Thursday, February 21, 2013

Nahum 1:1-2 (Part 3)

In composing his hymn, Nahum has drawn upon familiar motifs long used in the worship of Yahweh. His indebtedness – (I almost don’t want to say that as if I were implying that his writing was not effected by the Holy Spirit) – to earlier OT literature utilized in the worship of God can be seen by comparing the hymn with other ascriptions of praise to the Lord. It is evident, for example, that vv. 2-6 are dependent on images and phrases drawn from passages commemorating the Exodus (a compositional plan also followed by Habakkuk [3:3-15]):

God is a jealous God
Ex. 30:5; Josh. 24:19
God’s long-suffering patience
Ex. 34:6, 7
Theophany in the storm
2 Sam. 22:10; Ps. 68:4
God rebukes the sea & dries it up
2 Sam. 22:16; Ps. 77:16; Hab. 3:15; Ex. 14:21-22
Violent shaking of nature
Jdg. 5:4-5; 2 Sam. 22:8; Ps 38:8; 77:18;114:6;  Hab. 3:6
God’s wrath topples the enemy
Ex. 15:14ff.; Hab. 3:10
Even rocks burnt
Deut. 32:22

1:2 Nahum begins with the nature of God and ties this to the message of the destruction of Nineveh. By tying these two subjects together the message is weightier and produces a greater impression on the hearers. “We now apprehend the design of the Prophet. He might indeed have spoken of the fall of the city Nineveh: but if he had referred to this abruptly, profane men might have regarded him with disdain; and even the Israelites would have been perhaps less affected. This is the reason why he shows, in a general way, what sort of Being God is. And he takes his words from Moses; and the Prophets are wont to borrow from him their doctrine: and it is from that most memorable vision, when God appeared to Moses after the breaking of the tables. I have therefore no doubt but that Nahum had taken from Exodus 34 what we read here: he does not, indeed, give literally what is found there; but it is sufficiently evident that he paints, as it were, to the life, the image of God, by which his nature may be seen.” Calvin on Nahum 1:2

The LORD is Jealous should probably be viewed as one of the Divine names or title of the Deity. In Hebrew, whenever it occurs it is always in the form The LORD is “Al Qana,” as if it were a title or name for God. Jeremiah 2 paints a vivid picture of God as a jealous husband; so does Hosea (Malachi and Ephesians 5 verifies this as the correct way to view God’s covenant with His people).

The fact that God’s jealousy is highlighted right out of the shoot reinforces what we’ve pointed out already, that this prophecy is not for Nineveh but for God’s covenant people. The Bible frequently depicts God’s people as His bride (Isa. 54:4-7; Jer. 3:1; 31:32; Mat. 25:1; Mark 2:19; John 3:29; Eph. 5:25, 31-32; Rev. 21:9). The motif of jealousy is no doubt intended to make us understand how seriously God takes His covenant with us. No one was ever chosen by God because of foreseen faithfulness. 2 Timothy 2:13 clearly indicates this. God has always foreseen that only He is faithful and that we are prone to wander. He committed to love His people simply out of His sovereign pleasure, fully aware of how faithless and prodigal we will always be. He didn’t choose us because we were holy, faithful and loveable, but in order to make us so (1 Pet. 1:2).

So when we read in the middle of this verse that God takes vengeance on His enemies, we are intended to understand this of God acting for our benefit as a jealous husband who works tirelessly to remove everything that might be a temptation and occasion of stumbling to His adulterous bride.

Our society’s unbalanced and undefined concept of the love of God gives sinners courage to sin with impunity because there appears to be no reason to fear God. Nahum anticipates the objection of evildoers that God could not possibly punish them because He is merciful. Calvin writes, “He says here that God is slow to wrath. Though this saying is taken also from Moses yet the Prophet speaks here for the purpose of anticipating an objection; for he obviates the audacity of the ungodly who daringly derided God, when any evil was denounced on them, — ‘Where is the mercy of God?’ Thus profane men, under the pretense of honoring God, cast on him the most atrocious slander, for they deprive him of his own power and office: and there is no doubt but that this was commonly done by many of the ungodly in the age of our Prophet. Hence he anticipates this objection, and concedes that God is slow to wrath. There is then a concession here; but at the same time he says that God is great in strength, and this he says, that the ungodly may not flatter and deceive themselves, when they hear these high attributes given to God, that he is patient, slow to wrath, merciful, full of kindness.”

The Lord is a jealous God. This is one of the first descriptions he gave of himself to the Israelite nation. He is jealous for his own glory and honor. His anger, vengeance, wrath and judgment are the negative manifestations of his jealousy for his own glory and honor.

(The fire to light Israel’s way and the cloud of darkness to obscure the Egyptians’ way – Matthew Henry) His glory is displayed and his honor is preserved when he pours out wrath, vengeance and destruction upon his enemies – those who do not know him nor glorify his name. It is in the giving of the 10 Commandments that God first refers to his jealousy. Interestingly enough, it is in the 2nd Commandment that we find this. I say that is interesting because this is the commandment which deals explicitly and specifically with the purity of the worship of God. And it is also in this passage were God declares his wrath and vengeance against those who defile his worship with images. If there is any attribute of God which is underrated, undervalued and underappreciated this is it: The wrath of God.

“Yes, many there are who turn away from a vision of God’s wrath as though they were called to look upon some blotch in the Divine character, or some blot upon the Divine government. But what saith the Scriptures? As we turn to them we find that God has made no attempt to conceal the fact of His wrath. He is not ashamed to make it known that vengeance and fury belong unto Him. His own challenge is, ‘See now that I, even I, am He, and there is no god with Me: I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal; neither is there any that can deliver out of My hand. For I lift up My hand to heaven, and say, I live forever, If I whet My glittering sword, and Mine hand take hold on judgment; I will render vengeance to Mine enemies, and will reward them that hate Me’ (Deut. 32:39-41).

“A study of the concordance will show that there are more references in Scripture to the anger, fury, and wrath of God, than there are to His love and tenderness. Because God is holy, He hates all sin; and because He hates all sin, His anger burns against the sinner: Psalm 7:11.

“Now the wrath of God is as much a Divine perfection as is His faithfulness, power, or mercy. It must be so, for there is no blemish whatever, not the slightest defect in the character of God; yet there would be if ‘wrath’ were absent from Him! Indifference to sin is a moral blemish, and he who hates it not is a moral leper. How could He who is the Sum of all excellency look with equal satisfaction upon virtue and vice, wisdom and folly? How could He who is infinitely holy disregard sin and refuse to manifest His "severity" (Rom. 9:12) toward it? How could He who delights only in that which is pure and lovely, loathe and hate not that which is impure and vile? The very nature of God makes Hell as real a necessity, as imperatively and eternally requisite as Heaven is. Not only is there no imperfection in God, but there is no perfection in Him that is less perfect than another.

“The wrath of God is His eternal detestation of all unrighteousness. It is the displeasure and indignation of Divine equity against evil. It is the holiness of God stirred into activity against sin. It is the moving cause of that just sentence which He passes upon evil-doers. God is angry against sin because it is a rebelling against His authority, a wrong done to His inviolable sovereignty. Insurrectionists against God’s government shall be made to know that God is the Lord. They shall be made to feel how great that Majesty is which they despise, and how dreadful is that threatened wrath which they so little regarded. Not that God’s anger is a malignant and malicious retaliation, inflicting injury for the sake of it, or in return for injury received. No; while God will vindicate His dominion as the Governor of the universe, He will not be vindictive.” – A.W. Pink, The Attributes of God

When it is objected that Love and Wrath are incompatible, we must remind our objector that God is just as well as merciful. Rectitude is as essential a feature of the divine Being as is love. If the Scriptures represent God as a loving Father 'in whom compassions flow,' (Psalm 86:13) they no less conspicuously reveal Him as a Lawgiver 'who will by no means clear the guilty' (Exodus 34:7). These two things must never be set in opposition to each other. Rather they must be considered as equally essential, coexistent, cooperative, and congruent. It is a huge mistake to think of God as acting sometimes from the one attribute and at other times acting from the other. In other words, we must not imagine God at one time acting according to mercy, and at another according to justice. He acts in harmony with both at all times. Exercising the one never entails suspending the other. When God punishes the guilty, it is not at the expense of mercy. When God forgives the sinner, it is not at the expense of justice. Mercy operates on a principle that agrees with justice. So while mercy inclines God to forgive, justice must receive satisfaction in order for forgiveness to be given. Deny this, and you place in clashing opposition two essential attributes of God’s nature. But admit this, and the objection we are considering falls dead to the ground. The satisfaction which the doctrine of atonement supposes to be made by Christ is necessary, not to awaken the feeling of mercy in God’s heart, but to reconcile the merciful forgiveness of sin with the impartial demands of justice.

If there is any attribute of God which is underrated, undervalued and underappreciated this is it: The wrath of God. The wrath of God should be a deterrent to sin and a comfort for our hearts. We hereby know that God will destroy all our enemies and rectify all wrongs. Individual Christians and the church as a whole triumph just as much because of God’s wrath as they do because of his love.

Jealousy and wrath are almost always sinful in human beings because of our sinful nature’s affinity for anger and revenge. But note that I said “almost always.” It is not true to say that wrath and jealousy are always sinful. The story of Aaron’s grandson, Phinehas, (Numbers 25:1-15), and Jesus’ cleansing of the temple sufficiently demonstrate this. They are pure emotions, that is, godly, when there is no hint of self interest in them. In John’s account of the cleansing of the temple (2:13-17) there is a quote from Psalm 69:9. Compare this with Psalm 119:139 and we see this lack of self interest and total preoccupation with God’s glory. The word “consumed” in the latter passage, at least, literally says in the Hebrew, “put an end to me.” Only when zeal for God’s glory puts an end to us will we possess holy jealousy and wrath. John the Baptist said, “He must increase and I must decrease.” Augustin wrote, “Hope has two beautiful daughters. Their names are anger and courage; anger at the way things are, and courage to see that they do not remain the way they are.” Martin Luther said, “I never work better than when I am inspired by anger; for when I am angry, I can write, pray, and preach well, for then my whole temperament is quickened, my understanding sharpened, and all mundane vexations and temptations depart.”

Furious – literally, "a master of fury." God is the master of fury, not mastered by it. Just like a master of the tongue, that is, "eloquent." "One who, if He pleases, can most readily give effect to His fury" [Grotius]. Nahum has in view the provocation to fury given to God by the Assyrians, after having carried away the ten tribes, now proceeding to invade Judea under Hezekiah.

reserveth wrath for his enemies – reserves it against His own appointed time (2Pe 2:9). After long waiting for their repentance in vain, at length punishing them. A wrong estimate of Jehovah is formed from His suspending punishment: it is not that He is insensible or dilatory, but He reserves wrath for His own fit time. In the case of the penitent, He does not reserve or retain His anger (Ps 103:9Jer 3:512Mic 7:18).

2 Peter 2:9 the Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptation, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment unto the day of judgment
Psalm 103:9 He will not always chide;
Neither will he keep his anger for ever.
Jeremiah 3:5 Will he retain his anger for ever? will he keep it to the end? Behold, thou hast spoken and hast done evil things, and hast had thy way.
Jeremiah 3:12 Go, and proclaim these words toward the north, and say, Return, thou backsliding Israel, saith Jehovah; I will not look in anger upon you; for I am merciful, saith Jehovah, I will not keep anger for ever.
Micah 7:18 Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth over the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? he retaineth not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in lovingkindness.

For God’s covenant people, He does not retain His anger forever. For the reprobate He does. Compare Micah 7:18 & Nahum 1:2

No comments:

Post a Comment

Visitor Counter

Flag Counter