This is a week of stretching. While preparing this week, I have been reminded how often God stretches me to allow my picture of God to match what has already been revealed to us about God through Scripture. This week, we are going to wind down on the final chapters of Kings (2 Kings 20:12-25:30 to be exact). In reading this passage, though, I was also reminded that we have several prophets who spoke during this time period.
This message concerning Nineveh came as a vision to Nahum, who lived in Elkosh. The LORD is a jealous God, filled with vengeance and rage. He takes revenge on all who oppose Him and continues to rage against His enemies! (Nahum 1:1-2 NLT)
Nahum is an interesting prophet because he was one of the few whose prophecies were about a group of people outside of Israel and Judah. Nahum’s prophecy was primarily to the people of Nineveh. He told them about their upcoming destruction, just like the prophet Jonah. Remember the story?
The LORD gave this message to Jonah son of Amittai: "Get up and go to the great city of Nineveh. Announce My judgment against it because I have seen how wicked its people are." (Jonah 1:1-2 NLT)
Jonah didn’t deliver the message at first, though, because he knew how God worked. Warning the people of Nineveh meant that the people of Nineveh would be given the change to repent (stop their wicked ways). When people repent, the LORD rewards their actions and starts walking with them again. Jonah didn’t want them to have that chance, so he didn’t go deliver the message…at first.
Now the LORD had arranged for a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was inside the fish for three days and three nights.
(Jonah 1:17 NLT)
After getting Jonah’s attention, Jonah repented of his rebellion against God. The LORD had the fish spit him up on the shore and Jonah finally went and delivered the message. Just as Jonah feared, the people of Nineveh did repent and the LORD rewarded their obedience by holding off judgement. The people of Nineveh began walking together with God.
This change of plans greatly upset Jonah, and he became very angry. So he complained to the LORD about it: "Didn't I say before I left home that You would do this, LORD? That is why I ran away to Tarshish! I knew that You are a merciful and compassionate God, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. You are eager to turn back from destroying people.” (Jonah 4:1-2 NLT)
What an interesting reason to get angry with God. Jonah knew that the LORD is “merciful…compassionate…slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.” God doesn’t want to destroy people. God wants to walk with people. That’s why the LORD rewards good. God is the source of all good. When we do good, we are walking together with God.
Your shepherds are asleep, O Assyrian king; your princes lie dead in the dust... (Nahum 3:18 NLT)
Nineveh comes into our story today because they are the capital of the Assyrian empire. The same people who repented in the days of Jonah were used by God to punish the people of Israel. That’s because the people of Nineveh were walking with God and the people of Israel were not. Now, however, the people of Nineveh were getting full of themselves, arrogant, and rebelling against God again. So they will be stopped. Judah, God’s chosen people in the south, will be saved because they are walking together with God.
Look! A messenger is coming over the mountains with good news! He is bringing a message of peace. Celebrate your festivals, O people of Judah, and fulfill all your vows, for your wicked enemies will never invade your land again. They will be completely destroyed! (Nahum 1:15 NLT)
How about you? Have you seen this principle showing up in your life? Do you see it in the lives of people around you, even once you don’t particularly like? Have you noticed that the LORD rewards good?