The Lord is Good

adapted from PCC Prayer Meeting Exhortation on 25 Feb 2010.


7 The LORD is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble; and he knoweth them that trust in him.  8 But with an overrunning flood he will make an utter end of the place thereof, and darkness shall pursue his enemies” (Nahum 1:7-8).

We know very little about the prophet Nahum except that he is an Elkoshite. We do not even know where exactly is Elkosh, though scholars have proposed many different sites. In all probability, it is a town in or near Judah.

The name ‘Nahum’ means ‘consolation’; and Nahum was called to console or to comfort the people of God. In this book, however, he does so, in an unusual way. For this book is described as a ‘burden’ (v. 1). It is a weighty prophecy of doom concerning the destruction of Nineveh. The ancient site of Nineveh is situated on the Eastern bank of the River Tigris near modern Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq.

Nineveh was the capital of the Assyrian empire. It was,—we must remember,—the Assyrians who destroyed Samaria in 722 BC. And it was also the Assyrians who troubled Judah around the same time, and even sent Manasseh, the King of Judah into exile for a season. Nahum was preaching around this time.

The Assyrians during that period were known to be incredibly wicked. The prophet Zephaniah speaks of Nineveh, the capital of the Assyrians, as an arrogant city that “dwelt carelessly, that said in her heart, I am, and there is none beside me” (Zeph 2:15). Nahum describes her as a “bloody city” that is “all full of lies and robbery” and “whoredom” and “witchcraft” (Nah 3:1, 4).

These descriptions have been corroborated by multiple archaeological discoveries. Some of the atrocities committed by the Assyrians kings and armies are just too horrific to be described over the pulpit. It is no wonder that Jonah did not want to preach in Nineveh.

It is no wonder, then, that a whole book of prophecy centering on the destruction of Nineveh could be written to comfort God’s people. But there you have it. This is the purpose of the book of Nahum.

That notwithstanding, in this study, we want to consider briefly, a more positive statement in the book, even the implicit promise found in Nahum 1:7. This verse, I believe captures the theme of the prophecy of Nahum very well. Verse 7 and 8 reads—

7 The LORD is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble; and he knoweth them that trust in him.  8 But with an overrunning flood he will make an utter end of the place thereof, and darkness shall pursue his enemies.[1]

Let’s consider this implicit promise under three simple words found in the text, namely: Is, He, But. 


1. Is

Nahum says “The LORD is good.” Notice from our translation that the word ‘is’ is not even found in the original Hebrew. But it is strongly implied; and it is a very important idea!

Indeed, this word or the idea associated with it is so important that it is part of God’s name. When God introduced Himself to Moses, He gave His name as “I AM”: “I am that I am,” He says. From then on, God’s people knew Him as Yahweh or Jehovah, which means “He is.”

This name indicates that God is the alone self-existent living and true God. But it also indicates that He is perfect and immutable.

In our text, not only is God referred to as the “He is”, but we are told that “He is” is good. What is Nahum, or more specifically, the Holy Spirit who inspired Nahum, seeking to convey to us in these words? He is no doubt seeking to bring across the idea that God is always good. He is unchangingly good. He is perfectly good. His goodness is not at all affected by circumstance. His goodness is impervious to challenge. His goodness cannot be doubted.

“The LORD is good.” Nahum spoke those words at a time when God’s people were suffering immensely. In the north, the capital was destroyed, many were killed and others were sent to exile. In the south many cities were also destroyed by the Assyrians while at the same time the godly were tormented by the very wicked King Manasseh. Nevertheless, Nahum assures the people: “The LORD is good!

Whatever happens in the world, whatever evil we experience, whatever injustice we suffer, whatever pain and atrocities is afflicted upon us, God remains good. We may not fully understand why God allowed and indeed ordained the suffering; but we can have this assurance that God is good and that in His hand all things will work out together for good to them that love Him.

The LORD is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble; and he knoweth them that trust in him.

But secondly consider the word ‘He.”


2. He

The pronoun ‘He’ refers to none other, but the LORD Himself. “He knoweth them that trust in him.” “he will make an utter end of the place thereof, and darkness shall pursue his enemies” (v. 8).

Why is this word important in the text? Well, it is important because it emphasises who is in control in the day of trouble. The day of trouble had come upon the people of God because of attacks of the great and mighty king of Assyria. But is it the king of Assyria who was in control? No no; the king of Assyria, however powerful he was, was but the sword of God to execute His sword to execute His wrath and justice (cf. Ezk 21:3; 30:24).

The LORD was the one who was in absolute control. And because He was in control, God’s people could have the assurance that whatever happened, everything was going to be alright for those who trust in Him.

Those who trust in the LORD are under His protection and care, and therefore they need not worry or be afraid of the wind and waves and lightning and thunder all around them. They do not even need to fear a tsunami or flood, or a volcanic eruption or earthquake (v. 4-6). They need only hide in the shadow of His wings.

So it must be with us today. We must learn to turn our eyes to Christ Jesus, the Captain of our Salvation who is seated at the right hand of the Father and upholding the world by the Word of His power. No trouble in our life, whether as an individual, as a family, as a church or as a nation, is too great that our Lord is not in control. He who laid His life down for us is on the throne. He who is bringing to pass all things that ever happened in history and will happen to us is our Saviour who loves us and has promised never to leave us nor forsake us.

But consider finally, the word…


3. But

Nahum has declared that God is good. He will be a shelter in the storm for all who put their trust in Him. But the very next statement begins with the word ‘but.’ “But with an overrunning flood he will make an utter end of the place thereof…” What a striking contrast.

On the one hand, God is portrayed as kind and loving. On the other hand, we are told that He is angry and fierce.

But how do we square this fact with the declaration that God is good. How can God be good if He not only allows own people to suffer, but also afflict massive destruction upon His enemies?

Well, the answer is found in the word ‘but.’ You see, the word ‘but’ in our text is not to contrast between the goodness of God and the wrath of God. No, no; make no mistake. The word ‘but’ is to contrast between what God does for His people and what He does for His enemies.

You see, God is always good. This is the promise we can cling on to. His goodness does not ebb and flow like the tide. His goodness is not dependant on outward circumstances.

And because God is always good, He is good in all that He does. He is good when He blesses the righteous. He is good when He pours out His wrath on the wicked.

He would not be doing good if He blesses the wicked for their wickedness. He is good when He blesses the righteous for their righteousness. He would not be doing good if He reward the righteous with evil or allow injustice to prevail. You see part of God’s goodness is His perfect justice.

Thus, God’s goodness must be manifested in different ways to different people depending on who they are and what they do. Those who are the enemies of God’s people and therefore God’s enemies can expect His fury.

Therefore, God’s goodness which is manifested to His people will always include an outpouring of His wrath against those who persecute them.

God would not stand idly by as the Assyrians tormented His people. He would arise to fight for those who are His own. He would destroy the wicked who brought pain and sorrow upon His people for whom Christ laid His life down for. He would see to it that He will set everything right for He is sovereign over all, and He is good. He would deal with the wicked both in this life and for all eternity.


Conclusion

Beloved brethren and children, remember: God is sovereign and God is good. But remember also that His goodness is manifested to different people in drastically different ways.

How will you experience the goodness of God? Will it be by His great wrath, or will it be by His great love?

Oh beloved brethren and children, let us trust Him; and let us make sure that we are on His side. Remember that we are by nature God’s enemies. We deserve God’s wrath like the Ninevites, but God sent the Lord Jesus Christ to take His wrath on behalf of all who trust in Him, and to give His righteousness unto them in exchange.

It is for this reason we can confidently expect God’s mercy and love, for our sins have been paid for. We are accounted righteous in Christ. God’s goodness will therefore ensure His blessing. This is His promise. Shall we not therefore learn to rest in Him? Shall we not learn to look to Him for comfort in the day of trouble? Shall we not leave vengeance against the wicked in His hand, knowing that God in His goodness will ensure a perfect recompense? Amen. Ω




[1] Note that verse 8 is a prophecy of the destruction of Nineveh, the enemy of God for her idolatry, pride and cruelty. “With an overrunning flood he will make an utter end of the place” says Nahum.

This prophecy was fulfilled very dramatically in 612 BC. In that year the king of Babylon, Nabopolassar led a combined army of Babylonians, Medes and Scythians against Nineveh. The Babylonian army laid siege against the city. The walls of the city, we are told were more than 15 metres high and very thick. So the battering rams of the conquering army were ineffective against them. So they decide to try to starve the people out.

Now, Nineveh was quite self-sufficient, so it would have been a very, very long siege which might not have been successful at all. But three months into the siege the rains fell, and the river Tigris overflowed its banks, and flooded part of the city and broke down some parts of the wall.

The king of Nineveh, Sin-shar-ishkun, the son of Ashur-banipal, whom we referred to earlier, fearing that the end was near, had a huge funeral pyre constructed. Then he gathered his wives, children and eunuchs together with all his gold and silver, and burned themselves alive in the huge fire.

Then were the gates of Nineveh opened to the invaders—who proceeded to burn and destroy the city with shocking fury and thoroughness.  With an overrunning flood he will make an utter end of the place” (v. 8).