The Lord Is Good

by LA UBF   03/22/2009     0 reads


The Lord is good���

 The Lord Is Good

Nahum 1:1-3:19

Key Verse 1:7

“The LORD is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him.”

Early in March 2009, out of nowhere lots of bugs flew into my study room. They crawled around on the carpet, wiggled for a while, and then died. Their color was black. Their size was more or less the same as a grain of rice. They had two wings. On seeing them Rebekah got scared to death and said, "Oh, I know what they are: they are termites! Call an exterminator!" I was not sure though. So I brought a microscope and put a bug on the plate of the scope. I took a look at it through a 40:1 magnifier. It looked very similar to an ant. I researched on the Internet in regard to the differences between ant and termites. The bug turned out to be an ant, not a termite, for unlike termites the bug had two unequal wings (i.e. in two different lengths) with its waist line being as wavy as that of a super model, whereas the waist line of a termite is as flat as log wood. 

In studying the Scriptures we also need a spiritual magnifier. We need to look at them with God's eyes. The Apostle Paul explained this idea, saying, "The things that came from the Spirit of God are [to be] spiritually discerned." Here the word "discern" [as in the word "discerned"] has the meaning of "discover," "grasp," or "understand." Understanding [the book of] Nahum can be as confusing as an attempt to figure out the identity of the bug that flew into my study room. So it is necessary to study the word of God prayerfully, asking the Lord for the spirit of revelation and understanding. Then we can find out the messages that are distinct from other messages in other books of the Bible. 

One of the ways to find the distinctive messages of Nahum is to consider the name of the Prophet Nahum which means "consoler" or "comfort." So we can paraphrase Nahum 1:1 to read, "An oracle concerning Nineveh. The book of the vision of the comforter (or consolation) the Elkoshite." This rendering immediately gives out the unique message the Prophet Nahum intends to convey, that is, the comfort from the Lord. How does the Lord comfort (or console) his people? The answer to this question is again imbedded in the character of the Lord: 1) the Lord is a jealous God; 2) the Lord is an avenging God; and 3) the Lord is good.  

I. The Lord is a jealous and avenging God.

At the outset of the book the Prophet Nahum says that his prophecy is about Nineveh. Most likely Nahum lived in the southern kingdom called Judah (1:12,15). To the people of Judah, Nineveh was a source of great anxiety and grief. During the Cold War era, Russia (U.S.S.R.) used to be a source of anxiety to the people in the U.S. In those days (and even now at least to some extent) virtually any military moves the Russians were making struck Americans as potential threats to U.S. citizens. Since the Korean War, Il-sung Kim of North Korea kept causing nightmares in the minds of the S. Koreans. Throughout the career of both Northern Israel and Southern Israel (called Judah), Nineveh of the Assyrian Empire struck terror in both kingdoms. 

According to the Bible however people or events that are staged in the theatre of human history are not the real author of the episodes. According to Nahum it is the Lord who causes things to happen the way they happen. The Lord is more or less like a chess player moving chess pieces here and there on a chess board. Look at verse 2. "The LORD is a jealous and avenging God; the LORD takes vengeance and is filled with wrath. The LORD takes vengeance on his foes and maintains his wrath against his enemies." In the eyes of Nahum, Nineveh, the formidable enemy of the Israelites, either rises or falls, all because of the Lord being this way or that way. According to Nahum the cause of all the causes and effects can be traced all the way back to one person: the Lord. Not all people who lived in the land of Judah knew God as closely as they should have. Nahum was different. As a prophet he walked closely with the Lord. Then he saw the Lord making a move to get rid of Nineveh, the source of anxiety and grief for the people of Judah. He also saw on the mountains the feet of those who bring the good news of peace to his people. Plus, Nahum understood why the Lord was making these moves. 

This already tells us that for a relief from all sorts of troubles, one must look to the Lord first rather than to people or events, for the Lord can let the enemies rise or fall. If the Lord wants he can turn Nineveh or Jerusalem into a heap of rubble (Micah 1:6; 3:12). Carnal minds do not see the Lord. They see people like the Assyrian kings behaving like a bull dog. Unbelievers are swayed by visible people like Iranians developing a nuclear weapon, or natural disasters such as droughts jacking up food prices. But prophets such as Micah or Nahum dreaded the Lord God rather than what was going on in a physical realm. 

Why then does the Lord at one time allow violent people like Nineveh to "terrorize" his children, and at another brings them to a sudden end? Look at verse 2. "The Lord is a jealous and avenging God..." Let us stop for a moment and think about the Lord being jealous. According to Miriam-Webster’s Dictionary, "jealous" means "demanding complete devotion" or "suspicious of rival or one believed to enjoy advantage." This definition reminds us of Moses' first four commandments, for there the Lord “commanded” his children to love and obey him absolutely. As a jealous God he commanded his children to be fully devoted to Him.  

When you think about it, the fact that God is so jealous of his children that he desires his children to love him fully and him alone is the source of great comfort and joy: God is the Creator and no one is more powerful than he (1:3-5). All that are good (such as the sun, moon, oceans, mountains, food, like chicken, beef, or broccoli) come from him and him alone. So it is when we devote ourselves fully to him that our interests are best served. Why? It is because when we are fully devoted to him, the Lord is in a position to deliver a full load of blessings which we need for life. 

Knowing that God's motive in demanding his children’s complete devotion is love, King Solomon once said in the Song of Solomon 8:6, "Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm; for love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave. It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame." God's love is not relativistic. The jealous nature of God means on our part that there should be no "In and Outs" in our relationship with the Lord. In Downey there is one In-N-Out restaurant. People drive or walk in and out of the place, for food, fellowship, or work. But none of the visitors are fully committed. But it should not be so in the relationship between God and men. Why? As long as you remain committed to him, you are okay; if not you are going to be in trouble. Why? It is because you’ve got a jealous God. See how the Israelites took their relationship with the Lord as casually as the visitors to In-N-Out and thereby how many troubles did they get?! In the Book of Micah (which we studied the previous Monday) isn't it written that the Assyrians would come and strike the cheek of a ruler of Israel with a rod? (Micah 5:1) Have you ever been beaten with a rod on your cheek? It is as contemptuous a treatment as one can get. 

The Lord is a jealous and revenging God. When any human being gets jealous or envious of another, he or she tends to become emotional, irrational, mischievous, or whimsical. But it is not so with the Lord. The Lord is perfect in all he is and does. And he is not at all capricious, whimsical, or cruel. In addition, since he is already sufficient, he is not envious of anyone or anything. On many occasions humans become jealous or envious because of their selfishness. But God is not selfish. When he is jealous or avenging, it is only for the good of the one whom he loves. And the Bible adopts words such as jealous or avenging to convey the idea that since the Lord means business in seeking the good for his children, the Lord has to enforce the laws (or principles) he built into the universe absolutely. We know that all that came from God is good. And the same is true with the “law.” So we say, “Law is good.” In the U.S., although people of different nationalities live together, thanks to the "rule of law" order is kept. Imagine if no one enforced traffic codes. What would happen to the traffic on the freeways or highways? Just as federal or local authorities enforce federal laws or municipal codes, so also in the physical and spiritual worlds the Lord enforces the laws, regulations and decrees. And we better go by these rules and regulations. If not we are in trouble. For example, as long as one lives on the planet earth, he would better obey the law of gravity or the law of electricity. And you'd better not mess up with the law of electricity. If, for example, you mess up with the polarity of the battery under the hood of your car, with all other conditions being equal, you can get fried. The human body is limited. Five milliamps through the heart of an adult human is enough to kill him. The average resistance of the human body (from hand to hand or hand to foot for example) is about 1500 ohms. Using the Ohm’s law, divide this number by 12 volts (the average voltage of a car battery). You get 8 milliamps, more than enough to get you cooked.

But the consequences of violating the laws that are operational in spiritual realms are far more serious than the consequences of violating the laws in physical realms. Consider Moses' Ten Commandments. Violate the first four commandments and see what you get! 

When Jesus came he summed up the Ten Commandments with one word: "love." So Moses’ law is the law of love. And God enforces the law of love absolutely. It is truly comforting then to know that there is someone who is perfect that ensures that these laws remain in force. This observation helps us better understand that the Lord has to be not just a jealous God but an avenging God. If anyone, such as the Ninevites, ignores these principles and thereby takes advantage of God's people and no one punishes him, who will keep the laws? And when no one keeps God’s laws, where is the guarantee that people can live a life in ease and comfort? 

II. He cares for those who trust in him.

We can compare the way the Lord secures the wellbeing of his children to the way in which the Lord protects chestnut in nutshells. Nuts and seeds contain high amounts of unsaturated fat and vitamin E. Unsaturated fat helps to prevent clots of arteries and lower cholesterol levels. Vitamin E, along with other antioxidants, stops bad cholesterol from building up in the arteries, decreasing the risk of heart attacks. But like all other fruits, every seed or nut is wrapped in a protective nutshell. In the case of a chestnut, the shells are manifold. At the core there is the flesh of the nut which is wrapped by a layer of protective shell which is also wrapped in a harder shell which is also protected by another shell which is covered by needles like a porcupine. The flesh of a chestnut comfortably and safely sits within layers of protective shells. The laws of God which are in operation can be likened to these protective shells. The God who is jealous and avenging are like the hard-shells which is full of needles, so no wild animals such as ravens, possums or raccoons would eat them up. And without these devices, no tender fruit can grow. When all fruits are gone, we too will be gone. So the jealous and avenging God serves the negative side of the provision (or protection) we have. 

There are then the positive elements in God's scheme of provision for men. Speaking of this positive aspect Nahum says, "The LORD is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him..." The Prophet presents the Lord as the one who cares for his children. Nowadays a lot of people say, "Who cares?" They say this because they never learned how to come and live under the Lord's care. For these people, Nahum 1:7 describes two steps to come under the Lord's care: taking refuge in him and putting trust in him. 

The first step is the beginning. In the case of the Israelites (both the Northern Kingdom and the Southern Kingdom), they left the Lord's wings of protection. Like the Ninevites they rejected the Lord's precepts and tried to look for fun in all the wrong places. 

The examples of the wrong sources (or ways of destruction) include: worshiping carved images and cast idols (1:14); adopting a lifestyle represented by the crack of wheels, the clatter of wheels, galloping horses, and jolting chariots (3:2); charging cavalry, flashing swords and glittering spears (3:3); the wanton lust of a harlot alluring the mistress of sorceries who enslaved nations by her prostitution (3:4); and, "endless cruelty" (3:19). The Ninevites promoted these lifestyles. The Israelites did too! So the Lord turned the Israelites over to the hands of the Ninevites. 

This turn of events gave rise to the need for the Israelites to flee from the hands of their enemies, and take refuge in the Lord! [In a prophetic vision Nahum saw that the Lord was going to put a sudden end to the Assyrian Empire. Indeed, as prophesied in Nahum 2:1-12, following the combined attacks of the Medes and the Chaldeans, Nineveh fell in 612 B.C. never to rise again. The ruins of ancient Nineveh are located in the city of Mosul in modern day Iraq.]  

The remaining question then is, "Will they come back to the Lord?" Will they really take refuge in the Lord? Exhorting them to return to the Lord, the Prophet Nahum declares that the Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble! 

Second, the Lord cares for those who trust in him. 

Having taken refuge in the Lord, the next thing a refugee ought to do is to trust in the Lord. Specifically then what should a refugee believe in? The Prophet Nahum already answered the question: the Lord is good. 

The call to trust in the Lord's goodness is not as easy it seems. Once upon a time a boy had a beautiful mother. She was so beautiful (at least physically) that she was selected a beauty queen in her home town. But when the boy became five years old his mother left her husband for another man, leaving the boy in the hands of a step father. To an average boy a mother is the tenderest person in the whole world, so that the boy can fall into the mother’s arms of comfort. But this mother broke that trust with her son. Now that the boy's step father abused him, the boy came to have hard times to trust anyone including God. Even after he turned 30 he still has a trust problem. 

At the age of 19, a young man fell in love with his high-school sweetheart.  Soon she became pregnant and a son came out. But by the time the son was born the young man left his home country and smuggled himself to the U.S. In search of her love, along with the son (who became a teen), this woman came to the U.S. only to find that the young man was living with another woman. The young man broke the trust of his teenage son. The boy now grew up and is in his early forties. In the meantime the son tried to find a woman for marriage. He tried hard. He dated many. But due to a serious trust problem, he could not commit himself to a marriage relationship. So he still remains single. 

How can we overcome a "trust problem"? The answer is this: "The LORD is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him..." One must believe in the Lord who is "good" and good "all the time." As used here the word "good" means "good" for all strenuous purposes. And the goodness of the Lord is far different than the goodness we use to describe the goodness of fellow humans. When Nahum says, "the Lord is good," he means the Lord’s goodness which is absolute and permanent. His goodness is not limited in quantity or quality. His goodness is total goodness. His goodness is infinite in nature, for it stems from the Lord who is infinitely perfect. 

To trust in the Lord means to believe in the Lord who is as good as the word "good" described above. When one lives by faith in the Lord who is this good, then very naturally the Lord blesses that person. This is how one comes to live under the Lord's loving care. Joseph in Genesis had this faith. King David had this faith. Most prominently Jesus Christ had this faith. Thanks to Jesus’ faith in God’s absolute goodness, he was able to be good to all and do good to all. While he was in a body he was good to all who came to him. He was good to the wicked as well as to the righteous. He was good from first to last. Even while hanging on a tree he was good to a sinner on his right and a sinner on his left. Even while breathing his last he prayed for those who crucified him to the cross. By faith in God who is absolutely good he gave his life as a ransom for many, so all who believe in him would be saved into God's kingdom. In this way he brought to many true consolation. 

Conclusion: Nahum's message is directed to the people of Judah. Throughout their career in the land of Canaan the Lord used the Assyrians as a rod to train his children. While his children were still in a training session, the Lord established Nahum and gave him the vision to be restored back to the splendor of Jacob. In this vision Nahum says, "The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him." This message still brings comfort to many who are in trouble. 

One word: The Lord is good


Class Exercise:

1. True or false? T: __ F:__ The primary audience of Nahum was the "Ninevites."

2. Nineveh was the capital city of the ___________ Empire.

3. The location of Nineveh is in the city of ________ in present day ______. 

4. Who built Nineveh? ______________

5. Fill the blanks: "Who has not felt your endless _________?" 

6. What did both Isaiah and Nahum see “on the mountains”? _________

The end