Desolate! Desolation and ruin!
Hearts melt and knees tremble;
anguish is in all loins;
all faces grow pale!
Where is the lions’ den,
the feeding place of the young lions,
where the lion and lioness went,
where his cubs were, with none to disturb?
The lion tore enough for his cubs
and strangled prey for his lionesses;
he filled his caves with prey
and his dens with torn flesh.
Behold, I am against you, declares the Lord of hosts, and I will burn your chariots in smoke, and the sword shall devour your young lions. I will cut off your prey from the earth, and the voice of your messengers shall no longer be heard. – Nahum 2:10-13 ESV
You don’t want to be on God’s bad side. You don’t want Him for an enemy. And the one thing no human being should ever want to hear God say is, “I am against you.” Any time we see that statement, it is usually followed by some very unpleasant circumstances. The people of Judah themselves would eventually hear God say those same words:
“Behold, I am against you, O inhabitant of the valley,
O rock of the plain,
declares the Lord;
you who say, ‘Who shall come down against us,
or who shall enter our habitations?’
14 I will punish you according to the fruit of your deeds,
declares the Lord;
I will kindle a fire in her forest,
and it shall devour all that is around her.” – Jeremiah 21:13-14 ESV
Babylon, one of the nations that God would use to defeat the Assyrians, would also hear those four words:
“Behold, I am against you, O proud one,
declares the Lord God of hosts,
for your day has come,
the time when I will punish you.
The proud one shall stumble and fall,
with none to raise him up,
and I will kindle a fire in his cities,
and it will devour all that is around him.” – Jeremiah 50:30-31 ESV
God would one day say of the great city of Tyre:
“Behold, I am against you, O Tyre, and will bring up many nations against you, as the sea brings up its waves. They shall destroy the walls of Tyre and break down her towers, and I will scrape her soil from her and make her a bare rock.” – Ezekiel 26:3-4 ESV
God makes a great friend, but He is a formidable enemy. And Nahum, speaking on behalf of God, makes it quite clear that the Assyrians had overstepped their bounds and exceeded the limits of God’s patience. The Assyrians had more than met their match. While they were known for leaving a wake of destruction in their path, God was going to completely annihilate them. Their fall would leave nothing but desolation behind. Their once great city would be reduced to rubble, their vast horde of plunder and treasure would be removed. Their citizens would be taken captive or scattered to the four winds. And even their infamous chariots would be burned to ashes.
People will be left wondering what ever happened to Nineveh. Comparing the Assyrian king to a lion and Nineveh to his den, Nahum sarcastically asks, “Where is the lions’ den, the feeding place of the young lions, where the lion and lioness went, where his cubs were, with none to disturb?” (Nahum 2:11 ESV). In time, the rubble of the city will look like just another part of the landscape. It will be difficult to tell that it was once the great capital of the mighty Assyrian empire. There had been a day when the king of Assyrian had “filled his caves with prey and his dens with torn flesh” (Nahum 2:12 ESV), but that was about to change. Because God was against him. He had made an enemy of the Lord of Hosts. That term, Lord of Hosts, is a title for God that refers to His military might. It “pictures God as the sovereign king who has at his disposal a multitude of attendants, messengers, and warriors to do his bidding” (NET Study Bible notes). God commands the hosts of heaven, a countless force made up of angelic beings.
There is a wonderful story chronicled for us in the book of 1 Kings. It involves the prophet Elisha. It seems that the King of Aram had been setting traps and ambushes for the forces of Israel, and Elisha was prophetically warning the King of Israel about these situations before they happened. Of course, when the King of Aram found out what Elisha had been doing, it enraged him, so he sent troops to capture Elisha. One morning, Elisha’s servant woke up to find they were surrounded by troops.
When the servant of the man of God got up early the next morning and went outside, there were troops, horses, and chariots everywhere. “Oh, sir, what will we do now?” the young man cried to Elisha. – 2 Kings 6:15 ESV
But rather than panic, Elisha simply told his servant, “Don’t be afraid!” Then he calmed his anxious servant with the news: “For there are more on our side than on theirs!” (1 Kings 6: 16 ESV). But he could tell that his servant’s sense of panic was not exactly assuaged by this announcement. Because all his servant could see was one thing: The armies of Aram. There was nobody else in sight. What was Elisha talking about? And then Elisha prayed: “O Lord, open his eyes and let him see!” (1 Kings 6:17 ESV). And we’re told that God opened the young man’s eyes, and when he looked up, he saw that the hillside around Elisha was filled with horses and chariots of fire. In other words, he got a glimpse of the host of heaven.
God has more than enough resources to enforce His will and to accomplish His sovereign plan. In the case of Elisha and his servant, God used the hosts of heaven to rescue them. In the case of the Assyrians, God would call upon the Medes and the Babylonians to attack and destroy the Assyrians. God used the waters of the Red Sea to destroy the armies of Pharaoh. He brought down fire and brimstone to destroy the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. There is no limit to God’s capabilities. That is why it is a dangerous thing to find yourself on the receiving end of His wrath. In the case of Egypt, God sent a single angel to take the lives of all the first born males in the nation. God can use His heavenly host or He can utilize human resources to accomplish His will. But the bottom line is, once the Assyrians found themselves on the wrong side of God’s wrath, their days were numbered. Daniel reminds us:
He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings; he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding… – Daniel 2:21 ESV
The Assyrians were no match for God. And those who would set themselves against the people of God will always find themselves as the enemies of God. It is one thing for God to sovereignly choose to use a nation to accomplish His divine will and mete out His just judgment on His own people. But when a nation independently assumes the right to attack what rightly belongs to God, they will find themselves opposed by Him. There will always be nations like Assyria to wreak havoc and demand their way in the world. Wicked nations will rise up and force their will on others. Their will be dictators and tyrants. There will be always be despots and megalomaniacs who use force to build and maintain their empires. And from our human perspective, it will always look to use as it did to Elisha’s servant. We will see ourselves surrounded by the forces of evil. We will feel like the odds are against us, and we will cry out to God, “Oh, sir, what will we do now?” But God would have us remember that we have the Lord of Hosts on our side. He is in control. As bad as things might appear, our God is still on His throne. He is still the Lord of Hosts and has the resources of heaven at His disposal. Not only that, He is in full and ultimate control of all that goes on around us, whether it seems like it or not. Nothing happens outside of His sovereign will. No king, president, or dictator ascends to power without His permission. We may not understand why God does what He does, but we should never question His motives. All those who stand opposed to His will eventually find themselves hearing those very same words the Assyrians heard: “I am against you.” And the apostle Paul would have us remember: “If God is for us, who can ever be against us?” (Romans 8:31 NLT). Not only that, but, “nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39 NLT).
English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.