This is one in a series of reviews of the weekly lessons found in the Come, Follow Me for Individuals and Families published by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. To link to all of the 2022 teachings, click here. Bold face type in this article comes from the Church’s curriculum. (Note: Not every sentence written in the curriculum is being reviewed.)
November 28-December 4
Nahum; Habakkuk; Zephaniah
Reading the Old Testament often means reading prophecies about destruction. The Lord frequently called prophets to warn the wicked that His judgments were upon them. The ministries of Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah are good examples. In dreadful detail, these prophets foretold the downfall of cities that, at the time, seemed strong and powerful—Nineveh, Babylon, and even Jerusalem. But that was thousands of years ago. Why is it valuable to read these prophecies today?
It is true that there was destruction promised to those who did not obey. The eternal destination for those who rebel is a place called hell. Yet LDS leaders do not acknowledge hell as a possible eternal destination for those who rebel. Apostle Bruce R. McConkie wrote,
To believe that in eternity all men will go either to a heaven of eternal bliss or a hell of eternal torment is a doctrine that offends the sense of justice of every reasonable man. It is in flat contradiction to the revealed principle that men will be judged according to their works and that as their works have varied so will their rewards.Mormon Doctrine, 1966, 468.
As a note in my study Bible puts it, God is good, but His goodness includes both His love for those who place their trust in Him and His justice for those who set themselves against Him. As Nahum 1:2 puts it, “He is furious with His enemies.” And verse 3 adds “the Lord will never leave the guilty unpunished.”
In the end, then, evil will be defeated. For those who continue to rebel, there will be separation from God for eternity. If the wicked had been promised destruction in this life as acknowledged by the writers of this series, then why would this doctrine “offend the sense of justice of every reasonable man,” as so stated by the LDS apostle?
Ideas for Personal Scripture Study
The Lord is both powerful and merciful.
Nahum’s mission was to foretell the destruction of Nineveh—the capital of the violent empire Assyria, which had scattered Israel and brutalized Judah. Nahum began by describing God’s wrath and matchless power, but He also spoke about God’s mercy and goodness. You might consider identifying verses in chapter 1 that help you understand each of these attributes—and other attributes of God that you notice. Why do you think it is important to know each of these things about the Lord? Some might find it difficult to reconcile the scriptural teaching that “the Lord is good” (Nahum 1:7) with the teaching that He “will take vengeance on his adversaries” (Nahum 1:2)
God certainly is merciful. But what is “mercy” unless it means the relenting of the just punishment that is due? While He is described as love filled with grace and mercy, He is also described as a God of justice. According to Romans 3:23, everyone has sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. Romans 5 says that sin came through Adam, dooming all to separation from God for eternity. As Romans 6:23 says, “the wages of sin is death.” It is dire. The Gospel begins with bad news. Fortunately, there is a comma after “death” in that verse and it adds, “but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.”
I can trust the Lord’s will and His timing.
The Lord responded to Habakkuk’s questions by saying that He would send the Chaldeans (the Babylonians) to punish Judah (see Habakkuk 1:5–11). But Habakkuk was still troubled, for it seemed unjust for the Lord to stand by “when the wicked [Babylon] devoureth the man that is more righteous [Judah]” (see verses 12–17). What do you find in Habakkuk 2:1–4 that inspires you to trust the Lord when you have unanswered questions?
The last sentence of verse 4 states that “the righteous will live by his faithfulness.” This is cited in Romans 1:17, considered by most scholars to be the theme of this epistle written by Paul. The apostle continues in the next chapter that “this righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe” (3:22). Verse 24 adds that “all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” Thus, God “demonstrate(d) his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.” Then, the clincher in verse verse 28: “For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law.”
When I have unanswered questions–as the author(s) of this series are asking–I fully depend on the mercy of God, knowing that I am a sinner who deserves eternal punishment in hell. But, because of His faithfulness, I am assured that it is based on His mercy that allows me such respite.
Chapter 3 of Habakkuk is a prayer of praise to God and an expression of faith in Him. What impresses you about Habakkuk’s words in verses 17–19? How is the tone of these verses different from Habakkuk 1:1–4? Ponder how you can develop greater faith in God, even when life seems unfair.
Verse 19 reads,
The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to tread on the heights.
Certainly there is strength for the children of God who run to Him. There is no doubt of this. And God is love, as it says in 1 John 4:8. And the next 2 verses add,
This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
So, while we were sinners, Christ died for us according to Romans 5:8. If this were not the case, we would be forever dead in our sins with no hope whatsoever.
Ideas for Family Scripture Study and Home Evening
How is the Lord like “a strong hold”? Perhaps your family could build a simple stronghold or fortress in your home and discuss Nahum 1:7 while inside it. What makes our day a “day of trouble”? How do Jesus Christ and His gospel fortify us? How do we show that we “trust in him”?
Nahum 1:7 says,
The Lord is good,
a refuge in times of trouble.
He cares for those who trust in him,
It’s true that God is a refuge and He does care for those who trust in Him. Notice, though, that this does not suggest that a person has to keep all of his covenants in order to be loved by God. First John 4:19 says that “we love because he first loved us.”
What do we find in Zephaniah 3:14–20 that makes us want to “sing, … be glad and rejoice with all the heart”? Perhaps your family could sing hymns or songs that come to mind as they read these verses.
The passage is written to Israel’s remnant and not to us. We must understand we cannot make direct application of these verses to our lives. But there is the promise that Israel would be restored, which would culminate in the coming of the Savior, Jesus Christ.
Many people recoil when hearing that God is a God of justice. Instead, they want to merely focus on His love (He is!) and think that nobody deserves punishment for eternity (they do!). Yet in these OT prophetical books, we see what God thinks about His enemies and the punishment they deserve.
This is true for sinners today. It makes God’s offer of forgiveness of sins based on the work of the cross appear even more valuable. Take the words of Romans to light and understand that true forgiveness is only available through faith. To conclude, consider Romans 4:13-15:
13 It was not through the law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith. 14 For if those who depend on the law are heirs, faith means nothing and the promise is worthless, 15 because the law brings wrath. And where there is no law there is no transgression.
Verses 24-25 add,
but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. 25 He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.
Through faith alone, the Christian is forgiven of sin. God’s justice is satisfied, not because of what we do but what Christ accomplished on the cross. What a wonderful Gospel this really is!