GLEANINGS FROM THE SCRIPTURES
A GOD OF LOVE AND VENGEANCE
Because of the nature of God, human beings cannot learn all there is to know about Him. Our finite minds are unable to grasp the truths of His infinity, His omnipresence, His holiness. It is important, however, that Christians have a balanced concept of God and that they not emphasize one or two of His attributes at the expense of others.
Many preachers and teachers, for instance, like to talk about the love of God and His patience with our shortcomings. These attributes are true, but when considered alone they are as misleading as the blind man's idea that an elephant is "very like a tree." Unless we understand something of the totality of God's nature, we cannot hope to understand how He acts.
The Book of Nahum presents a concept of God that is sorely needed by us today. Like Cato, a Roman senator who at the end of each of his speeches would shout, "Carthage must be destroyed!" Nahum was obsessed with a single idea: Nineveh must be destroyed. However, this prophet does at least mention God's goodness and mercy along with His holiness and vengeance.
Nahum wrote about 150 years after the time of Jonah. Under Jonah's preaching, the Ninevites had repented, and God had postponed judgment on them. As the years passed, however their repentance "wore off," and they sank deeply into all kinds of sin. Though Nahum's theme was the downfall of Nineveh and the Syrian nation of which it was the capital city, the prophet delivered his message to God's people in Judah.
As we read Nahum's striking words, we need to remind ourselves that Nineveh was a city of unparalleled wickedness. No ancient peoples could match her inhuman treatment of captives, which historians describe as unspeakable, shocking, and atrocious.
Nineveh was the wealthiest city in the world of her day. Her rulers collected a vast amount of tribute from many vassal states. Her palaces were furnished with valuables taken as plunder from subject nations. Her commercial activity was great, and many of her citizens made fortunes in the pursuit of trade. She took great pride in her material wealth.
Those who depend for happiness on money, fine homes, expensive clothing, and the so-called "better things" of life may be able to cling to them as long as life lasts, but the day inevitably comes when "things" must be left behind.
As has often been pointed out, vice and corruption tend to fester in cities along with poverty and violence. Cities are centers of wealth, industry, and commerce; but they are also centers of crime, immorality, and degradation. They are the citadels from which the underworld rules over its vast kingdom of darkness. Many of those who live within the ghettos have no hope of ever finding a better way of life.
Nahum writes: "God is jealous, and the Lord revengeth; the Lord revengeth and is furious; the Lord will take vengeance on his adversaries, and he reserveth wrath for his enemies. "
Nahum is not ascribing human imperfection to God. Rather, the thought is that God is the One who embodies a burning zeal for righteousness and justice, quickly arises to the defense of His own, and executes judgment on those who are not His own or who hurt those who are.
Nahum's message is especially appropriate for an age that thinks of God mostly in terms of His love and tends to overlook His holiness and vengeance. He writes: "The Lord is slow to anger and great in power, and will not at all acquit the wicked: the Lord hath his way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet."
When confronted by a great natural calamity-a tornado, a hurricane, a tidal wave- man is virtually helpless. This is the picture Nahum paints so vividly for us here. When God unleashes His anger against sin, man will be utterly helpless in the grip of the devastation that will take place.
A hymn writer, thinking of God's manifestation of power in the elements, wrote that "his chariots of wrath the deep thunderclouds form, and dark is His path on the wings of the storm."
Ref. The Book of Nahum Chapter one, The Holy Bible, The Adult Teaching Guide, Scripture Press.