April 9, 2022

The Evidence of Faith’s Substance

Subject: Russian and Assyrian Wickedness: The Parallels from Jonah and Nahum

Nahum 3:19 “Upon whom has not your wickedness passed continually?”

Ed Croteau

“Our musicians wear body armor instead of tuxedos. They sing to the wounded in hospitals, even to those who can’t hear them.” This past Sunday evening at the Grammy Awards, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy reminded Americans of the precious cost of being a free nation. You must stand up against evil and fight.

The Ukrainians have turned the tide. They have driven the Russian army out of several towns surrounding Kiev and have taken back some areas of their country. But what they discovered when they re-entered the town of Bucha are scenes of reminiscent of biblical “wickedness”: the slaughter of innocent civilians.

Satellite images over the town of Bucha highlighted a 45-foot-long mass grave. As Ukrainian military forces entered Bucha, they found bodies lying on the streets of the town, some with hands tied behind their back and decapitated. Over 400 civilians have been brutally murdered during the Russian army invasion.

Fox News’ Greg Norman reported that “Ukrainian parliament member Oleksiy Goncharenko said Russian troops beheaded an elderly woman who was trying to flee the city of Bucha, where bodies have been found in mass graves, describing the graphic scene in the Kyiv region as a ‘scene from a horror movie.’ One resident said Russian troops went building to building and took people out of the basements where they were hiding, checking their phones for any evidence of anti-Russian activity before taking them away or shooting them.”

On ‘Face the Nation,’ Zelenskyy said “This is genocide. The elimination of the whole nation and its people… we are the citizens of Ukraine and we don’t want to be subdued to the policy of Russian Federation. This is the reason we are being destroyed and exterminated.” Russian thirst for conquest has resulted in the mass murder of innocent Ukrainians. It is reminiscent of God’s judgment on Assyria through His prophets Jonah and Nahum.

Our verse this week is from the Old Testament book of Nahum. It is only 3 chapters, but it is a powerful testament to God’s judgment on the wickedness of Assyria as they invade and conquer nations around them.

Nahum (630BC) was one of God’s prophets who foretold the destruction of one of the greatest civilizations in the ancient world, Assyria, and its capital of Nineveh. Nahum was sent about 150 years after Jonah (780BC), who first went to Nineveh and told them to repent from their wickedness against surrounding nations.

How wicked were the Assyrians? One example is King Ashurnasirpal II (883-859 BC), who left detailed accounts of his campaigns of conquest and expansion (very much like Russia’s mindset). But it was the cruelty towards nations he invaded that reminds us of what we are seeing now in Ukraine. Defeated populations were impaled, beheaded and tortured. The goal of the Assyrians was total subjugation through terror.

At first, God was merciful toward such an evil nation as Assyria when he sent Jonah. You see, Jonah was angry that God did not destroy Nineveh – that was why Jonah fled to Tarshish to avoid God’s command to go to Nineveh and warn the Assyrians of impending destruction: “It displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he became angry: ‘Lord, was not this what I said when I was still in my country? Therefore, I fled to Tarshish. For I know that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness – One who relents from doing harm” (Jonah 4:1-2). Jonah, God’s prophet, wanted the wicked Assyrians destroyed!

But the Lord explains to Jonah why he must warn them: “Should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than 120,000 persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left?” (Jonah 4:11).

Ever heard that phrase “Can’t tell your right hand from your left”? Like so many phrases we use in our English language today, it comes from the Bible. God is telling Jonah that the Assyrians don’t understand right from wrong. They have no idea of God’s objective moral laws and duties. So, because He is a kind and merciful God, despite their incredible cruelty He wants Jonah to go and warn them. And sure enough, the Assyrians under King Shalmaneser IV repent: “God saw that they repented from their evil way; and He relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it” (Jonah 3:10).

But this time of repentance did not last long. The future Assyrian kings returned to their old ways of wickedness and extreme cruelty. Now they knew better. Now God sends Nahum. History records the fulfillment of Nahum’s prophecy of the complete destruction of Assyria and its capital city of Nineveh.

As this week’s verse testifies, God holds nations, whether ancient Assyria or present-day Russia, accountable. Now that the world is witness to the wickedness of Putin’s Russia, God’s future judgment is certain.

Ed Croteau is a resident of Lee’s Summit and hosts a weekly study in Lees Summit called “Faith: Substance and Evidence.”