Nah_1:2; Nah_1:6. 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..
Who can stand before his indignation? and who can abide in the fierceness of his anger?
MEN have such ideas of God’s mercy, that they cannot persuade themselves he will ever execute judgment on impenitent transgressors. In fact, it is the hope of this which encourages men to go on in their sins: for, if once they could believe that they shall soon become monuments of God’s righteous indignation, they would consider their ways, and labour by all possible means to avert his displeasure.
About one hundred and forty years before this was written, the Prophet Jonah had been sent to warn the Ninevites of their impending destruction. But they had repented of their wickedness; and God, in his mercy, had withheld his threatened judgments. But now he warns them, that since they had filled up the measure of their iniquities, his wrath should come upon them to the uttermost. Now, I would ask, supposing God to be determined to convince men that he would execute vengeance on the impenitent, what could he add to what is here spoken? Methinks there is here such an accumulation of words, as must defy incredulity itself to question the truth contained in them. It is not a pleasing subject that we are now called to insist upon: but it is necessary; and the more necessary, because of men’s backwardness to give it the consideration it deserves. Let us, then, consider,
The description here given of the Deity—
God is “a jealous God”—
[He has a claim to our undivided allegiance, and to all the affections of our souls. And when he sees how prone we are to set our affections on the creature rather than on him, it becomes him to be jealous. A man like ourselves would not do well to connive at the unfaithfulness of his wife, who was giving to others the affections which were his unalienable right: how much less, then, can God admit such an alienation of our hearts from him!. He cannot: indeed “his very name is Jealous [Note: Exo_34:14.]:” and he must divest himself of his every perfection, before he can connive at the dishonour which our unfaithfulness reflects upon him.]
He will “take vengeance” on obstinate transgressors—
[“The Lord revengeth; yea, he revengeth, and is furious.” We are not indeed to conceive of him as feeling in his own bosom such emotions as constitute “fury” in man: in that sense “fury is not in him [Note: Isa_27:4.];” but, so far as the effects of his displeasure are felt, it will be the same to us, as if he were filled with the utmost rage. At present, indeed, he bears with sinners with all imaginable patience and long-suffering: but “he reserves them unto the day of judgment to be punished [Note: 2Pe_2:9.].” In my text, the word “wrath” is in italics, to shew that it is not in the original. In truth, there is no word in any language that can express what God “reserveth for his enemies;” no, nor can any imagination conceive it. The Psalmist well says, “Who knoweth the power of thine anger? Even according to thy fear, so is thy wrath [Note: Psa_90:11.]”]
And “who can stand before his indignation?”
[“Who indeed can abide the fierceness of his anger?” These pointed interrogations convey the most tremendous thoughts to our minds. Now we can “puff at God’s judgments,” as if they were scarcely worthy of a thought [Note: Psa_10:5.]: but it will not be so when the time for the infliction of them is fully come. Then “the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, no less than the poor bond-man, will hide themselves in the dens, and in the rocks of the mountains; and will cry to the mountains and rocks to fall upon them, and to hide them from the face of Him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb. “The great day of his wrath being come, who shall be able to stand [Note: Rev_6:15-17.]?” The wrath of man has been sustained, even when it raged to the utmost extent of human ingenuity to inflict pain: but who can sustain the wrath of God? The soul, aided by divine grace, has upheld the body: but who, or what, can uphold the soul, when it is God’s arm, too, that inflicts the punishment? Some will console themselves with the thought that they shall do as well as others. But if they could for one moment descend to hell, and see the agonies, and hear the cries, of a damned soul, methinks it would be little consolation to think that they shall do as well as others. If they were only to be racked upon a wheel, and to endure its agonies but for an hour, their prospect, methinks, would be but little cheered by this thought: how much less then, when the wrath of an offended God must be endured to all eternity!]
But, that we sink not into despondency, let us attend to,
The advice, which one moment’s reflection on this subject must suggest—
The doom of Nineveh was fixed: but not so the doom of any amongst us. No, Brethren, there is yet hope concerning you; yes, concerning every one of you. Only,
Abide not in impenitence—
[When Nineveh was warned by Jonah, though no encouragement was given them to repent, they humbled themselves, on a mere peradventure that God might possibly have mercy on them: and the mercy which they sought was accorded to them [Note: Jon_3:5-10.]. But to you I am authorized to proclaim mercy: for God’s gracious message to you is, “Repent, and turn yourselves from all your transgressions; so iniquity shall not be your ruin [Note: Eze_18:30.].” Hear what God says to you by the Prophet Jeremiah: “Thus saith the Lord, Break up your fallow ground, and sow not among thorns. Circumcise yourselves to the Lord, and take away the foreskins of your heart, ye men of Judah, and inhabitants of Jerusalem; lest my fury come forth like fire, and burn that none can quench it [Note: Jer_4:3-4.].” Yes indeed, by timely humiliation, you may yet avert the wrath of your incensed God; who, “if you forsake your evil ways, and turn unto him, will have mercy upon you, and abundantly pardon,” to the full extent of your multiplied transgressions [Note: Isa_55:7.].]
Abide not in unbelief—
[God has provided a Saviour for you, even his only dear Son; who has, by his own obedience unto death, effected a reconciliation for you; and “has committed unto us the ministry of reconciliation;” so that we are not only authorized, but commanded, to say to all of you, without exception, “Be ye reconciled to God [Note: 2Co_5:18-20.].” He has illustrated this to you in his word, by the appointment of cities of refuge for those who by any accident should slay a man. The very instant he should get within the gates of any one of these cities, he was safe; and the pursuer of blood, however enraged, could not get at him to hurt him [Note: Num_35:9-25.]. And who shall sustain any hurt, that flees to Christ for refuge? No: in him you will be safe. Once found in him, you have nothing to fear. You are as safe in him as you would be in heaven itself [Note: Heb_6:17-18. Rom_8:1.]. To every one of you, then, I give this counsel from the Lord: “Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee: hide thyself, as it were, for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast [Note: Isa_26:20.].”]
Abide not in a proud defiance of your God—
[There were, in the days of old, some who, in answer to God’s threatenings, said, “Let him make speed, and hasten his work, that we may see it; and let the counsel of the Holy One of Israel draw nigh and come, that we may know it [Note: Isa_5:19.].” And such there are amongst ourselves, who, in reply to all that we say, exclaim, “Ah, Lord God, doth he not speak parables [Note: Eze_20:49.]?” But indeed, my dear brethren, God’s patience will have an end; and the very exercise of it will only aggravate our condemnation, if it do not “prevail to lead us to repentance [Note: Rom_2:4-6.].” Be persuaded that God’s description of himself, in the words of our text, will be found true at the last. He is indeed “a consuming fire [Note: Heb_12:29.]:” and “can your heart endure, or your hands be strong, in the day that he shall deal with you [Note: Eze_22:14.]?” “Have you an arm like God? and can you thunder with a voice like him [Note: Job_40:9.]?” No: it is in vain to contend with God: for “who shall set briers and thorns against him in battle? He will go through them, and burn them up together [Note: Isa_27:4.].” Verily, “it will be a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God [Note: Heb_10:31.]” Be convinced of this; and “to-day, while it is called to-day,” implore mercy at his hands: so shall you find, that “he will pardon your iniquity, and pass by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage; for he retaineth not anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy [Note: Mic_7:18.].” And if the description of him in my text be true, you shall find that true also which is added in the seventh verse, “The Lord is good, a strong-hold in the day of trouble; and he knoweth them that trust in him.”]