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“God is jealous, and the LORD avenges; The LORD avenges and is furious. The LORD will take vengeance on His adversaries and He reserves wrath for His enemies; The LORD is slow to anger and great in power and will not at all acquit the wicked. The LORD has His way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of His feet” (Nahum 1:2-3).
Five things are about the LORD in these two verses. Let’s notice: (1) “God is jealous, and the LORD avenges.” The word “jealous” refers to passion. He is not dispassionate or disinterested. He would punish Assyria (Nahum 1:1; 3:1; Isaiah 10:5-7, 12-14; Jeremiah 50:18). (2) “The LORD avenges and is furious.” This is synonymous with the first point. (3) “The LORD will take vengeance on His adversaries and He reserves wrath for His enemies.” The coming wrath on Nineveh (Assyria) was not without reason. They were His enemies. The E.S.V. Study Bible comments, “God’s holy anger is righteous and just in defense of his word and his people.” (4) “The LORD is slow to anger and great in power, and will not at all acquit the wicked.” He had been patient, and had given them time. However, the time was up. This ancient city, which dated to shortly after the flood (Genesis 10:8-10), and which served as the capital city of Assyria for many years (c. 1100 – 612 B.C.) would be looted (Nahum 2:9), and burned (Nahum 2:13; 3:13). It would be made desolate (Zephaniah 2:13-15), and have no healing (Nahum 3:9). (5) “The LORD has his way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of His feet.” He is powerful.
Let’s consider more closely the fourth point and make application for us. (1) The LORD is slow to anger. The destruction of Nineveh was slow in coming. Approximately 100 years earlier God had sent the prophet Jonah to them, and they repented (See: book of Jonah). However, this change was short-lived. They had become morally corrupt (Nahum 3:1), idolatrous (Nahum 1:14; 3:4), prideful and without respect for the LORD (2 Kings 18:28-35). Judgement would come. Application for us – God’s patient should not be viewed as dispassion or disinterest. Wayne Jackson comments, “It may superficially appear that God ignores evil, but this is not the case. His delay in dealing with such is due to His great patience; He is ‘slow to anger’ (1:3)” (Jackson, Notes From The Margin Of My Bible, vol.1, p.155). Peter warned, “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is long-suffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
(2) The LORD is great in power. He can control nature (Nahum 1:3b-5). The point: “Who can stand before His indignation? And who can endure the fierceness of His anger?” (Nahum 1:6). Wayne Jackson comments, “Nahum introduces examples of Jehovah’s power, as reflected in nature, as an argument for the fact that He is able to deal with man wickedness – in this case that of Nineveh” (Jackson, p. 156). Application for us – we should respect God. He is the Creator and the Sustainer of this universe. If tornadoes, hurricanes, volcanoes, earthquakes, fire, thunder and lightning should be feared and respected, then how much more should God, the Creator of all things?
(3) The LORD will not acquit the wicked. He punishes sin. Application for us – Judgment is coming (2 Corinthians 5:10; Hebrews 9:27). “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the spirit will of the spirit reap everlasting life. And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart” (Galatians 6:7-9).
“Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision! For the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision” (Joel 3:14).
“The valley of decision” is the equivalent to the “the valley of Jehoshaphat” (Joel 3:14 cf. 3:2, 12). Terry Varner commented “Joel calls for the nations to ‘assemble,…come,…gather’ (3:11b). They are come to ‘the valley of Jehoshaphat’ (3:12), meaning ‘Jehovah judges,’ as ‘I sit to judge all the heather’ (3:12)” (Editors Thomas Warren and Garland Elkins, The Minor Prophets, Power Lectureship, p.81). Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown comments “As Jehoshaphat overthrew the confederate foes of Judah, viz., Ammon, Moab, etc. (Psalms 83:6-8), in this valley, so God was to overthrow the Tyrians, Zidonians, Philistines. Edom, and Egypt, with a simular utter overthrow (vss. 4,19)” (Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown, Commentary On The Whole Bible, p. 787). The decision, the judgment, is Jehovah’s. He will sit and judge. Homer Hailey comments, “The judgment is indicated as universal, on all nations that had had a part in scattering His people” (Hailey, A Commentary on The Minor Prophets, p. 57).
There is a judgment day to come (John 12:48; Acts 17:31; Romans 2:16; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Hebrews 9:27). His judgment will be the only judgment that will matter on that day. Human opinions will not matter. Subjective thoughts will have no authority.
However, our decisions do now count. We are in “the valley of decision” in this life. What will we choose? Will we choose to submit ourselves to the Lord or not? Jesus said, “He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him – the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day” (John 12:48).
When all the great plants of our cities have turned out their last finished work; When our merchants have sold their last yard of silk, and dismissed the tired, weary clerk; When our banks have taken in their last dollar and declared their last dividend; When the Judge of the World says, ‘closed for the night,’ and ask for a balance- What then?
When the people have sung their last anthem, and the preacher has said his last prayer; When the Bible lies closed on the pulpit, and the pews are all empty of men, When all stand facing the record, and the Great Book is opened, – What then?
When the actor has played his last drama, and the mimic has made his last fun; When the film has flashed its last picture, and the billboard displayed its last run. When the crowds seeking pleasure have vanished, and gone out in the darkness again, When the trumpet of all ages is sounded, and we stand before God, – What then?
When the bugle’s last call sinks in silences, and the long, marching columns stand still; When the captain has given his last orders, and they’ve captured the last fort and hill; When the flag has been hauled from the masthead, and the wounded soldiers have all checked in; When a world that rejects its Savior is ask for a reason, – What then?
~ Author unknown
God has created within us a “warning light” (a conscience). This “warning light,” when programmed with the correct information (God’s word), can be helpful. It can caution us about doing wrong. It can motivate us, with a sense of oughtness, to do that which is right.
However, this “warning light can become damaged. Let’s consider a few passages –
“Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith… having their conscience seared with a hot iron” (1 Timothy 4:1-2).
The conscience of some would no longer give warning. If a “warning light” is ignored for long enough, it will eventually go out.
Denny Petrillo comments, “The idea is that they are completely free from sensitivity… It is like the place where the branding iron left its scar on the animal. The spot has no more feeling in it” (Petrillo, Commentary on 1, 2 Timothy & Titus, p. 54).
This is a frightening passage to me. It is possible to become hardened, and insensitive to sin (cf. Hebrews 3:13; Ephesians 4:19).
“This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk… who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness” (Ephesians 4:17-19).
Some people are “past feeling.” The original word means “to cease to feel pain or grief… to become callous, insensible to pain, apathetic: so those who have become insensible to truth and honor and shame… in Ephesians 4:19” (Thayer). The N.A.S.B. and the E.S.V. translates the original word “callous.”
Someone has compared the conscience to a triangle in the heart which turns each time one goes against it. It turns with each sin, and the corners of the triangle produces pain. In time, if one continues to go against the conscience the corners of the triangle get worn down. Sin no longer bothers one . One becomes desensitized.
Foy E. Wallace Jr. comments on the above passage, saying – “Continual rejection of Christ and his gospel can result in a conscience no longer able to function. What is the conscience? The best definition is that given by R.L. Whiteside in his commentary on Romans: ‘Conscience is that feeling of pleasure when one does what he thinks is right and that feeling of pain when one does what he thinks is wrong.’ A key word in the definition is ‘thinks.’ Conscience alone is not a safe guide. No one should go against his conscience, for it is a tender thing, easily damaged, but one’s conscience cannot prick one concerning something of which he is ignorant. He must fill his mind with God’s will as revealed in his holy scriptures, and then heed the conscience. God’s will revealed in His word is our only safe guide” (Wallace, Commentary on Romans, Galatians, and Ephesians, p. 205).
“Were they ashamed when the committed abomination? No! They were not ashamed; Nor did they know how to blush” (Jeremiah 6:15; 8:12).
The conscience can produce certain involuntary physiological responses. Some people blush (their skin turns pink or red – especially their face, ears, and neck – when embarrassed or ashamed). [The polygraph (lie detector) is a machine which attempts to detect lies by measuring certain physiological changes (blood pressure, pulse, respiration, and skin conductivity). It may accurately measures physical changes. However, its accuracy in detecting lies is a controversial matter. Some place its accuracy as high as 90%, others place it as low as 70%].
The point in the passage above is that the inhabitants of Judah (generally speaking) no longer were ashamed of their sin. It no longer bothered them.
These things were written for our learning (Romans 15:4; 1 Corinthians 10:11). May we not lose our ability to feel shame, and blush over sin.