Nahum, judgment, and Jesus
There have been several times in my life and ministry when I had to be the bearer of bad news. It’s never easy. But when it comes to serving the Lord, and bearing the burden of the gospel, these moments are inevitable.
So what’s the worst news someone could possibly hear or tell? Probably news of a loved one dying, a job they’ve lost, or that his or her spouse is cheating on them. Yes, that’s bad news for sure. But what if it were your assignment to tell someone that God’s judgment is coming, specifically upon him, and that there is nothing he can do about it?
Nahum was that guy—the bearer of that kind of bad news.
Nahum as the bearer of bad news
He prophesied to Nineveh, the capital city of Assyria, 100 years after God sent Jonah to call them to repentance. But this time, God had no intention of sparing the city. There would be no more warnings and no calls to repentance. Only sure and swift judgment on a people who boast in their wickedness. See what I mean? That’s really bad news.
Behold, I am against you, declares the LORD of hosts, and I will burn your chariots in smoke, and the sword shall devour your young lions. I will cut off your prey from the earth, and the voice of your messengers shall no longer be heard. (Nahum 2:13)
The Assyrians depict the grossness of human nature under the curse of sin. They were enemies of God, just as we all are outside of a relationship with Jesus Christ (Romans 5:10; Colossians 1:21). The harshness of Nahum’s message reminds us of the harshness with which God must deal with sin. Assyria and her king were ruthless and cruel. They stopped at nothing to destroy God’s people. To destroy the majesty of God’s glory. And that’s what sin did when it entered the world. It destroyed the majesty of God’s image placed within man. Suddenly, there was a barrier between man and God. But He wouldn’t leave it that way. He will restore.
For the LORD is restoring the majesty of Jacob as the majesty of Israel, for plunderers have plundered them and ruined their branches. (Nahum 2:2)
Woe to the bloody city, all full of lies and plunder—no end to the prey! (Nahum 3:1)
Sin and death seek to plunder all in their path, but God is jealous for His people. There is no end to those the Enemy will prey upon, but there is an end coming for the Enemy himself.
Finding the good news in Nahum
Ninety-eight percent of Nahum’s prophecy is about judgment, battle, fury, wrath, and righteous anger against a depraved nation of people. As you read through the book of Nahum, you may feel at times like you’re in the middle of the most gruesome battle ever to have taken place on earth. But this is not just about wrath. It’s about the justice of God over sin. And that’s the news Nahum heralded to the people of Nineveh.
There is no easing your hurt; your wound is grievous. All who hear the news about you clap their hands over you. For upon whom has not come your unceasing evil? (Nahum 3:19)
Because of the incessant evil of sin in this world and in our hearts, Jesus came. Nahum typifies Jesus, the greater Prophet. He warned men of the judgment to come, but He also received the judgment that He did not deserve. All our sin, our murdering, cheating, lying, stealing, and all the consequences that such actions deserve, was laid upon His shoulders. Can you believe He did that for us? Think of the disgust that comes over you when you think of the Assyrians. In a very real way, that’s what Jesus became for us!
Do we not rejoice over this? Do we not clap our hands and sing over this truth? We do and we should! He did what we could never do; just as Israel could never have defeated Assyria outside of God’s strength and provision. The wounds of Jesus are grievous, but they are wounds that heal, because after bearing such judgment, He rose again:
For our sake He made Him to be sin Who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21)
Nahum reminds us that God is just and he will judge sin. We should rejoice in God’s justice, not because we “take pleasure in the death of the wicked” (Ezekiel 18:23), but because God has made a way for us to escape. We rejoice in the cross, because there, God judged His own Son instead of us. He stood in our place, the Righteous for the unrighteous, that He might bring us to God, and restore His people.
So when we read Nahum, we don’t need to focus on the bad news. There is always going to be bad news to share. Instead, we should see it as motivation to share the good news of the gospel—because the glorious light of the cross of Christ is the best news we have to share.
Today’s post is by Joel Littlefield, a pastor, author, and podcaster preparing to launch a church plant in Maine.