Nahum 3 has the prophet continuing to paint the picture of destruction for Nineveh and Assyria. Nahum takes a tour of the city and sees the busy place before God’s judgment comes. “Woe to the bloody city….The crack of the whip, and rumble of the wheel, galloping horse and bounding chariot”! He sees it is a busy city which is busy with violence, deception, and idolatry. And God’s not going to sit idly by and watch this sinful behavior go unnoticed. He will take action.
Nineveh wasn’t merely living in sin within their own world. They were impacting many other nations and people as well. Nineveh “betrays nations with her whorings, and peoples with her charms”. It was bad enough that Nineveh indulged in this sin for herself; it was worse that she led the nations within her influence into violence, deception, and idolatry. For this, the judgment of God was coming. How we live matters. How we impact others is partially on our shoulders. We have to be responsible and accountable in how we live.
Nineveh hears the words none of us should ever hopefully experience; “I am against you”. Nahum repeats this phrase, first said in the last chapter. In that mention, the emphasis was on the military defeat of Nineveh. Now, the emphasis is on the humbling of city. God is going to bring Nineveh to her knees. Nineveh walked in pride, and as a result the Lord was against them. God does not tolerate pride, which is all about thinking more highly of ourselves than we ought and ultimately putting ourselves in God’s place of authority in my life. How much better to be humble and receive the grace of God!
“All who hear the news about you clap their hands over you”. Because Nineveh was so known – even renowned – for its violence and cruelty, no wonder Nahum sees the nations applauding when the city is judged and destroyed. God will be victorious. We can count on that. He will not be mocked. We can take comfort in knowing that the judgments of the Lord are faithful and true. We don’t need to envy those who do evil or attempt to take judgment against them ourselves. God is more than able to take care of them and us, each according to His promise.
Nahum 2 has the prophet explaining the battle for Ninevah. In his vision the prophet sees a mighty army coming against the city of Nineveh. “For the Lord is restoring the majesty of Jacob as the majesty of Israel, for plunderers have plundered them and ruined their branches”. God’s restoration for His people is connected to judgment and destruction on their enemies. He is now dealing with one of their enemies and working to restore His people as He passes judgment on the Ninevites.
The battle for Nineveh is fierce and bloody, and though the defense is prepared they will be conquered. The prophet not only sees the battle, he sees the outcome – Nineveh will fall before this mighty army, and she will be humbled and led away captive – “she is carried off”. Nahum declares the troops defending Nineveh are like a pool of water that drains away to no use. They are useless in defending the city. “Nineveh is like a pool whose waters run away. “Halt! Halt!” they cry, but none turns back”.
“Where is the lions’ den, the feeding place of the young lions, where the lion and lioness went, where his cubs were, with none to disturb”? The lion was one of the national emblems of the Assyrian Empire, and they crushed and plundered other nations like lions destroying prey. Now Nahum asks, “Where is the the lions den?” God has brought them low, a nation once so mighty. When it comes to restoration, God will do whatever it takes to make that possible. He defeats nations and overcomes all things to bring people to Himself. He’ll do the same for you and me, if we’ll repent and believe.
God’s victory is overwhelming. “The voice of your messengers shall no longer be heard”. Nineveh enjoyed its status as a power-center of the world, and relished the fact that the voice of her messengers commanded attention in palaces all over the world. They really were a big deal, and they knew it. That would come to an end under the judgment of God. There is no nation or person that can stand against God’s judgment. Sin is a big deal in God’s eyes. He will deal with it, either as a nation, or in our individual lives. We need to get right with Him. Are you ready?
Nahum 3 paints a picture of what happens when a city is full of “lies and plunder” and it isn’t a very pretty picture. Nahum tells us:
– “no end to the prey
– The crack of the whip
– rumble of the wheel
– galloping horse
– bounding chariot
– Horsemen charging
– flashing sword
– glittering spear
– hosts of slain
– heaps of corpses
– dead bodies without end
– they stumble over the bodies”
Did you follow the progression here? It goes from bad to very bad to very, very bad. Why? Because the people were selling out their lives to idols and their souls to whores of “graceful and deadly charms”. They were trading their life of walking with God for the pleasures of this world. They turned their back on God and chased their own selfish desires. It is a bad choice. God isn’t into letting others get into his place in our lives. He isn’t going to let us push Him aside and chase our bad decisions.
So what is God’s response? “Behold, I am against you, declares the Lord of hosts, and will lift up your skirts over your face; and I will make nations look at your nakedness and kingdoms at your shame”. This is a bad place to be – with God against us. Pretty vivid response – pulling our skirt up over our face. That is exposing us as we are – sinners who can’t seem to get things right with the Creator. But God gets a bit more direct. “I will throw filth at you and treat you with contempt and make you a spectacle”.
We really need to get our act together when it comes to how we walk with God. He has some rules and expectations. He isn’t amused when we choose to do things our way rather than His. God requires us to walk with Him and be obedient. It isn’t optional. This isn’t a democracy. He is in charge and will hold us accountable for our actions. He loves us, but with a love that holds us accountable to know our place and to keep Him in His place – as the Creator of the Universe, the Great and Mighty King. There is no other acceptable way. Is God on the throne of your life? If not, look out!
Nahum 2 starts with a warning – get ready because the enemy has come. “The scatterer has come against you”. What relevant information for us to consider. We have a very real enemy. And while he can attack us head on and cause disaster, he often causes us to be scattered and lose track of what matters in life. He can cause chaos in our patch to the point that we lose sight of the important and get caught up in the urgent. In fact, that’s likely his standard tactic. Mess up our patch so we are focused on trying to regain control and balance, all the while keeping us off course in our walk with God and relationships with each other.
Nahum tells us how to do battle:
– “Man the ramparts
– Watch the road
– Dress for battle
– Collect all your strength”
I love how he prepares us. We need to recognize the attack but that requires us to have people in the watchtower looking for the enemy. We have to man the stations and be on guard. Too often we are oblivious to the spiritual warfare happening all around us, often even in our own life. Let’s be clear about one thing. Our enemy has three missions for us – to kill, steal and destroy. No more, no less, but very focused on our demise. So being alert and aware of that mission is important.
But Nahum goes on to tell us that beyond manning the ramparts and watching, we also need to dress for battle. Paul wrote strong words about how to get dressed in Ephesians 6. We need to put on the armor of God every day, and be dressed like a warrior. The battle is happening all around us all the time. We shouldn’t have the armor hanging in the closet until we are under attack. By then it might be too late to get it on. The power of God’s armor is when we wake up and get prepared each day so we can do battle as the enemy comes. Then we are reminded to collect our strength, which is really God’s strength available to and through us. Our only chance of victory is when we use the power of God in our lives to take on the enemy. God wins the battle when we show up in His power.
Nahum makes that clear as he wraps up this chapter. The truth is that we know how the war ends. Jesus won it on the Cross when he overcame death and arose from the grave. But that doesn’t mean we all don’t face battles every day because although we have access to the keys to the Kingdom through Christ, we often don’t make that choice. We often don’t put on God’s armor and claim the victory of the Cross in our own battle with the enemy. And thus we struggle and fall and face destruction and can lose the battle for our soul. It never has to end that way. God has made a way. But we have to let God be God and walk in His power and do battle His way. Are you living in that power?
Nahum 1 contains a description of the God we serve. We often think of God as just sitting quietly on His throne in heaven passing blessing down on those who are good. That isn’t exactly the picture Nahum paints for us. Check out these words that describe God:
– Will by no means clear the guilty
– Rebukes the sea
– Dries up the river”
Does that sound like a passive God who is just going about His day blessing everyone in sight?
God has another side fortunately, and Nahum captures that as well. He tells us “the Lord is slow to anger and great in power….the Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble….he knows those who take refuge in Him”. Ah, that is the God I want to hear about. The one who is loving and kind and protective. And God is like that too. He loves us. He is our refuge and strength. He is there ready to respond when we are in trouble. So what is the difference – when do we see the jealous and wrathful God vs. the loving and protective God?
In a word, it comes down to relationship. We determine how God interacts with us to a large degree based on how we interact with Him. God’s desire is for us to be obedient and follow His direction. Nahum wraps the chapter encouraging the people to “keep your feasts….fulfill your vows”. God wants us to walk with Him. That is a choice, not an accident, and we make it moment by moment as we live life. How do you respond when the enemy whispers in your ear that you don’t have to do the right thing but can get away with the wrong one? How do you respond when someone mistreats you, when an unkind word is said, when your spouse irritates you and you have to decide whether to love or react? How we live matters in our relationship with each other, but also with God.
He loves us always. He stands ready to help us in a day of trouble. That isn’t the question. But we are the wildcard in the relationship we have with God. We are the ones who push the buttons of wrath and rebuke and jealousy by how we choose to live every day. If we keep God in His rightful place as Lord of our life sitting on the throne of our hearts, we get to experience the God in the second paragraph that Nahum describes. If we choose evil and sin, and let self be the controlling force in what happens, we will experience the list of traits Nahum starts his prophecy with. It doesn’t take long for me to decide that I prefer walking with God in a way I can experience His love and blessing. But it is our choice. It is up to us to walk in relationship with Him. If you don’t feel close to God, guess who moved?