A Major Lesson from a Minor Prophet

August 27, 2012 - 5:00 am

“The Lord is slow to anger but great in power; the Lord will not leave the guilty unpunished.
His way is in the whirlwind and the storm, and clouds are the dust of his feet.” — Nahum 1:3

The Book of Nahum is all about the destruction that is about to befall the evil city of Nineveh, the capital of Assyria. The prophet describes an angry God and utter desolation. The people of Nineveh were unusually wicked, and so they are singled out for an unusually harsh end.

Does Nineveh sound familiar? It should. We’ve already heard about this city in the more famous Book of Jonah. About 150 years earlier, God was ready to destroy Nineveh because, already then, it was so evil that the city deserved to be demolished. But God sent the prophet Jonah to preach to Nineveh and the people repented. God accepted their repentance, and Nineveh is spared.

Now, many years later, Nineveh is worse than ever. Nahum describes it as a place, full of lies, 
full of plunder, never without victims!”
(Nahum 3:1). He demonstrates the magnitude of their destructiveness:  “piles of dead, bodies without number, people stumbling over the corpses” (Nahum 3:3). Nineveh is evil personified.

This time around, God doesn’t send a prophet to the doomed city because the people there are no longer capable of repentance. That’s how low they have fallen. Nineveh’s destruction is inevitable. The city has gone too far and crossed too many boundaries. The time for mercy is over, and the time for justice has begun.

Nahum tells us that God is “slow to anger.” Indeed, God is patient and waits for man to repent. But make no mistake about it:  He doesn’t wait around forever. God isn’t like a wishy-washy parent that makes threats, but never follows through with action. As Nahum reminds us, “The Lord is slow to anger but great in power; the Lord will not leave the guilty unpunished.” Though God desires repentance and prefers life over death, sometimes punishment is the only option. Justice will be served, and the guilty will reap the seeds that they themselves have sown.

The Book of Nahum isn’t sugar-coated. The prophet tells it truthfully, and he drives home one of the most important and fundamental lessons about life:  There are consequences for our actions. We are fortunate enough that our God is patient, merciful, and forgiving. But that doesn’t mean that we can — and will — get away with our sins. In the end, the righteous will be rewarded and the wicked will be punished. This truth should dictate how we live our lives.


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