Nahum has been called the sequel to Jonah. The subject matter of both short prophetic books involves the Assyrian empire and its great capital, Nineveh. Jonah highlighted the mercy of God towards a cruel people as they repented of their sins and cried out to God for mercy. Nahum, however, emphasizes the righteous judgment that God was bringing upon this mighty empire.
Some 100 years after the great repentance in Jonah’s day (and it was a great work of God), the next generations apparently had gone back to the old, evil Assyrian ways. They had taken the northern kingdom of Israel into captivity and had inflicted harm to some cities of Judah as well. They had turned away from honoring the one true and living God.
For God’s people in Judah, it was surely a time of great concern. One can imagine that individuals in Judah probably had fled a city that Assyria had attacked or had loved ones who had been killed in various Assyrian advances. Surely, the great dread that was in the back of everyone’s mind was, “How long will it be before Assyria does to us what it did to Israel?”
The prophet Nahum brought a message of gloom towards Assyria, but comfort towards Judah. “God is jealous, and the LORD revengeth…” (Nahum 1:2) is how the message starts. God highly prizes and values His own name, His holy character and person. His honor is offended and repulsed by the evils that human beings commit against God and against each other. The failure to worship God, attributing worth and value to other persons or things is a great insult to the Holy One. God also deeply loves His people. He will not hold back forever while His children are wronged and harmed. Therefore, judgment would certainly come on Assyria.
Nahum graphically describes how “the bloody city” (Nahum 3:1) of Nineveh would decisively be dealt with. Twice we read these words, “Behold, I am against thee, saith the LORD of hosts” (Nahum 2:13; 3:5). God even invites His enemies to prepare to defend themselves, though it would be all for naught. From a merely human perspective, Nineveh did have remarkable defenses. It is reported that the huge city was surrounded with two sets of walls. The inner wall was said to be about 100 feet tall and so wide that three chariots could ride abreast across. The city was situated on the east side of the Tigris River and had a moat that was 150 feet wide and 60 feet deep. But, how effective would all these defenses be against the coalition of nations that besieged Nineveh? “All thy strong holds shall be like fig trees with the firstripe figs: if they be shaken, they shall even fall into the mouth of the eater” (Nahum 3:12). You see, when God is against an individual or a nation, there is no remedy, no escape! For all humanity there is coming a final day of judgment that will be inevitable, final and decisive. All who are outside of Christ will be dealt with according to their sins.
This sobering reality highlights the precious and comforting good news that Nahum brings. My favorite verse of the book is Nahum 1:7, “The LORD is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble; and He knoweth them that trust in Him.” The deep and wide moat, the double walls and all the rest of Nineveh’s fortifications would fail them. But, the Lord is the never-failing strong hold of His people. It was a frightening time to live as a believer in Judah. But, God’s word brought strength, comfort and hope to His people through the prophet Nahum. The word ‘trust’ in this passage gives the idea of ‘to take refuge.’ God knows, approves of, looks with affection on those who flee to Him for refuge.
Our greatest need for refuge is deliverance from our own sins and the penalty of those sins. We all have the same root of sin that Assyria had, even if we may not have committed all the specific sins they committed. We have all wronged God and wronged others. We have all ignored, minimized or outright rejected God. We all have hurt others in order to obtain some comfort or pleasure for ourselves. We all deserve the judgment of God. But, in His great love and mercy, God has provided a refuge for sinners: Jesus Christ. On the Cross, Christ absorbed the wrath of the Almighty God for the sins of others. Though He had no sin, He suffered the awful penalty that others deserved. In the greatest display of love, He took the death sentence of His enemies, so that they would enjoy eternal life. This great God declares to sinners that there is a refuge. There is a place of protection. All those, who by God’s grace, confess their sins and run to Christ for refuge will find forgiveness, joy, hope, and security forever.
We have just described the greatest need of deliverance, but the child of God who lives long on this earth knows there are many other troubles that come in our pilgrimage. Many Christians today face the storm of persecution. Some face a variety of other troubles: life-threatening disease; turmoil and conflict in family relationships; job loss; deep disappoint and heartaches; the daily, practical struggle with one’s own sins, and many more. Believer, Nahum 1:7 is for you in whatever trouble, large or small, you face.
The Lord is good. Remember that. He never makes mistakes. He never makes a miscalculation or an error in judgment. He always does right. He is a strong hold in the day of trouble. He is your ultimate source of strength in trouble. Psalm 46:1 says He is a very present help in such times. Even if you can’t feel that strength, it is there. So, look to Him for strength and don’t neglect the ways He commonly gives it: prayer, the support of the church, and meditation on His word. Finally, He loves those who take refuge in Him. What an appropriate description of faith: taking refuge in God. Faith admits one’s weakness and need. Faith is not embarrassed by this reality. Faith knows where the only true refuge is found. Take refuge in the love of the Father, in the grace of Christ and in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 13:14). Take refuge in truth of God’s word, His faithful promises and trustworthy character.
Yes, Nahum brings comfort to the people of God. While God said to His enemies, “Behold, I am against you”, He says to His people, “If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31b).