Jealous Love

Christ Covenant Church
Jon Marq Toombs
7 January 2018
Sermon Text: Nahum 1
First Sunday after the Epiphany

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[ sketch notes ]

Nahum 1 — Jealous Love

Nahum received the vision of Nineveh a century or so after Jonah preached at Nineveh. His ministry likely took place shortly after the fall of Thebes (Egypt) in 667, during the reign of Josiah king of Judah (640-608 BC), and before the fall of Nineveh (Assyria) in 612 BC.

The Assyrians were an ancient people with deep historical roots. By the time God’s judgment (predicted by Nahum) was unleashed against Nineveh, the Assyrians had been on the scene in the ancient east for about 2500 years.

“The prophet Nahum spoke of the Christ 640 years before the incarnation. Two thousand years after Jesus came, we stand guilty of not recognizing the gospel pronouncement made by Nahum, who was among those who preached that “the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.””

― from “Severe Compassion: The Gospel According to Nahum (Gospel According to the Old Testament) by Gregory D. Cook”

Context — The oracle and vision of the book of Nahum take place several decades (90-150 years) after the story of Jonah.

Remember that Jonah was sent to cry out God’s word in Ninevah, the capital city of Assyria. All the people repented from the king down; God showed mercy and spared the city.

That was then; this is now.

The Assyrians are now the most powerful nation in the world. They are at full strength. Through their vast military exploits they have achieved decades of power, prosperity, and peace.

Along the way they have wreaked havoc among God’s people (in Samaria and Judah) and they have killed or taken captive many people — just as Jonah feared would happen if God spared them.

Nineveh’s repentance was short-lived. By the time Nahum received this vision from the Lord, Nineveh had apostatized and fallen back into its old ways and gotten even worse.

The prophets tell us that the kings of Israel (in both the northern and southern kingdoms / in Samaria and Judah) started out flirting with Assyria in order to pay off the bully and cut trade deals and make peace treaties. But they ended up falling in love with Assyria and all her money, sex, and power.

The kings did evil in the eyes of the Lord. They counseled their people to break covenant with God and make covenants with the gods of the world. (1:11) They led the people to compromise and conform to the ways of the world.

As a result, Israel (Samaria and Judah) became an adulterous wife. She lusted after the world and the things in the world. Israel was an idolatrous wife. She followed the lusts of her flesh, the lust of her eyes, and the vanity of life.

According to one prophet’s explicit and graphic description (in Ezekiel 23), which I will not read here, Israel became victims of a sexually abusive relationship with Assyria.

As a result, she and Yahweh separated for a time. She abandoned her husband and went  away into Assyrian captivity for a time (as God warned his people in the Law — Exodus 34:12-16).

But the Lord God, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God. He did not let her get away so easily. He went after her in order to bring her back, and reconcile with her, and save their covenant union / marriage.

The Book of Nahum is a vision of God’s fierce love for his people; a vision of Christ’s fierce love for his church. It shows us what the Lord whose name is Jealous does to the enemies of his beloved wife. As a proverb says, 

For jealousy makes a man furious,
    and he will not spare when he takes revenge.
He will accept no compensation;
    he will refuse though you multiply gifts. 

This burden of this vision was placed on Nahum of Elkosh. Nahum mean comfort and Elkosh mean severe. In this series we will consider both the comfort and severity of our God — comfort towards you who love him; severity towards all who don’t. (Rom 11:22)

This is vision of God’s jealous love for you.

If you are willing and able, please stand for the reading of God’s Holy Word:

[1] An oracle concerning Nineveh. The book of the vision of Nahum of Elkosh.
[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. [3] 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. [4] He rebukes the sea and makes it dry; he dries up all the rivers; Bashan and Carmel wither; the bloom of Lebanon withers. [5] The mountains quake before him; the hills melt; the earth heaves before him, the world and all who dwell in it. [6] 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. [7] The LORD is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him. [8] But with an overflowing flood he will make a complete end of the adversaries, and will pursue his enemies into darkness. [9] What do you plot against the LORD? He will make a complete end; trouble will not rise up a second time. [10] For they are like entangled thorns, like drunkards as they drink; they are consumed like stubble fully dried. [11] From you came one who plotted evil against the LORD, a worthless counselor. [12] 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. [13] And now I will break his yoke from off you and will burst your bonds apart.” [14] 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.” [15] 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. (ESV)

The Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.

CANONICAL READING

A Vision of the Lord — 1:2-5

[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. [3] The LORD is slow to anger and great in power, and the LORD will by no means clear the guilty.

Hear the echoes of Yahweh’s proclamation to Moses in Exodus 34:6-7. When God showed his glory to Moses he proclaimed his Name.

The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”

When Jonah echoed that story he emphasized God’s mercy. (Jonah 4:2)

But when Nahum echoes that story he emphasizes God’s anger, justice, and vengeance. As the vision shows, God will not show them mercy or clear the guilty anymore.

[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.

[3] The LORD is slow to anger and great in power,

and the LORD will by no means clear the guilty.

God warns Ninevah that he is coming to put things to right.

No matter who you are, what you believe, how you live, this vision of the Lord should put the fear of God in your heart and move you to examine your life and confess your sins and repent of them.

God overlooked the times of ignorance in past, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed — the Lord Jesus Christ; and he has given assurance of this day of judgment to all by raising him from the dead. (Acts 17:30–31)

He will come to judge the living and the dead, including Assyria and America, including you and me. We must all appear before the judgment seat of the Lord and give a full account for what we have done in this life — and in the next life he will give to each one according to what we have done.

Salvation History

[4] He rebukes the sea and makes it dry; he dries up all the rivers;

Yahweh has the right and responsibility to deliver his people and destroy his enemies. He has proven himself faithful again and again.

He delivered them from Egypt at the Red Sea. He sent the wind that opened the sea and dried the pathway through it. He send the cloud that sheltered them as the passed through it and were baptized into Moses.

He delivered them into the promise land at the Jordan river. After forty years of wanering in the wasteland, he rolled back the river at flood stage and his people crossed over on dry ground.

He has proven himself faithful again and again, even when his people have been unfaithful, and he will do it again.

Just as he destroyed Egypt and the Canaanites, so he will destroy Ninevah, in order to deliver his people from evil.

Judgment

The threat of God’s judgment is bad news for his enemies. But it is good news for God’s people.

“The Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment.” (2 Pet. 2:9)

We must guard against the heresy that say the God of the OT was mean OT but the God of the NT is nice. As the scripture says in 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10 —

indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, 10 when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed.

Note: Everyone who reads Nahum acknowledges the difficulty of trying to figure out who God is addressing. Is he speaking to his adversaries or to his beloved?

The gender and number of the pronouns are impossible to distinguish in English. But Gregory Cook helps us out by “insert[ing] the gender and number of the pronouns when they are not obvious in English.

Nahum 1:9–15 reads,

What do you [masculine plural] plot against the LORD?
He will make a complete end; trouble will not rise up a second time.
For they [masculine] are like entangled thorns,
like drunkards as they [masculine] drink;
they [masculine] are consumed like stubble fully dried.
From you [feminine singular] came one [masculine singular]
who plotted evil against the LORD, a worthless (Heb. Belial) counselor.
Thus says the LORD,
“Though they [masculine] are at full strength and many,
they [masculine] will be cut down and pass away.
Though I have afflicted you [feminine singular],
I will afflict you [feminine singular] no more.
And now I will break his yoke from off you [feminine singular]
and will burst your [feminine singular] bonds apart.”
The LORD has given commandment about you [masculine singular]:
“No more shall your [masculine singular] name be perpetuated;
from the house of your [masculine singular] gods I
will cut off the carved image and the metal image.
I will make your [masculine singular] grave,
for you [masculine singular] are vile.”
Behold, upon the mountains, the feet of him
who brings good news,
who publishes peace!
Keep your [feminine singular] feasts, O Judah;
fulfill your [feminine singular] vows,
for never again shall the worthless (Heb. Belial)
pass through you [feminine singular];
he is utterly cut off.”

The Hebrew makes it clear that when God speaks to Ninevah he uses masculine pronouns. And when he speaks to his people Israel he uses feminine pronouns.

I mention all this because it helps confirm what we said earlier — the Book of Nahum is a vision of God’s fierce love for his people. It shows us what the Lord whose name is Jealous does to the adversaries of his beloved wife.

Bad News

Described as a Demolition that brings Destruction, Darkness, and Death.

vss 1-6 the vision of Yahweh as a jealous husband is bad news for unrepentant sinners. They have everything to fear, for he comes to

vss 8-11 entangled thorns, dry stubble = curse motif

vs 14 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.”

Good News

Described as a Deliverance from the Demolition

vs 7 the vision of Yahweh as jealous husband is good news for all who turn and trust in him. They have nothing to fear, for he comes to rescue them.

vss 12-13 afflict you no more: break his yoke and burst your bonds / liberty

vs 15 good news, communion, victory over Belial.

The destruction of Ninevah might seem cold-blooded and cruel to some postmoderns folks. But we must see it for what it truly is — a demonstration of the character of God. In this vision we learn something about the compassion and severity of God.

In the vision of the destruction of Ninevah we get a symbolic representation of the end of the world, the flesh, and the devil. This is a picture of what God does to his enemies — and to the enemies of his people.

But what does this vision and burden have to do with us and with the gospel of Jesus Christ?

CHRISTOTELIC READING

On the one hand, the vision of Nahum was fulfilled in space-time history at the destruction of Ninevah and the deliverance of Israel hundreds of years before Christ came into the world.

On the other hand, when Christ came into the world, the vision was fulfilled more fully in the person and work of Jesus.

God came into the world to save sinners, to save his people, at the cross of Jesus Christ. (1 Tim. 1:15)

At the cross, God shook the world, darkened the sun, torn down walls, burst apart chains, cast stars from the sky, cut down idols, and split rocks. (Matthew 27:45-52)

At the cross, the wrath, vengeance, and justice of God were poured out on Jesus Christ because he bore the sins of the world.

At the cross, the guilty were cleared as innocents, and the innocent was condemned as guilty.

At the cross, God judged the world — he judged sin, the flesh, and the devil.

At the cross, all our “little ninevehs” were destroyed through the death of the God-man.

At the cross, this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:8-9)

At the cross, God’s jealous love for his people is displayed with all the passion of a lover for beloved. “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” (Eph. 5:25-27)

At the cross, God disarmed principalities and powers in Christ. If the rulers of this age had known the mystery of God’s compassion and severity, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. (Col. 2:15; 1 Cor. 2:8)

What was bad news for them is good news for us. The death of Christ means the destruction of our enemies and our deliverance from sin, the flesh, and the devil.

In other words, at the cross, in the person and work of Jesus Christ, God did everything he said he would do in the gospel of Nahum.

Behold, upon the mountains, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”, who publishes peace!

Why? — for faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

“Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?”

Let them confess with their mouth that Jesus is Lord,

and let them believe in their heart that God raised him from the dead;

let them call on the name of the Lord, and be saved.

“Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?”

Let them keep feast and fulfill their vows;

let them come to the table and offer their gifts, for never again shall Belial pass through you; for the serpent, the devil, the accuser is utterly cut off at the cross. (Romans 10:5-17)

One last thing: Nahum 1:8 says that Yahweh will pursue his enemies into the darkness. At the cross, God pursued his enemies into the darkness of death and burial and brought them to a bitter end.

 


 

[ Note the Covenant Treaty pattern in Nahum 1 —

Preamble – we learn the Name of the Great King / Yahweh (1:1-5);

Historical Prologue – we learn how Yahweh became the great king and how his rule benefits his followers/subjects (1:4-8);

Stipulations – God’s law / assumed not mentioned;

Sanctions – we learn the consequences for obedience and disobedience / blessings and curses (1:9-14);

Administration/Succession – we learn that the great king has all authority over all things including space-time history (1:15). ]

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