What is God warning about bloody cities? God is not just talking about Nineveh and Assyria, one city and kingdom. God is actually talking about a bigger dimension.
The minor prophets address our struggle and questions that we have as we see the some of the destruction of cities today and read God’s word here. We are not to read it thinking that the people in these cities are more deserving of judgment than you or I.
Nahum also teaches us not to read the Bible in a detached manner. The Bible should inform how we read and watch the news, and how we interact and engage with the world. Invite the living God to speak into our world, and ask Him to break our hearts with what breaks us, even if it means having our illusions stripped away.
(A) Woe of an inner rot: judgement on the judged (Nahum 3:1-7)
Nahum 3:2-3 describes what will happen to the “bloody city”. It describes the fall of Nineveh in 612 BC and we read of the destruction of this city. We see the superior military prowess in the form of the horse and chariot, indicating a big force. We read of the flashing sword and glittering spear and the result is a horrifying one with much death.
God’s judgment will make us uncomfortable because it contradicts what we think we’re deserving of. This is what it looks like when men kill men.
This judgment is given because this is a “bloody city”, “all full of lies” and engaged in plunder (Nahum 3:1,4). It was a violent city with a culture of deceit and even evil. It was because of their actions that they were judged as they acted. They were plundered as they plundered others, almost as if there’s a poetic justice going on as God does to them what they did to others. They will receive an appropriate judgment for what they have done.
We also see how the Bible talks about sin having both a horizontal element (man to man) but it also has a vertical effect (man and God).
Nahum 3:4 also describes Assyria as a country that “betrays nations” and engages in “countless whorings”. Who is this one prostitute that seems to be able to seduce all the nations? This is a theme that runs through all the major and minor prophets.
The “faithful city” refers to Judah but Judah became a whore (Isa 1:21).
Not just Babylon but she has seduced many kings and nations (Rev 17:1-8).
She is also a city that has dominion over all the earth. She represents the spirit of adultery (Rev 17:15).
God won’t stand idly by. We will read later of His actions. He acts because of their abominable sins, and also because of the “countless whorings of the prostitutes” (Nahum 3:4). God is basically giving them over to inner rot with the spirit of Babylon.
God says He will do two things, gives the outcome of it, and explains why He does so in Nahum 3:5-7. He will disgrace her by showing her extent of shame and hold her up for all to see. This is so that all who see will be warned and will seek refuge in another city and avoid them.
Does this make you uncomfortable? It could be that Singapore is a comfortable and great city and we’re used to patting ourselves on our back but this is also dangerous. We could lose sight of the biblical story, that things never end well when we try to take God’s place. Be cautious of the inner rot that is in our heart. Let not our eyes be lifted so high that we think we can survive apart from and without the grace of God. It will do us well to remember this at all levels.
Do you sense a spirit of harlotry all around you? Does it vex you? Would you pray for your society and country, and pray for what you see around you? Do you pray for your country and the people of God in this country
(B) Woe to self-rescue efforts: the only reasonable response (Nahum 3:8-18a)
God introduces the city of Thebes in Nahum 3:8, who had the sea as her rampart. This place was surrounded by strategic allies and cities. Yet, she went into exile too (Nahum 3:10). What is God doing? God will bring judgment to Nineveh in the same way that He brought judgment to Thebes. What does this mean for us? We need to think of ourselves as the same as those who are judged. We are not better.
Three key strategic advantages are described in the next few verses, followed by mockery from God. Nahum 3:12 mentions the presence of fortresses, but they were likened to fig trees that were full of ripe figs. These fortresses were ripe for judgment. They thought they’re safe before God, but this will not be so!
They also had troops, but their “troops are women in your midst” (Nahum 3:13a). What they thought of as great defenses were actually nothing! Think back to the Lachish reliefs and the great military might. They looked impressive for a time but these will all collapse when God comes through.
Lastly, they had gates but the “gates of your land are wide open” (Nahum 3:13b). This is making a mockery of all self-defense efforts. Nothing they can put up against God will work.
Finally, five groups of people are identified to describe the extent of Assyria’s national chaos. They are:
Merchants who are like locusts
Princes like grasshoppers
Scribes like clouds of locusts
Shepherds that are asleep and not doing their job, thus no one is guiding and protecting the people
Nobles that are slumbering
These verses are mocking Assyria and everything that they think is great. God is ripping apart their civic structure. All that they trust and rely on will be proven to be false one at a time and very definitely.
What are you trusting and respecting in? What has your attention and honor? What are we trusting in for security? When you feel stressed and anxious, where do you really go? That will fail if God is against you!
But sometimes it does feel that those who trust in God do far, far better. But Nahum says something similar to what the Psalmist says in Ps 73. Also read Ps 73:16-19. God’s word promises that His justice will come in His time. Entrust ourselves to a faithful creator. Admit that our foot almost slipped, as we think about how it might be better if we did not follow Him. But Nahum says that God will bring an end to His enemies.
(C) Woe to the Saviorless: Assyria’s true salvation (Nahum 3:18b-19)
In the closing section, Nahum implies that no leaders of Assyria are able to save them from the impending doom. The last few verses should stir us up to compassion (Nahum 3:18-19). Nahum implies that none of the leaders are able to save them from doom. They need another shepherd to lead and lay his life down for these hapless sheep, to save them from their definite doom.
Is there any hope for Assyria? How should Christians think about the book of Nahum? Nahum seems to say no, that there is no obvious indication there. But as we’ve heard all about what’s going on in our world and see that God can even use ISIS, what should be stirred up in us?
What is Jesus saying in Luke 13:1-9? Jesus brings together 2 tragedies, and asks a question that we all ask — why do bad things happen to some people and not others? Jesus answers that it is not because one is better than the other. It’s not because people who suffer are any worse. These things happen as a warning to everyone else. It’s not our business to ask why. It’s our business to respond to these incidents in repentance.
To make the point doubly clear, Jesus tells the parable in Luke 13:6-9. The truly repentant will bear fruit. Ultimately, Jesus will deal with the fruitless.
As we end our read of Nahum, we are to remember that the message of Nahum is not just to rest in how we, modern Christians, are better. Instead, as we read these difficult verses, we should see that we are equally deserving of wrath and judgment. It should drive us to repentance, and to see that fruit-bearing in keeping with repentance must come to fruition in our lives.
Here are 2 questions to help us apply these truths in our lives:
What does Nahum call us to do, and what does it call to turn from and stop doing?
What has God said to you through Nahum?