Notes from Nahum
Thank you all for coming to Bible study yesterday! We'll try and have more chairs available for next time!
Speaking of "next time", because of a baby being born into the family any day now, we initially proposed cancelling Bible studies for the next several weeks or so. However, meeting with other believers is such an important part of the Christian walk, that we will likely host a study or two during the next few weeks at our home. This won't be open to the public of course, but if we know you we'd love to have you over! We'll keep you posted.
Below are my notes from the book of Nahum. It might not win any awards for "most popular book in the Bible" but it is in the canon and therefore is worthy of our attention and study.
So we’re in Nahum today, after Jonah, after Micah. And Nahum is largely poetry, it’s kind of like a Psalm of God’s judgment against Assyria. We’ll look at a few specific verses, but please read through this on your own and see the incredible illustrations of God’s wrath against what was the superpower of its day.
It’s one thing to foretell the destruction of a city or nation that’s already on its way out, but Nahum’s prophecy came at a time when Assyria was considered unstoppable.
We really don’t know when this book was written but most scholars conclude it was written roughly 140 years after Jonah sometime in the 600’s B.C.
· Sequel to Jonah
o Nineveh, the capital of Assyria, was spared when Jonah brought God’s warning to them, but sometime within a couple generations they were back to their old ways.
o That’s a great way to remember the book, so when you’re buying groceries and the cashier asks what Nahum is about, you can say it’s the sequel to Jonah.
· Like I said, the book is largely judgment against Nineveh/Assyria, which is really bad news from Nineveh’s perspective but really great news for Judah!
o Remember in about 722 B.C. Assyria conquered Israel, the Northern Kingdom, and so they had been a threat and danger for many years to Israel and Judah.
· This is why Old Testament study is so important and relevant for us today because God protected and avenged His people back then, but today in the church age He is the same God for us as individuals.
2 Thessalonians says “it is a righteous thing with God to recompense affliction to them that afflict you.”
So just like here in Nahum we see the wrath of God against the enemy of His people, when we are personally attacked by someone we should probably pity them.
So in this first chapter we’re going to see three very important aspects of God’s character that we’ll look at:
o His jealousy, vengeance, and anger.
1 The burden of Nineveh. The book of the vision of Nahum the Elkoshite.
So the first verse tells us right away what the subject is. The burden of Nineveh. And Nahum tells us he saw this in a vision where some other prophets are spoken to, this is what God revealed to Nahum.
2 God is jealous, and the Lord revengeth; the Lord revengeth, and is furious; the Lord will take vengeance on his adversaries, and he reserveth wrath for his enemies.
God is jealous, and jealous can mean “love on fire.” God has a claim to our undivided allegiance. He made us; we are His creation, His workmanship. Exodus 34:14 says “For thou shalt worship no other god: for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.”
So what does that mean for us?
Matthew 6:33 is a verse we should all memorize. “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”
First above money, above success, above TV, whatever! We should really question anything that gets in the way of our relationship with Jesus Christ.
Remember the woman at the well? Jesus was walking through Samaria towards Galilee, a long journey, and spoke with her a while in the middle of the day. The disciples came to Him worried about whether he had eaten anything and Jesus said “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work.” How crazy is that? It’s like Jesus is saying, “Obeying the will of God is more important than food and water.” And it’s true!
It’s better to starve to death as a believer than to die in a mansion without Jesus.
So God is a jealous God. He wants your full attention; He wants your entire heart.
If you’ve still got Nahum open, that first verse again is, “God is jealous, and the Lord revengeth; the Lord revengeth, and is furious; the Lord will take vengeance on his adversaries, and he reserves wrath for his enemies.”
How do you think God feels about His churches being shut down?
(Maybe it’s good that some are shut down. People that are sincere about their faith are finding ways to gather no matter what: I’ve just recently talked to a couple people that are holding home Bible studies. But just because in some way God can use church shutdowns for good, doesn’t mean He approves of the tyrants shutting churches down.)
Let’s turn to Romans 12 and read with me verses 19-21. This is one of those passages where, and I don’t know about you guys, but I can confess I’m not quite there. This is a tough one, but it says what it says. Vengeance belongs to God alone, and He will take care of it better than we could.
Let’s turn past a few books and go to 2 Thessalonians 1:4-10. Again, vengeance belongs to the Lord. He’ll take care of it.
3 The Lord is slow to anger, and great in power, and will not at all acquit the wicked: the Lord hath his way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet.
The Lord is slow to anger. People are impatient.
Why is the Lord slow to anger?
He is merciful! He is loving. 2 Peter 3:9 says, “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” Just because God isn’t showing His wrath on OUR timeline doesn’t mean He won’t show it.
4 He rebuketh the sea, and maketh it dry, and drieth up all the rivers: Bashan languisheth, and Carmel, and the flower of Lebanon languisheth.
5 The mountains quake at him, and the hills melt, and the earth is burned at his presence, yea, the world, and all that dwell therein.
6 Who can stand before his indignation? and who can abide in the fierceness of his anger? his fury is poured out like fire, and the rocks are thrown down by him.
More poetic description of the power of God which we should never forget. Hebrews 12:29 says “For our God is a consuming fire.” Hebrews 10:30-31 says, “For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”
Because of our sin, we are separated from God, and that’s the bad news. We need to know the bad news to properly appreciate the good news which is that because of the finished work of Jesus Christ—His death and resurrection—we can be reconciled with God. Let’s read 2nd Corinthians 5:17-20.
We are reconciled with God, because of God’s great love. And in verse 20 there that we just read, it says we are ambassadors for Christ. The dictionary definition of ambassador is, “an accredited diplomat sent by a country as its official representative to a foreign country.” Guess what, that’s us! We are children of the Kingdom of God, and He is sending us to this lost world as representatives of Christ!
Ok, let’s now turn back to Romans 5. Let’s read verses 1-2. “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God,” but it is absolutely beautiful and wonderful that we have peace through faith with our same God.
Let’s go back to verse 6 of Nahum 1.
So we also see God’s anger very clearly here and His anger isn’t like human anger that can be selfish or out of control. God’s anger is perfect and holy.
For us, it’s ok to be angry. Jesus was angry when He flipped the tables and took the time to build the whip to drive the merchants out of His temple. Ephesians 4:26 says “Be angry and sin not” then it comes with some cautions: Do not let the sun go down on your wrath. Don’t dwell in your anger in other words. Don’t live in anger. Then in verse 31 it cautions against anger and wrath turning into malice and desiring harm to others.
Warren Wiersbe who just died last year, said, “If we can stand by and do nothing while innocent, helpless people are mistreated and exploited, then something is wrong with us.”
Thomas Fuller from the 17th century said, “Anger is one of the sinews of the soul. He who lacks it has a maimed mind.”
But again, we have to keep it under control. Like Paul says, “All things are lawful for me but I will not be brought under the power of any.”
7 The Lord is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble; and he knoweth them that trust in him.
This is beautiful. In the midst of prophecy against Assyria and judgment of their sin, we are told that the Lord is good. I read, “It may be asked, how can His justice be good? I answer, if he did not maintain the rights of justice he could not be “good.” For God to be good, as He is, He is the standard of “good”, He cannot overlook wickedness. Just as any judge today in our regular courts could not be a good judge if he simply lets a criminal off the hook.
Why was Jesus on the cross?
(Judgment against sin had to occur for God to be JUST. Because, as 1 John 4:10 tell us, Jesus is the propitiation for our sins. The gospel is that we are guilty before God our judge but Jesus Christ stepped in to pay our debt, therefore the penalty is paid and we are free!)
Look at the next part of Nahum 1:7 – “a strong hold in the day of trouble; and He knows them that trust in Him.” Psalm 31:3 says, “For thou art my rock and my fortress; therefore for thy name's sake lead me, and guide me.” Psalm 1:6 says, “For the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.”
You want God to know your name. Let’s go to Luke 10 and read verses 17-20. We can always rejoice in that. If God never answered another prayer of ours for the rest of our lives we could forever rejoice and be grateful that our names are written in the Book of Life. Amen?
Next verse in Nahum, verse 8:
8 But with an overrunning flood he will make an utter end of the place thereof, and darkness shall pursue his enemies.
This is similar to verse 6 of the next chapter that says, “The gates of the rivers shall be opened, and the palace shall be dissolved.” And this is actually really cool because there are secular historians that tell us the city of Nineveh was attacked by the Babylonians three times, and on the third assault Assyria successfully defended themselves so they had a big feast and party (drunken orgy). That night the river near their city, part of the Tigris River, flooded over and took out part of the walls of that city.
So the Bible tells us many years ahead of time the specific way that Nineveh would come to ruin, and Nahum 2 gives us more detail about the fall of this city.
In Jonah, Nineveh is always called the “Great City” and remember that Jonah tells us “Nineveh was an exceeding great city of three days' journey.” But here in Nahum, the total destruction of this city is just matter-of-fact. Judgment of Assyria wasn’t some kind of “challenge” for God.
Chapter 2 describes the fall of Nineveh, and let’s go to chapter 3.
1 Woe to the bloody city! it is all full of lies and robbery; the prey departeth not;
This describes the internal condition of Nineveh. It’s not like the city was a decent place that was just cruel to outsiders, they were awful inside and out. Doesn’t this describe America today? Full of lies, full of fake news. Robbery and crime. Justice isn’t served and evil is called good and good is called evil.
J. Vernon McGee said that Nahum is talking about Assyria but it also sounds like he’s describing the condition of the United States. Dr. McGee died in 1988. What do you think he’d say about the year 2020!
2 The noise of a whip, and the noise of the rattling of the wheels, and of the pransing horses, and of the jumping chariots.
3 The horseman lifteth up both the bright sword and the glittering spear: and there is a multitude of slain, and a great number of carcases; and there is none end of their corpses; they stumble upon their corpses:
4 Because of the multitude of the whoredoms of the wellfavoured harlot, the mistress of witchcrafts, that selleth nations through her whoredoms, and families through her witchcrafts.
5 Behold, I am against thee, saith the Lord of hosts; and I will discover thy skirts upon thy face, and I will shew the nations thy nakedness, and the kingdoms thy shame.
That God is against them here in this verse reminds me of Ezra 8:22 which says in part, “The hand of our God is upon all them for good that seek him; but his power and his wrath is against all them that forsake him.”
And that’s really what we see in this book of Nahum that God’s judgment of sin is complete, but also we know that His love is perfect. We should have a pretty easy choice in front of us right??
Usually when people go to church they just want to be left with that warm fuzzy feeling about God’s love for them, but we shouldn’t think that God’s love for us means He loves everything we do. God’s love is not “permissive” and He will disciple those He loves to correct them.
Let’s read Romans 6:14-18. Because we are under grace, doesn’t mean God wants us to abuse that grace by sinning. When we read in Nahum about God’s wrath against this sinful nation, we shouldn’t think that God is cool with sin now. A life of sin isn’t a good life anyway. Abundant life is following Jesus Christ! Amen?
And finally, 1 Peter 2:16 says, “As free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God.” We should use our freedom to serve God.