Monday, January 21, 2008

Nahum 1

What is this passage about?

The prophet Nahum records an oracle (prophecy) concerning the coming destruction of Ninevah and resulting freedom of the nation of Judah.

What can I learn from it?

Putting this book in context, accodring to Old Testament Survey by (Lasor, Hubbard & Bush), this book was written between 663BC (the fall of Thebes, cf Nahum 3:8-10) and 612BC (the fall of Ninevah), possibly circa 615BC (when the armies of Babylon and Mede formed a coalition to attack Ninevah, which was a great city in Assyria.) Thus Nahum's prophecy occured well after the time of Jonah.

A complete dichotomy is presented in these verses. Firstly and primarily, they show that God "takes vengence on his foes" (v2). God is described (v2-6) as jealous, an avenger, filled with wrath, (yet slow to anger); he does not leave the guilty unpunished. He is great in power: in control of the whirlwind and the storm, the sea and rivers, mountains, hills and rocks. Secondly, and as a counterpoint (v7), God "cares for those who trust in him." He is good, a refuge (safe haven).

These two co-existing parts of God's nature are, in this chapter, prophesied to evidence themselves in the end of Nineveh (v8) which is coming. Nineveh has been the source of an evil plot against the LORD, (v11) and Nahum describes them as God's foes (v8) who are vile (v14). Nahum warns that these wrongdoers will be punished by God, despite their earthly strength in numbers and in their political alliances (v12). As a consequence of the passing away of the Assyrian empire (epitomised in the cutting off of Ninevah), God shall release His people the Jews from their slavery (v13). God is going to demonstrate His loving care for His chosen people by giving them peace (v15) and enabling them to once again celebrate their religious festivals and fulfil their vows to Him (v16).

How does this apply to my life?

At first glance, an oracle written to warn long-ago Ninevites of their coming destruction at the hands of the rising nation of Bablyon has very little to offer someone like me, who lives in Australia two and a half thousand years later. But as with all of God's word, there is something in it that is profitable for me, because (as I considered from the Westminster Shorter Catechism's third question yesterday), this prophecy can teach me something of who God is. His nature is eternally unchanging, and the God who meted out justice upon the Ninevites will also, one day, judge me for my sins. God is a just judge, who will punish all who deserve punishment (and that's everybody, including me). He hates my sin. That is why Proverbs 9:10 teaches that "the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom." I'm so sorry, my LORD. I kneel humbled at your feet.

Likewise, I can take comfort that the same God who rescued the Jews so that they might worship Him according to His commands has also made provision for my rescue. Once again a whispering promise of the gospel is heard through the Old Testament! While God used an army to provide religious freedom to the Jews at the time of this prophecy, today He has provided for me to have a free relationship with Him through the atoning death and victorious resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ. Thank You God!

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