“Beware, I am against you. This is the declaration of the Lord of Armies. I will make your chariots go up in smoke, and the sword will devour your young lions. I will cut off your prey from the earth, and the sound of your messengers will never be heard again.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
When the apostle Paul was retelling his testimony to King Agrippa before being sent off to Rome in order to be tried before Emperor Nero, he added something to what Jesus said to him on the road to Damascus. When Jesus asked Paul why he was persecuting Him, He also made a statement: It is hard for you to kick against the goads. It is indeed hard. And, as Nahum describes here, the harder we try and kick against them, the harder the pushback will be.
First some explanation: A goad is a kind of animal prod. In ancient times it would have been a sharp stick or a stick with some kind of a spike tied to it that was used, for example, to keep an ox pulling a cart moving in the direction its driver wanted it to go. Made into a verb, to goad someone is to intentionally provoke them into taking some kind of action.
Put together, kicking against the goads envisions someone resisting the direction someone else wants them to take. For the apostle Paul, he was actively resisting the movement of God all the while thinking he was advancing it. The church was something God Himself was building to advance His kingdom. Paul wasn’t going to be able to successfully oppose its growth and spread. Confronted by an encounter with the risen Christ, Paul looked into the matter more closely and switched sides entirely.
So, what does this have to do with us and what does it have to do with what we see here at the end of the second chapter of Nahum? Let’s take those in reverse order.
Verses 3-13 of Nahum 2 are uncomfortable. They paint the picture of the invasion of a major city. The walls have been breached and the chariots of the invading force are running amok in the streets. They are mowing down the populace. The defenders rush to the walls, but it’s too late to do anything about it. The tide of attackers is rising, destroying everything in its wake.
The wealthy and elite of the city who thought they were so secure in their fortress are left shell-shocked as the invaders rush in and plunder everything. All the nation’s wealth has been pooled in the capital and now it is all there for the taking.
The scene is almost too much for Nahum himself. As he describes the devastation, he pauses in v. 10 to exclaim, “Desolation, decimation, devastation! Hearts melt, knees tremble, insides churn, every face grows pale!”
The scene is intense and chaotic. It is terrifying, even for the one prophesying it. The chapter draws near a close by asking where the great strength of the city is now. Where is the prowess of the nation. It used to be able to come and go as it pleased, taking whatever it needed or wanted to feed its various appetites. Now it lies in ruins. Why? Because the Lord of Hosts is against it. A commander is opposing it now who leads all the forces of Heaven. Who can resist Him?
God had plans for His people Israel and Assyria was standing in the way of those. They had made their intentions abundantly clear. They were going to destroy everyone and everything in their path as they gobbled up more and more of the world around them in their race to become bigger and grander to satisfy their own hunger for more.
God called them to repentance once, but they ultimately turned back from that to continue on their path of destruction. He used their expansionist aims to bring judgment to His own people when the payment for their sins came due, but they were not going to be allowed to resist His character and plans indefinitely. They had been kicking against the goads long enough and their time had now come.
Unfortunately for them, they had been kicking against the goads with incredible violence. When the recoil came, it wasn’t pretty. God Himself was opposed to them and would deliver them over to the same fate they had delivered to all those nations around them. Their life of violence ended violently.
When we try and resist God’s activity in the world around us, our efforts are eventually going to come back around on us. God has plans for each of our lives and in addition to that, calls each and every one of us to live within the bounds of His character. Those things form the boundaries of reality. To pursue any other path of life is to create and try and live in a fantasy world; a world that doesn’t actually exist. We can only do that so long before we crash back up against the walls of reality. The more committed to our fantasy worlds we are, the more violent those eventual crashes will be.
Now, hear me well: I am in no ways trying to say we have something coming that is anything like what Nahum prophesied for the people of Nineveh when we resist the plans of the Lord. His message was for them, not for us. The lesson we can learn from them is that resisting the character and call of the Lord will always end badly.
As we talked about yesterday, God worked through the unwinding of human history to bring the judgment they deserved. In a similar way, the natural consequences of our sin will at first be their own punishment. When we live apart from the reality of who God is, the coming crash against reality’s walls will hopefully be enough of a wake up call to get us back on track. If not, it will be our punishment and judgment until the final judgment comes.
So, what should we do? If you have places in your life where you are resisting the activity and plans of the Lord of Hosts, it’s time to get back on track. Stop running from Him and start running to Him. You will not be able to oppose Him forever. His is the path that will lead to life. Start walking it and enjoy the fruits that come as you do.