Scripture: Nahum 1 – 3
Reflection: Aleph, bet, gimel, dalet, he, vaw, zayin … I remember learning the letters of the Hebrew alphabet in seminary. Trust me, it was a struggle! The only thing that helped was learning a Hebrew alphabet song that still slips into my head every once in a while.
That alphabet is helpful in the first chapter of Nahum that is an “acrostic poem” (a literary device where paragraphs begin with successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet). Famous acrostics in the Bible include Psalms 9, 25, 11 and 119. For a text that reads as an angry tirade of a God frustrated with violence and oppression in the world it seems odd to funnel that wrath into a sing-song of the Hebrew ABC’s.
But what if an acrostic poem is used to show the underlying order of God’s work in the world even when that reason is not readily seen?
The prophet Nahum prays through the alphabet all the way to the eleventh letter and then …. stops. This is what scholars call a “lost acrostic” and the order we have been clinging to suddenly spirals into disorder: the downfall of Nineveh, the spiraling descent of Assyria. In our news and world we experience that incompleteness as well.
Perhaps the “lost acrostic” reminds us God is not yet finished. God continues to intervene in human history – even today – to address violence and oppression, to redeem what appears unsalvageable, to bring upheaval even when nations and leaders seem steadfast. God has, is, and will pick up the letters of the alphabet that have gone unspoken and write into new phrases with the remaining letters.
The words that jump from the text of Nahum are those that describe the work and character of God: The Lord is slow to anger but great in power! This God is “alpha and omega” – the beginning and the end. Our alphabet may be incomplete, but this God has history under his feet. And so we listen for the acrostic to continue: Look, there on the mountains, are the feet of one who brings good news. The “lost acrostic” reminds us God is still speaking, for Nahum and for us, today.
Prayer: Holy God, so much around me feels unfinished, the world aches and needs your redemptive power. Help me listen with all my being for you still speaking love, grace and peace into what is unfinished and draw it to a close with your resurrection hope. Amen.
Author: Lisa Nichols Hickman
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].