Affirm Godís Justice

Explore the Bible Series

June 17, 2007

 

Background Passage: Nahum 1:1-3:19

Lesson Passage: Nahum 1:1-3, 7-8; 3:1-7, 19

 

Introduction: This is the second prophetic message that God sent to the Assyrian city of Nineveh.Approximately a century before Nahumís prophecy, God sent Jonah to preach to the Assyrians, and, on that earlier occasion, the Ninevites repented and received Godís mercy. Nahum, however, offered little hope for the Assyrians.Aside from a few gracious comments in the first chapter, Nahumís prophecy reflects the gloom of Godís impending destruction of Assyria.

 

Authorship: The Bible provides little biographical information about this prophet.He came from the city of Elkosh, but the location of this town remains a mystery. The Reformation Study Bible suggests that the town may have existed near the location of the New Testament city of Capernaum (perhaps a derivative of ďCity of NahumĒ).Edward J. Young suggests that Nahum may have come from Judah, and, given the historical setting of the book, this seems the best hypothesis of the prophetís origins.

 

Recipients: Thereís a sense, of course, in which Nahum aimed this message at the citizens of Assyrian; however, the prophet addressed Judah.For more than a century the intrepid, malicious people of Assyria had threatened the people of God. They were known for their unbounded cruelty, and the Assyrian Army, under the command of Shalmaneser, besieged Israel, thus the northern kingdom came under the brutal oppression of Assyria. Unsatisfied with the domination of Israel, the Assyrian troops also assailed Judah. In addition to their military aggression, the Assyrians worshipped as extensive pantheon of pagan gods.Asshur, in Assyrian understanding, governed the gods and initiated their military campaigns.

 

Judah, as we have said, suffered from years of Assyrian tyranny.God had not forgotten his covenant with Judah, and, as he decreed, the Assyrian ascendancy neared its end.Nahum predicted that a shift, decisive end would come on this impetuous people.In 605 B.C. the Babylonians defeated Assyria at the Battle of Carchemish, and Assyria passed into the pages of history. As he had pledged, Judahís mortal enemy was defeated, and Jehovah demonstrated his sovereign control over human affairs.

 

Date: Conservative scholars date this prophecy between 662 (the Assyrian military victory at Thebes) and the 612 (the Babylonian destruction of Nineveh).Young points out that it is impossible to settle on a more accurate date.G. Campbell Morgan dated the prophecy during the reign of King Hezekiah who governed Judah at the height of Assyriaís strength; however, the historical date seems to point to the period following the evil reign of King Manasseh and during the reforms of King Josiah (c. 640-609 B.C.).Please recall the Assyrians had defeated Israel in 722 B.C., and the northern kingdom was in complete ruin long before Nahum wrote these words.

Outline of the Lesson:

 

I.                   The Jealously of God and the Destruction of Assyria (1:1-15)

A.    Brief introduction to the prophecy (v. 1): The text describes Nahumís message as a ďburdenĒ (NASV translates ďoracleĒ). The prophet found no delight in delivering a message of judgment, even against a formidable enemy like Assyria.Like the other prophets, Nahum claimed that he received his message from God, in this case, in the form of a vision.

B.     A summary of divine attributes (vv. 2-3)

1.      jealously: Godís protects and preserves his glory, and his glory is bound up in his covenant relations with Judah.Impetuous nations may arise to threaten Godís people, but Jehovah will honor his pledge and, in doing so, demonstrate his glory.

2.      vengeance: God will repay the wicked for their disobedience. In Scripture, vengeance is reserved for God alone.

3.      wrath: Godís wrath relates to his perfect, appropriate judgment on the wicked.His retributive justice always metes out judgment with the exact payment for the sins committed.

4.      slow to anger: Jehovah is always patient with sinners.He takes no delight in judgment and exercises great longsuffering toward the disobedient.

5.      powerful: No sinner can resist Godís judgment, and his redemptive purposes cannot be thwarted.

C.     The irresistible power of God (vv. 4-13): Nahum evoked images of Godís power over creation to illustrate the Lordís boundless power to execute judgment.No one can withstand Jehovahís justice (v. 6), and nobody can assail those who have taken refuge in his goodness. Assyria, despite her great strength, will not stand against the justice of God (See vv. 9-13). Godís wrath will devour them like a fire consumes dried thorns.

D.    Godís final vindication of Judah (vv. 14-15): God promised to cut off Assyria and restore the celebrative joy of Judah.Never again would Assyria threaten the Lordís people.

 

II.                Images of Godís Judgment (2:1-13)

A.    A call to manly resistance (vv. 1-12): God called Nineveh to prepare herself for war, a war she would certainly lose.Soon, Jehovah would turn Assyriaís glory to ruin, and all of their imperial forces could not resist the hand of the Lord.As the Assyrians had scattered and terrorized their opponents, so they would now suffer a similar fate. This threat refers to the Babylonians who would soon bring Nineveh to her knees.The prideful, opulent city, by Godís decree, stood at the threshold of ruin and plunder.Like lions in the lair, Assyria once had torn her prey and fed it to the cubs, but now, the previously boastful nation will find no place of refuge and safety.

B.     Jehovahís opposition to Assyria (v. 13):It may appear that some foreign nation (such as the Babylonians) served as Ninevehís nemesis but, in this case, the ultimate enemy is Jehovah.They might have successfully repulsed the onslaught of an enemy nation, but God had set himself against the hasty and presumptuous people.

 

III.             The Coming Demise and Shame of Nineveh (3:1-19)

A.    A lament for Nineveh (vv. 1-4): The sights and sounds of destruction await this bloody, greedy, lying nation.Nahum compared Nineveh to a beautiful prostitute. Lust, greed and power had seduced the Assyrians, and they had given themselves to the whoredom of idolatry.

B.     The shame of Nineveh (vv. 4-13): The prophet revealed that Jehovah would expose the nakedness of the Assyrian prostitute, and, in the aftermath of their exposure, no one would grieve for the disgraced nation.

C.     No recourse for the condemned nation (vv. 14-19):Again, Jehovah mocked the Assyrian impotence before him.He prodded them to prepare themselves for war, but their preparations will prove fruitless.Ninevehís intellectuals and religious leaders will become like grasshoppers before God, and he pledged to turn their schemes to folly.The people will be scattered and wounded with no one to rally or heal them.The nations will rejoice at the disgraceful injury to this conceited nation.

 

 

Questions for Discussion:

 

1.      How does the message of Nahum relate to Romans 12:14-21 and Hebrews 10:30-34?Can Christians trust God to vindicate you when ungodly people mistreat you?

2.      Why, in your informed judgment, did God wait so long to vindicate his people under the oppression of the Assyrians?

3.      What responsibility do modern Christians have to preach both the mercy and judgment of God?How will the ungodly respond to such preaching?

4.      What doctrines does this book reinforce about Godís providence over human history?