01 January 6, 2012, Nahum 1-3 A Message Of Gods Judgment
Nahum: A Message Of God’s Judgment Nahum 1-3 January 6, 2013 First Baptist Church Jackson, Mississippi, USA Reference material: LifeWay Christian Resources of the SBC JANUARY BIBLE STUDY Greatest Week in History: Luke’s Account of the Passion Week January 7-9, 9:15 – 11:30 am CLC Dining Room Teacher: Dr. Ivan Parke
Why this lesson is important: Many believers see God only in terms of their personal relationship with Him; however, God is also concerned about nations. Therefore, just as He judges sinful individuals, God will judge wicked nations. This lesson serves as a warning that disobedience to God at any level will not prevail but will be exposed and severely punished by a holy and righteous God.
God had chosen Jonah about 150 years prior to Nahum’s time to deliver a message of "repent or perish" to the Assyrians in Nineveh. Surprisingly, they did!
But now, around 650 B.C., instead of asking for repentance, God chose Nahum to take His frightening message of impending doom to Nineveh, their capital city. Nahum ranks among the great communicators of the Old Testament and is considered the greatest poet of the Old Testament. Scholars hail his work as a literary masterpiece that compares with the great literary works of all nations and of all times. God always raises up individuals with the gifts He needs to accomplish His purposes.
When He needed an incomparable poet with consummate skill to communicate His coming judgment against Nineveh and Assyria, He selected and empowered Nahum. Nahum’s words still ring today with the sure knowledge that those who oppose God will face His judgment. Chapter 1 – We see that God hates evil and that Nineveh would experience His wrath. Chapter 2 – Nahum’s prophesies speak of impending siege and plundering (as fulfilled by the Babylonians in the not too distant future). Chapter 3 – The plundering would be a punishment for their sin and could not be averted.
What can Christians learn from the book of Nahum? Great, seemingly invincible nations fall: Hittites, Assyrians, Babylonians, Greeks, Romans, Ottoman Empire, British Empire, Nazi Germany, and the Soviet Union, just to name a few. We live in times of political and economic uncertainty and the USA could easily fall just as other superpowers have. Christians must remain faithful to God regardless of the political conditions under which we live (Luke 20:19-26; Rom. 13:1-7; 1 Pet. 2:13-17).The Sign of JonahMatthew 12:38-4138 “Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to Him, “Teacher, we want to see asign from You.”39 But He answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation demands a sign, but nosign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For as Jonah was inthe belly of the huge fish three days and three nights, so the Son of Man will be in theheart of the earth three days and three nights. 41 The men of Nineveh will stand up atthe judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at Jonah’sproclamation; and look—something greater than Jonah is here!” Matthew 12:38-41 Unlike Nineveh, Christians can avert final punishment for their sins and be forgiven, although they may suffer lasting, negative consequences from their sins (e. g., social diseases, unwanted pregnancy, lost jobs, weakened influence).
This Lesson Is About: How God judged Assyria and its capital city, Nineveh, because of their wickedness, rebellion, and acts of injustice. When Chuck Missler was asked, “Why hasn’t God judged the United States?” His reply was, “Because God has honored His covenant with Abraham”.Genesis 12:33 “I will bless those who bless you, I will curse those who treat you with contempt, and all the peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” Genesis 12:3 God has not judged the USA yet because until now, we have blessed Israel and His hand of protection has been on us. This lesson teaches that God judges any nation that departs from His way.How This Lesson Can Impact Our Lives: This lesson will help us: 1) understand God’s judgment and 2) pursue His righteousness. The book of Nahum is considered as one of the “minor prophets” In the Hebrew Bible the “minor prophet” books were written on one scroll and called the “Book of the Twelve.” The Minor Prophets make up the last twelve books of the Old Testament: ◦ Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi.
The 12 books apparently acquired the nickname “Minor Prophets” because the written amount of their prophecies were smaller than that of Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel. In reality, there is nothing “minor” about their prophecies and teaching. They may be called the Minor Prophets, but their messages are indeed “major.” These twelve prophets lived through difficult and foreboding times and often spoke of God’s judgment and wrath. They called for justice and declared God’s mercy. They also spoke of the love of God and of hope. Individuals living in the Northern Kingdom of Israel and in the Southern Kingdom of Judah wrote the books. Some were penned during and after the exile. God inspired all of them for our growth and benefit today. Next Sunday we will study Habakkuk. On January 20th we will study Obadiah and On January 27th we will cover Haggai. These short prophetic books tackle major themes that are especially relevant for the church and the world today. Such is the case with the Book of Nahum. Nahum contains a message of judgment against Assyria and its capital city, Nineveh. Assyria was a superpower (like us) that was not on God’s path.Focal Passages: God Tempers Judgment with Mercy Nahum 1:7-9,12-13 God Judges Evil Nahum 2:8-13 God Judges Sinful Leaders Nahum 3:18-19
Nahum 1:7-9,12-137 “The Lord is good, a stronghold in a day of distress; He cares for those who take refuge in Him.8 But He will completely destroy Nineveh with an overwhelming flood, and He will chase His enemies into darkness.9 Whatever you plot against the Lord, He will bring it to complete destruction; oppression will not rise up a second time.12 This is what the Lord says: Though they are strong and numerous, they will still be mowed down, and he will pass away. Though I have afflicted you, I will afflict you no longer.13 For I will now break off his yoke from you and tear off your shackles.” Nahum 1:7-9,12-13Focal Passages: God Tempers Judgment with Mercy Nahum 1:7-9,12-13 God Judges Evil Nahum 2:8-13 God Judges Sinful Leaders Nahum 3:18-19Nahum 2:8-138 “Nineveh has been like a pool of water from her first days, but they are fleeing. “Stop! Stop!” they cry, but no one turns back.9 Plunder the silver! Plunder the gold!” There is no end to the treasure, an abundance of every precious thing.10 Desolation, decimation, devastation! Hearts melt, knees tremble, loins shake, every face grows pale!11 Where is the lions’ lair, or the feeding ground of the young lions, where the lion and lioness prowled,
and the lion’s cub, with nothing to frighten them away?12 The lion mauled whatever its cubs needed and strangled prey for its lionesses. It filled up its dens with the kill, and its lairs with mauled prey.13 Beware, I am against you. This is the declaration of the Lord of Hosts. I will make your chariots go up in smoke and the sword will devour your young lions. I will cut off your prey from the earth, and the sound of your messengers will never be heard again.” Nahum 2:8-13Focal Passages: God Tempers Judgment with Mercy Nahum 1:7-9,12-13 God Judges Evil Nahum 2:8-13 God Judges Sinful Leaders Nahum 3:18-19Nahum 3:18-1918 King of Assyria, your shepherds slumber; your officers sleep. Your people are scattered across the mountains with no one to gather them together.19 There is no remedy for your injury; your wound is severe. All who hear the news about you will clap their hands because of you, for who has not experienced your constant cruelty?” Nahum 3:18-19 About 150 years before Nahum, God called Jonah to preach against Nineveh because the city’s wickedness had “confronted” Him (Jonah 1:1-2; see 3:2-4).
Even in Jonah’s day, the Assyrians were notorious for their brutality and cruelty. Miraculously, the Ninevites received Jonah’s message and responded with sackcloth, ashes, and fasting (Jonah 3:4-9). God saw that the people of Nineveh “had turned from their evil ways”, so He “relented” and did not send judgment against them (v. 10). Unfortunately, the Ninevites soon returned to their idols, cruel treatment of other nations, and wicked ways. After Jonah, Assyria rose to prominence as a superpower in ancient Mesopotamia under the powerful leadership of Tiglath-Pileser III (745-727 B.C.). After this notorious king, the great Neo-Assyrian Empire lasted for another 115 years until the Babylonians and the Medes destroyed the city of Nineveh in 612 B.C. Sometime between 630 B.C. and 626 B.C., God gave Nahum a vision of the utter destruction of the city and the empire associated with it. The message of Nahum was that the Lord was “slow to anger,” but He would “not leave the guilty unpunished” (Nahum 1:3). God revealed to Nahum what would happen to Nineveh; because of their sin, He would revisit His judgment against that great city. The historical period of Nahum was evil both outside and inside of Judah. Not only did the Assyrians worship a multitude of gods, the people of Judah did not remain faithful to the Lord either.
What Nahum did was to offer hope to Judah and Jerusalem that the oppression would end and God would comfort His people. The enemy, symbolized by the city of Nineveh, would be utterly and totally destroyed. It was!Seven Lessons from the Seventh Century What can we learn from the seventh century B.C.? First, God’s people are subjected to the powers of this world and must find ways to be loyal to the Lord within the context of subservience to others. Second, the Lord is sovereign over all nations and kings. He uses them for His purposes.Proverbs 21:11 “A king’s heart is like streams of water in the Lord’s hand: He directs it wherever He chooses.”Proverbs 21:1
Third, no place on earth is inviolable. If Jerusalem could fall, every city is vulnerable. Fourth, divine protection issues out of a faithful relationship with God. Fifth, God utilizes prophets to confront His people’s sins and to warn them of judgment.
Sixth, God’s word cannot be destroyed or stopped. His word is truth and the truth shall come to pass. Seventh, we should never give up on the Lord, even when those around us seemingly get ahead by sinning. The Lord will make things right in His time and in His way.Focal Passage: God Tempers Judgment with Mercy Nahum 1:7-9,12-13Nahum 1:77 “The Lord is good, a stronghold in a day of distress; He cares for those who take refuge in Him.” Nahum 1:7
In our focal passage Nahum reminds us that the Lord is good. This word good refers to more than behavior; it points to God’s willingness to be faithful to the covenant He made with Israel at Sinai (Ex. 19) and later with David. God would be a stronghold in a day of distress. He would protect those who take refuge in Him. We need to recognize that God is good beyond our comprehension. We should rejoice and be thankful that God is faithful to the new covenant we have with Jesus Christ (Heb. 9:15).Hebrews 9:1515 “Therefore, Jesus is the Mediator of the new covenant”. Hebrews 9:15Nahum 1:88 But He will completely destroy Nineveh with an overwhelming flood, and He will chase His enemies into darkness.” Nahum 1:8 While the Lord is a good and merciful God Who loves His people, we need to remember that He will take vengeance on and judge wicked people and nations.
Nahum points this out clearly; God would completely destroy Nineveh. God’s goodness does not prevent Him from judging wickedness. Because of His holiness, He will hold wicked people and nations accountable. People and nations need to repent to avoid God’s judgment. God will come like an overwhelming flood, and He will chase His enemies into darkness. Darkness symbolizes God’s judgment against sin.Nahum 1:99 “Whatever you plot against the Lord, He will bring it to complete destruction; oppression will not rise up a second time.” Nahum 1:9 Again, the point is that God will not allow the wicked to go unpunished. Moreover, God is justified in judging those who conspire against Him. He will bring their plans to complete destruction. Trouble will not arise a second time.Nahum 1:12-1312 “This is what the Lord says: Though they are strong and numerous, they will still be mowed down, and he will pass away. Though I have afflicted you, I will afflict you no longer.13 For I will now break off his yoke from you and tear off your shackles.” Nahum 1:12-13 The messenger formula, This is what the Lord says (v. 12) signals the importance of the prophetic message. Irrespective of their strength and number, God’s enemies will be mowed down. Believers should find hope in knowing God’s power and absolute sovereignty ensure He can protect and deliver us, in spite of the wickedness in our culture. The bottom line is clear. God will not let the wicked go unpunished. But the good news is that He tempers His judgment with mercy. However, let us never presume upon the mercy of God; we need to understand that obedience in our relationship with God is not optional. While this relationship is based on grace and faith in Christ, we come to God on His terms.
In order to have a healthy, growing relationship with God, we must be obedient to His Word day by day. Aren’t you glad God tempers His judgment with mercy?James 2:1313 For judgment is without mercy to the one who hasn’t shown mercy. Mercy triumphsover judgment. James 2:13 Identify an example you have experienced or observed of God’s bringing forth judgment and mercy at the same time. It is easy to become discouraged when evil appears to prosper around us, but be assured that God will hold wicked people and nations accountable in His time. Nations should not be deceived, thinking their sins will go unpunished. It is easy to see injustices happening all around us, and easy to become discouraged when we do. Ask Him to give you boldness to live courageously in the face of evil, and compassion to warn evildoers of their danger.Focal Passage: God Judges Sinful Leaders Nahum 3:18-19Nahum 3:18-1918 King of Assyria, your shepherds slumber; your officers sleep. Your people are scattered across the mountains with no one to gather them together.19 There is no remedy for your injury; your wound is severe. All who hear the news about you
will clap their hands because of you, for who has not experienced your constant cruelty?” Nahum 3:18-19 The Book of Nahum ends with a dirge, a sad requiem for Assyria’s leaders. For most of the book, Nahum reverberates with the confusion and chaos of a battle. But here at the end, the battle is over and the slow cadence of the funeral song emerges. The effect drives home the utter demise of Assyria. All that is left is the graveside eulogy. Nahum addressed the king in a taunt-like fashion: “King of Assyria, your shepherds slumber; your officers sleep.” Earlier Nahum compared the leaders of Assyria to lions (2:11) and locusts (3:17); but here he referred to the officers and leaders as shepherds. A number of individuals are identified in the Old Testament as shepherds, and the Assyrian kings liked to think of themselves as shepherds as well. But the Assyrian leaders were now asleep and slumbering, both of which are metaphors for physical death. Without shepherds, the king’s people were scattered across the mountains like sheep gone astray. The irony is that there is no one to gather them together again. The great Assyrian Empire had crumbled and fallen apart. The people who once deported nations from their homelands and placed them in unknown foreign countries were now refugees in lands not their own. Assyria’s battle wound was fatal. There was no remedy for the nation’s injury; it was too severe. There is no possibility of relief. The wound was severe; it was incurable. There would be no recovery. Nineveh would cease to exist. Notice the unusual and unexpected response to the funeral dirge metaphor. Two images come to mind in contrast. 1) Pulling over to the side of the road to allow a funeral motorcade to drive by unimpeded on its way to the cemetery, to sit quietly and respectfully while the hearse drives by.
2) Most everyone remembers watching on television the funeral procession of President John F. Kennedy. 2) Do you remember the mournful drums beating slowly as the caisson carrying the casket slowly passed by. Everyone was quiet, subdued, and respectful. Even the TV newscasters were speaking in hushed whispers. The whole world mourned the passing of America’s leader. But that was not the scene depicted by Nahum for the funeral of the leaders of Assyria. On the contrary, Nahum predicted the interment would give rise to an altogether different affair. Those who would hear the news of the destruction and end of the Assyrian Empire would not mourn or bow in a moment of silence. Instead, they would clap their hands; they would celebrate! The verb translated clap can convey the sense of rejoicing. Here the meaning is closer to mockery. The news that Nineveh had fallen would be cause for gloating over the misfortune of the city.
But lest we would chastise those who would respond this way, Nahum reminds us of the evil nature of the Assyrian Empire. The last sentence of verse 19 is an indictment of the wicked nature of Assyria and her leaders. By presenting the point as a question, Nahum drives home the continuous sinfulness of Nineveh’s leaders, “Who has not experienced your constant cruelty?” The phrase constant cruelty can also be translated unceasing evil. There was no one in the ancient Near East who had not experienced the cruelty of the Assyrian leaders. No one. And what’s more, the cruel treatments were not isolated occurrences; the evil was continuous. How cruel and evil were the Assyrian leaders? Nahum called Nineveh a city of blood (3:1), and the Ninevites seemed to revel in this title. Assyrian kings enjoyed depicting their handiwork on reliefs in their palaces. Prisoners were shown impaled with their feet and hands cut off. In one gruesome scene three stakes were erected with eight male heads skewered on each like human totem poles. In another scene, two prisoners are tied down while other Assyrians skin them alive. The skins were later staked up on the besieged city’s walls for everyone to see. Kings sometimes would hang the heads of their enemies on trees in their gardens like Japanese lanterns. The point is that the sinful leaders of Assyria had neglected their responsibilities and led the nation into wickedness. It is true that the people of Assyria were not totally guiltless, but their leaders bore particular responsibility. Leaders are to lead a nation. If the leaders are evil and without accountability, then it stands to reason that the nation will struggle. Other nations would then rejoice over God’s judgment of Assyria. For Judah, it meant God had delivered His people. What say ye? “Believers should pray for all nations and participate in the governmental process, contending for righteousness in the public square.”Biblical Truths: Regardless of our circumstances, we can trust in God’s sovereignty. Believers should hold their leaders accountable and call them to govern according to God’s ethical and moral truth. Believers need to realize that disobedience to God at any level will not prevail but will be exposed and severely punished by a holy and righteous God. In what ways do you, or will you, pursue God’s righteousness?