“Thus says the Lord: “Though they are safe, and likewise many, yet in this manner they will be cut down when he passes through. Though I have afflicted you, I will afflict you no more; For now I will break off his yoke from you, and burst your bonds apart. The Lord has given a command concerning you: “Your name shall be perpetuated no longer. Out of the house of your gods I will cut off the carved image and the molded image. I will dig your grave, for you are vile.” – Nahum 1:12-14
The wicked of the world feel very safe, very secure with themselves. They have confidence in their own strength. Even their numbers give them a false sense of security. This was true for the Assyrians in Nahum’s day, as much as it’s true for those in every generation. There is this common thread across time that we find to be very true today as well, don’t we? Wicked people grow in pride and arrogance, which is often fueled as their numbers increase and they feed off each other. Yet, similar to the Assyrians, it doesn’t matter how big and strong they are. God will cut them down like grass in His vengeance. God always has, and always will, have His way. His righteous justice will be carried out. God used the Assyrians as an instrument of His chastening of Judah. However, King Sennacharib and the Assyrian empire’s prosperity and safety would be no more.
For the Lord would cut them down as He “passes through” as Nahum said. This “passing through” language should remind us of what the Lord did in the final plague in Egypt in the death of the firstborn in Exodus 11 and 12. The angel of death swiftly passed through and struck down all of the firstborn in Egypt who were not in homes covered by the lood of the Passover lamb. So, Nahum speaks of God suddenly destroying the Assyrians as it were with an unexpected deluge. But also see how Nahum gives redemptive, delivering comfort here to God’s people, to which he adds even more in 12b – 13, as he speaks of the end of their affliction and the bursting of their bonds.
Remember this – God’s people are never so subdued by the tyranny of our enemies that all hope is lost. Our deliverance always has been, is, and always will be in the power and hand of God. In 12b, God wanted His people to know that His chastening affliction of them at the hands of the Assyrians would come to an end. Nahum foretold that God’s “passing through” Assyria would be swift destruction for them, but also swift deliverance for His people.
The picture Nahum paints in verse 13 is that of deliverance from bondage and slavery. Note the “breaking of the yoke” and the “bursting of bonds.” The picture is the heavy, wooden yoke on the back of the necks being cut and falling off. It’s like chains and shackles on wrists and ankles being burst in pieces and falling to the floor. They would be set free! Ah, the glorious, comforting Gospel of salvation! Oh, how Nahum points us to Christ here in a marvelous way. Through His work for us, Christ has broken off our yoke and burst our bonds and chains to sin. Our chains are gone. We’ve been set free in Him!
Finally, we see the Lord assert and communicate His supreme authority and certainty in giving a command regarding the Assyrians, in verse 14. The Assyrians would experience complete extinction. The memory of them and their reputation would fade away. They wouldn’t be talked about like they were then. The greatness and great fame that the Assyrians hoped would remain for generations to come would dwindle away. The effects of God’s command is similar to what Solomon said in Ecclesiastes 1:11, “There is no remembrance of former things, nor will there be any remembrance of things that are to come by those who will come after.” They would die and their works would be forgotten. Further, God would destroy their idols and dig their graves. There would be public finality to the Assyrians being wiped out.
Take great joy today in the freedom that you have in Jesus Christ today, Beloved! Though the weight of suffering be heavy. Though your daily struggle with sin is real, never forget that the great burden, the control of the enemy’s yoke on your neck, the chains on your wrists have been broken and lifted by Christ. You are no longer a slave to sin, but wonderfully a slave to Him. He is our marvelous Savior and Master, who calls us to take His yoke upon us and learn from Him.
Think about that for a moment – taking His yoke and learning from Him. He has made us His joyful servants, servants of the King. By His grace, Christ teaches us and we grow in cheerful obedience and submission to Him. Further, Jesus gives you good reason for taking His yoke. He is gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. His yoke is easy and His burden is light. (Matthew 11:29-30) This is the call of the Gospel. Ah, true rest and peace in the midst of strife, even eternal rest that only Jesus gives. Praise God for the rescue, redemption, and rest that we have in Christ!