Our Source of Hope
A series of messages from the Old Testament Book of Nahum
by John Dugas.
Grace Bible Church Tulsa.
Messages like Nahum’s seem harsh to our modern ears but those messages from God’s word are still tremendously valuable on this treacherous journey we call life. Look with me at 2 Kings 18:1-12. Here we find a man who obeys the Lord. We’d expect things to go well for him. Look now at Nahum 1:13.
How would you respond to that? You obey the Lord and now this powerful and hateful army comes against you. That doesn’t seem to be a fitting response to living godly. Why would God allow that to happen to a king who is turning Judah from idolatry and unfaithfulness to obedience and godly worship? So how did Hezekiah respond to that severe trial? He wavered. Look at Nahum 1:14-16.
Hezekiah watched his hope slip away. He had been doing so well but the Assyrian threat was just too great in his mind. Isn’t that how we often respond? We’re clicking along, obeying God, then we are slammed with some trial. And like Hezekiah, we watch our hope slip away. We forget the sufficiency of our God and His promises and begin to trust in worldly solutions.
But this is where our great God shines in glory! He does not abandon His people and leave them with no hope. No. He meets them with more of His glorious might and His faithful promises. His help is so wise and good that He calls them to celebrate! That’s the beautiful path we’re taking this morning. I hope that these lessons in Nahum will help you see the Minor Prophets with fresh eyes.
Life is filled with sinister enemies—the most threatening enemy is sin. Are we any match for them? No, not by ourselves. But those enemies are no match for our mighty Lord and Savior! Yahweh promises to work in history to give His people sturdy hope. Nahum will restore our sickly hope so that it will be strong and secure. He calls us to do three things that will build hope firmly on the promises of God. Hope must be built on the promises of God.
That’s where Hezekiah wavered. He took his eyes off of God’s promises. And that’s where we waver too when a severe trial takes us by force. We take our eyes off of God’s promises. So our task is to see how Nahum calls us back to trusting in God’s promises. Here is his first call to us.
I. Be warned against the futility of opposing Yahweh (Nahum 1:9-11).
Even though there isn’t an army outside our church doors waiting to carry us away, there are those in our day who are plotting against Yahweh and His truth. As I’m speaking, schemes are being hatched to oppose godly values, godly people and even God’s chosen person to lead our nation. I said this of President Obama and I repeat it about President Trump. As the one God has placed over our nation (Dan 4:25; 5:21), God commands us to submit to him, honor him and pray for him.
My aim isn’t to talk politics but to talk about how so many in our country have determined to overthrow truth and values that come from God in the Bible. They attack from every angle. They are relentless. They lay out arguments that are leading our young people astray. Is there any hope?
Look at v. 9. Yahweh promises to put an end to every scheme against Him. This doesn’t mean that He won’t allow some to succeed for a while. But He strengthens our hope by promising to put these plots to an end. We’re going to see in a minute how He ended Sennacherib’s attack on Jerusalem.
But Nahum is here talking about when Babylon will destroy Nineveh. So look at v. 10. Nahum saw a vision. In the final hours of the Babylonian attack, the Assyrian commander distributed to his soldiers liberal supplies of wine. While they were drunk, they were attacked. It reminded Nahum of thorn bushes that grew in a tangled mess, useful only for burning (Eccl. 7:6). The Assyrians were so drunk, they were a tangled mess that was overthrown as quickly as burning up dried thorn bushes.
But next, Nahum takes us back in time to what happened to Sennacherib who had besieged Jerusalem. Look at v. 11. This word for wicked or worthless refers to someone who has “a total lack of moral fiber and principle” (Carl Armerding, Expositors: vol 7, p. 466). Sadly, we see too much of that today. Who is this wicked or worthless counselor? Turn back to 2 Kings 18:17-37. This time Hezekiah responds to his trials in humble faith. Look at 2 Kings 19:1-34.
Sennacherib was a worthless counselor, speaking through Rabshakeh, advising God’s people to stop listening to Hezekiah and to give up faith and hope in Yahweh. Rabshakeh invokes the name Yahweh at least 7 times—with blasphemy, mockery and sarcasm. Sennacherib thought he was superior to Yahweh. We must hope in Yahweh’s promise to put down all opposition to Him.
II. Be encouraged that there is a limit to chastisement (Nahum 1:12-14)
In vv. 12-13, the Nahum encourages Judah. He points out that when the Babylonians attack Nineveh, the Assyrians will have sufficient strength to defend their city. They will be at full strength. But they had not counted on Yahweh to rise up against them. God declares that in spite of Nineveh’s great strength, they will be cut off and pass away.
When we raised sheep, we sheared them by sitting them on their haunches and with the clippers, trim their wool so that it would billow down to the ground. That’s the picture Nahum gives for how thoroughly the Babylonians will defeat the Assyrians—like that wool being cut off.
God chastised Judah for their idolatry and disobedience. But notice His promise. There is a limit to chastisement. Assyria will no longer torment Judah. And there will come a day when all of our enemies will be defeated. Yahweh has another promise to Assyria in chapter 1. Look at v. 14.
Yahweh issued a command to emphasize how certain it is. Nineveh would lose its identity as a nation. God said that He would cut off idol and image from their temples. He would demonstrate that He is sovereign over that nation which thought it was above all gods. Here’s what happened:
The temple of Nabu, a major deity at Ninevah, was razed to the ground and buried with ash from the blaze. The statue of Ishtar was discovered, prostrate and headless, amid the ruins of her temple, which had stood at Ninevah for almost fifteen centuries. (Expositors, p. 469)
Finally, Ninevah would be buried because she was contemptible. The city would become its own grave. Nineveh became extinct. Now an important element in hope that is a little surprising…
III. Be glad in God’s promises (Nahum 1:15).
Yahweh is sovereign and just, but He is also good! A practice that cements God’s promises into our minds is for us to consider how good God is and how good are His promises. So Nahum calls us to be glad in them. How do we rejoice in God’s promises? Here are some instructions from v. 15.
- Pay heed to the announcement. “Behold” demands that we pay attention. The good news of peace will come from the one whose feet are on the mountains. Judah had already received a taste of this. Turn back to 2 Kings 19:35-37 to finish that story. Imagine the burst of joy when some messenger brought Judah the news! Later, news would come of Ninevah’s final destruction.
- Celebrate God’s promises. While Assyria won’t be destroyed for years yet, Judah is told to celebrate their feasts and pay their vows now. Why? To celebrate a future victory is to exercise hope.
- Stand firmly on God’s promises. God promised that Assyria would never torment Judah again. Nineveh will be cut off completely! Its destruction was so complete that it was not recognized by a Greek historian 200 years later nor by Alexander the Great who fought a battle nearby.
While Jesus has some battles yet to fight, we have strong hope that He will win them all because of He won the most significant battle of all. He broke the power sin had over us and He secured for us eternal life. So we celebrate the Lord’s Supper looking both backward and forward.