Who will have the last word? (A Study of Nahum)

Have you ever had a friend that always seems to end conversations abruptly? You are talking with them and within an instant they blurt out, “I got to go, bye.” I have a beloved friend that seems to always end conversations abruptly.  Whether on the phone or following a meal, the conversation is usually ended with my friend getting the last word.  He makes his last remarks and then he is gone. He seems always to have the last word.  A mutual friend made a wise statement recently saying, “It is a good way to avoid an argument.” 

            The one who has the last word wins the argument. That is not to say that the one who believes that they have the last word, but the one who actually has the last word. The one who has the final word is the one who has authority to end the argument.  A disagreement between friends is much different than a disagreement between the state and one of its citizens. A citizen may believe that they are not guilty, but their belief does not determine reality.  The reality is, in situations of law, it is the judge and jury that have the final word regarding one’s innocence.  The final reality is determined by the one who has the last word.

            This is important for us because we live in an age that teaches us that we have the final word on what is good and what is bad for our own lives. Our post-modern society teaches us that truth is relative and therefore we can do whatever makes us happy.  Whether we chose to marry someone of the same-sex or whether we decide to take the life of our unborn child, truth in America is relative.  And truth is not only relative in America, but throughout the West. When the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton gave birth to her and Prince William’s first child, they announced to the world, “It’s a boy!” A large number of people responded in protest to this announcement in saying, “Let the baby decide.”

            There is a growing movement that has started to question the very fabric of common sense in saying that it is the right of a person to decide whether they should be a male or a female.  The social media giant, Facebook, allows new users to choose from up to 50 different gender options.  The world we now live in does not believe in the simple option of either male or female, but rather believes it is an individual right to have the last word on their gender.  Is it possible for a human being to have the last word on their gender?  What about other things?  Can a person have the last word regarding who they should and shouldn’t marry? Does a person have the last word on whether they are a good person?  And if people do not have the last word, who does?

            The small prophecy of Nahum helps us answer this eternal question of, “who will have the last word?”  It appears that Nahum was written as a prophecy rather than announced and then written later.  We have almost no biographical information about Nahum. All that we know of him is where he is from, Elkosh, but then we do not know where Elkosh is located.  We do know that Nahum spoke against Nineveh.  Like Jonah before him, Nahum went to Nineveh to prophesy, yet experienced very different results.  Nahum announces emphatically who will have the last and final word. 

The Lord Will Have the Last Word Over His Enemies

            Nineveh was known for its cruelty and vicious treatment of God’s people.  The Assyrian King Ashurbanipal once wrote how to deal with those who opposed him in saying,

As for those common men who had spoken derogatory things against my god Asher and had plotted against me, the prince who reveres him, I tore their tongues and abased them.  As a posthumous offering I smashed the rest of the people alive by the very figures of protective deities between which they had smashed Sennacherib my grandfather. Their cut-up flesh, I fed to the dogs, swine, jackals, birds, vultures, to the birds of the sky, and to the fishes of the deep pool.[1]

The Assyrians were brutal and harsh. Their brutality allowed them to gain strength and success. Much like the ISIS and HAMAS today, whose brutality has struck fear in their hearts of their adversaries.

 It was easy for Assyria to believe that they were always going to rule. They were powerful and strong.  They had the last word in many battles showing their military might and powerful prowess.  They believed that they were safe in their strength, but did not realize that there was a far greater strength coming: the strength of Almighty God. Nahum1:2,

The LORD is a jealous and avenging God; the LORD is avenging and wrathful; the LORD takes vengeance on his adversaries and keeps wrath for his enemies. (Nahum 1:2)

The Lord saw their brutality and He was coming to bring vengeance in His wrath. 

            It is a fool’s errand to think that one can stand against the world. People may have the illusion of victory, but it is just that, an illusion.  Nahum makes this clear in saying,

Who can stand before his indignation? Who can endure the heat of his anger? His wrath is poured out like fire, and the rocks are broken into pieces by him. (Nahum 1:6) But with an overflowing flood he will make a complete end of the adversaries, and will pursue his enemies into darkness. What do you plot against the LORD? He will make a complete end; trouble will not rise up a second time. For they are like entangled thorns, like drunkards as they drink; they are consumed like stubble fully dried. From you came one who plotted evil against the LORD, a worthless counselor. Thus says the LORD, “Though they are at full strength and many, they will be cut down and pass away. Though I have afflicted you, I will afflict you no more. (Nahum 1:8-12) The LORD has given commandment about you: “No more shall your name be perpetuated; from the house of your gods I will cut off the carved image and the metal image. I will make your grave, for you are vile.” (Nahum 1:14)

Nahum promises the Lord’s vengeance to be meted out on Nineveh.  No one can stand against the Lord.

 Nahum continues to unfold this terrible destruction against Nineveh in Chapter 2 and 3.  A key verse is Nahum 3:5,

Behold, I am against you, declares the LORD of hosts, and will lift up your skirts over your face; and I will make nations look at your nakedness and kingdoms at your shame.

The Lord says, “I am against you.”  The proud nation will be put to shame.  Think on the power in those four words, “I am against you.” The Lord, the one who has the last and final word, is against you. There is no worse fate and no worse fear.  All illusions are over, reality has set in.

            In seeing how God is against Nineveh, it should cause you to ask, “Is God against you?” Hebrews 10:31, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”  God is against all those who oppose Him.  We are born against God because of our sin.  Our sin causes condemnation. God does not set Himself against us, but we set ourselves up against God.  (John 3:18b, “Whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God).  God has to be against sinners, because He is just.  Are you against God?  Have you ever repented of your sin and turned to God? If not, then the Bible says God is against you. Remember verse 6, “Who can stand before his indignation? Who can endure the heat of his anger?”  Read Nahum and see the outcome of those who attempt to stand against God and endure this anger.

The Lord Will Have the Last Word Over His People

            We have looked at the illusion of success of the enemies of God, but we also should look at the illusion of failure of the people of God. God’s people were facing the harsh brutality of the Assyrians and they were powerless to stop it.  They looked on as if there was little hope for victory.  The lie of the world is to believe that our present circumstances equal our future reality.  As Christians, we must believe in God’s word over what we can see.  This is faith.  Hebrews 11:1; 6,

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

We believe despite what we see.  We believe based on what we have heard.  I recently heard someone say that we are not living in the age of the eye, but in the age of the ear. The righteous will live by faith in what we have heard from God’s Word rather than what we see. 

            Judah was in dangerous and helpless circumstances.  They could do nothing, but wait on God. Have you ever been there? In a situation where you were powerless and all you could do was wait on God?  In their helpless state, the Lord brings the last word,

Thus says the LORD, “Though they are at full strength and many, they will be cut down and pass away. 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.” (Nahum 1:12-13) 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. (Nahum 1:15)

God’s people are not promised peace and comfort in this life, but we are promised final peace and final comfort in glory.  He even ends the book with the people of God clapping over the destruction of Nineveh, “All who hear the news about you clap their hands over you. For upon whom has not come your unceasing evil?”

            We have to live in the promise of future grace. God will take care of us, but He will do so in His timing according to His will. He will use every trial and all persecution of His people to refine and purify.  Remember what God says about what trials produce,

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4)

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Romans 5:1-5)

The foundation of our joy in the midst of trials stems from the hope and peace offered in Jesus Christ.  Jesus bled and died to give us peace with God and hope for eternal life.  Regardless of whatever this world tries to make us believe, we live by faith in the Son of God who loved us and gave Himself for us. 

            So when we are surrounded by pain, emotional, financial, or physical, live by the sweet promise that absolutely nothing can separate us from the love of God.

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:35-39)

Do not live by sight, but by faith in the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The Lord Will Have the Last Word On His Character

            As we read the Minor Prophets, we see things that may be difficult to reconcile.  We see the Lord bringing utter destruction upon His enemies.  We see Him allowing wicked deeds to be done to His people.  In our humanity, we read things like this and have a hard time reconciling it with our human minds.  Those outside the faith read the same things and attempt to bring down judgments upon God.  In their lack of wisdom and understanding they try to turn the tables on God’s revealed Word, but it is not man that judges God’s character.  It is God, Himself, who has the last word on His character.

            Nahum starts out the book declaring the facts about who God is and what God will do to His enemies,

The LORD is a jealous and avenging God; the LORD is avenging and wrathful; the LORD takes vengeance on his adversaries and keeps wrath for his enemies. The LORD is slow to anger and great in power, and the LORD will by no means clear the guilty. His way is in whirlwind and storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet. (Nahum 1:2-3)

God is jealous for His own Glory. There is no greater aim in the entire universe than the glory of God.  God’s jealousy for His own Name is foundation of all God’s promises.  He wants what is best for us and what is best for us is what is best, which is Himself.  God is slow to anger and great in power, but He will by no means clear the guilty.  God has to punish the guilty.  He cannot look the other way, but has deal with sin.  And if we are all guilty, then how can it be that anyone could stand before his indignation or endure the heat of his anger (1:6)?

            The answer is found only in Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the only way we can stand before God because He became our sin so we might become His righteousness.  Christ groaned for our guilt. He died for our debt.  He paid for our penalty.  Therefore, we have been declared not guilty, because our iniquity was placed on Him.  God crushed the Christ so we could experience His goodness.  As Christ rose from the dead that first Easter morning, He spoke over us His final word, “It is finished.” 

His final word proved that Jesus was, is and will always be good.  His resurrection proved that God was pleased with His perfect sacrifice for sinful humanity. Nahum 1:7,

The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him.

The Lord knows His people.  In the final day of trouble when the Son comes to bring vengeance upon the earth, the only ones who will stand on that day are those who have One standing in front of them. The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble.

            The Lord will have the last word over our life.  Will the last word you hear be “well done my good and faithful servant” or “depart from me, I never knew you, you worker of lawlessness (Matt. 7:23; 25:23)?

[1] Cited in Dever, Mark. The Message of the Old Testament: Promises Made. Pg 919.
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