The Message of Nahum: Who's in Charge?
Introducing the book of Nahum in “The Message of the Old Testament: Promises Made,” Mark Dever writes, ‘Authority, it has been said, is like soap: the more you use it, the less you have of it.’ He then quotes an observation of Holman Jenkins in the Wall Street Journal:
‘It’s safe to say that many CEO’s see what they do as little more than a variation on inglorious widget making. They enjoy the opportunity to be in charge, but most don’t kid themselves about the exalting nature of the work. At the pinnacles of American business, they’re treated literally like [donkeys], nose to the ground following a bunch of carrots laid out in a row, tied to the stock price. How many senior executives would give it all up for a bucket of warm spit? Probably more than you think.’
Like Dever, I am not a CEO, so I cannot speak to the accuracy of Jenkins’ statement. Yet I do know that the uncertainties of life eventually lead all of us to recognize the illusion of our own control.
At a ceremony in the U.S. Capitol rotunda in which Billy Graham was presented with a congressional medal, in his remarks, Graham observed that all the people honored with statues in the rotunda and hallways had one thing in common: they were all dead.
Graham’s point is a powerful one. “The cemeteries in Washington, D.C., are filled with ‘indispensable people,’” observed Dever. Then he sums up his introduction:
‘I wonder what circumstances of life remind you of how little you are in charge. Certainly it could be thoughts of your own mortality. But it could be other things too: haunting sins from your past, whose repercussions continue to outstretch your original expectations; uncertainty about the future; fear of other people; things you don’t like about yourself; desires you cannot seem to control; the toll the years have taken on you; the uncertainty of how you will continue caring for that person as you should. So many circumstances; so little control.’
That was exactly the situation in which God’s people found themselves in the middle of the seventh century B.C., when the prophet Nahum wrote his book. Nahum is one of the minor prophets, whose books comprise the last twelve books in the Old Testament. They are called ‘minor’ not because they are unimportant, but because their books are short. We do not know anything about Nahum the man, except that he was an Elkoshite. Of course, we don’t know where Elkosh was. Nahum is unusual among the prophets for writing a book: “An oracle concerning Nineveh. The book of the vision of Nahum the Elkoshite” (Nah. 1:1). Usually, the prophecies were verbally given and then written down. But Nahum seems to have been composed as a book.
To give you a quick overview, chapter 1 of Nahum begins with an introductory psalm on the character of God (1:2-8). In the rest of chapter 1 and the beginning of chapter 2 (1:9-2:2), Nahum moves back and forth between addressing God’s people, Judah, and addressing the city of Nineveh, the capital of Assyria. Several verses into chapter 2, the prophet begins to speak to Nineveh at length (2:3-3:19), and it becomes clear what this vision is about: God’s promise to destroy the Ninevites utterly as judgment for their sins.
As we look through the book of Nahum this coming Lord’s Day, we will look for the answer to the question, who is in charge?
Michelle and I will be praying for you this Sunday as you join to worship. We are at the coast and visiting family. Thank you to Chad for preaching and for the other leaders making sure things are ready to go. We love you and anticipate being back with you this week.