Nahum 1:3 "The Lord is slow to anger and great in power, and will not at all acquit the wicked."
We all want justice in life. When we are personally wronged, it is a very human response to desire that wrong to be somehow righted, or the guilty person to pay to be held responsible for what they have done. But what about the afterlife? If you are an atheist, this question is irrelevant. There would be no cosmic justice. Life just ends. Whatever wickedness a person committed in life goes unpunished in the afterlife.
There is an Old Testament book called Nahum, named after the prophet who lived around 660 BC, that I would bet most of us haven’t read. It’s only 3 chapters long. Last week we examined the book of Jonah, another small book of only 4 chapters. Yet these two Old Testament books both focus on the Assyrian Empire and its capital, Nineveh. If you take about half an hour to sit down and read them together, you would get penetrating insight into God’s character, because it is just another reminder of why the Bible provides such excellent correlation to the reality of both forgiveness and cosmic justice.
In Jonah we learned the incredible depths to which God goes to warn you of the consequences for sin, and then His free offer to forgive you and remove all guilt you carry for the sins you have committed. This part of God’s nature, His love for people and willingness to forgive them, was something that angered Jonah because he wanted the wicked Ninevites to be wiped out for their incredible atrocities. But to Jonah’s dismay, Assyrian king Adad-nirari III took God’s warning to heart and repented, and God forgave the Ninevites of all their evil deeds.
But then both the Bible and secular history record that after Adad-nariri III and Jonah were long gone, the successive lines of kings went back to their wicked ways. That is the time from 750BC through 630BC, 120 years of continued terrorizing and slaughtering people groups all around them. Now God sends a second prophet, Nahum. In 660BC, Nahum prophesies the coming total destruction of both Nineveh and the Assyrian nation. Because, as our verse this week says, God "will not at all acquit the wicked."
Nahum records four specific prophetic events that all tie together to bring about Nineveh’s complete annihilation. And the utter destruction of Nineveh is so complete that, as we said last week, it went undiscovered for centuries, buried under the sand. Here’s the four stages of Nahum’s prophecy of the future destruction of Nineveh: 1) The Ninevites would be destroyed during a national state of drunkenness (read Nahum 1:10), 2) The Ninevites would be destroyed with a flood (read Nahum 1:8 and 2:6), 3) The Ninevites would be destroyed with a great fire (read Nahum 3:13), and 4) Because of their wickedness, this time their destruction would be incurable (read Nahum 3:19).
Jonah and Nahum are so diametrically opposite in their treatment of Nineveh, that it looks like a great place for a skeptic to attack, to prove a contradiction in the biblical record. The problem for the skeptic, though, becomes the hope for the believer and the evidence for the honest seeker. Because here we find historical evidence from sources outside the Bible that Nahum’s prophecy is actual history: both the archaeological findings of Austen Layard in 1847 and the writings of Diodorus of Sicily, the Greek historian who records all these 4 stages of destruction prophesied by Nahum in his monumental work ‘Bibliotheca Historica’, chapters 26 through 27.50.
Nineveh was destroyed by the Medes and Persians, and the nation of Assyria eliminated from history, in 612BC under the last king Sardanappalus. Nahum foretold this destruction in 660BC, over 40 years beforehand. George Meisinger, in his book ‘The Fall of Nineveh’, says it this way: " For centuries the only knowledge that such an empire existed was to be found in the direct and indirect statements of Scripture. As the centuries rolled by, and as no archaeological evidence turned up to "substantiate" the biblical record, doubt began to grow as to whether such a people ever existed. The historian puzzled; the skeptic jeered the Scriptural accounts. So complete was Assyrian's extinction!"
Cosmic justice is not something we should scoff at. There is a ‘weighing of the scales’ one day that everyone faces. Each of us will account to God for the things we’ve done in this life. The question is, will you listen to Jonah and repent, or will you follow the path laid out in Nahum?
Ed Croteau is a resident of Lee’s Summit and hosts a weekly study in Lees Summit called "Faith: Substance and Evidence." He can be reached with your questions through the Lee’s Summit Tribune at Editor@lstribune.net.