Sometime before the fall of Nineveh in 612 B.C., the prophet Nahum preached a message proclaiming judgment upon the city. That is similar to what the unwilling and defiant prophet, Jonah, had done about one hundred years before. It was during the first half of the 8th century that God had sent Jonah to march through the city of Nineveh and proclaim, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” (Jonah 3:4). Surprisingly, at that time, the pagan people of Nineveh, from the king down to the lowest peasant, believed God and they repented. The king of Nineveh published a decree that everyone should “call on God earnestly that each may turn from his wicked ways and from the violence which is in his hands” in hopes that God would “relent and withdraw His burning anger” (3:8-9). God, in His mercy, spared the city.
One century later, Nineveh had grown to be the largest city in the world. Nineveh had become the capitol of Assyria, the most powerful nation on earth, economically, politically, and militarily. But in pride and arrogance, Nineveh had also become the most idolatrous, violent, oppressive, morally perverted, and cruel place imaginable. The prophet Nahum called it “the bloody city” (3:1).
At the time Nahum prophesied, Assyria had conquered the northern kingdom of Israel and proudly boasted they would also bring down the kingdom of Judah. The people of Judah lived in fear of the Assyrian army, as did the rest of the world. So God sent Nahum to comfort His people with the announcement that Nineveh would be wiped from the face of the earth.
The people of Nineveh thought their city was invincible, surrounded by walls 100 feet high and a moat 150 feet wide and 60 feet deep. But Nahum proclaimed that God would bring down judgment upon those who scorned His law and treated His people with contempt. “Nineveh would fall because it was a godless and idolatrous city, a city of violence, lust, and greed” (from the ESV Student Study Bible, “Introduction to Nahum”. God had shown His mercy, but now He would judge the wickedness.
Nahum says, The LORD is good (1:7) and slow to anger (1:3), but He will not leave the wicked unpunished (1:3). God is a God of compassion, mercy, and patience, but He is also a God of justice. He forgives those who repent and turn to Him, but judges the wicked, who revel in their sin. Nahum’s words are both a comfort and a warning to all people. His words are comforting because they tell us God is kind and patient with sinners. His words are a warning because they show there is a limit to God’s patience. He will surely judge those who willfully and habitually sin against Him. Nahum’s prophecy brought comfort to the people of Judah and to all people who lived in fear of the Assyrians.
Behold, on the mountains the feet of him who brings good news,
Who announces peace!
Celebrate your feasts, O Judah;
Pay your vows.
For never again will the wicked one pass through you;
He is cut off completely (Nahum 1:15).
Nahum said Nineveh’s end would come “with an overflowing flood” (1:8), and he was right. In 612 B.C. while the Babylonians were besieging the city, the Tigris River overflowed its banks and destroyed a portion of Nineveh’s mighty wall. It was just enough to make a pathway for the Babylonians to enter and make an end of the wicked city. Nineveh was so completely demolished by the Babylonians that its remains were not discovered until 1842!
When threatened with destruction, the people of Nineveh repented, but one hundred years later a new generation was even more arrogant, cruel, and defiant of God. Galatians 6:7 tells us, Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. This was true of the city of Nineveh and is a timeless truth of God in relation to all people and nations. In Jonah’s day the people of Nineveh had repented and reaped mercy. The following generations defied God and reaped judgment. Like the people of Nineveh to whom Jonah preached, every person has a choice: the choice to repent of his or her sin and turn to God, or the choice to live in rebellion against Him. The results of those two choices are polar opposites. The first leads to salvation and eternal life while the later leads to judgment.
As believers, the messages of Jonah and Nahum should be a comfort. Knowing we are God’s people and living for Him, we are assured of His mercy and grace. And although it often seems that evil runs rampant in this world, we have hope in God and trust the day will come, as God has promised, when all wickedness and those who perpetrate it will be judged. God is sovereign and He is true to His Word. Nahum proclaimed that God always has His way and then adds, “The clouds are the dust of His feet” (Nahum 1:3). Since studying the Book of Nahum, every time I look at the clouds I think of the sovereignty of God and the truth and power of His Word. His Word is a comfort to me. May you always find comfort and peace in God’s Word.
Job 36:6 “He does not keep the wicked alive,
But gives justice to the afflicted.”
Psalm 37:28 For the Lord loves justice
And does not forsake His godly ones;
They are preserved forever,
But the descendants of the wicked will be cut off.
Psalm 145:20 The Lord keeps all who love Him,
But all the wicked He will destroy.
1 Peter 3:12 “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
And His ears are open to their prayers;
But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”
2 Peter 2:9 The Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment.
The sixth of the Minor Prophets, Micah of Moresheth, was a bold prophet of God who openly denounced the sins of the people of Israel and Judah. But he especially brought to light the sins of the leaders, the judges, priests, and prophets, who put their confidence in power and profit and caused the people to suffer because of it. In this sense, I would venture to say that Micah was a political prophet. His prophecy shows how the sins of the leaders of a nation filter down to the common people and have a devastating effect on them. The people suffer for the sins of their leaders in two ways: 1) without principled leadership, the moral principles of the nation decline and 2) when the leaders of the nation are punished, the people also reap the judgment the leaders have sown.
Micah first condemns the sins of the powerful people who work out evil schemes in their minds as they lay in their beds at night. When morning comes, they go and carry out their sinful plans simply because they have the power to do it. They take advantage of the powerless, oppressing them by taking their houses and fields. These powerful people have told Micah to keep his mouth shut, but he knows that if he keeps silent the sinful ways will continue, and he feels someone must stand up for those who do what is right.
Next, Micah challenges the nation's leaders and confronts them with their sins. The rulers, referring to the judges, who were supposed to uphold justice, twisted it by taking bribes. The priests, who were called by God to ceremony and sacrifice and to teach the people His law, taught for monetary gain. And the prophets, who were supposed to speak God’s Word and convey His will to the people, “led the people astray”, looking out for their own interests rather than the interests of the people. They “divined for a price.” The word “divined” implies they were involved with magic and the occult, which God had forbidden. Money and power were foremost in the minds of the nation’s leaders.
Micah paints a sorry picture of the society in Israel and Jerusalem in his day (the late 7th and early 6th centuries B.C.) and he makes it clear that judgment is coming. However, his prophecy ends with words of comfort and hope for “the remnant”, those who have bravely stood on the side of God’s law and honored Him. He proclaims the greatest prophecy of all: the coming Deliverer from Bethlehem who will gather and shepherd His sheep. “He will be great to the ends of the earth. This One will be our peace” (5:4-5).
In reading about Micah’s prophecy, it may have reminded you of our world today with corruption in high places and the self-centered greed for power and money. Such attitudes and actions cannot help but have an effect on all of us, but we need not be infected by it and let it poison our lives. We can, and we need to, stand strong as God’s people and we need to live for Him. Micah tells us what God requires of us as His people:
He has told you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justice, to love kindness,
And to walk humbly with your God (6:8)?
And near the end of his prophecy, Micah tells us what he will do:
But as for me, I will watch expectantly for the Lord;
I will wait for the God of my salvation.
My God will hear me (7:7).
So will you be influenced by the world, or will you be like Micah? As we humbly immerse ourselves in God’s Word and expectantly wait, seeking to live to glorify God, He will hear us. And He gives us hope and comfort in knowing that judgment will come for those who defy Him. When that day comes, as it surely will, it will mean salvation for those who do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with our God.
I have been involved in Disciplers since 1987, as a discussion leader, teacher, writer, and now as director. I am profoundly committed to the stewardship of this ministry which God has entrusted to me for a time. God’s word is the chief joy of my life. I cherish my personal time in the word, and I am filled with gratitude to be able to share His word with you, my fellow disciples in Christ.