The book of Nahum is addressed to the city of Nineveh, the capital of the Assyrian Empire. During the prophet Nahum’s day Assyria was the most powerful nation on earth. They ruled other nations through terrorism. They had a well-earned reputation for cruelty, and their many “allies” cooperated with them out of fear. Judah was one of the nations that was under their domination. Assyria had bullied God’s people into a subservient position, forcing them to make exorbitant tribute payments — or face invasion.
A century before Nahum prophesied, Jonah (the whale-riding prophet) had preached in Nineveh and saw a great revival. The king and all his subjects repented before the one true God, and they were spared from God’s judgment. But a new generation of Ninevites had forgotten about the Lord, and a new prophet arose to pronounce their judgment. Nineveh represented a world power that seemed invincible, but a day of reckoning was coming.
The most significant feature of the book of Nahum is the way it presents the Lord. In the opening lines we learn that He is “a jealous and avenging God” (v.2). He rightfully demands our total allegiance and our exclusive love. He is fiercely committed to justice, and as the punisher of sins He “will by no means clear the guilty” nation or person who does not turn from their sin (v.3). Those who ignore His warnings and persist in their sin find themselves to be the enemies of an angry God (v.6). He is “slow to anger” (v.3), but once His anger is unleashed it is unstoppable. “Who can stand before His indignation?”, Nahum asks (v.6). Nobody. We are talking about the all-powerful Lord of the Universe here — when He walks into battle the very earth trembles. Nahum pictures rocks melting, mountains splitting apart, and the ground “heaving” when God steps in (v.5). Nahum is not exaggerating. God can do that.
If that was the totality of God’s character we would indeed be hopeless. I’m so glad there is more to know of Him! Nahum presents the complete picture with this statement in verse 7: “The Lord is good.” To those who refuse His rule and reject His love, God is a consuming fire (v.10), but those who love the Lord and run to Him for mercy find Him to be a protector and a defender. Our response to His grace determines which expression of His holiness we will know: His holy anger or His holy love. It will be one or the other.
In the last verse of this chapter I see a shadow of the moment when holy anger and holy love collided, and the product of that beautiful collision changed my life. Verse 15 says, “Behold, upon the mountains, the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace!” In its immediate context, this verse refers to the messenger who crossed the mountains to bring good news to Judah that her greatest enemy, the Assyrians, had been defeated. But there is a far-reaching fulfillment of this prophecy that concerns Jesus Christ. Six hundred years after Nahum wrote these words, the Son of God would go to a mountain, too. “Behold His feet” — feet that had walked the dusty roads of Galilee to preach the gospel. Feet that had walked to the poor, the sick, and the hungry to bless them. Feet that had stood at the bedsides of the dying and the dead to bring healing and life. Feet that climbed Mount Calvary, carrying two burdens, His cross and my sin.
“Behold, upon the mountain, the feet of Him who brings good news.” Those feet were pierced through with nails, fastening Him to the cross where God’s wrath met His love. As Jesus took responsibility for my sins, He had to also absorb the wrath of His Father that my sins had incurred. In that moment, as the wrath of God took His life, the love of God opened the door of salvation for me. What love! What good news! What a Savior!