"A STRONG HOLD IN THE DAY OF TROUBLE"
By Ian Potts
The prophecy of Nahum presents a powerful picture of the Gospel and the sufferings of Christ for the sins of His people. But this presentation of God’s saving grace towards sinners may not seem immediately apparent on first reading as this prophecy has much to say about God’s anger against sin and the impending judgement of a wicked and sinful people. Briefly, Nahum’s prophecy can be summarised as depicting the following…
Firstly, Nahum opens by gloriously setting forth God’s righteous, holy character; His majesty; His Almighty power and goodness; and His just and righteous indignation and fury against sin. See Nahum 1:1-7. How glorious the LORD God is; how majestic; how powerful. Yet despite all man’s sin against Him God is “slow to anger, and great in power” (Nahum 1:3), for He is a God who delighteth in showing mercy. Surely “The LORD is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble” (Nahum 1:7).
Secondly, the prophecy paints such a picture against a backdrop of the sins and iniquities of a people who had turned their back on God. A people who had sought their own things, their own pleasures, and their own gain. A proud, selfish and wayward people, who although perhaps outwardly religious, had lost sight of their true state before a holy God. Does not this description fit us all? Does it not describe all mankind? For who has not rebelled against his Maker? Who does not live for self and selfish gain if the true motives of the heart be examined? Who can truthfully exclude themselves from this description? As we read in Romans, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
So thirdly, we read in Nahum’s prophecy of God’s response to this sinful people, the inevitable sentence and judgement upon that people who had so deliberately rebelled against the LORD. A people who ignored the warnings given and who disbelieved that there was a day of judgement coming - just like those in the days of Noah who laughed and mocked at the Lord’s servant as he faithfully built the ark, according to the Lord’s instructions, to escape the wrath to come. But, I ask, do we heed the warnings given? Or are we content to eat, drink and be merry? Do we slumber on in our mad career towards death and judgement, crying “Peace, peace!” when there is no peace? Do we think our sins will be treated as a light thing by the One whom we have offended? Or, rather, will not the LORD of all the earth do right? I ask, “What do ye imagine against the LORD?” Nahum 1:9.
The picture throughout Nahum is of that which the LORD God looks down upon in judgement. He sees a great mass of people who have sinned and against whom He pronounces a sentence of everlasting destruction. But praise God that there is a people who are spared such judgement. A people loved of God and chosen of God from before the foundation of the world – a people who are recipients of His Sovereign grace and undeserved mercy, a people who truly trust in Him and worship Him, but a people who in the prophecy of Nahum are seemingly hidden from view - there is hardly a glimpse of them throughout the book. Why? Where are they? … They are there… but they are hidden from view – because they are found in the “strong hold”, in Christ their Saviour! The judgement of God rains down upon all the wicked in fiery anger, indignation and wrath, utterly consuming them all in an awesome display and vindication of God’s justice. And yet this very same judgement rained down upon one other - a man, a perfect man, a righteous man, a man despised and rejected by all, yet a man who willingly stood in the place of sinners under the sword of God’s justice, and the flames of God’s anger whilst nailed to a cross and crucified – this is the man Christ Jesus, the LORD’s Anointed, God incarnate, Jesus, the Saviour of sinners. In one verse (Nahum 1:7) we are given a glimpse of God’s people, hidden, in Christ, hidden under the blood of the Lamb, safe in their refuge, trusting in their God to deliver them from the wrath to come, because of that glorious One who loved them, and gave Himself for them (Galatians 2:20). What grace! What mercy we see here!
Yes, judgement is all prominent throughout the book of Nahum, but hidden behind it all, in Nahum 1:7 there is this slight glimpse of the redeemed of God, whose lives are “hid with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3), when we read that “The LORD is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble; and he knoweth them that trust in him”. Here are God’s people, known of Him in whom they trust, “hid” in their refuge, their strong-hold which is Christ their Saviour. HE brings THEM through the judgement, the “day of trouble”, because they like all others have sinned, and that sin will not go unnoticed, it will be judged. God’s holy, righteous nature demands it. Justice must be met. But for them, by grace, it is met in the Substitute – all the fury of God spoken of in Nahum, the sins He is furious against, and the judgement to be meted out against those sins, as it applies to God’s chosen people, was directed not at them, but at Christ. He who knew no sin was made sin for them - He suffered in His people’s stead (2 Corinthians 5:21). What a picture we see of just how wicked God’s people are, how vile they are, just how hateful sin is to God and how furious His judgement against sin is. And in seeing this we see something of just how deep the suffering of Christ was in the place of His people. What a picture is portrayed in Nahum in the graphic descriptions of God’s judgement of Nineveh of the very flames of torment which Christ endured for those “who trust in Him” as He suffered and died in their place on the cross.
But how wonderful that the redeemed are found in the strong hold, safe from those very flames! As in the ark of Noah which passed through the judgement, in which ark Noah and his family were shut in by God, the Lord’s people too are “shut in” to their ark, which is Christ – who is their refuge, their strong-hold in the day of trouble. And what brings them to flee to such a refuge? Well, the sound of the Gospel of Christ does, as brought to them by the Spirit of God, who is beheld “upon the mountains” and who speaks through His Word and by those servants whom He sends to preach the everlasting Gospel - those servants who bring glad tidings and publisheth peace! (Nahum 1:15).
What peace there is to be found in Christ from the storms which rage outside - but what fury and wrath there is to those found outside of the LORD’s Anointed, to those who despise and reject the One who died in the place of sinners. How in this prophecy we see much of the wrath of God portrayed, but how wonderful that He who delights to show mercy has not forgotten to show mercy – mercy and peace is shown to all those found in the strong-hold, all those who trust in Christ, all those hidden with Christ, in God. May God have mercy upon us in bringing to our ears those glad tidings of peace, giving us ears to hear the trumpet sound of warning, and causing us to flee from the wrath to come – fleeing to that one refuge, that one strong-hold in the day of trouble, the LORD and His Anointed, Jesus Christ the Saviour (Habbakuk 3:13).
it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name
of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the
dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you