“King of Assyria, your shepherds slumber; your officers sleep. Your people are scattered across the mountains with no one to gather them together. There is no remedy for your injury; your wound is severe. All who hear the news about you will clap their hands because of you, for who has not experienced your constant cruelty?” (CSB – Read the chapter)
Last Friday we ended with a question; a haunting question at that. Who would show some sympathy to Assyria? Who would give her any comfort? This morning we get our answer. No one. No one is available or willing. Actually it’s worse than that. Let’s talk about just how bad it is and what we are to do with this little collection of prophecy.
Nahum is dark. There’s just no way around that fact. It’s the darkest of all the Minor Prophets. Even Obadiah with his brief message of judgment for the people of Edom ends with a note of hope for the people of Israel. Not Nahum. There is no hope to be found here for Assyria.
Now, that doesn’t mean the book is totally devoid of hope or comfort. As we talked about a few days ago, Nahum’s name means comfort. The purpose of his prophecy is to give comfort, just not to the people of Assyria. For them, it’s judgment all the way to the end.
What we find here at the end makes clear this judgment was just. This is how bad Assyria was: When word of their destruction spread, the tragedy of their situation didn’t make anyone sad. Just the opposite in fact. Read that last sentence again: All who hear the news about you will clap their hands because of you. It’s not simply that the world wasn’t going to be saddened by the news of Assyria’s fall, they were going to be actively delighted by it. They were going to celebrate it.
A scene that comes to mind is the end of The Return of the Jedi. When the crowd gathered on Endor sees the Death Star explode, they did not mourn over the staggering loss of life it represented. They openly celebrated the destruction of the evil Empire. They had all experienced its constant cruelty and were thrilled they would no longer have to face their evil. Assyria’s fall was like this in the hearts and minds of her neighbors.
Can we acknowledge together that this is an uncomfortable thought? The end of Nahum is disturbing. We don’t want to think of anyone reaching this kind of place. At the same time, we don’t have to work too hard to imagine it. When Hitler’s Nazi regime fell, all who heard of it clapped their hands because of them. News of Osama Bin Laden’s death or the death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi were met with global celebrations.
Here’s part of the call for us: Don’t walk a path like this. That seems simple enough, doesn’t it? There is a path that will lead to people not only not mourning your passing, but actively celebrating it. Don’t take that path.
There’s more. Our just God will bring judgment to those who finally deserve it. We can rely on that with confidence. Now, if you don’t feel persecuted, that may not seem like such a big deal. Rest assured, there are plenty of people who do and for whom this is a very big deal. Where there are those who pursue a path of evil and persecution, that path will come to an end. God is just. Sin won’t last forever and those who pursue it without changing course will meet their end as well.
There’s just a bit more, though, and this last part is important. It may be the most important of all. If this display of God’s terrible justice leaves you uncomfortable in spite of how truly deserved it was, a bit of historical perspective helps us see the bigger character of God.
Remember what we said a few days ago was the final fate of the Assyrians? The empire was destroyed, but a remnant remained. That remnant ruled themselves in a much smaller nation for hundreds of years. Eventually, missionaries from the new movement of Jesus arrived and told them about His sacrificial death and life-giving resurrection. This smaller empire that had experienced the judgment of these missionaries’ God so many years before, were not only impressed with His power, but with the mercy He now showed to the whole world in Christ. They accepted His offer of life and became His followers. Today there are still Assyrian Christians who trace their spiritual lineage directly back to this initial conversion in the earliest years of the church.
This is who our God is. He brings judgment, but His final statement—sometimes one that hadn’t yet had time to play out in the Scriptures—is love and restoration. He longs to restore you as well. Will you receive Him? That, in the end, is the only thing that matters. Nahum gives us an important picture, but one that would eventually be made complete in Christ. That’s why the Old Testament isn’t our final guide. It is merely a pointer toward what was yet to come, but which we can now enjoy in full. Let’s make sure we do.