“The one who brings good news” (Nahum 1:15)

Pastor Ino

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In my previous message, which was about Micah 6:8, we focused on the theme of walking humbly before God. Micah 6:8 says, “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” The book that comes after Micah is the book of Nahum, and it is about God’s judgment on Assyria, a nation that had forgotten how to walk humbly before God. We see how God works mysteriously in these two books. In today’s world, strong nations attack weak nations, and there are several countries ruled by dictators. We see many unacceptable things happening. Despite such tragedies, the book of Nahum teaches that one day God will righteously judge all nations and all leaders.

Nahum 1:1 begins with, “A prophecy concerning Nineveh. The book of the vision of Nahum the Elkoshite.” Nineveh was the capital of Assyria. The book of Nahum is a message of God’s judgment against the great city of Nineveh. You may remember the name Nineveh; it is the city that repented after listening to the prophet Jonah. Indeed, Nineveh escaped God’s judgment for a time because it repented. But the people became proud again and challenged God. The people of Nineveh strayed far from God’s desire for them to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly.

We see how the king of Assyria challenged God in 2 Kings 18. The Assyrian army surrounded Jerusalem and said, “On what are you basing this confidence of yours?” (2 Kings 18:19). Assyria claimed that no god could save any nation from the hand of Assyria (verses 33, 35). But Hezekiah, the king of Judah, prayed and God answered; God’s angel struck down the Assyrian army of 185,000 men.

Assyria had extended its territory all the way to Egypt. And Manasseh, king of Israel, had bowed to the power of Assyria and paid tribute to them. As a result, the faith of the people of Judah became corrupted and influenced by pagan religion. We don’t know when Nahum saw the following vision, but he prophesied that Assyria would fall and it did in 612 BC. Someday, proud nations will fall.

Nahum 1:2 uses very strong words: “The Lord is a jealous and avenging God; the Lord takes vengeance and is filled with wrath. The Lord takes vengeance on his foes and vents his wrath against his enemies.” We may be taken aback by these strong words, which tell us plainly that God will judge those who do not turn back to him. Verse 3 goes on to say, “The Lord is slow to anger but great in power; the Lord will not leave the guilty unpunished.” God is slow to become angry, as we saw in the book of Jonah where Nineveh repented and God relented from punishing them. But at the same time, God will not leave the guilty unpunished; so at some point judgment must come.

The wrath of God is described in verse 4 as a drought, and in verse 5 as an earthquake. Verse 6 says that no one can withstand his anger. It will be poured out like a fire, and rocks will be shattered by it.
But the book of Nahum shows that, along with God’s severe judgment is God’s mercy towards the people he has made a covenant with. Verse 7 says, “The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him.” That is how the southern kingdom of Judah survived. Kings come and go; different eras come and go. But God’s grace and mercy never changes. His promise to preserve his covenant people never changes. The people of Israel were chosen to be a holy nation and a kingdom of priests. In the same way, we are saved by the grace of Jesus Christ and forgiven of our sins by his precious work on the Cross. We are truly grateful. Because God has chosen us. And because no matter what happens in the world, including the end of the world, we are sheltered by the Lord and protected by his hand.

Verse 8 onwards describes more about God’s punishment of Nineveh: “with an overwhelming flood
he will make an end of Nineveh; he will pursue his foes into the realm of darkness.” Verse 9: “Whatever they plot against the Lord he will bring to an end; trouble will not come a second time.” Verse 10: “They will be entangled among thorns and drunk from their wine; they will be consumed like dry stubble.” And finally, verse 11 tells us why God is punishing Nineveh: “From you, Nineveh, has one come forth who plots evil against the Lord and devises wicked plans.” The Assyrian army that surrounded Jerusalem boasted that no god of any nation could defend against Assyria. Yet, in one night, that great army was destroyed by the God of Israel. Assyria should have been humbled by this. But rather than turn to God, Assyria continued to take pride in its own strength. This could only invite God’s judgment. Meanwhile, that judgment was, for Israel, liberation from oppression by Assyria.

Verse 12: “This is what the Lord says: Although they have allies and are numerous, they will be destroyed and pass away.” The word “they” refers to Assyria. The verse continues, “Although I have afflicted you, Judah, I will afflict you no more.” The word “you” to the southern kingdom of Judah. Judah had been oppressed by Assyria for many years. But now they would be afflicted no more. God promises a time of liberation. Verse 13: “Now I will break their yoke from your neck and tear your shackles away.” It is a joyful promise of liberation.

How did the people of Judah receive this message? Moving on, verse 14 says, “The Lord has given a command concerning you, Nineveh: You will have no descendants to bear your name. I will destroy the images and idols that are in the temple of your gods. I will prepare your grave, for you are vile.” Under the corrupt rule of King Manasseh, the people of Judah also strayed from God and publicly worshipped idols. They forgot their calling and became like worthless people. The fate of such people is that God will prepare a grave for them. Like the people of Judah we will have to make all kinds of choices in the midst of hardships and trials. Sometimes we make good decisions, and other times we stray from the will of God. Regardless, for the people of Judah, God promised to restore them.

Verse 15 says, “Look, there on the mountains, the feet of one who brings good news, who proclaims peace!” For Christians, the good news is the gospel of Jesus Christ. That he atoned for our sins on the Cross and gives forgiveness and eternal life to those who believe in him. This is the good news we believe in. We are able to live a life with God. And live with a new mission. Recently a term that has been used a lot is “creation care” or “creation stewardship.” This is one testimony of a missionary in India. Through the influence of this missionary, many people in one village became Christians, and he taught them that believers should see themselves as stewards of creation. They began to clean up the trash, plant flowers by the streets, and take care of their environment. This was truly a new beginning. After some time this mostly Christian village became like a paradise of flowers and received many visitors. All thanks to the missionary to taught them that believers have a mission to care for creation. This is one example of the power of the good news of Jesus.

For the people of Judah, the good news was a return to God’s covenant. To live once again as a holy nation, a kingdom of priests. That is what they were chosen for. Nahum says that the one who brings good news and peace is calling, “Celebrate your festivals, Judah, and fulfill your vows. No more will the wicked invade you; they will be completely destroyed” (verse 15). Judah could celebrate the festival of the Passover once again. The Passover was first celebrated in Egypt, where they slaughtered a lamb and put its blood on their doorposts and waited quietly for the Lord’s wrath to pass over their homes. They were atoned by the blood of the lamb, foreshadowing how Jesus would atone for us on the Cross. As for Judah, their enemy Assyria would be cut off and destroyed. They could return to their mission of being a holy nation. And live as God’s people once again. They could start a new journey as a holy people. So the message of Nahum was good news for them.

God destroyed both Nineveh and Babylon. He restored his people. As believers in the good news, let us taste the Word of God and live with hope.

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