The Book of Nahum - "Searchlights from the Word" by G. Campbell Morgan.
I will make thy grave; for thou art vile.
This is the prophecy which sets forth, more clearly than any other, the truth concerning the wrath of God, in its national application. Its burden is that of vengeance. It contains three messages. The first is a statement of the verdict of vengeance (1); the second gives us the vision of that vengeance (2); the third is an argument in vindication of that vengeance (3). It was concerned with Nineveh, and was delivered almost certainly when she was at the height of her power. One hundred years before, Jonah had preached in her streets, and she had repented, and been spared. In the interval she had repented of her repentance, had continued her oppressions and cruelties. Her spirit had become incarnate in one who defied Jehovah (see verse 11, the reference being to Sennacherib); therefore, the time of the "full end" had come. In these words we have sentence and verdict. The sentence was that this great and arrogant and brutal power should be buried, the verdict against her being that she was vile. Thus the Divine vengeance is revealed as to its principle of action and its completeness of execution. The whole message is remarkable for the care with which the prophet insisted upon the goodness of God, thus emphasizing the righteousness of His vengeance, in that it proceeds only against those who have finally resisted His mercy. But when that is done, then His wrath makes a full end; it is irresistible, complete, final. All this is good tidings. That pride and cruelty and vice are doomed, because God reigns, is certain, and the certainty is comfort indeed.
She is empty and void and waste, and the heart melteth, and the knees smite together, and anguish is in all loins, and the faces of them all are waxed pale.
These words describe the effect of the Divine vengeance, as manifested in the city and the people. The condition of the former is set forth with graphic force in three words, "empty, void, waste." There is the utmost of finality in this collocation of words. Nothing remains to be said. The proud city, of splendid architecture, of accumulated treasure, of the utmost luxury, is seen as a dreary, degraded desolation. The literal fulfilment of this Divine sentence is a matter of history. The condition of the people as the result of the vengeance is described with equal force. When the Divinely appointed scourge fell in hammer blows upon the vile nation, the heart melted, that is, inward courage failed; therefore, the knees smote together, that is, outward courage failed; anguish was in all loins, that is, the vital forces were filled with agony; and the faces of all waxed pale, that is they paled in death. What a commentary this prediction, and its historic fulfilment, are on the exclamation of the writer of the letter to the Hebrews, "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." These aspects of the Divine government abide. He is still "slow to anger," but when men or nations persist in wickedness in spite of His patience, then still "with an overrunning flood, He will make a full end." And again we say, this certainly gives the trusting heart comfort and courage. However proudly evil rear its head and vaunt itself, it is doomed.
Whence shall I seek comforters for thee?
The final message of Nahum was concerned with the righteousness of the wrath of God, and is a vindication of the activity of His vengeance. It alternates between descriptions of Nineveh's vice, and Jehovah's judgment. To study it, is to be convinced that the vice demanded the vengeance. In the presence of corruption so complete, of cruelties so brutal, of depravity so profound, any other method than that of a vengeance so complete as to blot out the plague, would have been injustice. In this question there is revealed a principle often insisted upon by these Hebrew prophets. The idea is that in the overthrow of Nineveh, all nations would agree. None would bemoan her. None would pity her. None would be found to comfort her. The principle is that in the underlying conscience of man the sense of justice is never destroyed; and that means that the beauty of righteousness is recognized, and the repulsiveness or evil is admitted. This is ever so. Men and nations go in evil ways, and persist therein; but they do so, knowing the wrong of it. For some fancied temporary advantage, they sin against this deep conviction; but it is still there, and it surges to the surface when the wrath of God proceeds in vengeance; and it always agrees with the rightness of His action. When the full process of the Divine government has completed its work, the whole universe will agree with its righteousness and its judgment. That which then is doomed, will .be so, not by God only, but by the consent of the whole creation.