Anger and Goodness

“Who can stand before His indignation? And who can endure the fierceness of His anger? His fury is poured out like fire, and the rocks are thrown down by Him. The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; And He knows those who trust in Him.” – Nahum 1:6-7

The prophet Nahum asked these strong rhetorical questions, and wrote the subsequent wonderful words of comfort, nestled in a broader context of his opening this prophecy, as he presented the message of the jealousy and wrath of God. God’s divine wrath was specifically focused against Nineveh for their many sins and wickedness. In many ways, it’s such a tragic account, really. If you’ve heard or are following my evening sermon series in Nahum, you’ve heard some of this. You can follow along here. It’s tragic because we saw God’s great mercy just 100 years earlier in Nineveh. God used the preaching of Jonah to bring about widespread conversion and salvation to many in the city, as they repented and turned from their heinous sins, turning to God in true faith. Just one generation later, the Ninevites turned their back on God in determined rebellion. In fact, the Ninevites of Nahum’s day, took the sins of the previous generation to the next level.

Therefore, whereas Jonah wrote about the conversion and repentance of Nineveh, Nahum wrote about its utter destruction. God’s wrath, anger, vengeance and fury was against them. Both Israel, as those who were afflicted by the Assyrians, and the Ninevites needed to know and hear this. Nahum gave a prophecy of woe to wicked Nineveh, that was also of great comfort to God’s people. In an important way, the outworking of God’s wrath saves His people. God’s pouring out of His wrath on His enemies secures the salvation of His people from those who would seek to do them harm. Beloved, the wrath of God is both a terror to His enemies and a comfort to us. Remember this today!

Nahum teaches us much about the attributes of God. Our God is a jealous God- jealous of His own worship, honor, and glory. He doesn’t share it with anyone. He is holy and just, full of wrath, righteous anger and indignation against the wicked and their sin. The wicked are proud and arrogant. They think they can do and stand against anyone they desire, even those who are angry with them. Yet, Nahum hits the nail on the head in his rhetorical questions in verse 6- Who can stand? Who can endure the fierceness of God’s anger and wrath? The clear answer is no one! Nahum says His anger is poured out like fire and rocks are thrown down by Him. God doesn’t make empty threats that He can’t deliver on. No, our God is great and awesome in power. He is a consuming fire! (Deut. 4:24, Heb. 12:29)

In this first half of the first chapter of Nahum alone, we find such a connected and wonderfully weaved collage of divine attributes and promises of God. For we see divine jealousy and wrath in verse 2 and His patience and great power in verse 3. Nahum gives us more detail of His power and anger in verses 3b-5, and His bountiful goodness and care in verse 7. God’s being slow to anger is a mercy to be recognized. For He is patient with sinners, though they rail and do all sorts of evil against Him and His people. He is patient with sinners, just like you and me. Though we were rebels, like the Ninevites, He was, and is, patient with us. Yet, God’s patience with the wicked is but for a time. He will not at all acquit them. His anger and fury will be unleashed against them. Wrath would come and be carried out in time against Nineveh. The same is true for all God’s enemies. As the Gospel goes forth, it’s important that people hear and understand that apart from Christ they are under the wrath and condemnation of God because of their sin. It’s important that those same people hear the great hope of the Gospel- that the wrath of God was poured out on Christ and God afflicted Christ with the punishment His people deserved, that we might live for Him all the days of our lives.

Our God is the angry God who is also perfectly good! When God’s rage against the wicked is evident, what’s also clear is His care for the safety and comfort of His own people. God is our stronghold and refuge in the day of trouble (Ps. 46). He welcomes those who He knows, those who trust in Him, into His divine fortress for solace and rest in Christ. As much as God’s wrath should invoke fear in the hearts of His enemies, it’s a comfort to us who are saved, as we see it time and again in God’s action to protect, defend, and restore His people. All praise and glory be to Him, and Him alone!