Every schoolyard has them. They’re the nemesis of every 43-pound weakling and pig-tailed girl with lunch money. They are the menaces of the playground. It seems they never get caught—and there are very few who can or will stand up to them.
At this time in history, the biggest bullies on Israel’s block were the Assyrians. The Ninevites, who lived in the capital city of Assyria, were vicious and arrogant. Hearing their name made the Israelites cringe and whimper. One hundred years earlier, Jonah had tried to run away from them, and for good reason. Their war crimes were legendary.
And dear Nahum, whose name means, “comfort,” brings Israel some good news: The big bully is finally going to get his due. And who will avenge them? God himself. Jonah had demonstrated God’s compassion toward the bullies and had given them a chance to change. Now, a century after their short-lived revival, Nahum lets them have it.
Nahum draws a terrifying cosmic portrait of the God who can make short work of any bully, no matter how big and pushy. God is slow to anger; he is not impulsive. But when he has waited with infinite patience for the guilty to change, watch out! The most powerful forces of nature—the whirlwind, the storm, the earthquake and the flood—are but a shadow of God’s awesome power; they are his tools, as a hammer is the tool of a worker. The real force is the strength behind the hammer. And this worker, Israel’s God, has declared of the bullies, “They will be destroyed and pass away” (verse 12).
But Nahum’s portrait is a study in contrasts and mystery: God is also “good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him” (verse 7). God is both stern and kind, just and loving.
The world is full of bullies. Maybe they’ve never looked at Nahum’s portrait of God. The sight should strike as much terror in their hearts as looking up into the eye of a whirlwind. But as for you, keep Nahum’s portrait in mind the next time you face a bully. God sees injustice and, in his time, will avenge the helpless and the innocent. If Jonah’s story reminds us that their day may not be today, then Nahum assures us that their day will certainly come.
The LORD is slow to anger but great in power; the LORD will not leave the guilty unpunished. His way is in the whirlwind and the storm, and clouds are the dust of his feet.