Studies in Nahum: 1:9-15

God doesn’t really have enemies, at least not in the sense that we tend to think. There is no one like God. So, while there are those opposed to Him they are comparable to an ant aggravating an elephant (even this comparison doesn’t do justice to the difference). God has no one He must actually contend with, for He is infinite and supreme. He makes that abundantly clear in Nahum chapter 1 as the declaration of absolute description is given against Nineveh. But what turns out to be bad news for Nineveh is good news for Israel. There is still good news today for the children of God.

We might examine this passage in reverse, starting with verse fifteen instead of ending with it. For verse fifteen tells us precisely how to interpret all that comes before it. The declaration of destruction is good news for the people of God. Verse 15 reads:

Behold, upon the mountains, the feet of him
    who brings good news,
    who publishes peace!
Keep your feasts, O Judah;
    fulfill your vows,
for never again shall the worthless pass through you;
    he is utterly cut off.

The ancient world knew heralds of peace who would go and pronounce victory and promote celebration in the aftermath of a battle. The Prophet is predicting such a landslide victory for God that he indicates without question there will be heralds of peace on the mountains, there will come shouts of good news. In fact, he is so confident of God’s victory that he urges Israel to return to life as it should be. The intimation here is that under the Assyrians there had been an interruption of the festal days of the Israel calendar. Their worship routines and practices had fallen by the wayside due to their oppressors. The prophet tells them to start back, to plan to return to life as it was meant to be under God. Celebrate the festivals and feasts, make your vows to God. Victor is sure!

The victory is sure because there is no one who can stop God. Verse nine asks, “What do you plot against the Lord?” It’s not a legitimate question, it’s said with a tone of absurdity. For, after all, God will “make a complete end” of those who attempt to thwart Him. There is no second attempt. The prophet describes Assyria as drunkards and dry grass (v. 10). They have no chance, they can’t be productive or effective in fighting against God. And thought they are at “full strength and many” they will be cut down like they are nothing (v. 12). God has no equal and they don’t stand a chance when He comes to rescue Israel.

All of this is related directly to God’s care and compassion for His people. The end of Nineveh is owing to their own sin, to be sure. They were a greedy, malicious, wicked, and idolatrous people. Yet, ultimately God acted at this time because of the covenant He had made with Israel. He loved them and He wants to rescue them. He says:

Though I have afflicted you,
    I will afflict you no more.
And now I will break his yoke from off you
    and will burst your bonds apart. (v. 12-13)

God will save them because of His great love for them.

The message of Nahum is really the message of the Bible: God is gracious to redeem. Israel didn’t deserve salvation. They had gone into slavery under Assyrian rule as a means of punishment for their own idolatry and wickedness. God used the evil nation of Assyria to call His people to repentance. Yet, He is committed to His covenant love with them. He saves because He is faithful and gracious, not because they deserve it.

Verse 15 is echoed throughout the Scriptures. It appears in nearly identical wording in the book of Isaiah. The prophet declares:

How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.” (Isa. 52:7)

Isaiah writes to exiles too, declaring to them the promise that God will redeem them. Paul picks up on this theme and these words and applies it uniquely to the gospel. In Romans 10:15, Paul is speaking of the beautiful feet of those who preach the good news of the gospel, Christ death and resurrection for sinners. The good news is applied in Paul’s theology not on physical exile but spiritual exile. The good news is that God gracious saves!

Nahum points us to the climactic good news for sinners. He points us to the message of salvation in Christ from sin, death, and hell. There is still good news for sinners today. Like the people of Israel, we can worship now because our God redeems!

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