Today’s selected reading is found within the Old Testament prophetic book of Nahum the Elkoshite which he saw concerning the city of Nineveh, as well as the prophetic book of Habakkuk which he would see according to the word of the LORD. More specifically, today’s passage would encompass each of the three chapters found in both prophetic books. THE BURDEN OF NINEVEH! NINEVEH WILL FALL AND BE OVERTHROWN! THE TIME OF NINEVEH AND THE ASSYRIAN EMPIRE HAS COME TO AN END! JONAH WOULD BE SENT TO NINEVEH TO CRY AGAINST IT BECAUSE OF THE WICKEDNESS WHICH HAD GONE UP BEFORE THE LORD! NAHUM SAW A BURDEN CONCERNING NINEVEH AND ITS DESTRUCTION! JONAH WOULD SEE NINEVEH REPENT IN SACKCLOTH, DUST AND ASHES BEFORE THE LORD; NAHUM WOULD SEE NINEVEH REDUCED TO ASHES! REPENTING IN ASHES, REDUCED TO ASHES! THE TRANSITION FROM REPENTANCE IN ASHES TO BEING REDUCED TO ASHES UPON THE EARTH! NINEVEH WILL FALL NEVER TO RISE AGAIN! JONAH’S BURDEN WAS ONE OF JUDGMENT AND WICKEDNESS! NAHUM’S BURDEN WAS ONE OF JUDGMENT AND DESTRUCTION! JONAH WOULD BE SENT UNTO NINEVEH TO CRY OUT AGAINST THE WICKEDNESS THEREIN, WHILE NAHUM WOULD RELEASE THE BURDEN OF THE LORD WHICH HE SAW! FROM REVIVAL AND REPENTANCE TO JUDGMENT AND DESTRUCTION! HOW A CITY CAN GO FROM REPENTANCE TO JUDGMENT, AND FROM HUMILITY TO WRATH! THE CAPITAL CITY OF NINEVEH WOULD BE AT THE VERY HEART OF THE ASSYRIAN EMPIRE AND IT WOULD BE IN NINEVEH THE SEAT OF THE AUTHORITY AND DOMINION OF ASSYRIA WOULD REST! GOD IS JEALOUS! GOD REVENGES! GOD IS JEALOUS, GOD IS FURIOUS! GOD IS JEALOUS, AND THE LORD REVENGETH; THE LORD REVENGETH, AND IS FURIOUS! THE FURIOUS AND JEALOUS GOD! THE FURIOUSNESS AND JEALOUSY OF THE LORD! THE LORD WILL TAKE VENGEANCE ON HIS ADVERSARIES, AND HE RESERVETH WRATH FOR HIS ENEMIES! [WHAT A GREAT COMPARISON IS FOUND IN THE SECOND AND THIRD VERSES, FOR IN THE SECOND VERSE WE READ OF THE LORD BEING FURIOUS, JEALOUS AND TAKING VENGEANCE ON HIS ENEMIES AND ADVERSARIES, WHILE IN THE THIRD VERSE WE READ OF THE LORD BEING SLOW TO ANGER]
IT’S INTERESTING AND WORTH NOTING THAT BOTH JONAH AND NAHUM WOULD SPEAK OF THE LORD BEING SLOW TO ANGER, AND YET HOW JONAH WAS OFFENDED WITH THIS ASPECT OF THE CHARACTER OF GOD! JONAH KNEW THAT THE LORD WAS SLOW TO ANGER AND WOULD WITNESS FIRSTHAND THE LORD REPENTING HIMSELF OF THE EVIL WHICH HE PURPOSED AGAINST NINEVEH BECAUSE OF THEIR REPENTANCE BEFORE HIM! JONAH WOULD SEE THE LORD REPENT OF THE EVIL HE PURPOSED AGAINST NINEVEH, WHILE NAHUM WOULD SEE THE LORD EXECUTE REVENGE UPON NINEVEH! FROM REPENTANCE TO REVENGE! NAHUM WOULD SEE A GOD WHO WAS INDEED SLOW TO ANGER, BUT WHO WAS ALSO JEALOUS AND FURIOUS! NAHUM WOULD SEE A GOD WHO WAS GREAT IN POWER, AND WHO WOULD REVENGE AND TAKE VENGEANCE UPON HIS ENEMIES AND ADVERSARIES! JONAH WOULD SEE THE KINDNESS AND GRACIOUSNESS OF THE LORD, WHILE NAHUM WOULD SEE THE VENGEANCE AND POWER OF THE LORD! JONAH WOULD SEE THE LORD IN KINDNESS, NAHUM WOULD SEE THE LORD IN VENGEANCE! POWER TO REPENT, POWER TO REVENGE! THE LORD OUR GOD HAS POWER TO FORGIVE, THE LORD OUR GOD HAS POWER TO AVENGE AND TAKE VENGEANCE AGAINST HIS ENEMIES AND ADVERSARIES! LET GOD ARISE AND LET HIS ENEMIES BE SCATTERED! WHEN THE LORD RISES UP TO EXECUTE VEGNEANCE UPON HIS ENEMIES AND ADVERSARIES! THE LORD HATH HIS WAY IN THE WHIRLWIND AND IN THE STORM, AND THE CLOUDS ARE THE DUST OF HIS FEET! [THE WHIRLWIND EZEKIEL SAW! THE WHIRLWIND JOB SAW! THE STORM ATOP HOREB] THE GOD WHO CONCEALS HIMSELF IN THE STORM AND WHO COMES IN THE WHIRLWIND! CONTENDING WITH A STORM! CONTENDING WITH THE STORM! [BAAL THE STORM GOD HAS NOTHING ON THE GOD OF THE STORM AND THE GOD OVER ALL STORMS]
“The LORD reigneth; let the earth rejoice; Let the multitude of isles be glad thereof. Clouds and darkness are round about him: Righteousness and judgment are the habitation of his throne. A fire goeth before him, and burneth up his enemies round about. His lightnings enlightened the world: the earth saw, and tremelbed. The hills melted like wax at the presence of the LORD, at the presence of the LORD of the whole earth. The heavens declare His righteousness, and all the people see his glory. Confounded be all they that serve graven images, that boast themselves of idols: worship him, all ye gods. Zion heard, and was glad; and the daughters of Judah rejoiced because of thy judgments, O LORD. For thou, LORD, art high above all the earth: thou art exalted far above all gods. Ye that love the LORD, hate evil: He preserveth the souls of his saints; he delivereth them out of the hand of the wicked. Light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart. Rejoice in the LORD, ye righteous; and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness” (Psalm 97:1-12).
“Now it came to pass in the thirtieth year, in the fourth month, in the fifth day of the month, as I was among the captives by the river of Chebar, that the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God. In the fifth day of the month, which was the fifth year of king Jehoiachin’s captivity. The word of the LORD came expressly unto Ezekiel the priest, the son of Buzi, in the land of the Chaldeans by the river Chebar; and the hand of the LORD was there upon me. And I looked, and, behold, a whirlwind came out of the north, a great cloud, and a fire infolding itself, and a brightness was about it, and out of the midst thereof as the colour of amber, out of the midst of the fire” (Ezekiel 1:1-4).
“Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said, Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge? Gird up now thy loins like a man; For I will demand of thee, and answer thou me. Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? Declare, if thou hast understanding. Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? Or who hath stretched the line upon it? Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? Or who laid the corner stone thereof; when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy? Or who shut up the sea with doors, when it brake forth, as if it had issued out of the womb? When I made the cloud the garment thereof, and thick darkness a swaddlingband for it, and brake up for it my decreed place, and set bars and doors, and said, Hitherto shalt thou come, but not futher: and here shall thy proud waves be stayed? Hast thou commanded the morning since thy days; and caused the dayspring to know his place; that it might take hold of the ends of the earth, that the wicked might be shaken out of it…Hast thou entered into the springs of the sea? Or hast thou walkd in the search of the depth? Have the gates of death been opened unto thee? OR hast thou seen the doors of the shadow of death? Hast thou perceived the breadth of the earth? Declare if thou knowest it all…Where is the way where light dwelleth? And as for darkness, where is the place thereof, that thou shouldest know the paths to the house thereof? KNowest thou it, because thou wast then born? Or because the number of thy days is great? Hast thou entered into the treasures of the snow? Or hast thou seen the treasures of the hail, which I have reserved against the time of trouble, against the day of battle and war? By what way is the light parted, which scattereth the east wind upon the earth? Who hath divided a watercourse for the overflowing of waters, or a way for the lightning of thunder; to cause it to rain on the earth, where no man is; on the wilderness, wherein there is on man; to satisfy the desolate and waste ground; and to cause the bud of the tender herb to spring forth” (Job 38:1-27).
”Then answered the LORD unto Job out of the whirldwind, and said, Gird up thy loins now like a man: I will demand of thee, and declare thou unto me. Wilt thou also disannul my judgment? Wilt thou condemn me, that thou mayest be righteous? Hast thou an arm like God? OR canst thou thunder with a voice like him? Deck thyself now with majesty and excellency; and array thyself with glory and beauty. Cast abroad the rage of thy wrath: and behold every one that is proud, and abase him. Look in every one that is proud, and bring him low; and tread down the wicked in their place. Hid them in the dust together; and bind their faces in secret. Then will I also confess unto thee that thine own right hand can save thee” (Job 40:6-14).
When I begin reading the Old Testament prophetic book of Nahum I am immediately struck with the tremendous fact that this prophetic book contained a vision which Nahum the Elkoshite saw concerning Nineveh. What makes the words in this book so intriguing and captivating is when you think about the fact that earlier on in the history of the Hebrew people the LORD would instruct Jonah to go unto Nineveh and to cry out against the wickedness in the midst of the city, for the wickedness thereof had come up before the LORD. Of course we know and understand that Jonah initially attempted to flee from the presence of the LORD—and upon careful and further examination of the fourth chaper you will find that what Jonah was truly and ultimately running away from was the character of the living God. When Jonah finally arrived in the city of Nineveh and cried out against the wickedness in the midst thereof, and warned of judgment that would come upon the city in forty days time, everyone from the king who sat upon the throne unto the lowest servant repented themselves before the LORD in sackcloth and ashes. As a direct result of the repentance of the inhabitants of Nineveh we find the LORD Himself repenting of the great evil which He had purposed against this ancient capital city of the Assyrian Empire. The third chapter of this prophetic book ends and concludes with the LORD repenting Himself of the evil He purposed against Nineveh because He observed how they had humbled themselves before and in His sight. The LORD observed how everyone from the king to the lowest servant humbled themselves before Him in repentance, and as a direct result He would not bring the judgment which He originally purposed to bring against it. As you come to the fourth chapter, however, you will find Jonah growing angry with the LORD, and even demanding and requesting of the LORD that He take his life. The words we find in the fourth chapter of this prophetic book reveal Jonah’s anger with the LORD over His character and nature—character and nature which he was aware of while he was still in his country, and which he even acknowledged and argued with the LORD before he attempted to flee from His presence. In all reality, I would dare say that Jonah attempted to flee from the presence of the LORD because He realized the character of God—even the character of God which would have been displayed toward Nineveh—would go directly against his own character and his own opinions.
It’s quite interesting to read the words which are found in the opening verses of the first chapter of the prophetic book of Nahum in direct connection with the words found in the fourth chapter of the prophetic book because both prophets make similar declarations concerning the LORD. The one notable difference between the prophet Nahum and the prophet Jonah is that Jonah knew and understood the character and nature of the LORD before attempting to flee from His presence and that character, and became offended with it, while Nahum knew the character of the LORD and it would serve as the foundation for the prophetic word that would be released concerning Nineveh. Jonah would speak of and reveal the nature and character of the living God as he sat outside the wall of Nineveh on the east side of the city as he waited to see what would become of Nineveh. There is not a doubt in my mind that Jonah sat outside the city of Nineveh and sat on the east side of the wall because he anticipated—perhaps even expected the LORD to judge this ancient capital city. When you read the words found in the fourth chapter of this prophetic book of Jonah you will find him preaching judgment, righteousness and repentance to the city, the entire city repenting before the LORD in sackcloth and ashes, and the LORD repenting Himself of the evil which He had purposed against the city. Pause for a moment and consider what such a scenario would be like in our modern context and within our generation if the LORD raised up one of His own people, sent them unto a capital city of a nation and kingdom, and the entire city repented before the LORD in sackcloth and ashes. Imagine if a city such as London, or Paris, or Berlin, or Tokyo, or Sydney, or even our own Washington, D.C. heard the word of the LORD and repented before Him in sackcloth and ashes and humbled themselves in His sight. What’s more, is imagine the LORD responding to that humility and repentance and relenting and repenting of the judgment and wrath He purposed against it. With that in mind, consider if you will the words which are found in the prophetic book of Jonah in the fourth chapter beginning to read with and from the first verse:
“But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry. And he prayed unto the LORD, and said, I pray thee, O LORD, was not this my saying, when I was yet in my country? Therefore I fled before unto Tarshish: for I knew that thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest thee of the evil. Therefore now, O LORD< take, I beseech thee, my life from me; for it is better for me to die than to live. Then said the LORD, Does thou well to be angry? So Jonah went out of the city, and sat on the east side of the city, and there made him a booth, and sat under it in the shadow, till he might see what would become of the city” (Jonah 4:1-5).
Within this passage of Scripture we find Jonah speaking to the LORD—perhaps for the second time—concerning his character and nature the same words which the LORD Himself proclaimed unto Moses when He hid him in the cleft of the rock and caused all His goodness to pass before him. I am convinced that in order to understand the words which are found in the prophetic books of Jonah and Nahum it is necessary to consider the words which are found in the thirty-third and thirty-fourth chapters of the Old Testament book of Exodus. It is within these two chapters where we find Moses asking the LORD to show unto Him His glory, and the LORD responding by declaring how no man can see Him and live, but how there was a place by Him which He would hide Moses in as He passed by Him and proclaimed unto Him His name, His nature and His character. Consider if you will the following words which are found within these two chapters beginning to read with the eighteenth verse of the thirty-third chapter:
“And he said, I beseech thee, shew my thy glory. And He said, I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before thee; and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy. And he said, Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live. And the LORD said, Behold, there is a place by my, and thou shalt stand upon a rock: and it shall come to pass, while my glory passeth by, that I will put thee in a clift of the rock, and will cover thee with my hand while I pass by: and I will take away mine hand, and thou shalt see my back parts: but my face shall not be seen” (Exodus 33:18-23).
”And the LORD said unto Moses, Hew thee two tables of stone like unto the first: and I will write upon these tables the words that were in the first tables, which thou brakest. And be ready in the morning, and come up in the morning unto mount Sinai, and present thyself there to me in the top of the mount. And no man shall come up with thee, neither let any man be seen throughout all the mount; neither let the flocks nor herds feed before that mount. And he hewed two tables of stone like unto the first; and Moses rose up early in the morning, and went up unto mount Sinai, as the LORD had commanded him, and took in his hand the two tables of stone. And the LORD descended in the cloud, and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD. And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation. And Moses made haste, and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshipped” (Exodus 34:1-8).
I sit here today thinking about and considering the words which are found in the opening chapter of the prophetic book of Nahum, as well as the words which are found in the fourth chapter of the prophetic book of Jonah, and I find it absolutely incredible how both men would speak the same truth concerning the living and eternal God, however, one would see the demonstration and manifestation of the forgiveness of the LORD in repenting Himself of the evil which He purposed against a city, while the other would actually see the judgment and wrath which the other prophesied concerning. It should be noted that Jonah prophesied unto the inhabitants of Nineveh that in forty days time judgment would come upon the entire city with all its inhabitants, and Scripture records how all of Nineveh heard those words, feared the LORD, and gave themselves to repentance before Him in sackcloth and ashes. Jonah sat outside the city of Nineveh waiting to see what would become of the city, and there is not a doubt in my mind that he was waiting to see the LORD judge the city according to the word which he prophesied. The more I consider this reality the more I can’t help but wonder what would be the greater manifestation within the life of Jonah—prophesying concerning judgment and witnessing the LORD carry out the judgment he prophesied concerning, or prophesying judgment, witnessing an entire city come to repentance before the LORD, and the LORD relenting and repenting Himself of the evil which he purposed against that city. There is not a doubt in my mind that many of us be more comfortable with the judgment of the LORD upon a city and nation than we would in watching as men and women turn their hearts before and unto the LORD in repentance, and the LORD turn away and avert His wrath and judgment. The question that must be asked within our hearts is that while Scripture does indeed and does in fact declare and proclaim that mercy triumphs over judgment—would we rather it be the other way around as judgment triumphs over mercy. How incredibly interesting it is to think about and consider the fact that Jonah sought after and desired judgment of the LORD to be manifested within and upon the city of Nineveh with the inhabitants therein, and yet what he would see instead is the mercy of God triumphing over the judgment he prophesied concerning.
It is something worth thinking about and considering the contrast between the prophetic book of Nahum and the prophetic book of Jonah, for what we find within each is a contrast between the judgment of the LORD and the mercy of the LORD, and yet how the LORD would be true to His nature and character in demonstrating and manifesting both. Jonah would show up a day’s journey in the midst of the city of Nineveh and would proclaim the word of the LORD concerning judgment upon the city with all the inhabitants therein, and it would be the repentance of the inhabitants of the city that would completely alter the trajectory of the prophetic word he proclaimed in their midst. Jonah would prophesy that in forty days judgment would come upon the city of Nineveh, and Scripture reveals how after Jonah prophesied concerning judgment the people would repent before the LORD in sackcloth and ashes, and by doing so would completely and utterly alter the heart and mind of the LORD. Pause for a moment and think about the fact that the LORD would purpose and determine that judgment would be cast upon the city of Nineveh and the inhabitants therein, and yet through repentance, through brokenness, through the fear of the LORD, and through humility in His sight He would alter that which He purposed concerning the city. What’s more, is that not only was Jonah angry with the LORD when He repented Himself of the evil which He purposed against the inhabitants of Nineveh, but he would also sit outside the city on the eastern side to see what would become of the city. There is not a doubt in my mind that Jonah wanted the judgment of the LORD to come upon the city of Nineveh according to the word he prophesied, and yet what he encountered instead was the LORD showing mercy unto the inhabitants of the city. This is quite astonishing when you think about and consider it in light of the words which Nahum would speak in the first and opening chapter of the prophetic book which bears his name, for not only would Nahum speak of the LORD being slow to anger and great in power, but he would also speak of the LORD being jealous and furious, and taking vengeance upon His adversaries and enemies. Consider if you will the following words which are found in the first and opening chapter of this prophetic book beginning with the second verse:
“God is jealous, and the LORD revengeth; The LORD revengeth, and iis furious; The LORD will take vengeance on his adversaries, and he reserveth wrath for his enemies. The LORD is slow to anger, and great in power, and will not at all acquite the wicked: The LORD hath his way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet. HE rebuketh the sea, and maketh it dry, and drieth up all the rivers: Bashan languisheth, and Carmel, and the flower of Lebanon languisheth. The mountains quake at Him, and the hills melt, and the earth is burned in his presence, yea, the world, and all that dwel therein. Who can stand before his indignation? And who can abide in the fierceness of his anger? His fury is poured out like fire, and the rocks are thrown down by him. The LORD is good, and a strong hold in the day of trouble; and he knoweth them that trust in him. But with an overrunning flood he will make an utter end of the place thereof, and darkness shall pursue his enemies” (Nahum 1:2-8).
Upon beginning to read the words which are found in the opening chapter of the prophetic book of Nahum you will encounter a similar revelation of the LORD as Jonah had except during a different time. When Jonah entered into Nineveh he knew and understood the LORD was slow to anger and abounding in kindness, and he preached the judgment and wrath of the LORD upon the city only to watch as the LORD would exercise His grace, His mercy, His longsuffering, His patience and His kindness toward the inhabitants of the city. The LORD would not execute His judgment upon Nineveh during the days and at the time of Jonah, but would repent Him of the evil He had purposed against it. When, however, you come to the days of Nahum you will find an entirely different story, for it would be during the days of Nahum the LORD would actually execute His judgment and wrath upon this same city He had previously showed kindness, mercy and grace toward. Stop for a moment and consider that fact—the fact that during the days of Jonah the LORD would prophesy and proclaim judgment and wrath upon the city of Nineveh, yet would relent and repent Himself of that evil He purposed against it because of their repentance before Him. The underlying question we must ask ourselves is whether or not the LORD did in fact repent Himself of the evil which He purposed Himself toward and against the city of Nineveh during that generation, however, He would execute that same judgment and wrath at a later time. We know for a fact that the LORD can indeed postpone and delay the judgment He purposed against and upon a city, for we find this written in the Old Testament book of Second Kings when reading about Josiah king of Judah. We find during the days of Manasseh king of Judah the LORD would pronounce judgment and wrath against the city of Jerusalem, however, it would be during the days of Josiah king of Judah the LORD would stay and postpone His wrath and judgment because of Josiah’s humility before the LORD. It would be Josiah’s humility and brokenness before the LORD that would grant the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem a reprieve and respite from the judgment of the LORD until the days and generations of his sons would come upon the earth. It would be during the days of his sons when the judgment of the LORD would actually begin to manifest itself within the land of Judah and upon the city of Jerusalem. Consider if you will the words which are found in the Old Testament book of Second Kings and within the twenty-second chapter of this prophetic book:
“And Hilkiah the high priest said unto Shaphan the scribe, I have found the book of the law in the house of the LORD. And Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan, and he read it. And Shaphan the scribe came to the king, and brought the king word again, and said, Thy servants have gathered the money that was found in the house, and have delivered it into the hand of them that do the work, that have the oversight of the house of the LORD. And Shaphan the scribe shewed the king, saying, Hilkiah the priest hath delivered me a book. And Shaphan read it before the king. And it came to pass, when the king had heard the words of the book of the law, that he rent his clothes. And the king commanded Hilkiah the priest, and Ahikam the son of Shaphan, and Achbor the son of Michaiah, and Shaphan the scribe, and Asahiah a servant of the king’s saying, Go ye, inquire of the LORD for me, and for the people, and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that is found: for great is the wrath of the LORD that is kindled against us, because our fathers have not hearkened unto the words of this book, to do according unto all that which is written concerning us. So Hilkiah the priest, and Ahikam, went unto Huldah the prophetess, the wife of Shallum the son of Tikvah, the son of Harhas, keeper of the wardrobe; (now she dwelt in Jerusalem in the college) and they communed with her. And she said unto them, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Tell the man that sent you to me, Thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will bring evil upon this place, and upon the inhabitants thereof, even all the words of the book which the king of Judah hath read: because they have forsaken me, and have burned incense unto other gods, that they might provoke me to anger with all the works of their hands; therefore my wrath shall be kindled against this place, and shall not be quenched. But to the king of Judah which sent you to inquire of the LORD, thus shall ye say to him, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, As touching the words which thou hast heard; because thine heart was tender, and thou hast humbled thyself before the LORD, when thou heardest what I spake against this place, and against the inhabitants thereof, that they should become a desolation and a curse, and hast rent thy clothes, and wept before me; I also have heard thee, saith the LORD. Behold therefore, I will gather thee unto thy fathers, and thou shalt be gathered into thy grave pin peace; and thine eyes shall not see all the evil which I will bring upon this place. And they brought the king word again. And the king sent, and they gathered unto him all the elders of Judah and of Jerusalem. And the king went up into the house of the LORD, and all the men of Judah and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem with him, and the priests, and the prophets, and all the people, both small and great: and he read in their ears all the words of the book of the covenant which was found in the house of the LORD. And the king stood by a pillar, and made a covenant before the LORD, to walk after the LORD, and to keep his commandments and his testimonies and his statutes with all their heart and all their soul, to perform the words of this covenant that were written in this book. And all the people stood to the covenant” (2 Kings 22:8-23:3).
A TALE OF TWO KINGS: THE KING OF JUDAH AND THE KING OF NINEVEH! AVERTED JUDGMENT AND DELAYED WRATH! POSTPONED JUDGMENT AND WRATH! JONAH WOULD WITNESS THE LORD REPENT HIMSELF OF THE EVIL WHICH HE HAD PURPOSED AGAINST NINEVEH BECAUSE OF THEIR REPENTANCE, HOWEVER, WE MUST ASK OURSELVES IF THAT JUDGMENT WAS MERELY DELAYED! IT IS POSSIBLE FOR JUDGMENT TO BE PRONOUNCED, JUDGMENT TO BE DELAYED, BUT FOR IT TO ULTIMATELY BE MANIFESTED IN THE MIDST OF THAT CITY, THAT NATION, THAT KINGDOM, AND THAT EMPIRE UNTO WHICH IT WAS DIRECTED! If there is one thing that so amazes and intrigues me about the city of Nineveh during the days of Jonah, as well as the city of Jerusalem and the land of Judah during the days Josiah king of Judah is that during the days of Jonah a warning, an alarm and a message of judgment was heard within the streets as Jonah would proclaim the word of the LORD in their hearing. Jonah would stand in the streets of Nineveh—and would perhaps even stand in a major public square within the city—and would powerfully proclaim that in forty days the judgment of the LORD would come upon that city. What we must recognize and understand is that this wasn’t a Jewish city such as Beth-el, or Beersheba, or Samaria, or Jerusalem, or Hebron, or any other city within the northern kingdom of Israel or the southern kingdom of Judah. The inhabitants of Nineveh weren’t given the Law of Moses, nor did they have the voices of the prophets proclaiming the word of the LORD before and unto them. The inhabitants of Nineveh had perhaps never heard the word of the LORD before, and yet here comes this unsuspecting prophet out of the land of Israel who would speak of judgment coming upon the city. Scripture reveals the purpose of this judgment as being the wickedness found in the city which had gone up unto heaven—much like the wickedness of the earth during the days of Noah had gone up to Him, and much like the wickedness of Sodom and Gomorrah during the days of Lot had gone up before the LORD. We aren’t given any clue or indication as to the wickedness which was committed and performed in the midst of Nineveh during the days of Nineveh—only that the wickedness committed within the city had gone up unto heaven and warranted the judgment of the LORD.
What I find absolutely stirring and moving when reading the narrative of Jonah and the inhabitants of Nineveh is that they had absolutely no reason to believe a single word which Jonah had spoken. Jonah was a man from a nation and people far away from this city, and far away from the Assyrian Empire, and here he came prophesying and speaking of judgment and wrath coming upon the city within forty days. I can’t help but wonder if there weren’t certain events which had taken place leading up to the arrival of Jonah in the midst of the city, and when Jonah arrived and spoke of judgment the inhabitants of the city were already ripe for repentance. RIPE FOR REPENTANCE THROUGH SIGNS! RIPE FOR REPENTANCE THROUGH WONDERS! The fact that Jonah showed up in the midst of the city of Nineveh and spoke a message of judgment, and that the entire city from the king unto the lowest servant repented before the LORD in sackcloth and ashes is truly remarkable when you take the time to think about it, for they had neither the Law, nor the prophets among them in their midst, and perhaps their only exposure to the word of the LORD was this unsuspecting Hebrew who showed up in the midst of the city and began proclaiming the word of the LORD. It is something worth noting and pointing out that as a direct result of their repentance before the LORD the LORD would relent and repent Himself of the evil which He had purposed against the city, and the judgment He was going to unleash upon the city. The LORD would watch and observe the humility, the brokenness, the repentance of the inhabitants of the city of Nineveh, and it would be that response to the word of the LORD that would move and stir the LORD to avert His judgment and punishment which was going to be released upon the city. What’s more, is that I still can’t help but view Nineveh and the response of the inhabitants of the city as being a wonderful and powerful indictment against the house of Israel who had the Law and who had the prophets, and yet who failed to turn their hearts to the LORD, and who failed to heed the word of the LORD and repent before Him. Here was this heathen, pagan and Gentile city who had neither the Law of Moses, nor the prophets of the LORD, and yet they repented before the LORD in sackcloth, in dust and ashes. The simple fact that the LORD would send one of His own unto a heathen city such as Nineveh, and that this one would proclaim the word of the LORD there in the midst of the city is in and of itself a tremendous indictment against the house of Israel as the LORD would send His servants the prophets rising up early proclaiming unto them the word of the LORD, and yet how they would not turn their hearts before and unto the LORD but would continue in their own evil and stubborn ways.
I sit here this morning thinking about and considering the words which are found in the prophetic books of Jonah and Nahum, and I can’t help but think about the awesome and incredible fact that the inhabitants of Nineveh would hear the word of the LORD proclaimed among them in the streets of their city, and they would repent before the LORD in sackcloth and ashes. Similarly, during the days of Josiah king of Judah we find him hearing the words which were written and recorded in the book of the Law of Moses, and upon hearing the words recorded therein rent his garments and humbled himself before the LORD because of how great the wrath of the LORD was upon the city of Jerusalem. So moved and so stirred by the words which were written within the Law of Moses and read in his hearing Josiah would send certain individuals unto Huldah the prophetess in order that he might inquire of the LORD, for great was the wrath of the LORD toward and against that place. In response to Josiah’s humility, and his seeking the LORD by sending those individuals unto Huldah the prophetess the word of the LORD would declare that the judgment and wrath of the LORD would continue to be poured out upon the city of Jerusalem and against the land of Judah because of their idolatry, because of their wickedness, because of their iniquity, and because of their transgression. Of course we also know from reading the Old Testament books of Second Kings and Second Chronicles, as well as the Old Testament prophetic book of Jeremiah that the sins which Manasseh the son of Hezekiah would commit in the midst of the city of Jerusalem and within the land of Judah would prime both the city of Jerusalem, as well as the land of Judah for judgment. Despite the fact that the LORD would indeed and would in fact bring His judgment and wrath upon the city of Jerusalem, and upon the place of His great name the humility and brokenness of Josiah would avert that judgment within his days and generation. The LORD would honor the humility of Josiah during those days and would declare that the judgment and wrath He had purposed against the city would not take place during His days. Oh judgment and wrath were still on the horizon, however, that judgment and wrath would not take place during his days, but would take place during the days of his sons in the next generation. What’s more, is I would dare say that all throughout the days of Josiah there might even have been a great number—a remnant if you will—of those individuals who worshipped the LORD and who walked in His statutes, His commands and His decrees outlined within the Law of Moses which had been found in the Temple.
With this being said I find it worth noting and pointing out that when Jonah showed up in the city of Nineveh and prophesied judgment coming upon the city in forty days, the inhabitants of the city would respond to that word by repenting before the LORD in sackcloth, in dust and ashes. We know that the LORD would relent and repent Himself of the evil which He had purposed toward and against the city, however, when we come to the prophetic book and days of Nahum we find the LORD moving forward with judgment against the city of Nineveh and the inhabitants therein. Moreover, we know that once the judgment of the LORD had been enacted upon Nineveh it would be reduced to dirt, dush, ash, ruin and rubble and would never rise again. Once the judgment of the LORD had been manifested in the midst of the city of Nineveh it would never again rise in the midst of the earth, and even today during our generation it is nothing more than a barren and desolate place within what is known is Iraq. When the judgment of the LORD would be passed down upon and against the city of Nineveh it would be so thorough, so complete and so powerful that it would never rise again. What’s more, is that the Assyrian Empire itself would never again rise in the midst of the earth, as Babylon would emerge as the next kingdom and empire upon the earth. In fact, this is mainly and mostly what the prophetic book of Habakkuk is about, as the prophet Habakkuk would prophesy the emergence and ascendance of the Babylonian Empire in the midst of the earth. Oh I can’t help but think about and consider the awesome and incredible reality that the LORD responded to the repentance of the inhabitants of the city of Nineveh during the days of Jonah and would relent and repent Himself of the evil which He purposed against the city. That judgment, however, would ultimately be manifested within and against the city during the days of Nahum, as Nahum would powerfully proclaim the burden of Nineveh which would be a burden of judgment and wrath which would come against the city and all the inhabitants therein. It would be Nahum the Elkoshite who would proclaim the judgment of the LORD toward against the inhabitants of Nineveh, and against the city itself—something that is worth making note of and paying attention to.
As I read the words found in the prophetic book of Nahum I am immediately captivated with the fact that in the second verse of this prophetic book we find Nahum declaring how God was jealous and how the LORD revenges. Nahum would also go on to declare how the LORD revenges and how He is furious. In the second half of the second verse we find Nahum going on to declare that the LORD would taken vengeance on His adversaries, and how He reserved wrath for His enemies. The opening verses of this prophetic book speak to and reveal the nature of God as being a furious and jealous God who takes vengeance and exercises revenge upon His enemies and adversaries. What is quite interesting when you consider it is that in the third verse we find the prophet declaring how the LORD was slow to anger, how the LORD was great in power, and how He would not at all acquit the wicked. Essentially what we find in the opening verses of the prophetic book of Nahum is a powerful statement and declaration—not only of the nature and character of the LORD, but also of the tremendous power of the LORD. We find within the opening verses of the prophetic book of Nahum powerful statements and declarations concerning the LORD exercising judgment and vengeance against His adversaries and enemies, and how the LORD—although He is slow to anger and great in power—does not and will not acquit the wicked. The prophet Nahum would go on to reveal how the LORD has His way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and how the clouds are the dust of His feet. These words are incredibly powerful, for when you read the Old Testament prophetic book of Ezekiel you will find that when Ezekiel saw visions of God as the heavens were opened he would see a whirlwind coming out of the north with a fire infolding itself in the midst of the whirlwind. It would be in the midst of this whirlwind and in the midst of this storm Ezekiel would not only see the four living creatures and the cherubim, but would also see the throne of the living God and Him seated upon the throne. It would be by the river of Chebar Ezekiel would see this whirlwind and storm coming out of the north, and the whirlwind and storm itself would be a wonderful and powerful vision and manifestation of the glory of the LORD before and unto Ezekiel as he sat among the captives. What’s more, is that if you read the poetic book of Job you will find that when the LORD finally broke the silence after allowing Job and his three friends to dialogue back and forth with each other, He spoke unto Job out of the whirlwind. Not only this, but Scripture reveals how the LORD spoke to Job out of the whirlwind—not once, but twice. There would be two distinct times when the LORD would speak unto Job, and would do so from the midst of the whirlwind—not only concealing Himself in the midst of the storm, but also as a demonstration of His power.
If there is one thing I find truly worth making mention and taking note of is that more often than not the manifestation of the LORD in the midst of the storm, and the manifestation of the LORD in the midst of the whirlwind is directly linked to His power and His authority. The prophet Nahum spoke concerning the LORD and declared how He was great in power, and then revealed how the LORD had His way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and how the clouds were the dust of His feet. Even the words which are found in the poetic book of the Psalms and in the ninety-seventh chapter of the book speak to and reveal the awesome truth that the LORD reigns, and calls the earth to rejoice. The psalmist would go on to declare how clouds and darkness are round about the LORD, and how righteousness and judgment are the inhabitation of His throne. Moreover, the psalmist would go on to declare how a fire goes before the LORD and burns up all His enemies round about, as well as how His lightnings enlighten the world. The psalmist further declares how the earth saw all this and trembled, and how the hills melted like wax at the presence of the LORD. Furthermore, it was written and declared how the heavens declare the righteousness of the LORD, and all the people see His glory, and how confounded be all those who serve graven images, and who boast themselves of idols. An invitation is then given unto all gods to worship the LORD, for He alone has all authority, all dominion and all power. I can’t help but be reminded of the descent of the LORD God upon the top of the mountain in the wilderness of Sinai, and how when He descended upon that mountain before and in the sight of all Israel He did so in the midst of the storm and in the midst of great darkness. Scripture reveals how when the LORD descended upon the mountain the whole mountain trembled under the weight of the pressure of the glory of the LORD upon it, and how the LORD descended upon it in the midst of thick darkness, in the midst of clouds, and in the midst of a consuming fire which would be upon it. What’s more, is that there would be thunders and lightnings that would be in the midst of the storm theophany atop the mountain, and it would be this great sight before the congregation of the children of Israel that would cause them to shrink back in fear. The LORD would descend upon the mountain of God in the midst of the wilderness, and the LORD would manifest Himself in the midst of the thick clouds and darkness, and would thunder His voice from atop the mountain as He spoke unto Moses in the midst of the entire camp and congregation of Israel.
Upon continuing to read the words which are found in the prophetic book of Nahum you will find that after he wrote and declared how the LORD had His way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and how the clouds were the dust of his feet, he would go on to write and speak of the great power of the LORD in the midst of the storm and in the midst of the whirlwind. I remember previously writing concerning some of the great storms which have moved against and moved upon the Gulf Coast of this nation, as well as upon the East Coast of this nation, and asking if the hurricanes and storms which came upon the nation weren’t more than just physical and natural storms which would manifest themselves among us in this generation, but were actually a way for the LORD to enter into and come upon this nation in the midst of the storm as He would manifest Himself and His power before and in the sight of all the inhabitants of this nation. I have previously written whether or not it was possible for the LORD to be found and come in the midst of the storms which have manifested themselves upon the shores of our coasts, and as the LORD concealed Himself in the midst of those storms—not only to move within and upon this nation, but also to exercise judgment upon this nation. There have been a number of storms that have threatened both the Gulf Coast and the East Coast, and there have been a number of storms which have unleashed great devastation and destruction as a direct result of it. With that being said there is a part of me that can’t help but wonder if the LORD Himself wasn’t in the midst of the storm concealing Himself in the midst of the storm as He would move within and upon this nation demonstrating His power, demonstrating His authority, and demonstrating His might and strength. The prophet Nahum declared how the LORD had His way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and how the clouds were the dust of His feet, and he would go on to reveal and speak concerning the manifestation of the LORD of hosts in the midst of the storm. With that being said, please consider if you will the following words which are found in this passage of Scripture beginning with the fourth verse of the first and opening chapter of this prophetic book:
“He rebuketh the sea, and maketh it dry, and drieth up all the rivers: Bashan languisheth, and Carmel, and the flower of Lebanon languisheth. The mountains quake at Him, and the hills melt, and the earth is burned at His presence, yea, the world, and all that dwell therein. Who can stand before His indignation? And who can abide in the fierceness of His anger? His fury is poured out like fire, and the rocks are thrown down by Him. The LORD is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble; and he knoweth them that trust in Him. But with an overrunning flood He will make an utter end of the place thereof, and darkness shall pursue his enemies” (Nahum 1:3-8).
The words which you find in the opening verses of the first chapter of the prophetic book of Nahum bring us face to face with the character and nature of the LORD in that He is jealous, in that He is furious, in that He is slow to anger, great in power, and does not acquit the wicked. What we find in the rest of the prophetic book is a tremendous and powerful picture of the strength, the might, and the power of the LORD—specifically and particularly toward and against His enemies and His adversaries. Although the opening verses of this prophetic book speak to and reveal the LORD being a jealous and furious God, and slow to anger and great in power, we find a powerful declaration and proclamation concerning His judgment and wrath upon His enemies and His adversaries. What makes this truly astonishing and remarkable is when you think about and consider the fact that the rest of this prophetic book seems to suggest and indicate that Nineveh had transitioned into a place where judgment and wrath could and would not be averted, and how the LORD would avenge Himself toward, against and upon them. It is important for us to note that Nineveh was the capital city of the Assyrian Empire, and that it was the Assyrian Empire which not only invaded the northern kingdom of Israel, subdued the capital city of Samaria, put countless individuals to the sword and carried away others as captive, but they would even enter into and invade the southern kingdom of Judah, would capture the defenced cities in the midst thereof, and would even threaten Hezekiah king of Judah and the inhabitants within the city. What we find, however, is not only Hezekiah humbling himself before the LORD, but also Hezekiah fearing the LORD and fearing the word of the LORD, and taking the words and threats of Rabshakeh who was outside the city walls and bringing them before the prophet of the LORD, and even before the LORD of hosts as He entered into the Temple. Ultimately, Isaiah would declare and proclaim that the Assyrians would not launch a single arrow, nor would they raise sword or spear, nor would they enter into the city of Jerusalem, but would flee from and out of the land of Judah the same way they entered and came. Scripture reveals how while Sennacherib king of Assyria was worshipping his god Nisroch in the temple his two sons would put him to death, would flee into the land of Armenia, and his son Esar-haddon would rule and reign in his place.
It’s actually quite interesting to consider how in this particular reading the prophetic books of Nahum and Habakkuk are paired together, for while the prophetic book of Nahum speaks of the judgment and destruction of Nineveh, the prophetic book of Habakkuk speaks of the emergence and rise of the Babylonian Empire. You cannot read the prophetic book of Habakkuk without coming to the knowledge of the fact that the LORD was going to bring to an end the Assyrian Empire and bring judgment upon Nineveh for the wickedness and evil it did against the northern kingdom of Israel and the people which lived and dwelt in the midst of the land. The LORD would use Babylon, the king of Babylon, and the Babylonian army to punish and bring judgment upon Nineveh, and as a direct result of this Nineveh would never rise again. As you read the words found within these passages of Scripture you will essentially encounter and come face to face with the tremendous reality of the Assyrian Empire which was represented by the capital and chief city of Nineveh being brought down low and reduced to dirt, dust and ashes. What makes this all the more intriguing is when you think about and consider that Nineveh would repent before the LORD of its wickedness, and would do so in dust and ashes, and yet no more than a few generations later it would be reduced to dust and ashes never to rise again. It would be their repentance and humility before the LORD that would cause them to experience a respite and reprieve from the judgment of the LORD, yet the time would come when that judgment could and would no longer be averted and held back and would ultimately come upon the land. I can’t help but see a tremendous and powerful warning and word of caution to and for this nation—specifically concerning this nation being one that is under the judgment of the LORD. It would be during the days of Josiah king of Judah, and even during the days of Hezekiah king of Judah the judgment of the LORD would be averted and would be stayed because of the humility of these two kings, however, that judgment would ultimately and inevitably come during the days of the sons of Josiah. It is true that humility, repentance and brokenness before the LORD can indeed bring about a reprieve and respite from judgment, however, the LORD might simply be delaying judgment—not only in response to that humility and repentance, but also that His goodness might lead to repentance before Him in the midst of the earth. Oh that we would read these two prophetic books and would truly understand and recognize the importance of humility, of brokenness and of repentance before the LORD, and how the LORD responds to repentance and humility by exercising His divine mercy, His divine kindness and His grace.