Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Reading Through Nahum

Nahum is a prophecy that shows we can take comfort in God’s judgment. That seems like an odd concept unless we consider that the judgment of tyrants and oppressors is necessary to produce the perfect kingdom that God has planned. Nahum was written to announce the coming Nahum Chartjudgment on evil Nineveh and the Assyrian empire, which would comfort Judah by assuring the destruction of her enemy and the enemy of God's kingdom and show that God is in control of the world situation and will punish atrocities. As Martin. Luther wrote, “[Nahum] teaches us to trust God and to believe, especially when we despair of all human help, human powers, and counsel, that the Lord stands by those who are His, shields His own against all attacks of the enemy, be they ever so powerful.” The message of Nahum is that the destruction of God's enemies means comfort and freedom for God's people. We can take comfort that, though evil surrounds us, God is in control and justice will be done.

Freedom from danger is never part of God’s agenda for his people. Protection and security in the midst of danger always is. Nahum 1.7, 179.

God does not promise “your best life now.” We still walk in the “valley of the shadow of death.” What God does promise to those who trust him is the blessing of His presence and ultimate victory in the Kingdom of God. Jesus’ resurrection also shows us that we can have victory even when the oppressors of this earth seem to have won. 

Those who make themselves the enemies of God’s people become the enemies of the Lord. This is why our actions toward the needy and oppressed are so important. Selfish actions that take advantage of the weak are a direct attack on the Lord of history. When we devise wicked schemes because it is in our power to do so, we oppose God himself. Nahum 1.11, 182.

The Lord marches against all oppressors of the earth... Any person or nation aligned against justice and righteousness is the enemy of God...Any person who uses power, status, or material wealth against the weak in society plants himself as opposed to God... For this reason God commanded his people to stretch out their hands to the poor (Deut 15:9–11) and to protect the weak in society. Can the people of God do any less today? To line up with the power brokers who pummel the weak is to oppose the Lord God. Nahum 1.12, 184.

God is sovereign over all creation and especially over any imitators who would claim universal power for themselves and ignore God. Nahum 3, 217.

God’s judgment is not a comfort to everyone. To those who oppose him (and to misuse or abuse other people is to oppose God). To fail in our obligation to serve the people around us, to misuse power or wealth is to place ourselves as an enemy of God. This should motivate all of us – including Christians – to take a hard look at ourselves in the mirror.

We often seem to worship God because he keeps us from evil rather than for the sake of knowing him. Nahum reminds us that consequences always follow sin. Reflecting on passages such as these also calls us to worship God for who he is rather than for what he can do for us. Nahum 3.5, 226.

When we reduce God;s blessing to only material things we are guilty of worshipping the gift rather than the giver. We rightly see “prosperity theology” as a heresy, yet we practice it ourselves when we think of God’s blessing in only material terms.

We stand in the tension between the God who is full of wrath and yet good and slow to anger. We come to see that God is calling us to bear our cross, yes even to Calvary and death. We are not only “to resist evil, not only to correct it, but also sometimes simply to suffer it, confident in the assurance that God will finally cleanse his earth of all corruption.” Then for us Nahum becomes more than anything else a great call to repentance. Nahum 3.19, 243.

This is what Jesus meant when he said we must take up our own cross daily and follow him, or as Peter said, we must suffer with Christ.

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