and vengeance against the Ninevites.
That is of huge importance.
But God not only has power over water,
but even over land.

2. Power over Land. (v. 5a)

Notice the first part of v. 5.
Nahum 1:5 ESV
5 The mountains quake before him; the hills melt; the earth heaves before him, the world and all who dwell in it.
ILLUSTRATION:
You know, we live in a wonderful place here in Wyoming.
and mountains are a part of our life.
- If you look out to the East,
you have the pass through Vedavaou climbing to 9,000 feet.
- If you look to the West,
you have the Snowy Range at about 10,000 feet.
1
Out here, we get big mountains.
Israel is another place that is just infested with mountains.
((((Show PPT)))))
According to our passage,
God shakes the mountains.
ILLUSTRATION:
As we look up from Laramie to the peaks of Snowy Range - don’t they look massive.
According to this text,
God shakes mountains.
From him they quake.
That is incredible power.
What is an Assyrian Army against a God who makes the mountains shake?
It is interesting he uses this imagery,
because you have to cross mountains to Get to Israel.
The Army’s of Nineveh would have had to cross the very mountains Nahum boasted he could shake.
Further,
God melts the hills.
ILLUSTRATION:
Every now and then my wife will make a cheese dip.
And she will put in a pot a big package of velveta cheese
and melt it down.
God causes the hills to melt before him.
ILLUSTRATION:
Like an Icee Pop on a hot summer day,
the hills just evaporate before God.
Nahum describes the creator as a God who is more powerful than mountains and hills.
Which gives us an interesting dilemma - who is people compared to a God who quakes mountains and melts hills.

3. Power over people. (v. 5b)

Nahum 1:5 ESV
5 The mountains quake before him; the hills melt; the earth heaves before him, the world and all who dwell in it.
Question: (v. 6, v. 9)
1. The helplessness of the guilty. (v. 10)
2. The foolishness of the guilty. (v. 11)
C. God’s final justice produces total victory over his enemies.
1. They will be completely destroyed (v. 8)
They will be completely destroyed (v. 8)
2. They will not rise a second time. (v. 9)
3. The Greatest Army will not be afflicted again. (v. 12)
4. The total extermination of his enemies. (v. 14)
The first reason we ought to believe God rules justly is because:
3) God’s justice ultimately protects his people.
A. God is a refuge for the suffering. (v. 7)
B. God breaks the bonds of our oppressors. (v. 13)
Humans are nothing compared to the rest of creation that God sustains in his power.
5) Point 5
Which means, there is nothing that will stop the vengeance of God against the Ninevites.
ILLUSTRATION:
God is not like our little sister or brother,
who could be mad,
but could never do anything about it.
God has all the power he needs to accomplish justice.
APPLICATION:
That should be a profound warning to anyone who has rejected Christ.
There is a coming judgement day - and God has the power to execute judgement.
As we understand that,
may we look the mercy and patience of God found in the Gospel.
It also should be a profound comfort to people who are suffering and hurting.
Imagine being an Israelite and hearing of God’s vengeance and power against a nation who is attacking you.
- A nation who is known to be brutal, beheading their enemies.
- A nation who tears apart nations by sending their people across the Ancient Near East as slaves.
CONCLUSION:
CONCLUSION:
This morning,
we have exhausted our time - so I will look at finishing this passage next week.
But as we conclude,
perhaps you are sitting here wondering - what do I do with a book like this?
And I relate to that because this is a hard passage to understand,
- it’s poetry that is repetitive.
- it’s about an evil empire that most people know little about.
- and it is a hard passage to apply to our lives. (There is a huge cultural difference between the American church - And Israel who is facing an Assyrian Army).
and a hard passage to apply to our lives.
but further,
it is a hard passage to apply to our lives.
Nahum is not the most preached book in our Bible.
Even after this sermons series,
it will probably not be the passage we all share and remember at our praise and pie fellowship.
but it is part of God’s Word.
God inspired it to instruct and teach us. ()
2 Timothy 3:16–17 ESV
16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
He gave it to us for a reason.
And even as we have considered this first chapter,
hasn’t Nahum dealt with a question we all have.
We may not broadcast our doubt,
but if we were honest - doubt about God’s goodness is found throughout our society.
The question of God’s goodness vs God’s vengeance -
is found in our churches
our homes
our workplaces.
Our quite personal devotions
And Nahum has given us a great text to consider what Kind of God we have!
It is natural to question goodness and justice of God.
It is natural for the suffer to question God’s power to accomplish justice.
I will look at applying the text as a whole next week,
but for what we have covered so far - consider this.
We have observed that
God is vengeance
and
God is Patient.
When we consider the question - what is God like?
Nahum provides two great characteristics that tell who God is.
Instead of God being either vengeful or patient - he is in fact both.
God in all his perfection is just,
- condemning the wicked.
- while granting mercy and patience to the wicked.
And we all fit in that category.
You may be saved by the Gospel of Christ,
but you are only a true believer if you admit you were first a wicked sinner - condemned by God.
Today I challenge us to marvel at God’s perfection in his justice.
God’s justice is the kind of justice we wish our government could be,
and yet the reality is that God is the only source of true justice.
That ought to be a point of worship as we conclude or service today.
And
God rules Creation.
Further,
Nahum demonstrates that God rules Creation.
He has:
- power over water.
- Power over land.
- Power over People.
Further, it should comfort us that God is patient.
But God is patient.
Long suffering.
Always looking for us to turn to him
Further,
God has all the power to bring us to him.
All the power to bring justice to those are afflict us.
God has the power to meet our every need.
From protection to food.
As we gather today,
perhaps you are suffering - and you are wondering
where is God in all of this?
I guarantee the one who controls the waters, shakes the mountains, >>> and the people in it ....
Is a God who can accomplish justice in your life.
May we marvel and worship the God who is just for his people, and just in his judgments.
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