Practical and Pastoral Observations on the Book of Nahum (please read each chapter slowly and meditatively before reading observations below):
The Patience of God: When Jonah reluctantly went to Nineveh, a key city of the Assyrians, with the message of God's righteousness and grace , the city turned quickly and broadly to God. However the people of Nineveh did not disciple their children to follow Yahweh and quickly returned to their cruel practices. In 722 BC the Assyrians destroyed the northern kingdom of Israel and in 701 BC nearly captured Jerusalem. For many years God remained patient. Perhaps you are troubled by a great evil continuing in your day, seemingly without meaningful opposition, and wonder, "why is there no relief from this evil, why no justice?" God's patience and grace in giving opportunity to turn to Him is a characteristic we may value more highly when applied to ourselves than when it is applied to others. But His patience is not eternal, cf. v. 3. (Nineveh was destroyed in 612 BC as Nahum foresaw.)
God removes evil and evil ones sovereignly; a consequence of His holiness and moral purity: Many people express a distaste for the fact that God grows angry, hates and removes evil. Yet God is holy and evil cannot co-exist eternally with righteousness. Those who desire righteousness desire evil removed and only if God removes evil will it be removed. So God must and does act to remove evil, both in the events of history and the day of accountability at the end of history.
God is preparing the earth for His Kingdom of peace and righteousness: Nahum, and all those who work for and await an earth on which righteousness dwells, are those "on the mountains, the feet of (whom) who bring good news; who announces peace." (v.15) Bringing good news in difficult or even evil days takes courage and faith in that the cynicism and unbelief in our world has deep roots. Yet I would like to be one who share the "good news" (Gospel) of God's Kingdom, at least to some degree, with at least one person each day. Perhaps you would ask the Lord for opportunity and courage to do the same, sharing in the work of preparation.
It is possible for a person or nation to behave in such a way that God comes to be "against" them: As much as we may wish this were not so, it is, and the possibility is clear from v. 13. To have God against you is the worst a person, nation or planet can experience.
There are some who may say, "well then, I refuse to believe or worship such a God who could choose to be against me" and the decision is theirs to make. Doing so however changes neither the reality or the person making the assertion. Better by far is to ask, "How can I be reconciled to the God who holds me accountable?"
The refusal to be reconciled to God has consequences: Nineveh was destroyed as it persisted in its turning away from God following it's initial positive response to Jonah's preaching (Jonah 4). Nations today too may have honored God for years or even centuries, and then, inexplicably, turn away. The consequences of this decision will inevitably have effects initially on that nation's people and institutions and finally bring that nation to moral weakness, internal decay or being overcome by an external power. Sometime the consequences of the decision to be publicly "against" or privately "ignore" God will sometimes come slowly and sometimes suddenly but inexorably.
The Need for Human Patience: Vast, uncounted wealth Sometimes we must wait and be patient as ruthless aggression and wickedness succeeds temporarily, while God waits patiently for repentance. Though human patience when powerless in the face of injustice is excruciatingly difficult, we may be confident that ultimately God will destroy those who set themselves up as gods in opposition to Him in judgment, in history or at history's end.
My prayer is this: "Lord, Your word of being "against" someone, like that of Jesus in Matthew 7:21-23; 25:41, makes my heart recoil and faint. May those who hear it be few. Father, may I be obedient in the cause of Your heartbeat that "none should perish, but that all might come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)"
God is just in His judgment: Nineveh was widely feared for the cruel atrocities she committed against those she conquered - amputating body parts, impaling, beheading, burning, piling up corpses for the condemned to walk over or between. Assyria lived by fear, cruelty and plundering others. God created a moral universe as an expression of His character and He will bring justice to it though humankind chose sin over righteousness. God's justice is almost immeasurably patient. He is patient to invite and give time for repentance.
Lacking repentance however, God's justice is inevitable and will be complete and utterly just.Nineveh
The stakes in bringing the Gospel are immeasurably high: We bring the Gospel to invite repentance. We must offer the Gospel though the cost of doing so be high because the cost to those who stand outside the grace of the Gospel is yet far higher. The history of missions is a story of sacrifice that grace might be given. Though some choose to continue in their destructive ways setting themselves against God and neighbour, not knowing or refusing to consider the meaning of their decision, we must continue to extend the Gospel to them.
If however a person or nation understands and rejects the Gospel, we must not consider God unjust to permit them the consequences of their decision. There is a time, as for Nahum, to speak not only of God's offer of grace but also of law and judgment. It may be that grace cannot be fully understood or appreciated without also knowing God's moral law and the reality of judgment.
My prayer is this: "Father, I can side only with Your Holiness. You alone are just and true. When You judge I can and will not evaluate the justice of Your judgment but only worship You in your righteousness. May repentance and grace be offered to all quickly. Lead me in obedience to extend the Gospel to all. In Jesus name."