Nahum's Picture of God
Reading the prophet Nahum's poetic "burden" is shocking to the sensibilities, unsettling if you don't "know" Jehovah and yet consoling to the righteous who grasp the apocalyptic message.
Nahum the "consoler," writing at the peak of Assyrian power as God's people were oppressed by the world power headquartered in Nineveh, paints God as few today see him.
Nahum's poem opens averring God's jealousy, vengeance, furor and slow, but powerful, wrath on his enemies. Nahum says God will not acquit (find guiltless) the wicked. The prophet peels back walls of ignorance to reveal a Supreme Being who is the "stronghold" of his trusting, righteous people, but an "overwhelming flood" of destruction to his enemies.
Nineveh stands in history as a figure of the world. An ancient city founded by Nimrod, the great grandson of Noah, it was strong, had stood for centuries, and was the ruling power of the day. A bloody city, full of lies, robbery, brutality, cruelty and idolatry, Nineveh struck pure terror into the hearts of its enemies through torture and atrocity.
But Nahum's message is an artfully crafted psychological terror itself. He preaches that Nineveh will reap what it has sown in "the day of the Lord."
He gives insight into the real "terror of the Lord." The brutal Ninevites, who piled the corpses of their enemies in heaps, are promised a judgment of parallel but dramatically greater proportions.
At the approach of judgment the faces of Ninevites will drain of color, their hearts melt and their knees shake as they finally acknowledge the power of Almighty God.
Terror is a relative thing. To the righteous it is one physio-emotional reaction - but to the terrorist himself it is magnified by the mental images of his own past terrorism and sin.
God, through Nahum, calls Nineveh a great whore and vows that in punishment her "skirts will be lifted over her head" to expose her nakedness and her shame.
History confirms the dramatic fall of Assyria and its capital, just as Nahum had predicted.
The picture Nahum paints of Jehovah coming in judgment, terrorizing the wicked, devouring his enemies like stubble, humiliating evil men like whores caught in the act, destroying in raging, jealous vengeance, is hard for most to accept.
Is the God of the Old Testament a different God than the one we read about in the New Testament? Just read the book of Revelation - after you've read the book of Nahum - and decide.
Our God of love is not destroyed by knowledge of his terrible anger over sin. In fact, for the righteous, this knowledge adds to our admiration of his love. You see, we read of God's fury over sin before we read about his love in sending his Son to die for sinners. Can you imagine the degree of love that must be involved to sacrifice a Son for people involved in something you hate so bitterly?
And, the book of Nahum, like the book of Revelation, consoles the righteous. As those martyrs under the altar cried out, "How long, O Lord, holy and true, until you judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?", so the faithful today wait in anticipation of justice.
And the message of Nahum still rings in the words of the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:11: "Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men."
Nahum instructed the Ninevites about the terror of Jehovah when the time for change was gone. Let us pray we learn the lesson before that great and mighty Day of the Lord.
Guardian of Truth XXXV: 2, pp. 35-36