A Comforting Contrast.
“The Lord is good, a strong refuge when trouble comes. He is close to those who trust in him. But he will sweep away his enemies in an overwhelming flood. He will pursue his foes into the darkness of night.” – Nahum 1:7-8 NLT
Nahum was a prophet to the southern nation of Judah. He prophesied during a time when Assyria was throwing their weight around, conquering nations and taking their people captive. They were the neighborhood bully, imposing their will on any and all, including the northern kingdom of Israel, who they had conquered and taken into captivity. So Nahum was ministering to the people of God living in Judah. His message had two parts. He was warning the Assyrians of the judgment of God to come and encouraging the Jews in Judah to trust in God. His was a message of stark contrasts. Anger and love. Wrath and mercy. Justice and judgment. Destruction and deliverance. It’s interesting that we, as modern-day Christians, find his descriptions of God’s anger, wrath and judgment distasteful at times. We prefer a much more loving and compassionate God. We want a sanitized version of God minus the vengeful, angry side. But for the people of Judah, the words of Nahum regarding God’s warrior-like attributes were comforting. When they were faced with the threat of a powerful foe who could wipe them out and take them captive at any moment, the picture of a powerful God who was willing to stand up and face that enemy on their behalf was encouraging. He wasn’t complacent or uncaring. He was completely engaged and even angry over what He saw, and He was strong enough to do something about it.
We love hearing that God is good and a strong refuge when trouble comes. But God is not only defensive. He’s offensive. He fights on our behalf. He hates evil, injustice, sin, and any who stand opposed to His righteous rule. Over and over again in this chapter Nahum uses words like vengeance, rage, revenge, anger, fury, and destroy. The repetition of these words creates a strong impression of an angry God. The word “rage” (Hebrew hemah) means “to be hot” and describes burning anger and intense fury. Why was God so angry? The rest of the book of Nahum will explain why. But His anger over the actions of the Assyrians was to be a comfort to the people of Judah. But God’s anger, while intense, is not impulsive. Nahum says, “The Lord is slow to anger, but his power is great, and he never lets the guilty go unpunished” (Nahum 1:3 NLT). The word “slow” here means patient or long-suffering. He doesn’t just explode in uncontrolled rage. He patiently endures, but then He acts, and He has the power to back up His anger.
We do not serve a powerless, impotent, uncaring God who is incapable of doing anything about the injustice in the world. It may appear that He has taken a holiday or forgotten all about us. It may seem as if He is unable to do anything about all the evil that is taking place in the world. But Nahum assures us that our God is anything but impotent or unresponsive. He will act. And when He does, He will do so with a balance of judgment and grace, justice and mercy, destruction and deliverance, revenge and restoration, wrath and reward. He will judgment on His enemies and a message of peace to all those who trust in Him. He is a strong refuge when trouble comes. He is good. He is great. He is in control.
Father, what good would it be to have a loving God who had no power? What benefit would it be to worship a merciful God who didn’t have what it takes to make that mercy available? What would anyone want with a God who lovingly smiled on us all the while we suffered, but was unable to do anything about our suffering? But that is not the God we serve. You are a powerful, righteous ruler who loves us, but hates injustice and unrighteousness. And You can and will do something about it. You’re not impotent. You’re omnipotent – all-powerful and ready, willing and able to deal with the things going on in the world around us. May we find comfort in the words of Nahum. You are a refuge when trouble comes, but You are also a righteous warrior, fighting on our behalf. Amen
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men