Occasionally I will be dwelling on a verse or passage, ruminating on the message, (or to be honest, wandering off into some undisciplined daydreaming), and the Lord will bless me with a truth that is so obvious, so fresh and such a blessing that I just want to share it with you.
Such is the following passage, found in the book of Nahum
The LORD is a jealous and avenging God; the LORD is avenging and wrathful; the LORD takes vengeance on his adversaries and keeps wrath for his enemies. The LORD is slow to anger and great in power, and the LORD will by no means clear the guilty. His way is in whirlwind and storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet. – Nah 1:2-3 ESV
Let’s remember some background to Nahum’s mission. It was close to 150 years prior to Nahum preaching against Nineveh, the capital city of Assyria, that the Lord sent a reluctant prophet to the shores of Assyria, with a stench on his body, with a raggedness of appearance, and with a message of doom that the people of Nineveh heard. Repentance swept through the city, a repentance that began with the people, and incredibly impacted the very throne of the city. The King sat is sackcloth and ashes. God relented of the judgement.
Truly an amazing God, and yet Nahum was at the Ninevites doorstop one more time. The initial message from this Israeli prophet sent to “dirty” gentiles is of vengeance, that God will avenge, He is wrathful. Vengeance is repeated three times in the second verse. The message is clear.
Before we go much further, we need to understand this jealous thing. How could the prophet ascribe jealousy to the Lord? Isn’t jealousy a result of insecurity, fear and concerns of loss? Do you see the God of creation as one who can’t handle competition for the affection of His people? Is He unsure of our love toward Him, and therefore jealous of us? I spent a bit of time looking at this term in relation to God and found it to be illuminating. You may want to check it our at A Jealous God
Back to Nahum. God is jealous – thankfully! Due in part to this jealousy, God is described as an avenging God and is currently in the process of avenging. To avenge describes our God and His actions towards the Ninevites. The Lord is an avenging God, and during the time of Nahum’s preaching, Assyria was at it’s greatest glory. Assyria was the lone superpower, had experienced victory over it’s enemies and had stockpiles of wealth.
What a different situation Nahum found himself in than Jonah. I imagine Jonah, after his near death experience in the belly of the great fish, was a sight to be seen! This visual condition may have brought attention to the people of Nineveh and begun the revival. A grass roots revival that overtook the government.
Nahum’s message was not met with such humility. The Assyrians had experienced stunning success on the battle field and was at their apex of kingdom, stretching their influence far and side.
Who is this Israelite that speaks such words of vengeance. The Assyrians knew of vengeance! The empire of Assyria was built on violence and terror, as every world power is established. But it seems that Assyria was especially vicious.
The Assyrians were masters of chariot warfare, in that they added scythes to the axles of their chariots. They literally mowed down their enemy when in battle.
When the Assyrians would attack a walled city, soldiers were commanded to dig under the city walls to weaken the foundations, many times dying in the effort when the tunnels caved in on them. An early style of harikari, I suppose. The Assyrians were brutal to their own soldiers!
The Assyrians did much to intimidate their enemies. and were the culture that invented crucifixion. This method of death began with impalement of their enemy, with the spiked pole inserted under the ribs and the victims body weight inflicting the slow agonizing death.
The Assyrians flayed the skin from their enemies. I’m not going to describe this as it is a horrendous practice and the intent of speaking of it, is to solidify our understanding of the culture Nahum was entering when he spoke the oracle of God the the Ninevites!
The Assyrians were ruthless. The Lord is a jealous God, avenging and wrathful toward His adversaries.
This passage reminds me of a New Testament passage.
Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. – Gal 6:7 ESV
Paul spoke this truth to the church of Galatia, but it is an eternal truth. The Assyrians will receive what they have given out, and their violence will come upon their heads. Vengeance is the Lord’s – it always has been and it always will be.
Not a half dozen verses after Nahum introduces the vengeance of God that shall visit His enemies, Nahum sneaks the following verse in.
The LORD is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him. – Nahum 1:7 ESV
In the midst of Nahum’s description of the Lord’s vengeance, wrath, anger and indignation, of the Lord pursuing His enemies into darkness, of the Lord making a complete end of the nation of Assyria, Nahum reminds the saint of a truth.
The Lord is good!
In the midst of destruction and ruin, the Lord is good. For the saint who finds their refuge in Him, their place of safety, the saint will find that the Lord knows them. And that the Lord is good. Vengeance and goodness, both characteristics of the Lord, and both dependent upon relation to the will of God.
The Assyrians did not know of the way of the Lord, for they lived lives of extreme violence, hatred, and domination. Not so for the saint who seeks to follow the way of peace, who seeks to love our enemy, and serve those around us instead of demanding our way.
Two ways of life. Two paths. Two destinies.
May the Lord give us the strength to be the peacemakers, the servants, the ones whom He knows. During this time of upheaval and uncertainty in this world, may we find grace to live properly and to be known of the Lord.
But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.” – 2Ti 2:19 ESV
Thanks again for coming to visit. I hope you found something of interest in this post and would appreciate a comment, to begin a discussion.