Nahum, a little book tucked into the minor prophets that is often forgotten and/or overlooked, is written as a prophecy about the city of Nineveh. Yes, that same city that had repented and turned to God after the message of Jonah. But, in the 100 years since Jonah’s message, Ninevah had returned to its wicked ways, and God was preparing to annihilate the city once and for all. Ironically, the name “Nahum” means “comfort” but, at first glance, the prophet’s message to the nation of Israel doesn’t seem very comforting at all. Yet, in reality, Nahum was telling the Israelites, who were at that very moment under siege by the King who made Ninevah his home, that God was going to destroy this enemy. God was reminding Israel that He had chosen them, He loved them, and He was going to preserve them and fulfill His promises to them.
Nahum begins with a description of a powerful God.
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.
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.
He rebukes the sea and makes it dry;
he dries up all the rivers;
Bashan and Carmel wither;
the bloom of Lebanon withers.
The mountains quake before him;
the hills melt;
the earth heaves before him,
the world and all who dwell in it.
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.
Nahum 1:1-6 (ESV)
Nahum begins his message with some poignant reminders of God’s past power and provision for His people. These were events in which the nation of Israel had witnessed God’s power and provision firsthand: He had parted the Red Sea and Jordan River for them (Ex. 14:21; Josh. 3:17). He had descended to Mt Sinai in fire, and it trembled (Ex. 19:18). Early in their travels through the wilderness, God had instructed Moses to strike the rock, providing water for the Israelites (Ex. 17:6).
Surely the Israelites were feeling fearful, abandoned, weary. And, yet, in the midst of their suffering, Nahum’s message was one of comfort and reassurance. He was reminding Israel to look back and remember that, despite their repeated disobedience and lack of trust, God had always kept His promises.
The Lord is good,
a stronghold in the day of trouble;
he knows those who take refuge in him.
But with an overflowing flood
he will make a complete end of the adversaries,
and will pursue his enemies into darkness.
Nahum 1: 7-8 (ESV)
Nahum begins his message by rehearsing specific instances of God’s power and provision for Israel. He then moves immediately into reminding God’s people of His goodness. The order of his message is not accidental. Could Israel trust a God that was powerful but not good? Could they trust a God that was good but not powerful? I ask myself the same questions. If God is powerful but not good, can I trust that He will use His great power to do good things? And, if He is good but not powerful, can I trust that He will be able to accomplish the good things He has promised? Of course, the answer is yes! I can trust because God is both powerful AND good. He does not make promises He cannot keep, and those promises are always good.
Like Israel, I can look back on God’s past faithfulness to me and trust that He will be faithful in the future. Even when I cannot imagine anything good happening. Even when things don’t happen in ways that I would consider “good”. Even when I have no answers. God’s past faithfulness is the anchor that grounds me for an uncertain future. Because of His goodness, I can trust Him. Because of His power I know that He can—and will—accomplish the good things He has promised.
With the goodness of God to desire our highest welfare,
the wisdom of God to plan it,
and the power of God to achieve it, what do we lack?
Surely, we are the most favored of all creatures.