the prophet Nahum, read Nahum 1:3 first. God Rules, O.K.?
Have you ever wondered why God does not intervene more quickly in events? Why do people suffer so long before relief aid and development? Why does a war decades long injure and kill so many before peace – prayed for by many for those decades – finally comes?
The answer, as the answer to so many of our questions, is found in the character of God.
The people of Judah knew their neighbour Israel had fallen to the world super power, and now Assyria was threatening them too. Various kings paid taxes to Nineveh (the major city) to acknowledge they served the oppressor. People hated the dominance of Nineveh and the Assyrians in much the same way as the recent Colonial powers (last 2 centuries) including my own people, the British are viewed today: some may say the Americans are at this moment. How people longed for Nineveh to be overthrown! Jonah was a prophet of God who was going to dance a joyful jig when it happened – but the people of Nineveh repented at his preaching and he was rather disappointed.
The prophet Nahum’s name means ‘comfort’. The message he brought was a comfort to those oppressed and exploited by the superpower.
1:1 “An oracle concerning Nineveh.”
1:8 “with an overwhelming flood He (God) will make an end of Nineveh.”
1:11 “From Nineveh one has come forth who plots evil against the Lord.”
1:14 “The Lord has given a command, Nineveh; ‘You will have no descendants to bear your name.’ ‘I (God) will destroy your images and idols … and prepare your grave.’”
2:1 “An attacker advances against you, Nineveh.”
2:8 “Nineveh is like a pool, and its water is draining away.”
3:5, 6 “I am against you declares the Lord Almighty … All who see you will say ‘Nineveh is in ruins’.”
Nineveh was on the River Tigris, in today’s Northern Iraq opposite today’s town Al Mawsil. It was originally built by Nimrod, son of Cush, in Genesis 10:11, 12. It developed over centuries, thanks to brilliant hydro-engineering – the construction of dams, canals etc. It is interesting to note these very features – which brought strength, wealth and domination – were to be used by God in the city’s judgement.
Application: When I read Romans 1:18-2:2 I see God’s judgement already on my own country England, and on much of the west. It is not ‘ready for judgement’ because of sin, as some think, but is already being judged by God in the rampant spread of sin. The sexual deviations it boasts of as ‘freedoms’ and ‘signs of mature tolerance in society’ – (reported frequently in the Khartoum Monitor incidentally, which shows what their editorial team think is important about the west!) those ‘freedoms’ are actually signs of God’s giving up on them: God lifting His restraining Holy Spirit: and God beginning to judge them.
Nahum 2:6-8 show how it was the pride in their own achievements, hydro-engineering, that was used to bring them, Nineveh and Assyria, down in flood.
Illustrations: Saddam Hussain spoke of it, my ears pricked up! Heard of no more.
Nineveh was never rebuilt. God promised it would never be. Nahum 2:10 “She is stripped … 3:7 in ruins with no comfort …” Zephaniah 2:13-15 (the other prophet against Nineveh) “God will stretch out His hand against the north and destroy Assyria leaving Nineveh utterly desolate and dry as the desert … The desert owl and the screech owl will roost in her columns. Their calls will echo through the windows, rubble will be in the doorways. This is the carefree city that lived in safety. She (the city) said to herself ‘I am, there is none beside me’. Direct mockery of God. “What a ruin she has become.”
Why didn’t it all happen sooner? Nahum chapters 2 and 3 are basically descriptions of Nineveh’s capture. I don’t propose to look much at them. The destruction happened in August 612 BC history records. God raised another super power: Babylon to judge Assyria. God works in history’s events. Nahum’s prophecy refers to the destruction of ‘Thebes’ 3:8 “situated on the Nile.” Thebes was on the site you and I know of as Luxor in Egypt. 3:8-10 describe its downfall – leaving the ruins for tourists to visit today. That all happened in 663BC. So, between 663 and coming forward to 612BC Nahum prophesied: the God who brought down Thebes with her allies Cush, Egypt, Put and Libya, will soon bring down Nineveh and Assyria as well.
Why didn’t it all happen sooner? The answer is in Nahum’s description of the character of God. (ch.1)
Illustration: When things don’t work out as you think they should, remember God is God and you are not! I love theology. I love the study of God. The more I discover about God the more I love the God of theology! You and I have so much still to learn and to appreciate about God. He is much, much greater and more, more able than we realise – no matter how much we believe! He is bigger, better, brighter. He is more able, awesome.
Nahum’s beliefs about God. (I am beginning to conclude!). In your questions, e.g. 'Why so long?' take comfort from:
1. The jealousness of God. As a husband and father jealously protects his wife and children, so God (Who is infinite in knowledge) always does what is right for His children. Dictionary – Jealous, not bad, but good. The watchful protection of the vulnerable.
2. The Vengeance of God. As a court of law is empowered to take retributive punishment on a properly convicted criminal, so God takes retributive punishment (the suitable, appropriate action, to see justice done). God is totally fair and equitable. God is beyond corruption. God cannot be bought. God is in nobody’s pocket. God is under no-one’s control but his own. God will repay every sinner for the sinner’s sin, unless that sinner knows his personal Saviour Jesus Christ.
3. The wrath of God. Since God loves all that is right and good, He hates all that is opposed to His own moral character, including His goodness, His love, His justice etc. Lobby groups reflect this today. Why do some people oppose what is judged to be wrong? They reflect God’s image. All peaceful legal means can be used in opposition. God intensely hates sin and has worked to deal with it. In Jesus, God the Son, He bore Himself the retribution He Himself exacted from sin in expressing His holy wrath. So deep is His love. God the Son plunged into sin to rescue sinners from it!
4. The self-restraint of God. “The Lord is slow to anger.” Immediate retaliation is often wrong. How many times have you regretted something you have said or done ‘in the heat of the moment’? Illustration: I’ve recently been the subject of tirades of anger, accusation and abuse. Inwardly I jumped up, grabbed, kicked, punched. Outwardly I remained silent and unmoved. Thank God!!
Do you remember what Jesus did before He drove the money-makers from the temple? He was consumed in righteous anger at their profiteering from religious practise. But John 2:15 records “Jesus made a whip out of cords” and then drove all from the temple area. While He was plaiting the cords He made sure He was not reacting simply in the flesh. Maybe He prayed for the objects of His judicial wrath. It was no uncontrolled flare-up. It was timely, self-controlled action. Even now in a just war there is great reflection of God’s image in ‘controlled’ weaponry. Unlike God though, we humans make mistakes. We don’t always get it right. God is God. Always 100%. We are not. We cause collateral damage. Innocents are hurt. Be careful.
The destruction of Nineveh was ‘the studied response of the long-suffering Majesty'. “He is slow to anger.”
5. The mega-power ability of God. “Slow to anger and great in power.” In the next verses He is compared to nature’s greats: God is like a … whirlwind, storm, clouds, the sea, the seasons, the mountains, the earth itself “trembles at His presence”, Nahum 1:5
Illustration: Sudan Power is limited in the power it can generate. We all enjoy power cuts (and give thanks to God in them: part of the ‘everything’!?). Many empty posts surround this city – do they deliver power cuts? God has no shortage of power. He can and He will do all that He pleases. Nahum’s God is greater than all of nature added together!
6. The secure memory of God. “The Lord will not leave the guilty unpunished.” Nothing escapes God’s sight.
Illustration: Many of us wear glasses; He needs none. Nothing said escapes His ears! Some use hearing aids or read signs! God needs neither. Never too busy like phone systems. All there is to know He knows always! The best computer back-up system does not compare with our Almighty ever able God.
7. The goodness of God. Such awesome power and ability in the hands of someone evil would be disastrous. But God is totally good. Illustration: Look at the world: remember absolute power is in the heart and hand of the only One who is absolutely good – through and through. Thank You, Lord!
8. The refuge God provides. A person is secure only if they are in a right relationship of trust and care with this awesome God. This is a prophecy/message of comfort to those who live as God’s friends. It is only a prophecy/message of judgement to those who are determined to live as God’s enemies.
Which one are you? God’s timing of our history is not forever. While He permits you, will you plead for His mercy? There will come a time when it is too late.
God Rules, O.K.?
Khartoum International Church 27th October 2002.