TODAY’S READING: Nahum
Nineveh, known as “the bloody city” (Nahum 3:1), was the capital of Assyria, an empire feared for its cruelty and violence. There are archeological remains from Nineveh dated around 4000 BC, and the city is mentioned both during the Accadian period (2500 BC) and the ascendancy of the city state of Asshur (1800 BC). Incorporated into the Assyrian empire in 1360 BC, Nineveh became the capital and for a period the most important world capital of its time. The Assyrian kings devoted much time, labor, and expense to magnificent buildings, including a massive perimeter wall, but the city fell all the same to a Babylonian-Persian alliance in about 612 BC. The fall of Nineveh all but ended the Assyrian empire, and the book of Nahum is both prophecy and rejoicing that God indeed ultimately punished the wicked.
The rise and fall of nations is a missionary motif. God rules in the kingdoms of men, appointing over them who He wills. The rise and fall of nations is all part of God’s plan, connected to all the nations worshiping Him alone. Nahum’s vindication was set in the larger missions context of God’s global glory: “The earth heaves at His presence, yes, the world and all who dwell in it” (1:5). Nahum mentioned both the nations (3:4) and the gospel (1:15). Assyria was no better than Egypt, Sudan, Egypt, or Libya (3:8–9), for at the end of the day there will be one nation: the multi-ethnic worshipers of the God of Israel.
The missionary message of Nahum is that God alone will be worshipped by every tongue of every nation and that His tools for His glory are always judged. Assyria conquered Egypt, the rival superpower of the day. God used Assyria to punish Egypt for her rebellion. God then turned around and used Babylon to punish Assyria, and the cycle continues to this day. God will be glorified in all the world and in His inscrutable wisdom He both uses sinful nations for this end and then judges His very tools. This is a sobering warning for all those who take up missionary assignment.
God will indeed use His missionary people to bring glory to His name in all the earth. Being a tool of God for God brings no security from His judgment; the opposite is true. If God uses you for His glory in all the earth, it is guaranteed that God will judge you. Judgment is not to be feared, for it is a means of life. Judgment is what a surgeon does when he operates on cancer; it is the removal of what kills so that what is good may thrive. When God judges His missionary vessels, He removes whatever is sinful from them, so that what is true and good may grow and what is for the glory of God may endure. God will indeed use us for His glory among all the nations. God will indeed judge us, purify us, and discipline us for that assignment in painful and ongoing ways. To bring the good news that mercy triumphs over judgment, it is required that we live that gospel ourselves. God is judge: He will judge His missionaries and He will judge His world. This is glory, beauty, life, and joy.