Have you ever had an enemy? A foe or adversary? Someone or something that stood in your way, oppressed you, kept you down? Someone or something that was unkind or unjust, devaluing or demeaning? Maybe it was a bully at school or at work? Maybe it was a team or an individual that you competed against in a sport or for a position? Maybe it was a circumstance that kept on raising it’s head to stop you just when you got some momentum. Maybe it was a sin that seemed unshakable? Have you ever had an enemy? Do you currently have an enemy?
For many of us, our enemies or adversaries might look a bit differently that they once did, but they still take various shapes and forms. Our adversaries can be both internal or external, personal or common, relentless or situational. Life is full of adversaries whether they be people or circumstances. It doesn’t take much looking to see these in full scope. Turn on the news, open a newspaper, walk down a busy street and signs of adversaries can be all around. It doesn’t take much to see the violence, oppression, and injustice, and anger that many of us both experience and share in on a daily basis. Life can be adversarial.
For the people of Israel, one of their main adversaries was the common nemesis of many during their time of power: the Assyrians. The Assyrian Empire had made a habit of oppressing their neighbors, of victimizing them, disenfranchising them, scorning them, and utterly enslaving them in both chains and fear. Above all, they had no regard for God and definitely no regard for His people. This is where the prophet Nahum steps on to the scene.
So far, in our series on the Minor Prophets, we have seen God’s representatives bring words of judgment, warning, and hard truth to both God’s Chosen People and the surrounding evil nations that will one day answer to His righteous judgement. However, in the book of Nahum, God’s words through His prophet are pointed and direct. They are a drawn sword against the actions, attitudes, and activities of the nation of Assyria. They are also a word of comfort for God’s people who have been oppressed by Assyria for generations.
Nahum comforts God’s people with the idea and reality that God is the Author of Justice and He will repay and enact vengeance on their behalf. The picture we get is that God is fighting for His people against the evil that threatens to engulf them. The book of Nahum brings a comforting word for us today in that God still fights for His people. He still fights on your behalf, against your enemies, foes, and adversaries. It’s what He does. He cannot overlook evil and let it go undealt with; He must act. His perfect justice wins the day.
For His people, God is a shelter from trouble, a fortress in the battle, a shield against those who would try to overrun His plans. In Nahum 1:7-9, it is put this way: “The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him, but with an overwhelming flood he will make an end of Nineveh; he will pursue his foes into the realm of darkness. Whatever they plot against the Lord he will bring to an end; trouble will not come a second time.”
The troubles of this world, the enemy of our soul, the injustice, oppression, and sin that we face, deal with, and are hurt by will ultimately answer to God. He promises to set things right in His time, He promises to comfort those who have been crushed, He promises divine justice in the most perfect way. He promises to comfort you when you enemies and adversaries strike in your life. May each of us lean on the promises of the One who fights for us and is fighting on our behalf.
I love directions. They make things so simple…or at least they should. A tried and trusted step-by-step direction manual that will eliminate mistakes, save time, increase joy and efficiency, and really help impatient people like myself. Whether it’s a recipe for chocolate chip cookies, or an instructional manual for a piece of furniture, or a turn-by-turn guide to get to a specific location, I bask in the security that directions provide. Except when they don’t.
I can struggle with resilience, patience, and perspective when things don’t go as they should when it comes to directions. When a screw is missing, or a road number is wrong, or if this part doesn’t fit into that part, I can grow quite impatient and be tempted to give up. Now, that is not to say I am not resilient in or for other things, but when something simple is not so simple, my impatience can rise up and make me frustrated. Can you relate?
This week, we will be continuing our series in the Minor Prophets and we come to a book that showcases a lot of patience. And the patience is coming from one source: God. For many of you, you are familiar with the story of Jonah: they disobedience prophet who ran from God’s call, was swallowed by a fish, finally decided to obey God, and preached repentance to the city of Nineveh. And while those are some of the essentials of the story, it is amazing to see the movement of God’s patience throughout this account.
First off, God is patient with the people of Nineveh. They have rebelled against Him and disobeyed Him repeatedly for generations and yet He did not give up on them. He still wanted them to repent and turn to Him. He cared about them enough to send Jonah to warn them of the end result of their sin. He put up with them even amidst their atrocities when He so easily could have just wiped them off the face of the Earth or said, “Sorry, you had your chance.”
God is also patient with Jonah. Even in his anger, disobedience, rebellion, and poor attitude, God still cares about Jonah. He saves him from drowning by sending a fish, He rescues him from the hot sun by providing a plant for shade, and He doesn’t quite on Jonah even though Jonah had all but quit on Him. Who else would do that?! How many of us would have just said, “Well, have it your way, Jonah. I’m going to go choose someone else.” Or, “Ok, Jonah. You want to play hardball. Let me just take out my frustration on you to teach you a lesson on how you should respond next time.”
But that is not what we see. Rather, we see God’s immense patience, resilience, and grace shown to sinful people and sinful prophets. And that Good News travels down the line to us today. I am so thankful that God does not give up on me when I disobey Him. I am so glad that He is patient with me in my impatience. I am so humbled that He continuously puts up with me and my messiness. Can you relate?
We all share in being blown away time and again by God’s patience to us and His call to extend and share that patience with those around us. May we be reminded of how God’s patience shows up in our lives and may that give us reassurance and thankfulness for His grace to us. It is in the power of that grace that the Apostle Peter wrote in 2 Peter 3:9: “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”
Pastor Ben Bigaouette