I just completed eight weeks with my Sunday school class on Nahum; they seemed to enjoy the study. So what is a Christian supposed to get out of the vitriolic message of this 7th century prophet, as he rails against the current evil empire? Several thoughts come to mind, but one stands out. Nahum, as with all of Israel’s prophets (there is an exception or two), was not sent to Nineveh to deliver his message, but to Judah itself. Thus, his was not a word of warning, but one of hope. “Assyria, you are about to let my people go; thus says yhwh.”
How then was Judah to receive this word from their God? After all, their nation was vassal to Nineveh: a heavy tax burden was due every year, a rather large Assyrian idol occupied a central place in the temple, and a constant flow of foreign traders, soldiers, and politicians traveled through, often stopping to ensure that Judahites understood who was in control — of everything.
This, more than anything else, defines God’s relationship with his people; it’s one of promise, the fulfillment of which yet lies over the horizon. God could get rid of Assyria at anytime, either miraculously via cosmic events or through normal, divinely controlled, political events.
But then if he always acted on his people’s demand, who would be God?
Rather he has chosen to speak the future, while calling upon his people to live in the present having to realize that the God who would deliver them is more than capable of taking care of them until that deliverance occurs.
In other words: God wanted them, he wants us, to (learn to) live well in an ugly world. Yes, Jesus will soon return, but in the meantime, live with full assurance that he is in absolute control of the mess that we call this life. Live now as if then.