We’ve come to the end of Nahum, and I have to commend you all for being attentive to God’s Word through what is by and large an ignored book of the Bible. Today and the next few days we’ll turn our attention to Nahum 3:1-19.
I wonder if you feel it? Do you notice the disconnect between our culture and the message of Nahum? I mean, doesn’t it feel foreign? For three chapters now we’ve walked through the world of Nahum and seen firsthand things we don’t normally see, or perhaps things we like to ignore in our day: judgment, war, poverty, murder, jealousy, and death. But is this not in the Word of God? Indeed it is, and thus it is not only for us, it is a gift to us from God that we shouldn’t ignore meant to teach us innumerable things about our God and ourselves.
A brief reading of Nahum 3 shows us it is very similar to Nahum 2 in that the prophet Nahum is declaring God’s judgment upon the city of Nineveh. The thing that makes chapter 3 unique and different from chapter 2 is that in 3:1 we learn that all of Nahum 3 is a “woe” directed at Nineveh.
Though the visions of the Divine Warrior in Nahum 1 and His judgments in Nahum 2 are striking and alarming in and of themselves they are not a prophecy or pronouncement of “woe.” A “woe” is a heightening because it is a declaration not only of misfortune but death. We’ve seen this before in other passages of Scripture. We see Isaiah declare a woe onto himself after beholding the glory of God in Isaiah 6 he says, “Woe is me, for I am lost! For I am a man of unclean lips and live among a people of unclean lips; my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” We see Paul declare a woe upon himself in 1 Corinthians 9:16 saying “Necessity is laid upon me, woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” Jesus said in Luke 6:26, “Woe to you if all men think well of you.” Other examples of woe are found all over Scripture. Do not miss that these are not mere statements of severity they are declarations that an end will come if God is not obeyed. This reveals that in a prophecy of “woe” like Nahum 3, a zeal to fear God above man exists. Nahum could have been scared to pronounce such a vivid judgment onto such a violent people as Nineveh. But Nahum’s source of courage, his identity, and therefore his strength, lies in God not man.
In Nahum 3:2-3 we see Nahum’s vision of the warriors who’ll come pillaging through the city of Nineveh, galloping on horses and racing in chariots, wielding swords and spears cutting down the Ninevites left and right, so much that 3:3 says there will be heaps of corpses, dead bodies without end.
In 3:4-7 Nineveh is likened to a whore prostituting herself off with graceful and deadly charms. Remember God once granted grace and repentance to Nineveh through Jonah’s preaching, but afterwards it’s clear that after they turned to God for salvation they turned away from Him to false gods and idolatry. Is this not the essence of sin? Turning away from God to devote your life to something else? Jeremiah 2:12-13 says it like this, “Be appalled O heavens, be shocked, be utterly desolate, declares the Lord. For my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, and dug out for themselves wells, broken wells that cannot hold water.” Nineveh was drank the living water of God but then turned to dig other wells, wells which not only do not satisfy but wells which cannot satisfy because they’re full of holes. Nineveh did this, we do this too. For such whoring around God says He’ll lift the skirt of Nineveh so the nations will see their nakedness and shame, making them a spectacle for all to see. When others see this they’ll cry out saying Nineveh is wasted. Do we not feel the same for those around us we see leaving Christ to dig their own wells, hoping they’ll satisfy? Do we not feel the same when we see ourselves doing this too? There is a reason God uses the graphic imagery of a whore to describe not only His enemies, but His own people throughout the Bible – we have all we ever could want, need, or desire in Christ and yet we leave Him thinking other things will fill us up while in reality they leave us empty and ashamed.
C.S. Lewis described it like this, I’m sure you’ve heard the quote: “It would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
Reader, are you far too easily pleased?