Nahum 1:2-8, “The Lord is a jealous and avenging God; the Lord is avenging and wrathful; the Lord takes vengeance on His adversaries and keeps wrath for His enemies.The Lord is slow to anger and great in power, and the Lord will by no means clear the guilty. His way is in whirlwind and storm, and the clouds are the dust of His feet.He rebukes the sea and makes it dry; He dries up all the rivers; Bashan and Carmel wither; the bloom of Lebanon withers. The mountains quake before Him; the hills melt; the earth heaves before Him, the world and all who dwell in it.Who can stand before His indignation? Who can endure the heat of His anger? His wrath is poured out like fire, and the rocks are broken into pieces by Him.The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; He knows those who take refuge in Him.But with an overflowing flood He will make a complete end of the adversaries,and will pursue His enemies into darkness.
In this section we have before us the Divine Warrior, on full display. In 1:2-3a we find God’s character being described in terms and ways that you normally don’t find in this day and age. The Lord is jealous, He avenges, He is wrathful, and stores up wrath for His enemies. The reason for this wrath in Nahum is sin. This sin has stirred up His jealousy, stirred up His avenging character. The target of His wrath here is the great city Nineveh, against whom the end of 1:2 says He is keeping wrath or maintaining it, until the time comes to unleash it. It would seem an apparent contradiction in terms exists when we see 1:3 say the Lord is slow to anger. Some may think here that we have two opposing sides that cannot exist within the same God, wrath and patience, justice and grace. But look again, it says “The Lord is slow to….” what? ANGER. The Lord is slow to anger means that though it may take some time to stir up the great anger of the Lord there comes a time when God Himself says “Enough is enough! I will be patient no more!” God doesn’t condone sin, anywhere, whether it be in His own people or in His enemies. Nineveh has reached this point which shows that their repentance at the preaching of Jonah probably didn’t last that long before they went back to their old ways, and upon returning to their old ways God was patiently waiting, storing up His wrath for their wickedness.
Well, the storehouses are full and they are ready to come pouring out over the city. He has been slow to anger, and He is about to show that He is great in power. After all, what does the rest of 1:3 say? “The Lord will by no means clear the guilty.” Once wrong has been done and guilt has accrued itself it doesn’t just go away, it must be dealt with. If God is the just judge of all the earth punishment must come to all who break His law. If this does not alarm you, we get more description of the Divine Warrior in 1:3b-6 where we see the very elements of nature are part of His weaponry. Notice the two sides of the coin here, God can stir up the whirlwind, the storm, the clouds, and the dust of His feet. He can also do the opposite and rebuke the sea, dry up the rivers, make famous fruitful environments like Bashan, Carmel, and Lebanon wither. There is no end to His great power that wields the weather in His wrath as if a weapon in His hand. This Divine Warrior can use creation, reverse creation, and even cause creation itself to shake or melt before Him. As God did creation in Genesis 1, so too in His wrath God can undo creation as well, untying the fabric of the world, allowing it to rip and fall apart in His hands.
In view of such great power the proper response is 1:6, “Who can stand before His indignation? What can endure the heat of His anger?” Rhetorical questions, not meant to be answered but to further impress upon Nineveh, Israel, and ourselves today that we stand powerless in the face of such awesome power. For His wrath is poured out like fire, and all those things that we once thought to be so steady and secure are shattered and broken in pieces. Are any of you frightened? You should be, our God is a consuming fire. Are any of you guilty of law-breaking? Anyone fearing the penalty and the sentence of this Just Judge? You should, it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. Martin Luther described the fear of judgment like this: “…at the Last Day, when the people in the world cannot get enough of eating, drinking, marrying, building, planting, worrying about their livelihood, scraping, and scrambling. Under those conditions they should be frightened. But they will mock and ridicule us and go on with their eating and drinking. And then, when they think the final Day is a hundred years away, they shall in a moment stand before the Last Judgment.”
Pause for a moment, everything you’re feeling at this moment, the fear, the awe, the little-ness of your personal power in relation to the power of this Divine Warrior is exactly how Nahum’s message is supposed to make you feel.
God is fed up with Nineveh and He will no longer be patient to sit by and let sin happen! All the earth will fear when we look up into the sky and see the One who made us calling us to account. God is Holy, Holy, Holy, no equals, no rivals. He is the Divine Warrior. Look at 1:7-8, into the fear of God we ought to be feeling God has a Word of grace. “The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble, He knows those who take refuge in Him. But with the full force of His wrath wielding all the weather as His weapons, He will chase His enemies into darkness and they will be brought to a complete end.
This leads us to a teachable moment in Nahum. Anytime God reveals Himself in the splendor of His greatness and majesty, it will do one of two things. If you’re one of those who takes refuge in Him, comfort will rush into your soul like a mighty wave because you know the One in whom you take refuge in is good, unrivaled in His strength, and that the safest place to be in His arms. But if you’re one of those who has mocked Him, who broken His law, it won’t be comfort rushing into the soul, but terror. You it’s true when He said in 1:3, “…the Lord will by no means clear the guilty.” God is fed up with you, and will be patient no longer! The wrath He has storing up is sloshing over the brim of the cup, and is about to sweep over you as fast as lightning. Grace and wrath, patience and justice, causing either comfort or terror to rise within us.
Where are you? What are you feeling? Safe in His strong arms? Or terror in view of His torrential downpour looming right around the corner? I am not playing games with you today. We are not neutral characters sitting on the sidelines of history. We are front and center, the spotlights are on, the stage is set, and all heaven looks on to see the show. What side are you on?