It can be hard to read of God’s judgment against nations in the Old Testament. The descriptions are often graphic and the devastation comprehensive. But God is not quick-tempered. He is not prone to outbursts or fits. He is “long suffering” (Ex. 34:6; 2 Peter 3:9). He gives many chances for people to repent, and that was true even of Assyria. God’s interactions and responses to others serve as lessons to us.
Assyria had been warned. Jonah had gone to them and warned them of impending doom, a warning that they had received and responded to in Nineveh. Yet, here they were again, returning to their wickedness and expanding it even further. Nahum describes the depth of their sin in the opening verses of chapter three. They are a “bloody city” full of “lies” and with endless numbers of dead bodies piling up around them. In fact there are so many corpses that Nahum depicts them as having to stumble over the bodies as they walk through the streets (v. 3). It’s not intended to be a literal description but the picture he paints carries weight. There is “no end to the prey” whom they devour (v. 1). They are an exceedingly wicked nation.
Yet, they should have known better. Not only had Jonah warned the city of Nineveh before, but they knew about the collapse of many other nations around them. Nahum lists a key object lessons: Thebes (v. 8-10). This city seemed prime to prosper. Thebes sat right along the Nile and had the sea as a fortress wall to protect her from invaders (v. 8). Furthermore, the city had supporters and alliances with major nations: Cush and Egypt, Put and Libya. Yet the city fell and that fall was great. Nahum describes the horrors that Thebes suffered: she went into exile and captivity, the children were “dashed in pieces,” and the honored men were sold into slavery (v. 10). Their example was a terrifying one, and should have been a warning to Assyria.
Instead, the remaining verses of the chapter outline a comprehensive termination. There is no one who will be spared, and no one will come to their aid. And all those who have suffered under the hand of Assyria will “clap their hands” (v. 19). No one will mourn for the end of Assyria. They had a chance to learn from the mistakes of others, but instead they forged ahead into their own wickedness and these are the results.
Before we are too quick to condemn Assyria, let us learn from them. They are our own object lesson. You may not be a murderous and wicked nation, but what sins has God convicted you of? What habits has he exposed in others that you might learn to repent before it’s too late? Have you witnessed the impact and fall out of anger? Have you watched pastors fall? Marriages dissolve? Kids run away? Have you seen and witnessed the consequences of sin in the lives of others? What would God have you take away from those examples? It’s not too late to repent and seek help to change. Learn from Assyria. Let them be your object lesson and let them urge you now to repent where you need to. Assyria failed to learn from their object lessons, and now they have become ours. Learn from them.