Back At the well known as the book of Nahum. I now officially love this rather obscure book and little known prophet. What a great message of hope and comfort to the people of God, at least those who live troubled by life, including their own. Here is, once again, the singular and repetitive message of the book: the enemy that has plagued you all these years will soon be destroyed, never again to threaten your heart and soul. I can think of a few of those enemies in my life. How about you? And I look forward to their demise. It’s coming,says the prophet who speaks on God’s behalf.
Recall what the circumstances were during Nahum’s day. The Assyrians were a thorn in the side of Israel. Actually, they were more than a thorn. Israel would be in captivity at the ends of this vicious enemy and the northern nation of Israel would never recover. Assyria, with its capital city of Nineveh, was the big bad wolf of that day. No one could match their power, and their cruelty was unparalleled. They sat at the top of the food chain and it didn’t seem like there was much hope for the people of God. But that is only man’s perspective. It is not the perspective of the God who sits enthroned above the earth, its inhabitants looking rather puny to Him. He is the one who brings princes to naught, writes another prophet, Isaiah, in chapter 40 of his book. And that is the promise of Nahum. The big bad enemy will be destroyed.
By the wa, my study in this book led me to a definition of the fear of the Lord and its counterpart, contempt. I won’t go into the details of how I arrived at this definition but let me offer one for each. To fear the Lord is to care about what God cares about. What matters to Him is what matters most to me. When the prophet Malachi would later speak to God’s people, expressing numerous charges against them, the majority responded almost with indifference, as if they were perplexed by the prophet’s accusations. In other words, they weren’t troubled by how they were living, almost oblivious. That irked God as it always does, and it became the impetus for Malachi’s voice. BUT, there were a few people, who “feared the Lord” (3:16), and they got together, I suspect to talk about how they could live holy/other/unlike the rest of God’s people who were untroubled. What mattered to God mattered to this minority in Malachi’s day and we are told that God bent down low to hear what these people were saying. It mattered to God to find a group of people who care about what He cares about.
Contempt for God, on the other hand, is the opposite of fear. Contempt is to say to God by how we live and relate that what matters to you matters little to me, if at all. What matters most to me is what I want, when I want it, and without regard for the cost to others. Nineveh showed contempt for the people of God and thus, for God. But, don’t forget, Israel had showed the same contempt toward God, which was the reason they were been tormented by the Assyrians in the first place. God was using their worst enemy to first wake them up to the problem in their own hearts. How annoying is that? But now it was Assyria’s turn. Nahum was, on behalf of God, promising to eventually punish Assyria for their self-promoting ways and contempt toward God. Keep that in mind as we move forward and see a possible truth from this great book.
Here is what I want us to ponder. At the end of chapter 1, we have an image of God’s messenger bounding from mountaintop to mountaintop announcing the good news of peace and hope. It is the reason God instructs his people to “keep their feasts”, something I spoke to in the last writing. Some see these words of hope in 1:15 as the beginning of chapter 2 rather than the end of chapter 1. Perhaps with good reason because when you come to the end of chapter 2 we see the mention of other messengers only they have now lost their voices. Like a good movie, chapter 2 plays between two scenes. We have images of what is happening outside the walls of Nineveh as well as what is happening within. If one looks outside, they see the approaching army, v3. Within the walls of the city, there is chaos v4ff. And then the “movie” ends with a voiceover, God speaking, telling the enemy that He is against them and they will be destroyed. But then notice the last line: the voice of your messengers will no longer be heard. Those messengers were the one’s telling Nineveh and its rulers how great they were, how mighty their power and how secure their position as they sat self-assured behind their seemingly impenetrable walls. They were untouchable, said Nineveh’s puppet prophets. But now, as God began his assault, they were silent as the city was being plundered and the ruling family decimated. What can we learn from these words of God?
I discovered this principle that to God’s people then and hopefully to us today is quite hopeful. But for it to provide the comfort and hope intended, we need to be characterized by the same thing as that small band of pilgrims in Malachi’s day who feared the Lord. Here is the principle: for those who live troubled by life now, including their own lives, hope and peace are on the horizon. A better day is coming! But for those who live untroubled, who deny the mess of life, including their own, a day of reckoning is coming. You have lived with contempt toward the God of the universe and his wrath is coming; it will be revealed against such people and their behavior. We, on the other hand, are invited to live troubled, to get disgusted with our self-centeredness, to grieve the injustices of this world, to hate what God hates but to do so knowing and believing that peace is on the horizon. God is not indifferent to it all but has a plan to set it all straight. In the meantime, living hopefully means we seek to live in a way that represents Him until the day of redemption and reckoning arrives. And when we fail to do so, we don’t deny it but return to the hope of our salvation, Jesus, taking refuge in Him, which in part means to get back on our feet and get busy again following Jesus.
Patience and peace to you,