God’s judgment against the surrounding nations climax with Assyria in Zephaniah 2:13–15, the most powerful nation at that time; and what God declares about Assyria is bleak.[1] Though Assyria and its most well-known city, Nineveh, are developed and strong, God will make them “a desolation, a dry waste like the desert” (verse 13). There is no accident that God uses these specific terms. For at the time Nineveh was known for having a great irrigation system. The city had plenty of beautiful gardens and lush trees. Yet, this robust city will become a desert. God will not only destroy this powerful nation, but even humiliate it by stripping it of one of its greatest achievements (i.e., irrigation).

Moreover, the city itself will become so uninhabitable that no one but wild animals will reside there. The magnificent buildings that lined the streets of Nineveh will turn to rubble and what remains will be left for “all kinds of beasts”, including “the owl” and “the hedgehog” (verse 14). No longer will there be laughing and chatter in the city. Rather, the only noises coming from Nineveh will be birds cooing and hooting (“a voice shall hoot in the window”; verse 14).

But why? Why will this great nation be brought low? The old proverbial saying, “pride comes before the fall” (Proverbs 16:18), rings true here because the reason for Nineveh’s destruction (and the nation Assyria as whole) is due to its pride. Zephaniah 2:15 explains that Nineveh will be destroyed because of her arrogance. This city was the darling of the world and it boasted as much: “This is the exultant city that lived securely, that said in her heart, ‘I am, and there is no one else.’” Nineveh believed that it would never be destroyed and, as such, it trusted in itself as opposed to the one, true God. It is because of both the city’s beliefs and its actions that will bring about its devastation; and not only that but its derision as well since “everyone who passes by her hisses and shakes his fist” (verse 15). People will pass by and think, “O look what has become of you, Nineveh. You once were splendid and glorious. But because of your arrogance and sin, now you are nothing.”

Nineveh’s fate is disheartening and sad, but there is much we can learn from them, including the fact that God loves humility. God has made it clear throughout the entirety of Zephaniah 2 that He abhors pride and arrogance. He promised to destroy Moab, Ammon, and Assyria for their pride, and we can be assured that all of these countries are mere foreshadows for God’s utter destruction of every proud country and people at the time of Christ’s second coming.

But why do you suppose that God has strong feelings against pride? Ultimately, pride is idolatry. Not only does pride make us put others down, it also claims self-sufficiency. Pride says that we do not need anyone, not even God. Pride says that we got ourselves to a place of greatness. This is what pride entails. Do you see what God hates it? Pride tells God, “God, I got to where I am without your help. I did this and I don’t need you.” This is why God’s hates pride, and this is why God is determined to punish pride.

There is, of course, a remedy to pride and that is humility. God wants His people to be defined by humility. Like it says in Zephaniah 2:3, God’s people must seek humility because we should know that we are nothing without God. Everything we have and everything we are is because of God’s grace and goodness. So we have no room to boast about anything – not our riches, our education, our house, our clothes, our faith, our spiritual gifts; nothing. All that remains for us is humility. This is what God loves and, aside from our saving faith in Christ, this is what is going to spare us from a multitude of judgments.

[1] For more on the destruction of Nineveh, read the Old Testament book of Nahum.

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