When the clock ticks down to midnight and the calendar hangs fresh and unsullied, we resolve to do great things. We’ll drop ten pounds, eat our veggies, and work out. We’ll crack open a new journal and read through the Old Testament by June. With iron in our soul, we’ll begin a new year, a bright, shiny, new decade, focused on new habits, right relationships, and the audacity of optimism.
And then comes February.
Because Scripture is rooted in real life and stars a cast of fallible human beings, the opening verse to the book of Nahum comes as no surprise.
An oracle concerning Nineveh…”
As it happens, Jonah did not get the last word on that great Assyrian city. In the 800’s B.C. when the Ninevites renounced their violence and idolatry as an outcome of Jonah’s reluctant revival, life went on for them as it does for us. People went to work and paid their bills. Children were born who had never laid eyes on Jonah or heard his fiery proclamations of judgment. Old habits have a way of returning with subtle ferocity.
Assyria went on to conquer Israel’s Northern Kingdom in 722 B.C., obliterating their heritage and scrubbing away their political existence, so it’s no surprise to find that by the time the Holy Spirit tapped Nahum on the shoulder, the nation of Assyria had forgotten all about its bygone revival. Babylon stood ready to gobble them up as they had so recently swallowed others. As Qui-Gon Jinn aptly observed, “There’s always a bigger fish.”
One man’s warning is another man’s comfort, and Nahum’s mother spoke more truly than she knew when she named her baby boy. More than just the meaning of his name, the promised “comfort” comes in Nahum’s message of God’s wrath against Ninevah because of the implied message to God’s people revealing God as…
- jealous (1:2)
- furious (1:2)
- great in power (1:3)
- in charge of the whirlwind, the storm, the sea, the mountains (1:3-5)
The God of Heaven is not to be trifled with, and he will punish the guilty.
And We Are All Guilty
So where is this promised comfort for nations–and people like us–whose good intentions for revival and renewal have lost steam and sputtered out?
Awareness of my own dalliances with the sin God hates lands with stifling weight in the aftermath of this proclamation of wrath. “‘Behold, I am against you,’ says the Lord of hosts,” (2:13), and “Who can endure the fierceness of his anger?” (1:6)
Good question, and one worthy of a lifetime of terror if it were not for the tension-breaking truth of Nahum 1:7:
The Lord is good,
a stronghold in the day of trouble;
he knows those who take refuge in him. “
The Bible Is a Book About God
There is hope in the truth about who God is. The power of God to accomplish all that he purposes is good news to those who believingly “take refuge” in him, because our all-powerful God is also good. While he has made it clear that sin will be judged, his goodness led him to absorb the judgment in the body and blood of his own Son.
The terrifying reality of God “against you” has been swallowed up in the incredibly good news of God “for you!”
If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? (Romans 8:31-36)
More than merely an escape hatch from our bad habits and our lazy tendency to relapse into sin, God’s good news is an invitation into his kindgom, flowing from the pen of an obscure prophet whose message of comfort for a new year comes on the other side of a message of judgment:
He is good.
He is strong when you are weak.
Trust his goodness and his resolve to help you stay on course in 2020.
He will hold you close:
“For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38, 39)
Trusting in his goodness,
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