Our Source of Restoration
A series of messages from the Old Testament Book of Nahum
by John Dugas.
Grace Bible Church Tulsa.
Israel has been a puzzle to students of the Bible for centuries. Some see Israel as God’s main program and so the Church is either an add-on or a separate program. Promises made to Israel have little or no application to the Church. Others see Israel as having been God’s main program but because they rejected the Messiah, God has permanently rejected Israel. In that understanding, the Church replaces Israel and promises made to Israel apply in some way to the Church. It’s difficult to take all of the Biblical data and come away with a theology that takes into account all of this data.
What can help us understand all of this, is to put our focus on the New Covenant. Why? Because the New Covenant puts the focus on Jesus. I think all believers agree that Jesus needs to be the focus of history. It really is all about the Father bringing glory to His Son. The cross becomes the high point of God revealing His heart and His character to mankind. I think we all agree with that. The New Covenant puts the emphasis on Jesus where it belongs. It is in Jesus that New Covenant promises find their focus and their fulfillment.
Both Israel and the Church find their fulfillment in Jesus. It is in Jesus through His New Covenant work that Israel will receive its promises. It is in Jesus through His New Covenant that the Church can apply OT promises to its own experience. Both Israel and the Church are defined by Jesus and it is in Jesus through the New Covenant that they both become the one people of God.
And so while Israel is a major player in God’s program, Israel also serves as a case study to teach us about God’s faithfulness (1 Cor 10:11). Through Israel, God gives us real life examples of how He is faithful to go to war with His people’s sin and is faithful to restore His people. It is the New Covenant that enables us to understand how this all works together. So let us take a look at an important passage about the New Covenant so we can rightly understand Nahum’s prophecy.
But first, let’s look at how Scripture pictures it for us. Look with me at Ezekiel 37:1-14. From the human perspective, it doesn’t look possible, when you look at ancient Israel or modern Israel, for promises about them to come true. Sure, we see them today coming back into the land God promised them. But most of them continue to reject Jesus the Messiah. As long as they do that, they cannot benefit from New Covenant promises. Ezek 37 is a picture of what needs to happen. The people of Israel need to come to life. How is that possible? Look at Ezek 36.
Spiritual life—life for those who are dead in sin—can only come through faith in Jesus’ New Covenant work on the cross. And any true fulfillment of the land promises can only come to Israel through that same faith in Jesus the Messiah and His New Covenant work. And so Israel’s experience is instructive for us. They sinned against Yahweh. Yahweh went to war with their sin. But when He is done, He restores them. Those general principles are instructive to us.
Yahweh is faithful to chastise His people for their sin. He goes to war with their sin. He will do what it takes to break their love for their sin, for their idols. He may even use our enemies to break our love for sin. But when He has completed that work of chastising us, He will utterly break the power of those enemies. Yahweh promises to restore His people to Himself so that they love only Him, so that they worship only Him. To help us grasp these comforting promises, Nahum walks us through how Yahweh is faithful to restore us, showing us how He causes the power of our enemies to dissolve. Our greatest enemy is sin. And so the ultimate application concerns our sin.
I. Yahweh promises to restore His people (Nahum 2:1-2).
Nabopolasser, the Babylonian king, is described here as the one who scatters. When the shepherd is killed, the sheep are scattered (3:18). Nahum describes what he saw in his vision: hostile military operations, how the Babylonian army has come up, that is, advanced against Ninevah to attack it. In response, Nahum calls on the Ninevites to scurry about and defend their city if they can.
Man the fortress. Sennacherib spent six years building up his armory. Watch the road. He widened the road to facilitate his troops marching out. Strengthen your back, summon all your strength. His son Esarhaddon continued that work, adding weapons, armor, horses, equipment. As hard as the Assyrians might try, their preparations will be to no avail in standing against their attackers or changing the outcome of what God has ordained. Look now at v. 2.
A promise is only as good as the one making it. Only God is capable of fulfilling promises he makes because He is absolutely sovereign. Such sovereign power will allow Him to restore even a devastated nation like Israel. Assyria has already destroyed the northern kingdom and they now threaten the southern kingdom. But Yahweh will restore both according to His promise.
II. Yahweh raises up forces superior to our enemies (Nahum 2:3-7).
In his vision, Nahum saw the horrors Nineveh would experience at the hands of the Babylonians. As we read, watch for their battle readiness in v. 3 that is designed to instill fear. Then watch for the battle advancing on the city. First, Babylon invades the suburbs (v. 4), then they advance to the walls of the city proper (v. 5), and finally they break into the city (v. 6) and begin looting and taking captives (v. 7). Look at vv. 3-7.
Did you notice in v. 5 that the Babylonian commander called upon his nobles (lit., mighty ones), but they stumble as they hurry to set up the protective screen designed to protect those trying to penetrate the wall? What did they stumble over? Ninevah’s many corpses who’ve already fallen in battle (see 3:3).
Sennacherib had built a double dam upstream on the Khosr river which ran through Ninevah. Apparently, when they besieged the city, the Babylonians closed the gates till the reservoir was full, then opened them suddenly to flood the city. The Lord had provided a heavy rain storm in the third year of the siege which caused a flood. The Assyrians had flooded other cities, so it is fitting that their city was destroyed in the same way. The flood would dissolve the palace.
III. Yahweh uses those forces to dismantle our enemies (Nahum 2:8-13).
Like an oasis in the desert, Ninevah was like a pool that peoples flocked to. Now they are fleeing and the city leaders can’t get them to stop. Yahweh causes Nineveh to be completely dismantled. The invaders plunder the wealthy city. Assyrian kings boasted about how much wealth they plundered. Now the tables are turned. Nahum saw Nineveh emptied, desolate and waste. As a result, the people were terror stricken with anguish in the whole body. Look at vv. 11-12.
The Assyrian nation is portrayed as a lion, and Ninevah as a lion’s den, where its people feel safe. The ferocious lion goes out to hunt, tears its prey apart and brings it back to its den for the others to devour. Sennacherib once boasted of his military fury by saying, “Like a lion I raged.” They never dreamed that anything could disturb them and cause them to fear.
If you’ve ever been oppressed or persecuted, you can appreciate the picture Nahum paints here. Whether it be a bully, an unreasonable boss, an overbearing person, or a wicked neighbor. They leave you feeling helpless, hopeless, or terrified. What a blessing it is to know that the Lord is a refuge for us (1:7) and can restore us (Nahum 2:2). Finally, look at v. 13.
What a terrifying thing to learn that the Lord of hosts (Yahweh Sabbaoth, Lord over all armies) is against you, that He personally moves against you! There may be no more fearful statement made to someone. God will utterly dismantle our enemies, including our sin.
Our sin can rob us of years of usefulness and blessing. But do you know how great God’s grace is? He is able to restore His people and He can make up for all the loss they experienced in their sin. Turn over to Joel 2:25-27 to see God’s promise regarding restoration.