Nahum’s short prophecy is tucked away, often out of sight, in the middle of all the other minor prophets who are lumped together. The main focus of Nahum is a pronouncement of impending doom for the “great” city of Nineveh. Nahum writes, or speaks, with a captivating poetic style that makes his words come alive. But there is more to Nahum than a lyrical prophecy of doom. There is good news here. It is the good news of the just punishment of the wicked which results in lasting peace for the righteous.
Nahum’s prophecy opens with a statement which can be uncomfortable for many of us:
The LORD is a jealous and avenging God; the LORD takes vengeance and is fierce in wrath
The reality of a God who is “fierce in wrath” may not immediately fit with our concept of the love of God. But listen to Nahum in the verse which follows:
The LORD is slow to anger but great in power; the LORD will never leave the guilty unpunished.
Our God is not erratic, unpredictable or rushed in his wrath. He is gracious to give time for us to recognize our offense against Him, and time for repentance, far more than any of us deserve.
Certainly the city of Nineveh did not deserve grace from God. In Nahum’s day, the people of Nineveh were far from innocent. The city of Nineveh was wickedly opposed to God, and their cruelty was felt by everyone around them. Nahum describes Nineveh as a city of blood, always plotting wickedness and leading others into prostitution and sorcery. The last verse of Nahum reveals that there is no one who has not experienced Nineveh’s constant cruelty.
Surely such a stronghold of wickedness deserves the most severe of punishments! Nahum reassures us that the “guilty will not go unpunished.” Justice will be delivered by the good Judge. At the end of chapter one, God shouts good news to those who are suffering under oppressive evil:
Look to the mountains–the feet of the herald, who proclaims peace. Celebrate your festivals, Judah; fulfill your vows. For the wicked one will never again march through you; he will be entirely wiped out.
With these words, Israel is given the good news of the elimination of their enemy and an ensuing peace full of festivals and worship to God. Just as God’s people in the time of Israel were given this hope of peace, so are God’s people today. There are many principalities and powers active in our day who are wickedly opposed to the kingdom of God. We cry out for the end of racism, abortion, human trafficking, pornography, genocide, injustice, discrimination, and many more evils.
And they will! As Nahum assures us, all evil will be “entirely wiped out.” Imagine that. A society free from all these evils is an ideal which unites the world. We all hope for and aspire to actual world peace and it is really possible through the work of God. In fact, it is possible because of the wrath of God. This is Nahum’s good news. God’s just wrath will put a complete end to all evil and wickedness which in turn will initiate an eternal peace.
How exactly will this come about? And if all evil will be swept away in an overwhelming flood, what about the evil which we harbour inside our own hearts? Nahum has trustworthy words of encouragement for us:
The LORD is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him.
These words follow a question posed by Nahum where he asks: “Who can endure God’s fierce anger?” The answer is that apart from God, no one can. But God offers us refuge from the storm of his wrath. He promises to cover us with the robes of his own righteousness which absolutely and completely protect us from God’s elimination of evil once and for all.
And of course God does this through his son Jesus Christ and his victory over evil. Jesus is the king who establishes an everlasting kingdom free from wickedness and full of peace. Nahum would have rejoiced to behold that day. He would have jumped for joy to see his message of good news brought to fulfillment in Jesus Christ. Surely, he would have also heralded this gospel across mountain and valley, river and ocean. And so should we.
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