The publisher of peace.
Judah is being oppressed by an enemy called Nineveh. God’s word comes in an oracle, a burdensome message, to the prophet Nahum to pronounce judgment.
The oracle immediately establishes that God is passionate about justice, that injustice makes him angry. Yet, he is slow to anger, which tells us he has given Nineveh a long time to repent. The Judeans would have first thought that God was talking about his (and their) adversaries and enemies.
God’s anger has slowly been building against his enemies. But what will he do with it? What will his justice look like?
The Judeans had stories of God dealing out wrath upon them, and upon their enemies. They would have told and re-told stories of when God stopped the sun so their enemies could be vanquished; moved the seas so the Egyptians would drown; opened the ground to swallow up evildoers. They knew this destruction was not hyperbole; God is all-powerful.
The land stands no chance against the anger of a just God; the Ninevites stand no chance against him; we stand no chance either.
A timely reminder in the middle of this chapter about anger, justice, wrath and punishment – God is all-good. Even his anger and judgment are good. He is safe for the people who take refuge in him.
Just as Jonah did 100 years earlier, God lays out the wickedness of the Ninevites. He accuses them of “plotting against the Lord” and promises that they will not get away with it. We have no more hope of reaching God on our own than the Ninevites have of surviving the overflowing flood of God’s wrath.
The Ninevites’ past atrocities against Judah were God’s punishment on Judah for their own wicked behavior. God’s justice goes both ways: turn from him and be punished; turn to him and be saved. The Ninevites know this from earlier in their history (cf: Jonah). But God has also promised to act; “I will afflict you no more.” We begin to glimpse that maybe there is hope for us.
The Ninevites will turn to their gods to save them, but God will prove himself superior over their idols of metal and carved materials.
Likewise God proves himself superior over the idols of our own lives and hearts. Whatever our idols – money, comfort, security, control, power, people, approval – God is infinitely superior.
God ends this chapter of judgment and justice with hope. God brought temporary peace to Judah, but they were eventually defeated by their enemies. Nevertheless, God had a plan to bring about greater, lasting peace.
Nahum prophesied about a person “who brings good news and publishes peace.” 650 years later, Jesus came to earth to defeat Judah’s – and our – greatest enemies: Sin and death.
Jesus, as God, fully understands the anger, judgment, and destruction that we deserve as sinners. He also brings the goodness of God to those who take refuge in him. On the cross we see God’s justice, as Jesus let all of God’s wrath be poured out on himself; in the resurrection, he defeated our enemies.
Jesus did to sin and death what he had promised to do to Nineveh: “I will make your grave.” He did for us what he had promised to Judah: “I will break [your enemy’s] yoke from off you.”
In Jesus, we have a refuge, Nahum’s “stronghold in the day of trouble,” an eternal legacy, and God’s own word that we are “utterly cut off” from our enemies. Because of the gospel, those promises of peace are ours.