Nahum on Having Faith in Certain Victory
By Nathan Jones
Historically, believers in Christ are used to being the “underdog.” We have gone through periods of persecution, dating back to the earliest days of the Church. In the book of Acts, we see the first Christians hunted down and martyred. Later accounts tell of faithful men and women burned at the stake, slaughtered in the Colosseum, and tormented for refusing to renounce Jesus. Though Christianity has now become the default religion of the West, in modern times we are under attack from secular groups that want to undermine and silence any talk of our Christ. Conditioned to feel like a minority, we patiently explain and defend our beliefs.
But deep down, we know that we won’t be underdogs for long! Christians may feel like they are losing the battle temporarily, but we know eventually we will win the war. When Jesus returns, we have a promise of certain victory. Satan is overthrown; death is defeated. God’s triumph is guaranteed, and Christians get to enjoy their place on the winning team. In the end times, we are the #1 seed.
But with that assurance of victory comes a dilemma: How do we handle being the victor? How do we conduct ourselves while anticipating a sure win? What is the attitude in which we will prevail? The answer is more complicated than it at first seems.
Thankfully, we have a book of the Bible that highlights this tension. In it, we find an example that provides insight about how we might handle the difficult task of certain success. The prophet Nahum gives us a message of triumph that shows us how to have the right kind of faith in certain victory.
I believe if you read the following excerpt from my new book, co-authored with Steve Howell, titled 12 Faith Journeys of the Minor Prophets (available on our website and on Kindle and Nook), you will marvel at the similarities between the people of Israel in the Prophet Nahum’s time and God’s people today when asking that very same question.
We’ll begin with an introductory story, an elaborations on Scripture, an imaged scenario that the text hints at but doesn’t necessarily describe. We ask that you take this story as intended—as historical fiction to illustrate historical fact. Then we’ll dive directly into the book of Nahum and learn what the prophet has to teach us concerning having faith in certain victory.
Nahum sat with his legs crossed, his foot twitching, with a pile of figs beside him. Popping one in his mouth, he leaned back and craned his neck to see the streets of the city below him. Were they coming yet? All he could see was the typical daily foot traffic of Jerusalem. Still nothing to notice.
Unable to stand it any longer, he stood and bounced on the balls of his feet. His dark curly hair bobbed up and down with nervous energy. Nahum had good intel that the ambassador and his associates would be coming this way any minute. An older cousin who worked in the palace bakery knew the routines and gave him the scoop. Last night during dinner, he told Nahum that the king’s meal would be over at the sixth hour, and then the group of Assyrians would be dismissed. A few formalities, a few less-than-sincere farewells, and they would be on their way. But that should have been almost an hour ago, and still no sign.
He reached down and scooped up another fig as he waited, his eyes never leaving the road. In his haste his elbow knocked over a scroll that had been propped against the stone bricks of the wall on which he had parked. Nahum heard it fall, but didn’t pick it up. Why bother? For the past three weeks he had been staring at that roll of paper. He could point out every crease and tear, every stroke of the pen. That paper had been his life ever since the night almost a month ago when God spoke to him. He didn’t need to see it to remember the experience.
And, oh, what an experience! Nahum allowed himself to think back to that day as he chewed another fig. Words could hardly convey the mix of terror and awe he had felt. He had tried to share a little about it with his parents and his teenage brother in the days after. Nahum knew his family thought he was young and cocky (bold and confident, he liked to think) and normally never lacking for words. But words to articulate the shock of God delivering a message through him? He had stammered and stuttered, trying to find the right descriptions. Instead of awe-inspiring, the whole experience just sounded weird, like a crazy dream. His family had brushed it off, tried to change the conversation, and went back to their chores. No matter. They would hear the message eventually.
He had spent the following weeks working to find the words that would do the message justice. Nahum had written and scratched out dozens of versions on the scroll that now rolled in the breeze on the quarried stones under his feet, trying his best to capture God’s message in a fitting arrangement. He spent hours crafting poetic phrases and days working on the structure. He made sure his words never softened or overstated the Author’s intent. Finally, the piece seemed right. The message was ready to share.
He read it and reread it to himself, memorizing every syllable and testing out inflections, making sure his delivery would match the tone and intensity God had shown him. The piece was ready, the performance polished. Now, it was just a matter of getting the right audience, which led him here: a trip to Judah’s capital, camping on top of the defensive outer wall that encircled the city, and waiting, waiting for that perfect opportunity.
Pacing now, he made yet another turn on his feet and stole another glance back at the road. This time, however, he almost lost his balance. There they were! He hastily wiped off his mouth with the sleeve of his tunic and threw the scroll and figs out of the way (nothing would ruin the effect more than tripping while he preached, he thought).
Nahum positioned himself up on a ledge so that he faced out from the city, and he quickly straightened and tucked his clothes. He made sure he was in the sun, quickly looking up and down to make sure the shadows didn’t hit him in an awkward way. Then, he struck a pose that he hoped conveyed both strength and authority. Just a few more seconds and the Assyrian representatives would be passing through the gate below him.
He took a deep breath, and a grin started to spread across his face. This was going to be fun!
As the Assyrians approached, their blue robes and golden rings gleamed in the sunlight. They passed underneath the wall where Nahum stood, through the gate and out of the city. None of them bothered to look up. Some were in conversation; others were mindlessly scanning the hills. So, it was a bit of a surprise when they heard a clear shout ring down from above: “God is jealous, and the Lord avenges!”
“What drivel was this?” the ambassador’s group thought as they looked around until they noticed the figure silhouetted on the wall, pointing down at them.
“The Lord avenges and is furious!” Nahum bellowed from above. Others who were walking in and out of the city slowed to listen, trading glances as they tried to figure out why the young man on the wall was making a scene.
Nahum continued with an intensity that belied his slight stature, the words rolling off his tongue with a riveting fierceness and passion. The youth emphatically began describing a city under siege, a battle that would lead to destruction. It took the Assyrians a few beats to realize that these weren’t the antics of a street performer. This message was supposed to be serious—and it was directed at them! Threats to Assyria’s capital, proclamations of doom, insults to their image. The man’s words were harsh, but his cadence was enthralling. The Assyrians couldn’t help but listen, though their reactions hovered between scoffing at him and wanting to flay him alive. Holding their reply, the entourage waited and listened to Nahum’s inventive verse to see where it might go.
The speech was over in just a few minutes. With his voice rising in a final crescendo, Nahum reached the end of his performance and stood there, chest heaving, waiting.
The Assyrian ambassador took a deep breath and was about to yell back a retort when he was suddenly drowned out by a victorious cheer. Looking around, he saw the crowd was stunned into silence no more. Instead, they were rejoicing over the message. Assyria destroyed! Her capital city of Nineveh overthrown! Yahweh fighting for them! Individually, they wouldn’t have dared to mock the superpower’s representative, but suddenly it seemed safe for the masses to jeer and insult the ambassador together. Nahum’s words had struck a nerve, and that nerve spelled danger for the Assyrians.
The ambassador’s guards pressed back against the throng as it moved threateningly close. Parting the crowd just enough to slip out, the band of politicians quickly retreated down the road, away from this godforsaken outpost and the insolent riffraff who lived here. They would certainly report this to their king and then the Jews would learn the meaning of suffering!
The crowd didn’t care. They simply rejoiced in the word from the Lord. Laughing and cheering at the Assyrians’ withdrawal, they turned back to look at Nahum. He said nothing more. He simply raised a fist, turned his back, and hopped down from his step.
His smile had never been bigger.