“Then all who see you will recoil from you, saying, ‘Nineveh is devastated; who will show sympathy to her?’ Where can I find anyone to comfort you?” (CSB – Read the chapter)
Have you ever seen someone who was a mess and felt awful for them? I was at a birthday party a few weeks ago for one of our youngest’s friends. When I arrived to pick him up, most of the kids were outside playing. This was a fine thing except that it had rained hard the night before and everything was muddy. Really muddy. The party was progressing normally inside until chaos erupted. One poor little girl came inside crying. It looked like she had tried to a belly slide through the mud. Everything from her chin down was brown. The poor thing was a complete mess. Mom got her all cleaned up, but the rest of us just felt awful for her. You’ve perhaps encountered a situation along those lines before. But what about when someone is a mess…and it’s her own fault?
A few years ago I went through and watched all three of the original Robocop films. Summary: They were terrible. Bad plots. Bad special effects. Bad acting. And the things they threw in to give them all R-ratings defied all common sense. But…they were a lot of fun. There’s one scene, though, at the end of the first movie that has always stuck in my mind for some reason.
In the final fight scene in a construction site, one of the main human villains gets a whole tub of acid poured on his body. The first thought is that he’s toast. But a few minutes later, we see him lumbering across an opening in the yard, but his skin is all melting off his body in a big, gooey mess. He makes his way toward one of the other main villains and begs for help. This other guy is completely repulsed by his appearance and ultimately shoots him to stop him from slowing down his attempted escape from Robocop.
Reading this final chapter of Nahum, this scene came to mind. The villain was a mess–again, his skin was melting off his body–and no doubt in fantastic amounts of pain. And yet, as a viewer, you feel absolutely no sympathy for him. He was in a mess completely of his own making. He was receiving the just end of his crimes. He lived a violent life and He died violently, painfully.
Digging into this final chapter of Nahum’s little collection of prophecy, if you thought things were intense before, you haven’t seen anything yet. This chapter is just downright uncomfortable to read. The description of the final destruction of the Assyrian Empire doesn’t pull any punches. It doesn’t offer any relief either save possibly this one verse about a third of the way through it.
Just read the first three verses: “Woe to the city of blood, totally deceitful, full of plunder, never without prey. The crack of the whip and rumble of the wheel, galloping horse, and jolting chariot! Charging horseman, flashing sword, shining spear; heaps of slain, mounds of corpses, dead bodies without end–they stumble over their dead.” Pretty grim, right?!?
But does Nineveh find any help? Is there any small mercy for the Assyrians? They’re a mess, that’s for sure. They’re the kind of mess that might tug on our heartstrings to see it. Each of those dead bodies is someone’s loved one. I don’t care who you are: seeing a people reduced to this kind of painful chaos is sickening.
Yet look at what the watching world has to say about them. Who will show sympathy to her? Wow! She’s in an awful state. I wonder who will do something about that.
Keep in mind here, that this is God in His full fury as righteous judge. He is delivering the just punishment due this people. But even He has to pause a little way into this description and ask: Where can I find anyone to comfort you? He has set in motion the wheels that will grind them slowly forward into their utter destruction, but in the midst of His wrath, His mercy raises its head just a bit: Who will feel badly for Nineveh?
The answer? For now only silence. There is more judgment to be spoken. Come back on Tuesday and we’ll talk about the truly uncomfortable answer.