We are born in the context of war, but we are not abandoned to the control of Satan. In this message on Nahum, Pastor Bart Box teaches us that the idea of God as a warrior is rooted in the character of God. As Christians, we ought to trust in the cross of Christ for forgiveness and be thankful for the victory of Christ over evil.
- The Divine Warrior in Nahum
- The Divine Warrior in the New Testament
- The Divine Warrior in Our Lives
Well, this morning, we’ve come to the much-anticipated book of Nahum. If you would, take your Bibles and turn with me to that book roughly in the middle of the Minor Prophets, right after Micah and before the book of Habakkuk.
Someone told me recently that when I preached from Amos and Hosea together, they said that was the best sermon they had ever heard on those books. Heather, why are you laughing? They also said, of course, that was the first time they had ever heard those books preached together, just to make sure they knew where I was at. I trust the same will be true this morning, that this is probably the best sermon you’ve ever heard on Nahum, probably the worst sermon you’ve ever heard on Nahum, maybe the first sermon that you’ve ever heard.
The Divine Warrior in Nahum
This morning, I want to speak to you, as you see there in your notes, about the divine warrior. I want to speak to you about God in Christ as our divine warrior. Nahum is probably the most difficult book in all of the Minor Prophets to discern. Not the message; the message is pretty clear, but to discern exactly what the relevance of the particular book, those three chapters are for us in our Christian life, the message is abundantly clear. If you will look, even at the chapter titles in the book, you can see…and of course, these are not part of the original texts, but just really summarizing what you see in those texts…you see that the message can be encapsulated in really, four words; “God’s judgment against Nineveh”, or “God’s judgment against Assyria”, the overall nation.
You see God’s wrath against Nineveh in Nahum 1, the destruction of Nineveh in Nahum 2, and the woe to Nineveh in Nahum 3. You have three chapters here that are devoted to the destruction of a wicked city, a wicked nation, a wicked capital; a wicked nation, in fact, that no longer even exists. It raises the question for us this morning, all across this room, what could this word against this city that no longer exists…what could this possibly have to do with you and I in this room? Think about it. When was the last time…this week doesn’t count…when was the last time, though, that you heard someone say, “Man, I’ve been in Nahum lately, and it’s just great. Just really been diving in, just meditating on the book of Nahum.” You just don’t hear that a lot, but I am convinced, and I want to suggest to you this morning, that this little book…just eight minutes to read, by the way…that this little book has tremendous relevance for our lives, because we in this room this morning, bear a striking resemblance to the people of Nahum’s day. Obviously, not in dress, not in custom, not in our culture, but in this: that we too live in a radically fallen world; that we live in a world of wickedness and chaos and sin and evil and despair and brokenness; that we too have an Adversary who perverts the Word of God, who opposes the work of God, who targets the saints of God. Paul says in Ephesians 6:12, he says, “[For] we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” In the same way that the people of Nineveh faced an adversary, faced an outside force and needed a word from God, we also, this morning, as we face an adversary, we need…I need and you need…to hear of the absolute sovereignty of our God. We need to hear that God reigns, and that is the message that we have in the book of Nahum. That there is an opposition that we face, but there is a God who is greater than all of that opposition who fights in our place and on our behalf. We have a divine warrior.
It is that message that I want to, by God’s grace, to show you this morning. I want you to see the warrior that God is in the book of Nahum, and then I want us to see that. Having seen that, I want us to see then, the warrior that we see in the New Testament as Nahum points us to Christ, and then I want to see how that warrior affects our everyday life as we apply the message of Nahum.
The idea of God as a warrior is …
First, notice the divine warrior in Nahum, that the idea of God as a warrior is rooted, first, in the character of God; that the idea of the warrior in Nahum is rooted in the character of God. I don’t want to just put before you this idea or this image that God is a warrior without anything to support it. That’s exactly what Nahum does. He’s going to paint for us a picture, really a negative picture…some say it’s the most negative book in all of the Bible, that he paints for us a picture of God as a warrior. There are some gruesome images in the book, but I want you to notice that, first, he roots that idea by grace.
He roots that in the character of God in three ways. First, we see that God is jealous. We see that God is jealous. Look in the first chapter…we’re going to spend most of our time in Nahum 1…but look at Nahum 1:2 where he says that, “The Lord is a jealous and avenging God…” Nahum reminds us right out of the gate; the very first thing that he reminds us is that God is a jealous God, that He will allow no rivals, that God desires, commands that we are to serve Him only. We are to worship Him only; we are to obey Him only.
Notice the practical outworking of that in verse 2. He doesn’t spend a lot of time unpacking what it looks like for God to be jealous. We get that from other parts in the Scripture, but he does unpack the effect that that has as God rules and God reigns. Look what he says, “The Lord is jealous and avenging; the Lord is avenging and wrathful; the Lord takes vengeance on his adversaries and keeps wrath for his enemies.” Twice, we read that God stores up wrath for His enemies. Three times we read of the vengeance of God…that God, because He is a jealous God, that God will repay every single act and every single person of evil. He is a warrior because He is jealous.
Number two: He is a warrior because He is just. Why does God war against evil? Because God is just. Look at verse 3. “The Lord is slow to anger and great in power, and the Lord will by no means clear the guilty.” I want you to see, before we move into unpacking the justice of God, I do want you to see, though, that the Lord is slow to anger, that God loves to forgive, that…as Ezekiel 18:32 tells us…that God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked. We see that. Remember?
We’ve seen the other instance of Nineveh in the Bible where God sends a prophet named Jonah to preach a message of repentance and grace and mercy if they will repent. We see that 100 years before, and we see that they repented of their sins and God relented, it says, of the disaster that He had planned for them. God is slow to anger, but there will come a day when God’s patience will end. It does not matter how powerful or how successful or how great or how religious we are. He will…He says in verse 3…He will, by no means, clear the guilty. We want that kind of God, don’t we? We want a God who will condemn murder. We want a God who will condemn abuse. We want a God who will condemn adultery, who will oppose the Hitler’s and the Stalin’s of the world. We want a God who wars against evil on every front.
God is a warrior. How? Because He is jealous, because He is just, and third, because He is good. Nahum 1:7. Look at the way that the warrior is described. Now, we don’t typically think about goodness and warrior going together, but look at verse 7, “The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him.” Verse 8, “But with an overflowing flood he will make a complete end of the adversaries, and will pursue his enemies into the darkness.” The very same God that is described as avenging and wrathful, the very same God that says that the mountains quake before Him and the earth melts before Him, who pursues His enemies into the darkness…that very same God, He’s a stronghold for those that would take refuge in Him. He is good to those who love Him. It’s a word of intimacy. God knows us. He has an intimate relationship with us. He does good to those who take refuge in Him.
Not only do we see this idea of a warrior is rooted in the character of God, but notice also that it is expressive of the sovereignty of God. In other words, it’s not just who God is, it’s what God does. It’s expressive of the sovereignty of God. Go down, if you would, to Nahum 1:12. I love this verse, and we’ll unpack it here in a minute. Look at verse 12, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Though they are [speaking of Nineveh; speaking of Assyria] at full strength and many, they will be cut down and pass away.’”
Now, I want you to notice two things here. Notice, first, that Nineveh’s power was unrivaled in Nahum’s day, that Nineveh’s power was unrivaled in Nahum’s day. Nahum does not wait until they have passed from the scene to write…to issue this prophecy. He does not even wait until they are in a steady and sure decline. He writes it when they are at full strength, when there is no hope whatsoever that the Assyrian nation will come down. What I want you to see is this: that even if Nineveh’s power was unparalleled in their age, God’s power is unparalleled in any age. God’s power is unparalleled in any age.
I want to show you this. We can look at different places, but I want to you to see this in Nahum 2:6. The Assyrians are at full strength. There’s a little bitty nation, Israel, and a little bitty prophet and this is what he says in Nahum 2:6. This is just one piece of the puzzle, what’s going to happen. He says the river gates, when Assyria falls, when Nineveh falls, it says, “The river gates will be opened; the palace melts away…”
Two things: the river gates…water will come flowing through that gate, and the palace will melt away. Greek historians tell us that around 612 BC, the Babylonians laid siege to the city of Nineveh, and that siege lasted for approximately three years. They encamped about the city of Nineveh, and they were just going to wait them out, but in that third year, the rains came, and they came, and they came, and they came, and eventually, the river banks overflowed. In that flood, the water came rushing through the river gates and the king of Nineveh, knowing that he was doomed, gathered all of the people together…gathered all of his concubines, his family, his possessions…gathered them all into the palace, and he ordered that the palace and everybody in it, including himself, be burnt to the ground. The Babylonians came and overtook the city and wiped it from the face of the earth. The river gates were opened and the palace melted away. Brothers and sisters, it doesn’t matter how great the city, how arrogant the king, how powerful the nation, none of them, no one is a match for our God. See that it is expressive; the idea of a warrior is rooted in the character of God.
It’s expressive of the sovereignty of God and leads us to this last one: it is critical in the judgment of God. It’s critical in the judgment of God. Millions of people have a sanitized image of the judgment of God. It’s some grandfatherly figure in some white kind of scene is going to look upon us and say, “Yeah, maybe. Okay. You can come in. The sins don’t really matter.” I want you to contrast that sanitized image that’s in popular culture, maybe in some churches…contrast that image of the judgment of God with what we really see in verse 14.
Notice the judgment of God in Nahum 1:14. “The Lord has given commandment about you…” In other words, the word has come down. The judgment of God has been issued, and notice what will happen. “No more shall your name be perpetrated; from the house of your gods I will cut off your carved image and the metal image. I will make your grave, for you are vile.” “I will make your grave for you are vile.” Friends, we see here that this judgment is terrifying for the enemies of God; that this judgment, it is terrifying for the enemies of God.
Nahum 2:13. I think it’s one of the most chilling verses, short phrases, in all of the Bible. This is what God says through Nahum to the city of Nineveh, to the nation of Assyria. He says, “Behold, I am against you…” Friends, there are no more chilling, no more frightening, no more terrifying words in all of the Bible than that: “I am against you.” No one in this room wants to stand on the last day and hear God say, “I am against you.”
As terrifying as it is for the enemies of God, and this is the good news, this judgment is also liberating for the people of God. Yes, it is terrifying for the [enemies] of God, but it is liberating for the people of God. Listen to what God tells them. Yes, there’s going to come judgment upon this nation of Assyria, the city of Nineveh, and God will…He says in Nahum 1:14 He will make their grave for they are vile, but notice what He says in Nahum 1:15, “Behold, upon the mountains, the feet of him who brings good news…” Also used in Isaiah, also quoted by Paul in Romans 10 as good news of the gospel and look what he says: “…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.”
The truth is this…the truth of Nahum, really, the truth of the whole Bible is this: God is either our ultimate ruin because He fights against us, or God is our ultimate refuge because He fights for us. Brother and sisters, I want you, I want myself, I want you, to be encouraged this morning that no matter the adversary, no matter the schemes, no matter the distress, no matter the obstacle, no matter the opposition, we have a God, a divine warrior, who is utterly unstoppable and supremely sovereign. About whom, Paul says, that He works all things according to the counsel of His will; concerning whom, Nebuchadnezzar said, “That His dominion is an everlasting dominion, His kingdom from generation to generation, that all of the inhabitants of the earth as accounted as nothing before Him, that He does all that He desires according to the counsel of His will, among the host of heaven, among the inhabitants of the earth, that no one can stay His hand or say to Him, ‘What have you done?’” About whom, Proverbs says, that no wisdom, no counsel, no understanding can avail against the Lord, or that the heart of the king is in the hand of the Lord and He turns it like a river of water wherever He wills.
The bottom line from Nahum: our God reigns.
The bottom line from Nahum is this: Our God reigns. He is the Lord. He is sovereign. That He is the king, and here’s the deal: in light of that, the fact that God reigns, this is the deal. There isn’t a softer pillow upon which you can rest your head than the truth of the absolute sovereignty of our God on our behalf. There isn’t anything upon which we can rest that brings us more comfort, that brings us more assurance than the absolute sovereignty of God. He knows where you are at this morning. He knows your struggles. He knows your pain. He knows your trials. He knows the obstacles before you. He knows what is heavy upon your heart. He knows every single tear…Psalm 56 says…He knows every single tear which you have shed, and He keeps them in a bottle. He does.
Nahum Talks About the Divine Warrior in the New Testament
We are born in the context of war.
What Nahum tells us is that, not only does He know, but He is also sovereignly working out our deliverance, working out for our good in everything that He does. What I want you to see, as we transition from what we see in Nahum to what we see in Christ, that the very same truth…it’s not just an Old Testament truth that God is a warrior and that’s the Old Testament God. That’s the really harsh God. That’s the warrior God of the Old Testament. What I want you to see is that very same God that is patterned in Nahum is pictured and shown and displayed in Christ; that Jesus Christ is our warrior. That just like the people of Nahum’s day, we also are born in the context of war; that we need a warrior in the same way that we see in the book of Nahum.
That we are born in the context of war, namely two ways: because of sin, we are in captivity to the Adversary. That because of sin, we are in captivity to the Adversary, and number two, that all of creation lies in the power of the Evil One. That all of creation lies in the power of the Evil One.
We have an Adversary. You have an Adversary that is far greater, far worse and far stronger than the Assyrians. We have an Adversary who wars against our homes, who wars against our families, who wars against our church, who wars against our life. We have an Adversary about whom, 1 John 5:18 says, that the whole world lies in his grip.
It’s at precisely this point that Nahum points us to Christ and to the gospel that, like the people of Nahum’s day, that we also have a warrior king whose name is Jesus. That warrior whose name is Jesus who has seen our plight, who has seen our distress, who has seen the opposition, who has seen our captivity, who has seen our rebellion, brothers and sisters. In His grace and in His mercy, He has come anyway, and He has kicked the door down, and He has unloosed the shackles, and He has set the captives free all across this room and all across the world. We have a divine warrior in Jesus Christ.
But we are not abandoned to the control of Satan.
Yes, we were born in the context of war by choice and by birth. We were born in that context, but praise God, we are not abandoned to the control of Satan. Yes, we are born in the context of war, but we are not abandoned to the control of Satan. This is where we must move away from any weak or timid or pathetic image of Jesus that we would find in popular culture. We…I need…you need…we need a strong image of Jesus. We need an image of Jesus as our warrior who fights on our behalf and that’s precisely what we see in the New Testament.
We see, for example, four ways. One, that Christ overcame the forces of evil in His life. On our behalf, that Christ overcame the forces of evil during His life. We see, for example, in the Gospels, Mark 4, Mark 5, that He commands the wind and the waves, that He cast out the demon, that He gives sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf. He raises the dead to life. He heals the sick. We read in the temptation of Jesus, Mark tells us that He went out to fight the devil and notice that war: He went out to fight the devil and the wild animals. I don’t know what that has to do with fighting, but He goes out before the wild animals.
Why do we see all of those things? It’s not because Jesus had nothing better to do, but all of those things…giving sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, life to the dead, casting out the demons, ruling the wind and the waves, overcoming the devil in the wilderness…all of those things are given to us as evidence, as demonstration of the complete and absolute lordship of Christ. That Jesus Christ reigns over everything in heaven, everything on earth and everything, praise God, even under the earth.
We see it as Jesus overcomes the forces of evil in His life, and we see it, I think, supremely, number two: that Christ triumphed over all enemies in His death. We see it that Christ triumphed over all enemies in His death. I want you, if you would, take your Bible and turn with me to Colossians 2. Colossians 2:13–15. It’s one of my favorite verses in all the Bible. Colossians 2:13–15. I want you to put yourself…I want you to hear that first verse where He says when you were dead in trespasses and sins, that we were in captivity. I want you to see yourself; I want you to remind yourself and ask God to help you to see yourself in chains, dead in trespasses and sins, and look at what Jesus does for us. Colossians 2:13, “[And] you, who were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all of our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.” Isn’t that good news? Isn’t that good, good news?
Revelation 12:10 says that Satan is the accuser of the brethren. That day and night before God, Satan accuses the saints. What Paul shows us here is that the death of Jesus on the cross has taken all of the punch, all of the validity out of the accusations of Satan. He has, He says, taken our debt. It’s as if God takes all of your sins, all of my sins and on the cross, 2,000 years ago, He took it as a piece of paper. He wrote them down: anger and bitterness and malice and jealousy and greed and all of our sins. It’s as if God listed them out. This was our debt unto God, and He says that He set it aside. Notice, He doesn’t just say He set it aside and goes on. He says that He set it aside. How did God set your sin and my sin aside? He did it in one precise and bloody way. He nailed it to the cross. He nailed all of our sins to the cross, so that now, as Satan attempts to accuse us, and he lists sin after sin after sin, God now points, not to our sin, but to the blood of Jesus. He has taken all of the accusations away, so that now, He has disarmed him. He has put him, He says…I love this, think about this. Satan has been put to open shame because of the cross of Christ. What seemed to be the greatest victory for Satan in all of his history now turns out to be his ultimate demise. Christ triumphs.
Number three, we see that Christ extends, now…He extends His kingdom, even now, through the church. The reign of Christ doesn’t end at the cross or the resurrection or the ascension, but even now, despite all appearances to the contrary sometimes in our lives or in our world, Jesus reigns even now. His kingdom is going forward.
You ever thought about the Great Commission? “Go and make disciples of all nations…” You ever thought about the Great Commission as a declaration of war? That’s exactly what Russ Moore says that it is, that the Great Commission is a declaration of war against all of the powers and all the principalities. Says the Great Commission, he said it means “the overthrow of the ancient powers that have long held the creation captive through sin and death. It means the triumph of resurrected Messiah over every principality and power hostile to the reign of the Creator. It means that God is keeping His promises to His anointed king. It means war.” Brothers and sisters, every time we share the gospel and someone comes into a relationship with Christ…every time they bow the knee, it is a demonstration of the sovereignty, of the power, of the lordship of Christ, of the reality of the kingdom of God in our midst. We have an opportunity. Yes, He reigns. He now invites us into that reign by sharing the gospel, but taking His kingdom from here to the ends of the earth until finally, number four…until finally, Christ will reign upon the earth upon His return. Until finally, Christ reigns on the earth upon His return. There’s perhaps no clearer picture in all the Bible, the reign of Christ.
In Revelation 19:11–16, listen to what John sees. He said,
[Then] I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword [He is a warrior] with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.
The message of Nahum is very simple. Our God reigns. The message of the New Testament continues on that theme, but puts flesh and blood on it: our Christ reigns.
The Divine Warrior in Our Lives
Be trusting in the cross of Christ for forgiveness.
If that’s the case, I want to walk you through four ways in which we might apply this message, in which we see the life, the activity, the sovereignty of the warrior in our daily lives. Number one, we ought to be trusting in the cross of Christ for forgiveness. There are some of you here today that the words in Nahum 2:13, “Behold, I am against you…”, they ring true. You have…you are opposed to the living God. You are opposed to His Word. You have not bowed the knee before Christ. You have not acknowledged His sovereignty, His lordship. I would urge you today. You don’t want to get to the end of your life; you don’t want to stand before God and hear those words, “Behold, I am against you.” I would beg you, I would implore you, I would ask you…would you hear the gospel promise that Jesus has taken our sins, and He has died for them, and He has risen in victory over them? Would you hear that gospel promise, not for somebody else, but would you hear it for yourself? Would you believe it, turning from your sins and turning to Christ?
Be thankful for the victory of Christ over evil.
Number two: not only should we be trusting in the cross, but we also ought to be thankful for the victory of Christ over evil. We ought to be thankful for the victory of Christ over evil. How can we not rejoice at the incredible, indescribable, infinite mercy of God shown to us in Christ? That the words, “Behold, I am against you,” do not apply to us. How can that not lead us then, to daily praise for the mercies of God? Would you take this week…I’m going to challenge you. Just take this week, take that verse, Nahum 2:13, “Behold, I am against you…” Take that verse and turn it over in your minds and hear it, “Behold, I am against you…” “Behold, I am against you…” “Behold, I am against you…” as the word outside Christ, but then knowing that we have taken refuge in Him, that that word no longer applies to us. Would you rejoice in the mercies of God?
Be encouraged in the mission of Christ to the world.
Number three: be encouraged in the mission of God to the world. Be encouraged in the mission of Christ to the world. In the Great Commission, we have the opportunity, we have the privilege to plunder the storehouses of Satan. We have an opportunity to join with the warrior in extending His kingdom here and around the world. We have the gospel, the power of God and His salvation that breaks down barriers, that exalts Christ, that points people to the Savior. Would you, this week, would you pray and ask God to give you at least one opportunity to share the gospel? Is there any better news than the reversal of, “Behold, I am against you.” to “Behold, I am for you.”? Is there any better news in all of the world? No. There is not; that’s why it’s called gospel. That’s why it’s called good news. There’s nothing better that we can share. How can we keep that in this room? How can we keep that in our homes? How can we not join in the extension of His kingdom, the glorious work of the Great Commission?
Be confident in the reign of Christ both now and forever.
Number four, as we close. Be trusting in the cross, be thankful for the victory, be encouraged in the mission; number four, be confident in the reign of Christ both now and forever. This is the takeaway. Luther said this about Nahum; he said, “Nahum teaches us to trust Christ and to believe, especially when we despair of all human help, human powers and counsel, that the Lord stands by those who are His, and He shields His own against all attacks of the enemy, be they ever so powerful.” As much as I like what Luther said, I like Paul’s even better in Romans 8:31. “What shall we say to these things?” Brothers and sisters, “What shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?”