Nahum like all of the others that we’ve looked at was a prophet, he was handing out the message of God to the people of Ninevah, the same people group that Jonah, likely the more well-known prophet was challenging. If you fast-forward about 150 years you come upon Nahum who is giving the very same message to the people of Ninevah because they had once again gotten off track.
Here's some quick background on Ninevah. Ninevah is the capital city of Assyria. Assyria had been on a rampage for hundreds of years conquering all sorts of lands and cities. Nahum 3:8 tells us that Assyria had conquered the city of No-amon (or Thebes) all the way down in Egypt. Assyria had a wide and rather unfriendly reach.
If the book of Jonah is about God’s compassion for the people of Ninevah then the book of Nahum is about God’s vengeance towards the people of Ninevah. They had been given multiple chances to get it right but were still choosing to turn their back on God.
What’s more interesting about this whole Assyrian thing is that they weren’t just conquering these areas and collecting taxes or stealing their stuff, they were taking it a step further and were actively working to convert these areas towards their way of idol worship. The people of Ninevah were directly responsible for pulling people away from God's way of doing things. God could not allow this to continue.
I see two very important lessons for us in the account of Nahum. The first is one that we won’t fully understand in this lifetime but we need to at least begin to think about. God is loving and forgiving and God is just and vengeful. It’s the same God in Jonah who says to the people of Ninevah, "Repent, come back, turn around, stop doing that, I’m giving you another chance." That’s the same God who in the book of Nahum says to the people of Ninevah, "I won’t leave you unpunished, I will cut you off, you will be consumed, I will make an end of you, I will pour out my wrath on you."
How do we reconcile these two things? I think at least in part we reconcile these ideas by realizing that they aren’t opposite of one another. I think we’ve bought into this idea that if you love something then that automatically means you’ll never do the tough thing, the hard thing to protect it or save it. We say things like, “Well if God is love then why would he allow people to make bad choices and go to hell?” Well it’s precisely because of God’s loving nature that he allows us to make our own choice. Yes he could force us to do the right thing but that wouldn’t be very loving would it?
It’s because of God’s love for us and in this case the people of Ninevah that he allowed them to make their own choice and unfortunately, they chose to turn their backs on God. And in the end it was because of His love for the people of Judah who were being overrun by the people of Ninevah that He chose to deal justly with the people of Ninevah and to wipe them out.
I came across a commentary on www.overviewbible.com that phrased it like this, “God is safety to those who fear Him, but danger to those who disregard Him.”
Secondly, you’d have to live under a rock to not know that there is some really crazy, sinful stuff happening in our world today. It seems like those who are following Jesus are becoming fewer and fewer and it can be pretty discouraging when you start to feel like you’re in the minority.
That's likely what the people of Judah were feeling as they had spent all of these generations under oppression from the people of Ninevah. It was becoming more and more difficult for them to stay true to what they knew God was calling them to because everyone around them had thrown in the towel on this "God thing". Nahum message comes at a tough time for the people of Judah, many were perhaps wondering how much longer they could stand under such harsh circumstances without caving in to the idol worship.
No doubt each of us have felt overwhelmed by the darkness, both within ourselves and in our world. Perhaps you've found your will to do what’s right weakening as you've become discouraged with what you see in your life and in the world around you?
What Nahum reminds us of is that God’s active hand is working even in the darkest of times to bring justice and hope to the world. God hasn’t forgotten about you. God hasn’t given up on bringing restoration and justice to the world. Be encouraged and keep moving forward.