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Nahum Survey

12/08/2019

Nahum Survey

Nahum Chapters 1-3

The name Nahum means Consolation.  God was comforting his people, by reminding them that the enemies who would chasten them would one day themselves be chastened, and that their fate was doom laden indeed. His home was Elkosh, but some think that Capernaum (lit., “village of Nahum”) may have been his birthplace. Time-wise Nahum was contemporary with Jeremiah, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah. Around 640BC. The northern kingdom of Israel was already in Assyrian captivity. Assyria itself was still a world power, though in a state of decline Nahum prophecies the coming fall of Nineveh. A fall it would suffer at the hands of the Babylonians.  The book of Nahum can easily be divided into three sections – each found in one of the chapters.

 

1 A Description of God’s Righteous Character and the Extent of his Wrath. Chapter 1.

When we think of the character, the nature of God, modern Christians want to think about his love.  Yet his love is demonstrated in the context of his wrath. One Scottish preacher intoned. ‘Without God’s wrath his mercy is irrelevant.’  Paul concurs. He wrote: Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off.  (Ro 11:22).  So, consider this element of the attributes of God:-

  • The certainty of God’s wrath, even though He is slow to anger – Nahum 1:1-3. One of the things that perplexes us about the wrath of God, is why does his justice tarry?  We are taught in the Bible that God’s time and his timing is not like ours, – for with him, a thousand years is but as a day! 2 Peter 3:8. And he is VERY gracious and patient with us. 2 Peter 3:9. But judgement will come, and when it does it will bring in its wake a just and right punishment for wickedness.
  • The severity of God’s wrath- Nah 1:3b-6. Isn’t it interesting that all these disasters and judgements are manifest as natural wastage, climactic upheavals – yet Nahum tells us that they are God’s judgement upon sin?  How slow we are to think that God doesn’t use nature to chasten us.  There were none of these things in Eden – there will be none of these things in heaven – the reason they exist on earth at all is because of Adam’s sin!  Paul reminds us of the effects of the fall on creation, and of the expectation of its remedy:- Romans 8:21-23  
  • The limitation of God’s wrath.  In the terrible anger of God upon sin, there are, nevertheless, those who can take comfort from his sheltering presence.  Nahum 1:7   God knows those who are trusting in him, who truly are His people, and he protects them, even in the day of judgement.  In Nahum 1:12-13, Judah will be kept safe while Nineveh her enemy is destroyed.
  • The searchlight of God’s wrath.  God pursues his enemies.  His pursuit of justice is active – not passive.  We seen this also in Zephaniah, where God knows exactly where the wicked sinners are, where they work and where they trade and where they do their shopping – and he pursues them.  Nahum 1:8  
  • The totality of God’s wrath.  Nahum describes the utter devastation that will befall the wicked city in Nahum 1:13-14,   Despite all her plots and machinations, and her wicked ways,Nineveh will be rendered totally powerless before the Lord.

In verse 15, Nahum quotes Isaiah, reminding us of the importance of Gospel proclamation.  Isaiah 52:7  

 

2 A Declaration of the Planned and Purposed Destruction of Rebellious People.  Chapter 2

In chapter two, the military defeat and complete destruction of the city of Nineveh is decreed by God through the prophet.   There was a purpose to Assyria’s destruction,  Nahum 2:2.  

  • Fair warning is given.  v1.  He who scatters has come up before your face. Man the fort! Watch the road! Strengthen your flanks! Fortify your power mightily.   Nineveh, and its people the Assyrians were known for having a strategy in their evil plan for world domination.  They would deport whole people-groups.  It’s what happened to Israel (North) in 722BC.  But now the tables are turned, and Assyria would be ‘scattered’ – just as they have done to others.
  • The preparations are made.   The invading army has been in training.  2:3 -4  They have put on their war-paint!  Colouring their bodies and shields in red is to make them seem like they are already drenched in blood, and they are coming for more!  Flaming torches attached to their chariots, burning the houses etc on each side of them. They are a huge number, – even in the broad streets there’s hardly room for them to walk. They have done their training, – they are athletes.
  • The tactics are devised.  v6  Nineveh sat right beside the river Tigris, and that river supplied the city with water. The Babylonians simply conquered the surrounding area, besieging Nineveh, and when the city gates were closed, they diverted the water across the plain and into the city, the palace lost control, and chaos ensued.  Nineveh’s asset, its water source, became its destruction.  v8  
  • The destruction is complete. v7  The inhabitants flee and the city is plundered by the invading army. V8-10.

It’s a remarkable prophecy, vivid and accurate.  

 

3 The Just Reasons for an Awful Destruction.  

Now, why would a God of love wreck so much death and destruction upon human beings? That’s been the question from early church days. This passage tells us a lot about Nineveh, its sinfulness and about why the city suffered the terrible judgement of God.  So note:-

  • Nineveh’s utter wickedness.  A violent society.  3:1  An immoral society.  An idolatrous society.  Why would God NOT punish such wickedness?  Why would the God who is holy and just overlook such an evil society?
  • Nineveh’s refusal to heed the gospel and repent.  God gave space for repentance. We’ve already seen that in Nahum 1:1-3.  The spiritual history of Nineveh is bracketed by two prophetic interventions. 
    • Jonah.  Jonah is the prophet most often associated with Nineveh. When he eventually enters the city, and preaches, and the city’s population including the king repent and trust the Lord. 
    • Nahum. Over a century later and the revival in Nineveh had proved to be short lived.  Like so many revivals the fervour has died. There’s always a tendency to backsliding – and 100 years after the revival the citizens were back to their old ways. 
  • Nineveh’s Shame Exposed.  3:5-6.  It is pointless to measure ourselves by the standards of other people.  Nineveh is no safer than No-Amon (Thebes in Egypt, situated by the Nile – a mighty and well fortified city) – 3:8-9. Furthermore, the fall and shame of Nineveh is a cause of rejoicing among all those who witness it. 3:7  

The message of Nahum: God always gives time and opportunity to repent of sin and trust Him, but when sinners refuse to turn from their wicked ways, judgement is sure, and certain, and complete.    © BobMcEvoy August 2019

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