An oracle concerning Nineveh. The book of the vision of Nahum of Elkosh. 2 The LORD is a jealous and avenging God; the LORD is avenging and wrathful; the LORD takes vengeance on his adversaries and keeps wrath for his enemies. 3 The LORD is slow to anger and great in power, and the LORD will by no means clear the guilty. His way is in whirlwind and storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet. 4 He rebukes the sea and makes it dry; he dries up all the rivers; Bashan and Carmel wither; the bloom of Lebanon withers. 5 The mountains quake before him; the hills melt; the earth heaves before him, the world and all who dwell in it. 6 Who can stand before his indignation? Who can endure the heat of his anger? His wrath is poured out like fire, and the rocks are broken into pieces by him. 7 The LORD is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him. 8 But with an overflowing flood he will make a complete end of the adversaries, and will pursue his enemies into darkness.
We have been spending some time in the Old Testament prophets. I have been making the point that the OT prophets were God’s outlet. If you want to know what God feels – what his reaction is, ask one of his prophets. So throughout the prophets we keep hearing about God’s plans to destroy his enemies. The great nations which conquer and oppress God’s people are often the recipients of these oracles of impending judgment. In Nahum’s case, the oracles predict the destruction of the Assyrian empire.
Nahum’s prophecy was written between 660 and 630 BC. The Assyrian empire was destroyed in 612 BC. That means that this prophecy has long been fulfilled. But it still speaks to us today. Nahum explains in his first few verses why God judges. I want us to get a good grasp on what Nahum taught here, because it will help us understand God’s impending judgment on the world, otherwise known as hell.
Fire is a scary thing, and hell is a scary subject. But it is a reality. We do ourselves no favor ignoring the subject.
Nahum explains that judgment is coming because of the very nature of God himself. The Assyrians had brutalized many nations to obtain their prominence, and all the while God was watching them like a jealous parent. To be jealous is not the same thing as being envious. You are envious of something you do not have. You are jealous of something that you do have. God would not let the Assyrian empire go unpunished because they had attacked and brutalized his own people. For his own honour he would avenge the violence.
Let’s get something straight. Lots of people have done bad things to me, but I have no desire to see them burn up before my eyes. I am not an avenger. But God is an avenger.
Nahum explains that judgment is coming because God had chosen to postpone it. He is a God who keeps wrath for his enemies (2). That means that he does not immediately squish his enemies like a bug whenever they do something wrong. If he did that, there would be no one left to repent and become his people. He gives us time to realize the error of our ways and come to him seeking forgiveness and restoration.
Yet, at the same time, God does not keep his wrath forever. There must be a day of judgment or else God is not just. It is the nature of God that demanded that someday the Assyrians would “pay the piper.”
Nahum explains that the judgment that is coming will appropriately deal with Assyria’s sins because God is great in power (3). He has the ability to make them pay for what they have done. The Assyrians had arrogantly boasted that they would destroy the God of Judah just like they destroyed the gods of all the nations around them. Hezekiah prayed. Isaiah prayed. Then, in demonstration of that great power, God had an angel kill 185,000 Assyrian troops in their sleep. So, for Nahum, complete judgment upon Assyria is only a matter of time.
The only reason Assyria had not been destroyed is that God is slow to anger (3). God feels the anger, but he is in complete self-control, and will only express that anger at the appropriate time.
Nahum explains that the judgment that is coming will not miss anyone. The Assyrians had a philosophy that said might was right. Nahum’s message to them was that God’s judgment would come no matter how much power or land or influence they possessed. They thought that since they were on top that God had no problem with them. They were dead wrong.
Nahum explains that the judgment that is coming will not destroy anyone by mistake. The people of God did right in trusting in him to carry them through the day of trouble (brought on by the Assyrians). He would help them to survive the troubles of the day because he is good. He helps those who cling to him for help.
Nahum explains that the judgment that is coming will destroy all those who do not personally choose to trust in God. The LORD is the refuge. The people of Judah could not trust in their works to save them, nor could they trust in Egypt, or any other power. Only God could keep his people safe from the coming judgment
There is a judgment coming, and it is just as sure as Assyria’s judgment – because it comes from the same God. Hell is an event in the future of humanity. God has decreed it, and it is going to happen even if nobody in the world believes in it.
Jesus said If your right eye or right hand causes you to sin, tear them out and throw them away! It is better to lose them than to have your whole body thrown into hell (Matt. 5:29-30). He said we should fear God, because he is able to destroy both soul and body in hell (Matt. 10:28). Hell is going to be an unquenchable fire – which means it’s going to burn everything up that is thrown into it, and nobody will be able to put is out. The Bible calls it the second death, from which there will be no resurrection. God is going to come “with an overflowing flood he will make a complete end of the adversaries.”
I mentioned that hell is a scary idea, and it is meant to be. God does not want to destroy anyone. But he will. He is a God of justice, and he must punish every evil deed and thought. If you are here today, and you have committed and evil deed or thought – even just one – then hell is for you. But God is pleading with you right now. You see, he has already punished Jesus Christ on the cross. He did that out oif his own grace. All he asks of you and me is that we trust in him. He wants to be our stronghold, our refuge. He rescued his people from the judgment he visited upon the Assyrians. He can rescue us from hell too.
LORD, we confess that we have sinned against you, and deserve your judgment. We also confess that Christ’s death on the cross is our only refuge from hell.