“Daybreak” by Peter Baumgartner
The highest tower of safety
The strongest shield of defense
Lord of both tempest and firestorm
Outstretched to every nation
Mercy from above
But how long will you suffer
The cries of those you love
His justice blows like the whirlwind
Mountains quake before him
His hand uproots the proud
Even the hills melt to nothing
Like night flees from dawning
The wicked blindly run
Your glory shining behind them
Pleading their return
But day will break sooner or later
Jealous. Avenging. Wrathful. Adversarial. Angry. These are the words that Nahum uses to describe God in the opening of his book. Our current cultural emphasis on tolerance and God as too loving for judgment and hell leaves us at a loss to approach this book. Some have even gone as far as to label the Nahum a hymn of hate.
Jealous. Avenging. Wrathful. Adversarial. Angry (1). These are the words that Nahum uses to describe God in the opening of his book. Our current cultural emphasis on tolerance and God as too loving for judgment and hell leaves us at a loss to approach this book. Some have even gone as far as to label the Nahum a hymn of hate. However, the prophets name means comfort, and the message he carries is a message of good news (2).
Even in Nahum’s initial exposition on God’s character, he shows that God’s anger is tempered by his patience 3, flows from his perfect justice (4) and is in perfect harmony with his goodness (5). Nahum also says the final result of God’s judgment will be applause (6). For those who suffer under injustice and long for deliverance, for those who watch as evil escapes into the darkness and for those who have experienced the depths of human cruelty Nahum is a message of comfort.
Nineveh, the capital city of Assyria is the target of Nahum’s prophecy. He refers to them as the bloody city (7) and history bears that out. In their own words the Assyrians, stacked heads in pillars and pyramids, flayed the skin of their captives and spread them upon the wall of the captured city, dismembered the living and burned the women and children. This was not a single battle. This was not experienced by the victims of a single war. For Nineveh cruelty was a way of life and all people had been the victims of their violence (8).
God’s judgment of Nineveh is just, in fact what Nahum says is coming for Nineveh looks exactly like the crimes they had perpetrated (9). As Jesus said, “those who live by the sword will die by the sword” (10). Nineveh may be tempted to feel secure, but Nahum points out that one of Assyria’s victories should be an example to them.
Assyria themselves had destroyed the Egyptian city of Thebes despite its secure geography and allies (11), Nineveh would fare no differently. Twice Nahum mockingly calls the city to prepare for war knowing that the effort is futile (12)because God is against them (13). Even their leaders would provide no safety, they had promoted the cruel and mercenary, they had become like a nation of unstoppable locust, and now those same leaders would take what they can carry, devour their own city, and fly away (14).
Before we point the finger at God as cruel and unjust, we also need to see God’s mercy even on the city of Nineveh. The things that Nahum recorded had not
yet come to pass, there was still time to repent and
this warning of judgment was a merciful call to turn around (15). Nineveh knew what it was like to avoid God’s judgment through repentance at the call of a prophet (16). History tells us however, that this time the words of the prophet went unheeded and the Chaldeans swept through and wiped Nineveh off the map (17).
For us in our day, we have to ask do we really want a God who lets the guilty go unpunished (18)? Do we really want to live in a world where evil escapes unknown in the cover of darkness (19)? Or is it possibly good news that their is a God who sees injustice and although he is patient and merciful, he is also sovereign and just? That there is such a God is the comforting message of Nahum.