A Wake-Up Call.


Thus says the Lord,
“Though they are at full strength and many,
    they will be cut down and pass away.
Though I have afflicted you,
    I will afflict you no more.
And now I will break his yoke from off you
    and will burst your bonds apart.”

The Lord has given commandment about you:
    “No more shall your name be perpetuated;
from the house of your gods I will cut off
    the carved image and the metal image.
I will make your grave, for you are vile.”

Behold, upon the mountains, the feet of him
    who brings good news,
    who publishes peace!
Keep your feasts, O Judah;
    fulfill your vows,
for never again shall the worthless pass through you;
    he is utterly cut off. Nahum 1:12-15 ESV

Nahum now addresses the people of Judah directly. Despite the overwhelming power of the Assyrians and their seemingly limitless numbers, God assures the people of Judah that He is going to deal with this centuries-old menace once and for all. The Hebrew literally says, they will “trickle away” like the last remnants of a great flood that has done its damage, but has slowly receded to nothing. Their power will be no match for God. While He has allowed them their moment in the sun, He will also see that this once great nation is judged for its many atrocities and condemned to defeat at the hands of other nations. They will go from a once great nation-state to virtual oblivion, all because God has deemed it so.

But as for the people of Judah, God tells them that He is going to provide them with a break from the affliction brought upon them by the Assyrians. It must be noted that God’s promise to the people of Judah to bring an end to their affliction, only referred to their suffering at the hands of the Assyrians. Because it is clear from Scripture that God continued to bring affliction on the people of Judah from other sources, including the nation of Babylon, which, in 586 B.C., destroyed the city of Jerusalem and took many of the people of Judah captive. But God promised to eliminate Assyria as a threat, and He did so. This should have caught the attention of the people of Judah. They should have realized that their God is all-powerful and incredibly merciful. They had done nothing to deserve this reprieve, yet God had brought it about. They should have recognized that “The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him” (Nahum 1:7 ESV). But the sad reality will be, that the people of Judah, who will see the hand of God move on their behalf, will continue their stubborn rejection of Him as their God. Yes, they will continue to worship Him, but as God said through the prophet Isaiah:

They honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. And their worship of me is nothing but man-made rules learned by rote. – Isaiah 29:13 NLT

Their deliverance at the hand of God should have been a wake-up call. It should have driven them to their knees in gratitude and reverence to God for His mercy and grace. But God will be forced to replace the Assyrians with yet another foreign power that will act as His instrument of judgment upon His disobedient people.

But as for the present problem of the Assyrians, God assures the people of Judah, “now I will break his yoke from off you and will burst your bonds apart” (Nahum 1:13 ESV). What a bold claim for God to make. This seemingly impossible claim would have been hard for the people of God to accept. It would have seemed far-fetched and too good to be true. The Assyrians had been around for centuries. They were a powerful dynasty and the alpha predator of their era, with no known competitor strong enough to unseat them. How was God going to accomplish what Nahum was saying? This all sounded great, but it would have seemed like such an impossibility. But as Nahum has already reminded them:

His way is in whirlwind and storm,
    and the clouds are the dust of his feet.
He rebukes the sea and makes it dry;
    he dries up all the rivers
– Nahum 1:3-4 ESV

God was all-powerful. He was the God of the universe, the creator of all things. The Assyrians would be no problem for him. And so, Nahum changes his focus yet again and addresses the Assyrians directly.

The Lord has given commandment about you:
    “No more shall your name be perpetuated;
from the house of your gods I will cut off
    the carved image and the metal image.
I will make your grave, for you are vile.” – Nahum 1:14 ESV

Their false gods will prove to be no match for the one true God. They will be exposed for what they are: false and powerless. God will see to it that their posterity of the Assyrians ends. They will cease to exist as a nation-state. Their rise to power was great, but their fall will be even greater. Their seeming invincibility will end with with their virtual invisibility. They will cease to be. Again, what a bold claim. But what is interesting to note is that the Medes, who would be part of the coalition force that conquered the Assyrians, would see to it that the gods of the Assyrians, found in the capital city of Nineveh, were completely destroyed. The Assyrians had a policy of collecting the images of all the gods of the nations they defeated. They would bring them back to their capital and put them on display as an illustration of the superiority of their own gods. But when the time came for Nineveh to fall, all the gods of Assyria would be captured and destroyed, just as God had promised.

As Nahum prepares to transition to a new train of thought, he appeals to the people of Judah directly, calling them to rejoice in the inevitable salvation of God. He speaks as if the destruction of Nineveh has already happened and the deliverance of the people of Judah is complete. He calls them to “Keep your feasts, O Judah; fulfill your vows,
for never again shall the worthless pass through you; he is utterly cut off” (Nahum 1:15 ESV). God’s word is so powerful, that you can go ahead and celebrate before it has even been fulfilled.

God is not a man, so he does not lie. He is not human, so he does not change his mind. Has he ever spoken and failed to act? Has he ever promised and not carried it through?
 – Numbers 23:19 NLT

God will bring about what He has promised. He will accomplish what He has said. And He is calling the people of Judah to do their part. They are to remain obedience to Him, keeping His appointed feasts and fulfilling the vows they had made to Him. God will do His part, but they must do theirs. God will remove the false gods of the Assyrians, but the people of Judah must remove the false gods they worship and return to faithful, unadulterated allegiance to Yahweh. After all God has promised to do, you would think that this would have been easy for the people of Judah to pull off. But they would prove to be ungrateful to God for His undeserved mercy and grace. He would do exactly what He promised, removing the yoke of the Assyrians, but they would continue to live their lives in open rebellion to Him. They would worship them with their lips, but their hearts would be far from Him. And God would be forced to bring yet another nation against His people, to prove to them that He is serious about their holiness. He not only demands obedience, He will do what He has to do to see that it happens.

This entire section of Nahum’s oracle, should have been a stark reminder to the people of Judah that their God was actively involved in their lives. He was blind to their spiritual condition or oblivious to their suffering at the hands of their enemies. As a matter of fact, the Assyrians were nothing more than tools in His hands, accomplishing His divine will concerning His judgment against the people of Judah. But God had promised to defeat the Assyrians and deliver the people of Judah. All He wanted in return was their faithfulness. He wanted their obedience and willful submission to His sovereign will concerning their lives. He had promised them blessing after blessing if they would only remain faithful to Him. And to prove both His power and mercy, God promised to destroy the very ones He had sent to persecute His people. He would remove the threat of destruction, but He desired the repentance of His people in return.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

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