Nah_1:7. The Lord is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble; and he knoweth them that trust in him.
WHEN God interposed in a cloud between the camp of Israel and the camp of the Egyptians, the cloud was to those a pillar of fire, to give them light; but to these a cloud of darkness, to obstruct their way. And such is the varied aspect of Jehovah to his friends and enemies in all ages. Towards the Ninevites, who had now nearly filled up the measure of their iniquities, and forced, as it were, from Jehovah a decree of utter and everlasting excision, he is represented in terms the most awful that language could afford: “God is jealous, and 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? His fury is poured out like fire; and the rocks are thrown down by him [Note: ver. 2, 6.]”. But, lest the Lord’s people should apply this description of Jehovah indiscriminately to all persons of whatever character, the prophet stops abruptly, and declares, that towards his own believing people Jehovah is of a very different character; for that “he is good, and a strong hold in the day of trouble, and knoweth them that trust in him.”
Let us for our comfort consider Jehovah as he is here depicted to us;
In the perfections of his nature—
[“He is good;” every way “good;” and appears to be so in all that he has ever done. His works of creation were all, after an attentive survey of them by the Divine Artificer, pronounced to be “very good.” In the course of so many thousands of years there never has been found one single instance in which any work of his could be improved; so perfect has been the adaptation of every part to its respective use, and so complete the subservience of each to the good of the whole. His works of providence come less within the sphere of human observation, because we know not all the ends that are to be accomplished by them: but of those which have been the most dark or most calamitous we have had the unanimous testimony of the best judges, that “he has done all things well;” and that, however “clouds and darkness may have been round about him, justice and judgment have been the basis of his throne.” Of his works of redemption what shall we say? In what terms can we convey any just notion of them? Verily the tongue of an archangel is incapable of expressing the goodness of God in giving his only dear Son to die for us [Note: 1Jn_4:8-10.]: this mystery far exceeds the comprehension of any finite intelligence: its “height and depth and length and breadth can never be explored:” suffice it to say, that the incarnation and death of the Son of God is the one subject of adoration amongst all the hosts of heaven, and will continue to be so through the countless ages of eternity [Note: Rev_5:12-14.].
But, whilst the goodness of God is readily acknowledged in reference to those who are the objects of mercy, it may be doubted in reference to those who shall be the objects of his everlasting displeasure. It may be asked, How can his punitive justice be good? I answer, If he did not maintain the rights of justice he could not be “good.” Whatever ungodly men may imagine, justice is necessary in every government: and, if an earthly monarch would be thought essentially defective if he suffered all the laws of the realm to be outraged and set at nought with impunity, so would Jehovah, with reverence be it spoken, act unworthily as the Moral Governor of the universe, if he made no difference between the observers of his laws, and those who violated them without remorse. His law is a transcript of his holy will; and the honour of it must be maintained, either by the observance of its precepts, or by the execution of its penalties. Besides, if the justice of God were not displayed in the punishment of sin, he would neither be revered in heaven, nor feared on earth. In heaven, his justice and holiness and truth would be altogether darkened, and the radiance of all his other perfections obscured: and on earth, Satan would retain an undisputed sway over the hearts of men.
In every view therefore we must say, not only that God is good, but that his goodness, no less than “his greatness, is unsearchable.”]
We have a further insight given us into the character of God,
In the provisions of his covenant—
[Sin has brought misery along with it: and since the first introduction of sin into the world, “man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward.” But God has entered into covenant with his only dear Son as our head and representative; and has made over to us himself as our God, at the same time that he takes us to himself as his people. In the day of trouble we feel, that none but God can afford us any effectual help: and he engages at that season to be a very present help unto us. Whatever our affliction be, we may go to him with it, and find him “a strength to the poor, a strength to the needy in his distress, a refuge from the storm, a shadow from the heat, when the blast of the terrible ones is as a storm against the wall [Note: Isa_25:4.].” What a strong-hold he is we see in the instance of Hezekiah, when surrounded by the Assyrian army, whom, according to all human appearance, it was impossible for him to withstand: one assurance of protection from Jehovah enabled that holy prince to despise all the menaces of his blaspheming adversary, and to rest as secure and as composed as if there had been no danger at hand [Note: Isa_37:21-33.].
But if in temporal troubles God is such a refuge, much more is he when the soul is oppressed with a sense of sin. Hear what he speaks to us by his beloved Son: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Yes: our adorable Saviour was fitly represented to us by the cities of refuge, which were open day and night to the manslayer, and which afforded him perfect security from the pursuer of blood, the very instant he entered within their gates. Such a city is the Lord Jesus, “whose name is a strong tower, to which the fighteous runneth and is safe.” Has he not himself said, “Him that cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out?” Let the afflicted sinner go to him, and he shall find that this “man,” this God-man, “will be to him as an hiding-place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest; as rivers of water in a dry place; as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land [Note: Isa_32:2.].” Verily “He will save to the uttermost all that come unto God by Him.”]
We shall have a yet deeper insight into his character, if we view him,
In the dispensations of his grace—
[“He knoweth those who trust in him;” not merely as distinguishing them from others, but as feeling towards them the most affectionate regard: (in this sense the word “knoweth” is frequently used [Note: Psa_1:6.].) He views them with the tenderest sympathy and compassion, being “touched with a feeling of all their infirmities [Note: Heb_4:15.],” and being “afflicted in all their afflictions [Note: Isa_63:9.].” Of his people, when suffering under their Egyptian task-masters, he said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of their task-masters; for I know their sorrows [Note: Exo_3:7.].” And the same tender regard is shown by him to a solitary individual as to a whole nation: for David says, “When my spirit was overwhelmed, thou knewest my path [Note: Psa_142:3.];” and again, “Thou hast known my soul in adversities [Note: Psa_31:7.].” The act of trusting in God is itself so pleasing and acceptable in his sight, that there is not any thing which he will not do for one who looks to him in such a frame [Note: Psa_31:19.]. So abundantly will he communicate to such an one the riches of his grace, that he will make his soul like a well-watered garden, filled with the richest fruits, suited to every season of the year [Note: Jer_17:7-8.]. Whatever enemies may assault him, God will “keep his soul in perfect peace [Note: Isa_26:3.],” and make him even as Mount Zion, which cannot be removed, but abideth for ever [Note: Psa_125:1.].’]
What improvement shall we make of this subject?
“Acquaint yourselves with God”—
[Study the character of God as drawn in the Holy Scriptures. Some think of him as a God of all mercy; and others, as clothed only in the terrors of inexorable justice. But the true character of God is, that he is “a just God and a Saviour.” In the Lord Jesus Christ this union of justice and mercy is fully displayed. Once view him as dying, rising, reigning for sinful man, and then all the description given of God in our text will be seen in its true light, and all the brightness of the Godhead irradiate your souls.]
Glorify him as God—
[As far as we know God, even though it be only in the notices which he has given us of himself in the works of creation, we ought to “glorify him as God [Note: Rom_1:21.].” How much more then ought we to do so, when all his glory is made to shine before us in the face of Jesus Christ! How should we love him, serve him, trust in him, and delight ourselves in him! O, beloved, let your hearts ascend to him, and your souls be devoted to him, as the occasion demands. Is he “good?” praise him for his goodness. Is he “a strong-hold?” flee to him, and dwell continually in him. Does he “know those who trust in him?” let him have joy over you as monuments of his grace, and delight in you as heirs of his glory [Note: Zep_3:17.]. In a word, live but for him; and as he has “bought you with a price, see that ye glorify him with your bodies and your spirits, which are his [Note: 1Co_6:20.].”]