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!” Many 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. Nahum 1:1, “An oracle concerning Nineveh. The book of the vision of Nahum of Elkosh.” 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. Most scholars believe Nineveh is near modern-day Mosul, Iraq. 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
Nahum spoke against Nineveh as it was capital of the Assyrian empire. Assyria was known for its cruelty and vicious treatment of all people especially Israel. The Assyrian King Ashurbanipal once wrote how to deal with those who opposed him 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.[i]
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 comprehensive cruelty. They believed that they were safe in their strength, but they did not realize how weak they were compared to God. The strength of Almighty God was coming bring his wrath against this wicked nation. Nahum 1:2,
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.
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 Lord. 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 preached against the most powerful nation of his day and declared they will come to a complete end.
Jonah prophesied against Nineveh and they repented, but their repentance did not last. Around 745 BC, Tiglath-pileser III made Assyria the leading power in the world. They established their might with bloodshed, cruelty, torture, plundering and destruction. King Hezekiah was forced to make Judah a vassal state paying heavy taxes to Assyria under King Sennacherib. Assyria destroyed the ten northern kingdoms of Israel. Sennecherib made Nineveh the capital and a mighty city.
[Nineveh] was one of the grandest and most powerful cities on earth. Its size, power and wealth inspired fables. Its walls were a good picture of this magnificence. At least two series of walls surrounded the whole city, running for miles and miles. The inner wall, higher of the two, was about one hundred feet high and broad enough for three chariots to race abreast. On the outside of the two sets of walls was a moat 150 feet wide and 60 feet deep. The Tigris and other smaller rivers surrounding Nineveh made the city appear impregnable.
Nineveh appeared unbeatable, but even the best efforts of man can stand against the Lord. Babylon destroyed Assyria in 612 BC. A small group of Assyrians survived and tried to mount a return to power three years later only to lose and to disappear from history.
Nahum did not write only an oracle, but a literal vision terrible destruction of Nineveh. He described the assault in vivid detail as war poetry in Chapter 2 and 3. The key phrase is not about the outcome the battle, but the reason for the sure defeat of Assyria. “Behold, I am against you, declares the Lord of hosts.” Is found both in Nahum 2:13 and Nahum 3:5.
Behold, I am against you, declares the LORD of hosts, and I will burn your chariots in smoke, and the sword shall devour your young lions. I will cut off your prey from the earth, and the voice of your messengers shall no longer be heard. (Nahum 2:13)
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. (Nahum 3:5)
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 me?” 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. Our sin may not be as visibly vile as the Assyrians, but our sin is no less evil in the eyes of God. God does not set Himself against us, but we set ourselves up against God. Regardless how we may try to hide our sin, God will one day expose us. He says of the Ninevehites that their nakedness will be expose and the nations will look on their shame. Adam and Eve were both naked and without shame in Genesis 2:25, but following their sin their nakedness was exposed. Adam and Eve attempted to cover their nakedness with fig leaves, but Hebrews 9:22, “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.” Their covering was insufficient for their sin. They knew then and we know now that when we are exposed in our sin we need a covering. Only God could provide a covering for Adam and Eve. God shed the blood of animal making a covering of skin and He clothed them (Gen. 3:22). Beloved, only God can provide a covering.
Is God against you? Are you like Adam and Eve who tried to hide their shame? Or are you like the Assyrians who in trusted in their pride and power thinking their shame would be exposed? Friend, one day we will all stand exposed and God will judge the secrets of men by Christ. On that day, will God be against you? On that day, will you have a covering for your shame? 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 for his people,
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 Nahum ends the book with the people of God clapping over the destruction of Nineveh, “There is no easing your hurt; your wound is grievous. All who hear the news about you clap their hands over you. For upon whom has not come your unceasing evil?”
We must 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,
In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:6-7)
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. (Romans 8:18)
The foundation of our joy amid trials stems from the hope and peace offered in Jesus Christ. Jesus has taken our shame and made a covering. 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.
When we are surrounded by pain brought on the enemies of God. Whether it be emotional, financial, or physical pain, we live by the sweet promise that absolutely nothing can separate us from the love of God and He will give us the final victory with his final word.
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? … 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;38-39)
Do not live by sight, but by faith in the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. God will vindicate his people.
How encouraging is this truth for our brothers and sisters around the world? As Isis brutally demonstrates its cruelty across the Middle East, or as Kim Jung-un steps on the necks of God’s people in North Korea, or as the Boko Haram spreads violence in Nigeria, God’s people can know that he will not turn a blind eye against their wickedness. He will avenge his people. Let us pray for our brothers and sisters for their trust in God as ruthless dictators and militant extremists spread bloodshed. God will bring justice on wicked nations. Nations that promote greed and violence. Nations that celebrate sexual immorality and twist God’s designs. Nations that oppress God’s people and trust in their military might. God is an Avenger for his people!
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 who has the last word on His character and who will judge the deeds of man.
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. God wants what is best for us and what God thinks is best for us is what is best for us. God is our best and highest aim. God must be jealous for the highest aim in the world. God is slow to anger and great in power, but He will by no means clear the guilty. God must 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)? We need a covering.
God has provided a covering in blood of the lamb. As Israel had a covering from the angel of death with the blood of a lamb shed across the door of the house, we have a covering from the heat of God’s anger with the blood of the Lamb shed across our hearts. Jesus Christ is the only way we can stand before God because for the joy that was set before him, he endured the cross, despising its shame, and was raised to the right hand of the throne of God (Heb. 12:2). Assyria drank the cup of God’s wrath for their sin, but Christ drank the cup of God’s wrath for our sin and for all who repent and turn to him in faith. God crushed the Christ so we could experience His goodness. As Christ rose from the dead that first Easter morning, God spoke His final word over us, “It is finished.” His final word proved that Jesus was, is and will always be good to his people. 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 in the heat of his anger are those who take refuge in the covering of Christ. The Lord is good; a stronghold in the day of trouble; a refuge from the storm; a covering for our shame.
God spoke a word of judgment against a wicked nation to encourage his people to continue to trust him. As our nation continues to drift against the Lord, we, like Judah in Nahum’s day, have obligation to bring good news. Nahum 1:15, “Behold, upon the mountains, the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace!” Beloved, we must bring the good news to our world that God has made peace through the blood of his cross. We must not be silent, but we must announce that in Christ there is a covering for our sin. When was the last time you published peace? If we do not bring the good news, then who? Romans 10:13-15,
For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”
Friends, God has sent us into the world to share the gospel. We have the freedom to share the good news. Let us offering the covering of people’s sin and shame.
The Lord is a jealous and avenging God, but the Lord is also good, a stronghold in the day of trouble, and He knows those who take refuge in Him. The Lord will have the last word over our life and the lives of our neighbors. Will it be “depart from me, I never knew you” or “well done my good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your master” (Matthew 7:23; 24:23)?” What will be God’s last word for you?
 Mark Dever, 816.
[i] Cited in Dever, Mark. The Message of the Old Testament: Promises Made. Pg 919.