Who are the enemies of God? This is the question that we'll consider as we examine this passage. In fact, does it surprise you that God has enemies?
(A) The enemies of God cut down (Nahum 1:9-12)
Nahum 1:9a presents us with a question -- "what do you plot against the Lord?". The prophet immediately assumes that the enemies are plotting something, and that they are plotting something against the Lord. His anger is directed against what they are doing against Him. 2 Kings tell us that the main crime of Assyrians is that they are oppressors of God’s people, and to that, God asks what it is that they plot. This reminds us of God meeting Saul on the road to Damascus. Nahum 1:9a gives us a statement of God’s will and intent, and also ability because God can take them out in a single strike. God acts on an unprecedented level.
In Nahum 1:10-12, the text switches who it address three times. This is a common device in the other major and minor prophets. Nahum 1:10-11 addresses Assyria, Nahum 1:12 refers to the people of Israel and he goes back to addressing Assyria in Nahum 1:14. Why does God talk to both groups? God is taking sides. God judges the nation but with a mind to protect His
covenant people. This tells us that God will take action on behalf of His people and He really wants them to know it. As we’ve seen, Nahum means comfort. What does it mean that comfort is coming to the people of God even as calamity is befalling their enemies? Are we supposed to delight when God pours out judgment on others? Or do we recognise what God is doing for the sake of his own name and covenant people? When the enemies of God are cut down, they are cut down by God Himself.
Let's take a closer look at what God says to the different groups. To Assyria, the descriptions "engangled thorns) (Nahum 1:10a) and “stubble fully dried” (Nahum 1:10c) are used. This conveys the idea of thorns so thick it obstructs movement, and their land is dead and worthless. They are people that "plot evil against the Lord" (Nahum 1:11).
Is this surprising to you? This shatters any illusion that we have that being a Christian means we are nice people and there are no enemies. Scripture tells us that we are at war, and because there are wars and plots, there will also be complexity and enmity and hostility. If we are not aware, we will be caught off-guard and will be a casualty of war.
In addressing Israel, God also takes an analysis of their enemies (“though they are at full strength” (Nahum 1:12a)). God also allows His people to be afflicted (Nahum 1:12b) and we learn of the kind of affliction they have suffered in 2 Kings 18:14. God knows what they are going through. But He doesn't merely know. He also acts, as we will see in the next verses.
(B) The power of idols broken (Nahum 1:13-14)
God will act, and in Nahum 1:13, the word picture used is that of yokes and bonds. To Israel, God says that He will set them free as He destroys their enemies. Nahum 1:14 also gives us new information about this enemy of God. Beginning with their house of worship, God will shame and destroy their god. He will act against not just their people but also against all they worship. God will set His people free as He subjects their enemies to the total destruction of their gods.
It is important to see this from the text itself, because this is certainly not a pleasant message. In fact, it might make us uncomfortable. We have an amazing ability to flatten out the minor prophets and want to trivialize God’s word. So how do we read verse 14? We don’t a clever interpretation. When God says, “I will make your grave, for you are vile” it means one simple thing — God hates it.
How should we respond? In Acts 17, we read of Paul in Athens and “his spirit was provoked within him” (Acts 17:16b). Paul wasn’t in the church but as he moved in the public space, he was deeply vexed. Paul was angry as he saw their worship of false gods. Who are the enemies of God? As you moved around your city, what do you see and did it vex you? Did it cause you grief, as it did Paul as he saw false worship? Once again, we should be dispossessed of any idea that to be a Christian is to be peaceful and nice. Somewhere in the core of our being, the presence of idolatry should provoke us. Otherwise, our hearts are out of sync with God’s heart.
God also tells His people what to do with idolatry (c.f. Col 3:5). We are to put it to death. This is exactly what Nahum 1:14 says. God hates idols and He hates what it does to people of every nation, tribe and tongue. Would you be willing to hear from His word that that the things you love more than Him, He wants those to die? I don’t know what it is in your life — prestige, a good life, the approval of everyone else in your life, a comfortable life, success — but our idols are real and they have dominion over us. Like Hezekiah who ran to Egypt for security, we run to these things for our comfort. God hates these idols and He hates that we turn to these. He has a set us free therefore He calls us to put to death every single bit of idolatry. He doesn’t want us to nurse it anymore and He calls us to let it die there on the cross with Jesus.
(C) The sound of good news comes (Nahum 1:15)
God has a final word to those who heard Him speak against idolatry (Nahum 1:15). God promises that He will cut off their enemies and break their bonds, and He also gives them 2 instructions. The first is to look at the mountains, for there is someone else that is coming in the cloud of judgment and power. He will come to announce good news (Nahum 1:15a). The second instruction is a call to go back to their covenant, to “keep your feasts” and “fulfill your vows” (Nahum 1:15b). We saw those feasts in Leviticus which were given to teach and remind them that they were God’s people! Through keeping the feasts they were to be reminded of their identity in a foreign land and to live accordingly. Why? Because “never again shall the worthless pass through you” (Nahum 1:15c).
But how do we apply it to use today? The key is to bring these points to the Lord Jesus and apply it to ourselves. In the NT, we read of how those who hear the good news of the gospel receive it and bring it to others! We who have heard it have first received it from the mountain from someone. But that’s not all. We are to get up and go. Rom 10:15 tells us plainly that this is our command. What are you doing with God's Word today?
Nahum is not telling us to keep those feasts today. Rather, we have a superior covenant. Ours is with Jesus, who is a better mediator. Therefore, what it means for us today is to be the people of God in all circumstances. Our Christian identity is not just something we put on on Sundays. Bring the people of God into your life in the week. Sing those sings in the week not just on Saturday nights or Sundays.
As we read these words in Nahum 1, what has God revealed to you about Himself? This is a God that says that He is in control even in the greatest calamity, and that He wishes to bring comfort too. To help us reflect and respond, here are 3 questions to think about:
Who are the “enemies of God”?
What does God hate about idolatry? How should this impact us practically?
For us, what does it mean to “keep your feasts”?