Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Jul 8 2019 - Nahum 1:1-6; 3:1-19 – Judgment on Nineveh

Jonah had been sent by the Lord as a missionary to Nineveh and, as a result of his preaching, the city had been spared from destruction. The prophet Nahum is also concerned with Nineveh, but his message of God's judgment is not tempered by God's grace and forgiveness. It suggests that after a period of repentance and turning to seek mercy from the God of Israel, Nineveh had returned to pursue the aggressive building of its Assyrian empire. The Assyrians had been responsible for the destruction of the northern kingdom of Israel.

The prophecy of Nahum is a grim warning that God is sovereign over all of human history. The aggressive brutality of human empires that trample over those who get in their way does not go unnoticed by God. God is about to bring about the destruction of Nineveh by the greater power of Babylon and to bring the Assyrian empire to an end. This will be the fate of all human empires.

The southern kingdom of Judah no doubt rejoiced as Nahum proclaimed that Nineveh would be destroyed. But they needed also to hear this as a word of warning; if they do not turn to God in repentance, they also will experience God's judgment at the hands of the Babylonians.

Nahum begins with the assertion that, "The Lord is a jealous and avenging God" (Nahum 1:2). We rarely think of jealousy as a virtue, but the Bible frequently speaks of the Lord as a jealous God (see, for instance, Exodus 20:5). God's "jealousy" is his zeal to defend his own glory. Rebellion against him provokes his anger and wrath. Nahum tells us that God is not quickly provoked to anger but he will not leave the guilty unpunished (1:3).

This picture of God as wrathful against human sin and rebellion is not an "Old Testament" view of God. Nahum 1:1-6 illustrates the assertion of the writer of the letter to the Hebrews that, "It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God" (Hebrews 10:31).

Nahum chapter three describes the behaviour of Nineveh that has provoked God's wrath and judgment. The Assyrians were noted for their cruelty and bloodshed (3:1). They had reduced other nations to heaps of corpses (3:4), and had exhibited a continual lust to exert their dominance over all other powers around them. They had enslaved other nations, imposing their own false religion on those they had defeated. God declares that he is against them and will destroy them, bringing their cruelty to an end. The day of reckoning has arrived for them.

Similar language is used in the Book of Revelation of the judgment which God will bring on the evil and cruel empires of this world. The Book of Revelation was written against the cruelties of the Roman Empire and the plight of Christians suffering at the hands of Roman power. The power of Rome is also characterised as a prostitute (see Revelation 17:5), and the destruction of her evil empire is greeted with rejoicing by all who have suffered at her hands (Revelation 18:20). It is with a sense of sober thanksgiving that we recognise that evil will, in the end, be brought to an end and that the kingdom of this world shall at last become the kingdom of our God and of the Lamb.

But we read such scriptures with a keen awareness of the burning holiness of our God and that we also are unfit to stand in his presence; "Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath" (Ephesians 2:3). Our only plea is that Christ has died for us; he has paid the price for our sin.

Father God, it is with humble and thankful hearts that we recognise that it is Jesus alone who has rescued us from the wrath to come. We recognise that your wrath against our sin fell on him and that because he paid the price for us, we go free. Help us by your Spirit to hate every last trace of sin that still dwells in us and to pursue that holiness without which no-one will see you. Help us also to bear testimony to others of your holy character and also your amazing grace in the Lord Jesus.

Peter Misselbrook