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The book of the vision of Nahum the Elkoshite.
Nahum writes a book. It was a curious thing to do in those days. It was a book of a vision, and therefore likely to be quite misunderstood; for who has eyes that can see visions of the shadowy, aerial kind? Only a visionist can read visions. There are some men who ought never to attempt to read poetry, because they kill it. They do not know that they are killing it, but their slaughter is none the less complete. There are persons who ought not to read the lighter kinds of literature, say even comedy itself, because they were born to live at the graveside, and never have caught a laugh on the wing. Only those who have the inspired heart can read the prophets, either major or minor, and understand what they are about,--not understand what they are merely saying, but understand what they are meaning. There is a common drift in all the prophecies, a set, a tendency in this great biblical movement. Unless you comprehend that tendency or movement you will be lost in the details of the dislocated parts. The Bible reveals God; now let all the rest fall into proper adjustment under the influence of that dominant and ennobling thought. How will Nahum talk about God? He will talk about God in his own way. If every man would do that we should have a new and grand theology, because we should have as many theologies as there are human beings reverently engaged in the profound study of God. Every man sees his own aspect of the Divine Being; every man catches his own particular view of the Cross; hence a good deal of the obstinacy that is found in theological controversy and religious disputation. (Joseph Parker, D. D.)
God is jealous, and the Lord revengeth.
The jealous God
There is in man a selfishness that is Divine. It is a singular fact, in our moral constitution, that often the tenderest feelings of our nature should also be the most selfish. Love, even apparently in its highest moods, is sometimes also most exacting and difficult of satisfaction. I have known a mother most jealous of the departure of a daughter’s heart to its natural home and rest. When I have seen this, I have thought of the selfishness of God. God is infinitely selfish, for we may appropriately use that term. For selfishness may be celestial, and an attribute of benevolence. We do not, indeed, think much of love that cannot, in circumstances, be jealous; such is but a cold, indifferent, impoverished affection. How can it be other than that the best natures of the universe must he most selfish? Jealousy is not necessarily an infirmity. It may be a Divine emotion. The apostle speaks of a “godly jealousy.” No doubt all our love is |infirmity. The best, what we call the most purely unselfish, has its infirmity: I call that rove of the highest which most intensely desires the well-being of its objects! this is me selfishness of love. Jealousy is a passion that depends for its character upon the fuel that gives its flame. It is the sorrowing and pitying passion which would save, if it could, from the perdition and the doom, and unable to do so, or even seeking to do so, moves all its powers, takes all the minor emotions, faculties, and casts them into the flames of its love, bidding all blue. This is the apostle’s “godly jealousy.” And God is jealous. Do not think of Him as beneath the influence of that passion which sometimes, as envy, spite, and malice, disturbs our rest; still think of Him as, in a lofty sense, the jealous God. There are many terms applied to Him in Scripture which seem to anthropomorphise His character. “Angry,” “repenting,” “foreseeing.” Whenever such terms are used, think of them as steps of Divine descent. We may be sure they do represent some qualities of the Divine nature on which it is important that we should reflect, and of which we should stand in awe. The meaning of words assists to the conception of things. Jealous is the same word as zealous, and both are derived from the Greek word zeal, fire; zeal is enthusiasm--moral fire; and jealousy,--what is jealousy but love on fire? Is not this the representation we constantly have of God? I do believe in the mercy, and gentleness, and goodness of God. I do believe that He who “knows our frame” does save His children from the alienation of eternity, even when the heart has so vehemently loved in time the children of time. But then you must take the consequences here of that too vehement love. God is jealous of sin, of all aberrations from Himself. He is jealous of love, of power, of knowledge. See how He is constantly reminding man of his weakness as He incarnates his strength; and God is constantly absorbing man’s knowledge, power, and love to Himself. Divine love on fire, God is jealous! There is no love where there is no fire, but let it burn with the white, not with the red heat. Imagine no evil against God from this declaration of His Book. God is jealous, His love is on fire, the Holy Spirit is love on fire,--hell is love on fire. The one by gentle persuasion entreats; the other, by forcible compulsion, guards His holy ones. Thus His fire folds inward and outward; inward to bless, outward to punish--so a calm breath of holy life, a stormy fire of doom. (Paxton Hood.)
The Lord will take vengeance on His adversaries.
Great sins bringing great ruin
I. That the great sins of a people must ever bring upon them great ruin. The population of Nineveh was pre-eminently wicked. It is represented in the Scriptures as a “bloody city,” a “city full of lies and robberies”; the Hebrew prophets dwell upon its impious haughtiness and ruthless fierceness (Isaiah 10:7-8). Great sins bring great ruin. It was so with the antediluvians, with the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah. The principle of moral causation and the Eternal Justice of the universe demand that wherever there is sin there shall be suffering, and in proportion to the amount of sin shall be the amount of suffering.
II. The great ruin that comes presents God to the “vision” of man as terribly indignant. The passions of man are here ascribed to God. It is only when terrible anguish comes upon the sinner that God appears to the observer as indignant. (Homilist.)
National punishments part of God’s moral government
I. The certainty that sin will not remain unpunished.
1. The inevitable working of natural laws secures this. Physical, social, and spiritual evils follow sin.
2. The declared character of God secures it. He is a jealous God.
II. There is no resisting the judgments of God. His power is seen in nature. The rolling whirlwind, the dark tempest, the desolating storm are symbols of His wrath and of His might.
III. Yet in wrath God remembers mercy.
1. There is a refuge for those who turn and repent.
2. No sins preclude hope.
3. Salvation is full and certain to the truly penitent.
4. Though the godly suffer trouble, they will be delivered from it. Their trials are only a discipline, if used aright. (C. Cunningham Geikie, D. D.)
God’s judgments will be fulfilled
As you stood some stormy day upon a sea cliff and marked the giant billow rise from the deep to rush on with foaming crest, and throw itself thundering on the trembling shore, did you ever fancy that you could stay its course and hurl it back to the depths of the ocean? Did you ever stand beneath the leaden, lowering cloud, and mark the lightning’s leap as it shot and flashed, and think that you could grasp the bole and change its path? Still more foolish and vain his thought who fancies that he can arrest and turn aside the purpose of God. (T. Guthrie, D. D.)
The Lord is slow to anger, and great in power, and win not at all acquit the wicked.
Mercy, omnipotence, and justice
Works of art require some education in the beholder before they can be thoroughly appreciated. There must be something in the man himself before he can understand the wonders either of nature or of art. Certainly this is true of character. By reason of failures in our character, and faults in our life, we are not capable of understanding all the separate beauties and the united perfection of the character of Christ, or of God His Father. Men, through the alienation of their natures, are constantly misrepresenting God, because they cannot appreciate His perfection. This is especially true with regard to certain lights and shadows in the character of God, which He has so marvellously blended in the perfection of His nature, that, although we cannot see the exact point of meeting, yet we are struck with wonder at the sacred harmony. How can God be “slow to anger,” and yet unwilling to “acquit the wicked? Our character is so imperfect that we cannot see the congruity of these two attributes. It is because His character is perfect that we do not see where these two things melt into each other.
I. The first characteristic of God. “Slow to anger.”
1. Because He never smites without first threatening.
2. But He is very slow to threaten. God’s lips move swiftly when He promises, but slowly when He threatens.
3. When He threatens, how slow He is to sentence the criminal.
4. Even when the sentence against a sinner is signed and sealed, how slow God is to carry it out. Illustrate from case of Sodom. Trace this attribute of God to its source. He is “slow to anger” because He is infinitely good. And because He is great.
II. The link between the first sentence of the text and the last. He is “great in power.” He that is great in power has power over Himself. When God’s power doth restrain Himself, then it is power indeed.
III. The last attribute is this--“He will not at all acquit the wicked.” Never once has God pardoned an unpunished sin. Trace this attribute to its source, and you find it in this, because He is good.” (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The patience of God
I. Implies great power. Note--
1. This exquisite sensitiveness. He is sensibility itself.
2. His abhorrence of sin. It is the “abominable thing,” which He emphatically hates. His whole nature revolts from it. He feels that it is antagonism to His will, and to the order and well-being of the universe.
3. His provocation by the world.
4. His right to do whatever He pleases. He could show His anger, if He pleased, any when, anywhere, or anyhow.
II. His patience precludes not the punishment of the impenitent. “And will not at all acquit the wicked.”
1. To “acquit” the impenitent, would be an infraction of His law. He has bound suffering to sin by a law as strong and as inviolable as that which binds the planets to the sun. “The wages of sin is death.”
2. To “acquit” the impenitent, would be a violation of His Word.
3. To “acquit” the impenitent, would be to break the harmony of His universe. If inveterate rebels were acquitted, what an impulse there would be given in God’s moral empire to anarchy. Abuse not the patience of God; nay, avail yourselves of it. (Homilist.)
A discourse upon God’s patience
Slowness to anger, or admirable patience, is the property of the Divine nature. This patience is seen in His providential works in the world. Consider--
I. The nature of this patience.
1. It is a part of the Divine goodness and mercy, yet differs from both. It differs from mercy in the formal consideration of the object. Mercy respects the creature as miserable, patience respects the creature as criminal. Mercy is one end of patience. It differs in regard of the object. The object of goodness is every creature. The object of patience is primarily man.
2. Since it is a part of goodness and mercy, it is not an insensible patience.
3. It is not a constrained or half-hearted patience.
4. Since it is not for want of power over the creature, it is from a fulness of power over Himself.
5. The exercise of this patience is founded in the death of Christ. The natural ness of God’s veracity and holiness, and the strictness of His justice, are no bars to the exercise of His patience.
II. How this patience, or slowness to anger, is manifested.
1. To our first parents.
2. To the Gentiles.
3. To the Israelites. In particular, this patience is manifest--
(1) In His giving warning of judgments before He orders them to go forth. He speaks before He strikes, and speaks that He may not strike.
(2)In long delaying His threatened judgments, though He finds no repentance in the rebels.
(3) In His unwillingness to execute His judgments, when He can delay no longer.
(4) In moderating His judgments, even when He sends them.
(5) In giving great mercies after provocations.
(6) All this is more manifest if we consider the provocations He hath.
III. Why doth God exercise so much patience?
1. To show Himself appeasable.
2. To wait for men’s repentance.
3. For the propagation of mankind.
4. For the continuance of the Church.
5. To manifest the equity of His future justice on righteous and wicked.
1. How do men abuse this patience?
2. The second use is for comfort.
3. For exhortation. Meditate often on the patience of God, (C. Charnocke.)
The God of providence a forbearing God
I. The admirable patience of the divine being. The prophet adds a reference to the power of God, and His punishment of the wicked, in order to guard men against presuming on His forbearance. We need not stay to prove that slowness to anger is a property of God. Divine patience could not be displayed unless there were sin. There was abundant evidence of the Divine goodness before man transgressed; but none of the Divine patience. When our race rebelled, Divine patience displayed itself. There could be no forbearance, no long-suffering, in the sense in which we now use the word, unless there were the possibility of ultimate pardon. When the Almighty spares a sinner, He is even more wonderful than when He builds a universe. But the Divine patience is in no degree opposed to the justice and faithfulness of God. It leaves room for the exercise of every other attribute.
II. The mysterious and awful character of divine providential operations. God has everything at His disposal; and He accomplishes His purposes, and works out the counsel of His own will, through a varied instrumentality. Our text, with its sublime and magnificent imagery, is full of consolation to the afflicted as well as terror to the impenitent. (H. Melvill, B. D.)
And will not at all acquit the wicked.--
God both forgiving and unforgiving
Calvin’s translation is, “Jehovah is slow to wrath, and great in power, and by clearing He will not clear.” God is irreconcilable to the impenitent. He deals strictly with sinners, so as to remit no punishment. He will not clear by clearing, but will rigidly execute His judgment. There seems to be some inconsistency in saying that God is reconcilable and ready to pardon, and yet that by clearing He will not clear. But the aspect of things is different. The ungodly ever promise impunity to themselves, and in this confidence petulantly deride God Himself. The prophet answers them, and declares that there was no reason why they thus abused God’s forbearance, for he says, By clearing He will not clear, that is, the reprobate: for our salvation consists in a free remission of sins; and whence comes our righteousness but from the imputation of God, and from this--that our sins are buried in oblivion? Yea, our whole clearing depends on the mercy of God. But God then exercises also His judgment, and by clearing He clears, when He remits to the faithful their sins; for the faithful, by repentance, anticipate His judgment; and He searches their hearts, that He may clear them. As then God absolves none but the condemned, our prophet here rightly declares, that “by clearing He will not clear,” that is, He will not remit their sins, except He tries them, and discharges the office of a judge; in short, that no sin is remitted by God which He does not first condemn. But with regard to the reprobate, who are wholly obstinate in their wickedness, the prophet justly declares this to them,--that they have no hope of pardon, as they perversely adhere to their own devices, and think that they can escape the hand of God: the prophet tells them that they are deceived, for God passes by nothing, and will not blot out one sin, until all be brought to mind. (John Calvin.)
The Lord hath His way in the whirlwind, and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of His feet.--
The way of the Lord in the whirlwind and in the storm
Philosophers contemplate hurricanes as natural evils, and investigate the material causes of these elementary commotions. But Scripture raises us up to a higher sphere of contemplation, and presents to our minds the terrible operations of nature, under consideration of the works and judgments of the God of nature. He commands the storm, whirls the wind, rules the sea, and superintends the destructions of death. The literal sense of the text appears to have a foundation in fact, and may be traced to the terrible hurricane in which the God of Israel came down, and by a mighty angel destroyed the Assyrian camp before Jerusalem.
1. The way of the Lord in these elementary and violent commotions which have been described.
(1) They are awaked and roused by the Word of the Lord.
(2) They are directed by the will of God.
(3) They are ruled by the providence of God.
(4) They are restrained and moderated by the power of God.
(5) They are calmed by the goodness and mercy of God.
1. The way of the Lord in whirlwinds and storms, and the illustrations of it, are proofs and demonstrations to the world of His existence and providence.
2. Exhibitions to our senses of the glory and terror of His majesty.
3. Declarations to the world that it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
4. Admonitions to the nations, to consider the miseries of war, and to settle among themselves those differences for which they have taken up arms against one another.
5. Calls to the inhabitants of the world, to turn from ungodliness and unrighteousness, and to serve the Lord with reverence and godly fear. Knowing the terrors, and knowing that they are coming upon all who know not God, and obey not the end unbelief, to foresee the great day of His wrath, to believe your guilt and danger, and to hide yourselves under His righteousness. (A. Shanks.)
The clouds are the dust of His feet.--
What are the clouds
I. The way of God is generally a hidden one. When God works His wonders, He always conceals Himself. Even the motion of His feet causes clouds to arise.
II. Great things with us are little things with God. What great things clouds are to us! Great things are they? Nay, they are only the dust of God’s feet.
III. The most terrible things in nature have no terror to the child of God. Sometimes clouds are fearful things to mariners. But them is nothing terrible now, because it is only the dust of my Father’s feet.
IV. All things in nature are calculated to terrify the ungodly man. Sinner, hast thou ever seen the clouds as they roll along the sky! Those clouds are the dust of the feet of Jehovah. If these clouds are but the dust, what is He Himself? (C. H. Spurgeon.)
He rebuketh the sea.
Here is a description of God’s power unrivalled in its sublimity and soul-stirring force. Power belongeth unto God. It is absolute, inexhaustible, ever and everywhere operative. “He fainteth not, neither is weary.” His power is here presented in two aspects.
I. As operating irresistibly in nature.
1. It works in the air. “The Lord hath His way in the whirlwind and the storm, and the clouds are the dust of His feet.”
2. It works in the sea. “He rebuketh the sea and maketh it dry, and drieth up all the rivers.” There is undoubtedly an allusion here to the Red Sea and the Jordan. “He holdeth the winds in His fists, and the waters in the hollow of His hands.” “His way is in the sea,” and “His path in the great waters.”
3. It works on the earth. “Bashan languisheth, and Carmel and the flower of Lebanon languisheth.” No spots in Palestine were more fruitful than these three. But their life and their growth depended on the results of God’s power. Nor is His power less active in the inorganic parts of the world. “The mountains quake at Him, and the hills melt, and the earth is burned at His presence, yea, the world and all that dwell therein.” God’s power is seen in all the phenomena of the material world. How graphically and beautifully is this presented in Psalms 104:1-35. The fact that God’s power is ever acting in the material universe is--
(1) The most philosophic explanation of all its phenomena. The men who ascribe all the operations of nature to what they call laws, fail to satisfy my intellect. For what are those laws! The fact that God’s power is ever acting is
(2) The most hallowing aspect of the world we live in. God is in all. Then walk the earth in reverence.
II. As irresistibly opposed to the wicked. “Who can stand before His indignation!” (Homilist.)
God’s control over nature, and deliverance of His people
In these words them is a striking display of the power, the severity, and the long-suffering and mercy of God.
I. God’s control over the powers of nature. With the terrible effects of His wrath. He ruleth in the heavens above, and in the earth beneath, and in the waters under the earth.
II. The essential goodness of God’s character, and the all-sufficiency of His protection. Both the scenes of external nature, and the general condition of nations and individuals will, on the slightest reflection, convince you of the prevailing goodness of God. If them is any doubt on the subject, turn to the book of inspiration.
III. The means whereby man may avert God’s anger, and secure His favour (ver. 7). “He knoweth them that are His.” Trust in Him is the grand means to be employed. The faith that is wrought in your hearts by the Holy Spirit of God. This faith will work submission to Him will, and repentance towards Him. This faith will lay hold of the stronghold that can defend in the day of trouble. This faith worketh by love. (Hugh Hughes, B. D.)
Who can stand before His indignation?
Repentance through fear
This and similar passages address themselves directly to our fears. The term “fear of God” in Scripture, does not always bear the same meaning. Them is a filial fear, and them is a servile fear. Servile fear gives place to filial when God becomes known to us as our reconciled Father in Christ. We begin with the dread of God. The dread drives us to the Cross. Mistakes are often made as to that fear of God which we denominate servile. Christians are afraid of fear, looking with suspicion on any part which fear may have had in moving them to forsake evil ways, as if it were a base and ungenerous agent, which ought not to have had share in the great work of conversion. Whilst so much of the Bible speaks of fear, fear cannot be without its use in religion.
I. What misapprehension may there be in reference to the use of fear? Noah, in preparing the ark, is said to have been “moved with fear.” It was dread of impending wrath. Fears may rightly move us to genuine and acceptable repentance. We are so constituted as to be just as accessible through fear as through hope. We feel that with the great mass of men we can make no way without appealing to their fears. Men must commonly be wrought upon by fear through what they are incurring rather than through what they are losing. We must come down upon them with tidings of disaster. Let a man continue his struggles and his endeavours even though he feel actuated only by fear, and in due time other motives shall gain sway in his breast.
II. The legitimate use of such awful denunciations as these in the text. Or the way in which threatenings ought to be employed by the preacher. St. Paul says, “Knowing the terrors of the Lord, we persuade men.” Neither should the engine of terror be otherwise used by the present ministers of Christ. Threatenings are to be employed as inducements to the laying hold on the succour provided by Christ, (H. Melvill, B. D.)
The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble.
Goodness a stronghold
The great design of religion is to bring us to God and true blessedness. In order to this, there must be full and practical confidence in God,--submission to His providence and law,--unquestioning repose in Himself. The text, though not possessing the form of a promise, is a declaration concerning God Himself, which includes the whole system of promise. Such is God. If such is God, then happy the people that is in such a case; yea, blessed they whose God is the Lord.
I. “The Lord is Good.”
1. The expression reminds us of the absolute goodness of the Divine nature, and especially of the Divine benevolence. Whatever goodness there is in the creature is derived--God is its source; it is limited--in God it is unbounded; dependent--in God it is essential and independent; mutable--in God it is changeless.
2. The active character of the Divine goodness. He “doeth” good. In inanimate creation are displayed His perfections. All living beings look up to God. He universally provides. But we are of more value than many sparrows. And He cares for us.
3. God’s goodness in its suitableness to man’s present condition. He is a sinner. Providential blessings continued. Evil tendencies of sin checked. A wisely ordered scheme of redemption; and hence, forbearance, salvation.
II. “A stronghold in the day of trouble.” Figure forcible in the East, where predatory expeditions are usual. God a “stronghold for defence of His people. Recollect what He is in Himself. All His attributes are employed for the benefit of His people. In the day of trouble they are shut up with God.
III. “He knoweth them that trust in him.” To trust in God implies satisfied persuasion He will be and do as He has said. Two results--we shall seek all good in Him. We shall abide with Him. Trust in God and doing good are ever conjoined--in nature as well as duty. (G. Cubitt.)
The goodness of God in seasons of calamity
This book is “The Burden of Nineveh.” Nahum was contemporary with Hezekiah. The immediate design of the prophecy was to minister comfort to the afflicted and alarmed Jews; for the defeat of the enemies of the Church involves its deliverance. The name of the prophet indicates this design;--it signifies comfort or comforter. The text teaches that the Lord is good, even in seasons of calamity.
1. Such seasons are not only not inconsistent with the Divine goodness, but m various ways manifest it. There is always much affliction in the world. When we suffer under calamities, unworthy thoughts of God are apt to rise within us, and especially suspicions of His goodness. If we indulge these suspicions, they will alienate our hearts from God and His service, and prompt us to impatience, murmuring, and impiety. But they are not inconsistent with God’s goodness. The punishment of transgression is not in consistent with goodness. Days of judgment on us may be merciful warnings, to others. They are often means of delivering and purifying the Church. They are instructors and monitors to future ages.
2. In seasons of calamity the Lord is good, for He reveals Himself to us as a stronghold, and invites us to flee to Him for safety and comfort.
3. In days of trouble the Lord is good, for He affectionately watches over all who honour Him with their trust. (James Stark, D. D.)
The Divine goodness a refuge in trouble
These words have been well compared to a burst of sunshine on a cloudy tempestuous day. The prophet opens his commission with setting forth the terrors of the Lord. But on a sudden this appalling strain ceases. As though impelled by an inward feeling which had obliged him to look around for something to uphold him amid these terrors, he thinks and speaks of the goodness of the Lord.
I. What this goodness is. We are not to understand here the Divine purity, or holiness, but the benevolence, the kindness, the graciousness of the Lord. The goodness of God, taken in this sense, is that perfection of His nature which inclines Him to deal graciously with His creatures; rich and happy in Himself, to give out of His riches and happiness, and make His creatures partakers of them, as far as their different capacities will admit. This goodness of God is, like every other perfection of His nature, infinite. By this I mean, it cannot be added to, it could not be greater. And His is holy goodness. It always moves and acts in conformity with His just and holy nature. Here it is that we make such mistakes in thinking of God. We take one of His attributes, and we look on it alone, as though God had no other attribute but that; and then a mystery comes over His nature and doings. This goodness is also self-moved, spontaneous, free. It requires nothing in us to call it into exercise towards us; it requires nothing whatever out of God to bring it into operation. It is not the Cross and work of the Lord Jesus that makes God good and gracious to us sinners. He was good and gracious to us before. It was God’s love to us that found for us a Saviour. The Cross and mediation of Christ is the way the Divine goodness has opened for itself into our world. It is the channel through which it flows to us, not the fountain whence it takes its rise.
II. What this God of goodness is to His people in the day of their trouble. “A stronghold.” This language conveys the idea of protection and defence. The countries in which the Old Scriptures were written were scenes of almost incessant warfare. Men were continually exposed to hostile inroads and invasions, and were obliged to have fortresses or holds to flee to for security. God is this refuge to the troubled soul in various ways. Sometimes keeping impending trouble off. At other times removing His people out of reach of trouble. More frequently giving them strength to bear their trouble. The prophet here intimates that the Lord’s goodness shall be the stronghold, the strength and the support. The mere thought of His goodness is to be a consolation and a stay.
III. What assurance they who trust Him have that He will be this to them. “He knoweth them that trust in Him. This brings the infinite knowledge of God to bear upon their case. When I make a living Being my refuge, when I fly to Him to protect me, it is clear that He must know I am come to Him for protection, and know too what my dangers are that He may shield me against them. He knows both us and our troubles. It is impossible for words to exaggerate the attention God pays to His suffering people. The mere act of trusting in God seems to be something spoken of here as something like a claim on His attention and care. Then if you are in affliction, encourage yourselves in the Lord your God. He is all-sufficient in Himself. Make Him the centre of your affections, desires, and consolations. Flee to Him to hide you. (C. Bradley.)
God a refuge
At Holyhead there is a splendid breakwater which cost a million and a half of money. Rising thirty feet above the waves it defies their utmost fury. We are not surprised that it should be built on so massive a scale, for in a great storm each wave strikes with the sledge hammer force of three tons to the square foot. Though a hurricane blow, and the sea be mountains high, shipping sheltered behind it ride in perfect safety. This is a type of the security God is to those Who trust Him.
God is our refuge
A heathen could say, when a bird, scared by a hawk, flew into his bosom for refuge, “I will not kill thee, nor betray thee to thine enemy, seeing thou fliest to me for sanctuary”: much less will God either slay or give up the soul that takes sanctuary in His name. (W. Gurnall.)
Secure in God
Readers of Darwin will recall the description he gives of a marine plant which rises from a depth of one hundred and fifty to two hundred feet, and floats on the great breakers of the western ocean. The stem of this plant is less than an inch through; yet it grows and thrives and holds its own against the fierce smitings and pressures of breakers which no masses of rock, however hard, could long withstand. What is the secret of this marvellous resistance and endurance? How can this slender plant face the fury of the elements so successfully, and, in spite of storm and tempests, keep its hold, and perpetuate itself from century to century? The answer has leaped to every lip: It reaches down into the still depths, where it fixes its grasp after the fashion of the instinct that has been put into it, to the naked rocks; and no commotion of the waters can shake it from its fastenings. When a man has deep and inner clingings to God, when the roots of his life go down and take hold on God, mere surface agitation and pressures will not overcome him. He may be floated here and there within a given sweep like a plant bosomed on the sea, and there may be times when it is very rough arid the strain is great, but he will survive it all and preserve his integrity. (F. A. Noble.)
God’s shielding love
Astronomers tell us that every year millions of meteoric bodies make their way towards our earth with a speed many times greater than that of the swiftest cannon-ball. These, beyond doubt, would strike the earth and destroy its inhabitants but for the air which surrounds it, That air, soft and yielding as it seems, offers so powerful a resistance to the swift motion of the falling meteors that they become vaporised through increased heat, and if they reach the earth at all, it is only in the form of minute meteoric dust. This physical fact has its counterpart in the spiritual realm. The influences Of evil which assail the Christian as he goes through the world are often enough to crush and kill in him all spiritual life and joy and beauty, but round about him there is the atmosphere of the Divine love, and that love resists all evil, being as a consuming fire, keeping back from contact with the trusting soul everything that would destroy its purity and blast its blessedness. The love of God is a perfect protection to every Christian believer; with it around us we can walk with untrembling tread, knowing that no “weapon formed against us can prosper,” (Great Thoughts.)
God a refuge
I once heard of a lonely traveller who sought to cross one of the western prairies. The only thing he had to guide him was a path that had been made by other travellers in the rank grass. But he had not gone very far before the snow began to fall, at first in scattered flakes, like large white feathers, but by and by with thick and blinding fierceness. He soon lost every trace of the path along which he travelled. He was lost, bewildered, and as the darkness began to gather around him he was greatly alarmed. He cried out for help, but the wild winds only laughed at him as hey swept by. He was almost in despair when he saw through the blinding flakes a flickering light. Toward it he bent his exhausted energies. Stumbling and falling, over the drifts that had accumulated here and there, he at length came to a settler’s cottage. Can you imagine his thankfulness and joy when-he found the storm behind him, in that friendly hut? He was safe. He was happy. In the moment of greatest peril he had found a refuge. Now that is just what God is to every traveller caught in the storm of life. If you but see the light that streams out from the windows of His palace, of His heart, and follow it, you will be safe from harm. The door of mercy is always open; the fires of His love and forgiveness are always glowing; the welcome which He gives is always abundant.
God’s ways with friends and enemies
The sentiment of the passage is, that the same power which the Almighty displays for the destruction of His enemies, He employs for the protection of His friends.
I. The benignity of the ever-blessed God. “The Lord is good.” Goodness is associated with every idea it is possible to form of the Most High. Goodness is the perfection of His nature, the foundation of His actions, and comprehends all His other attributes, When His goodness supplies the needy, it is bounty; when it visits the miserable, it is pity; when it pardons the guilty, it is mercy; when it performs His promises, it is faithfulness; when it protects our persons, it is His power; when it orders events to our advantage, it is His wisdom; and when it converts and saves the soul, it is His grace. But where shall we look for its especial display? Not in providence but in redemption. His goodness here is love. This love is,--
1. Comprehensive in its objects.
2. Satisfying in its nature.
3. Exalting in its influence.
4. Perpetual in its existence.
II. THE REFUGE HE AFFORDS HIS AFFLICTED PEOPLE. “He is a stronghold.”
1. The distressing period to which the text refers. Such as national calamities; family trouble; soul trouble.
2. The refuge unfolded to our view. A stronghold, i.e., a fortification, a place of strength and defence.
III. The approbation he expresses in their confidence. “He knoweth them that trust in Him.” It is supposed that we betake ourselves to the shelter which Divine goodness provides foe our safety. A refuge, unless it be embraced, is no refuge at all.
1. What is the trust of which the text speaks? It is the fruit of faith.
2. What is the import of the term, “He knoweth them”? It is designed to express a distinguishing and an approving knowledge. He regards their confidence in Him with peculiar favour. (J. B. Good.)
How good God is
Two kinds of persons are spoken of here.
I. Those who are in trouble.
1. Trouble may be the result of our own imprudence. Or perhaps worse, of our sinfulness.
2. It may arise from family or business perplexities. Sometimes trouble is allowed to come and go unheeded. The rod is felt, but not the hand that brought it down. Sometimes trouble is received angrily or peevishly. It is very hard to contend against these feelings.
II. The characters that calmly wait for God; expecting some further development of His mind, and not venturing to judge according to present appearances.
I. Trusting in God supposes there is some occasion for trust. The work of faith is to trust in God when all outward things go wrong, and there is nothing but the Word of God to rely on.
2. Trusting in God is the highest manifestation of real principle.
3. Trusting in God is not an adventure. His revealed will puts a peradventure out of the question. (W. G. Barrett.)
The Lord’s favour to those who trust in Him
The Bible abounds with the most sublime descriptions of God, and represents, in a variety of passages, His awful character and glorious perfections. On reading the description in the passage connected with the text It may appear to contain a contradiction. It may seem to represent the Almighty under two different characters. We may be ready to think that He cannot be at once “a jealous God” and “good, slow to anger.” There is no real difficulty. God is in Himself the same, infinitely glorious in all perfections. The seeming differences in His character arise from the different characters of those with whom He has to deal. In this respect His character, like the cloud which accompanied Israel, has a dark side and a bright side. To His adversaries He is a “jealous God.” To His people He is “rich in mercy.” The description here given--
I. Of the people of God. “They that trust in Him.” Trust is often used for the whole of religion. It signifies a confidence in His power and faithfulness for protection and support, and for a supply of all things necessary to life and godliness. Things which characterise this confidence are--
1. It is habitual.
2. It is practical.
3. It is a patient and persevering trust.
4. It is a solid and well- grounded confidence.
Trust in God must be founded on His promise.
II. Of the favour of God to his people.
1. “The Lord is good.” God is goodness. Even His severity against sin is the effect of His goodness.
2. He is “a stronghold in the day of trouble.” The Lord s people are not exempt from trouble. But if they have peculiar trials they have peculiar support under them.
3. The Lord “knoweth them that are His.” He sees, distinguishes, approves. Especially has He respect to them as putting their trust in Him. He sees the humble confidence with which they repose in His truth and faithfulness. Surely blessed arc the people who make the Lord their trust. (E. Cooper.)
He knoweth them that trust in Him; but with an overrunning flood He will make an utter end of the place thereof.
Opposite types of human character, and opposite lines of Divine procedure
I. Opposite types of character.
1. The friends of God.
(1) They trust in Him. This is the universal character of the good in all ages. They trust His love ever to provide for them; His wisdom as their infallible guide; and His power as their strength and shield.
(2) He acknowledges them. “And He knoweth.” This means, that He recognises them as His loyal subjects and loving children, His people. In Hosea 13:5 He saith, “I did know thee in the wilderness,” which means, “I did acknowledge thee and took care of thee”! The words imply the cognisance of special sympathy with the just. Here we have the enemies of God. “Darkness shall pursue His enemies.” Those who pursue a course of life directly opposed to the moral laws of heaven, whatever they may say, are His enemies. How numerous are God’s enemies!
II. Two opposite lines of Divine procedure. God’s procedure is very different towards these two opposite classes of men.
1. He affords protection to the one. When the hosts of Sennacherib were approaching Jerusalem, Hezekiah, the king, under Divine inspiration, said to the people, “Be strong and courageous, be not afraid nor dismayed for the king of Assyria, nor for all the multitude that is with him: for there be more with us than with him. With him is an arm of flesh, but with us is the Lord our God to help us, and to fight our battles. And the people rested themselves upon the words of Hezekiah, king of Judah.” Thus it is ever; God is always the refuge and strength of His people in times of tribulation. As a refuge He is--
(1) Ever accessible. However suddenly the storm may come, the refuge is at your side, the door is open. “I will never leave thee,” etc. He is--
(2) Ever secure. Once entered, and no injury can follow. He sends destruction to the other. “But with an overrunning flood He will make an utter end of the place thereof, and darkness shall pursue His enemies.” The primary allusion here, no doubt, is to the way which Nineveh was captured by the means of the Babylonians. Conclusion--The grand question for every man to ask is, How do I stand in relation to God? (Homilist.)
The varied destinies of men
How various are the destinies of men! One goes to honour and life, another to disgrace and death. There are two lakes high up in the Alps, which lie so near that the bystander may throw a stone from the one to the other. Lago Blanco the one is named, or the White Loch, because it is of a light green colour; while its neighbour is Lago Nero, or the Black Loch, because it is dark and gloomy looking. But though they are so close, they are on different inclines of the watershed. Lago Blanco sends its overflow down to the Adriatic, but Lago Nero is connected with the Black Sea. I look at the one, and I think about Venice and sunny Italy; I look at the other, and I think about Sebastopol and the wintry Crimea. So I may be side by side in one home, in one business, in one Christian congregation, with a man who is yet on the different slope of the watershed. We receive the same messages of warning and of salvation. We enjoy much the same opportunities. But one of us believes God, and the other does not. One of us passes into glorious liberty, and the other into darkness and despair. Ah, let me watch in which direction I turn. (A. Smellie, M. A.)
What do ye imagine against the Lord?
I. The essence of sin is suggested. It is hostility to God. It is opposition to the laws, purposes, Spirit of God. It involves--
1. The basest of ingratitude.
2. The greatest injustice.
3. Impious presumption.
II. The seat of sin is suggested. It is in the mind. Sin is not language, not mere actions. Sin is in the deep mute thoughts of the hearts. “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.”
III. The folly of sin is suggested. It is opposition to Omnipotence. In opposing Him, remember--
1. He will completely ruin you.
2. He will completely ruin you, whatever the kind of resistance you may offer. Fighting against God is a mad fight. (Homilist.)
Folly of opposing God
Sin, when it is mightiest and most successful, is transitory. Lord Rosebery has been telling us the story of Napoleon the Great. His energy, his intellect, his genius were such that he “enlarges the scope of human achievement.” Once he “fought the Austrians for five consecutive days without taking off his boots or closing his eyes.” “He was as much the first ruler as the first captain in the world.” “Ordinary measures do not apply to him; we seem to be trying to span a mountain with a tape.” Napoleon was the largest personal force that has come into the modern European world. But his career ended in defeat and exile. At forty-six the man who had dreamed of governing a continent was a captive. His conquests left no mark. The kings whom he made lost their thrones. France was beggared and exhausted by him. Why? Because God was not his God. “I am not a man like other men,” he asserted himself; “the laws of morality could not be intended to apply to me.” Therefore I will fear nothing, though wickedness seems to prosper for a time. Such prosperity has no permanence about it. It is better to walk humbly with God than to stand alone on the proudest eminence in the world. (A. Smellie, M. A.)
While they be folden together as thorns.--
Illustrate by the undergrowth in a great forest. It must be cut; down before anything hopeful can be done with the soil There is a national moral undergrowth: a brutal, vile, wretched population of a most repulsive and dangerous character. Ignorance, sensuality, violence, and irreligion, fostered and perpetuated by drunkenness, forms a dismal, moral undergrowth, where human tigers watch for prey, where foul habits breed disease, where women lose all beauty and joy, and where children--the offspring of immoral parents-are like “a nest of unclean birds.” What is to be done with this deadly moral undergrowth? Soft measures, easy-going, self-indulgent Christianity are of no use here.
1. Let us take increased care that good and precious seed shall be sown in the hearts of the young. This is of paramount and urgent importance. Take care of the little ones.
2. Seek to reach the people who never enter places of worship.
3. Endeavour to abate incentives to drunkenness.
4. Consecrate yourselves afresh to God, and the work of His kingdom. (George W. McCree.)
There is one come out of thee, that imagineth evil against the Lord, a wicked counsellor.
These words suggest a few thoughts concerning human kings and kingdoms.
I. Human kings are sometimes terribly corrupt. “There is one come out of thee, that imagineth evil against the Lord, a wicked counsellor.” This evidently means Sennacherib, the king of Nineveh.
II. Corrupt kings often ruin their kingdoms. “Though they be quiet, and likewise many, yet thus shall they be cut down, when he shall pass through. Though I have afflicted thee, I will afflict thee no more.” These words seemed to be addressed to Judah concerning the utter destruction that will befall their enemies, and their consequent deliverance from all fear from that quarter. It was here said they should be destroyed--
1. Notwithstanding their military completeness. “Though they be quiet.” The word “quiet” means complete. No doubt the military organisation, discipline, and equipment of Sennacherib’s mighty army, as he led them up to attack Jerusalem, were as complete as the intelligence, the art, and the circumstances of the age could make them. Notwithstanding this, ruin befell them.
2. Notwithstanding their numerical force. “Likewise many.”
III. The ruin of corrupt kingdoms is a blessing to the oppressed. “Yoke” here refers to the tribute imposed upon Hezekiah by Sennacherib. And so it ever is, when despotism has fallen, the oppressed rise to liberty. Conclusion--
1. Realise the truth of prophecy.
2. Realise the importance of promoting education among the people. (Homilist.)
Behold upon the mountains the feet of him that bringeth good tidings.
Three things worthy of note
I. Peace proclaimed. Glorious to the ears of the men of Jerusalem must have been the intelligence that their great enemy was destroyed, that the Assyrian hosts were crushed, and now peace had come. A proclamation of national peace is “good tidings.” But the proclamation of moral peace is still more delightful. “How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the Gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! “ (Romans 10:15). “My peace I give unto you, not as the world giveth give I unto you.”
II. Worship enjoined. “O Judah, keep thy solemn feasts, perform thy vows.” “During the Assyrian invasion the inhabitants of Judah were cut off from all access to the metropolis; now they would be at liberty to proceed thither as usual in order to observe their religious rites, and they are here commanded to do so.”
1. War disturbs religious observances. As peace in nature is the time to cultivate your ground and sow your seed, peace in the nation is the time to promote growth m religion and virtue.
2. In war men are disposed to make religious vows.
III. Enemies vanquished. For the wicked shall no more pass through them; he is utterly cut off.” (Homilist.)
“At the close of the last war with Great Britain,” says an American writer, “the prospects of our nation were shrouded in gloom. Our harbours were blockaded. Communication coastwise between our ports was cut off. Our immense annual products were mouldering in our warehouses. Our currency was reduced to irredeemable paper. Differences of political opinion were embittering the peace of many households. No one could predict when the contest would terminate, or discover the means by which it could much longer be protracted. It happened that one afternoon in February a ship was discovered in the offing, which was supposed to be a cartel, bringing home our commissioners at Ghent from their unsuccessful mission. The sun had set gloomily before any intelligence from the vessel had reached the city. Expectation became painfully intense as the hours of darkness drew on. At length a boat reached the wharf, announcing the fact that a treaty of peace had been signed, and was waiting for nothing but the action of our Government to become a law. The men on whose ears these words first fell rushed in breathless haste into the city to repeat them to their friends, shouting as they ran through the streets, ‘Peace! Peace! Peace!’ Every one who heard the sound repeated it. From house to house, from street to street, the news spread with electric rapidity. The whole city was in commotion. Men bearing lighted torches were flying to and fro, shouting, ‘Peace! Peace! Peace!’ When the rapture had partially subsided, one idea occupied every mind. But few men slept that night. In groups they were gathered in the streets, and by the fireside, beguiling the hour of midnight by reminding each other that the agony of war was over, and that a worn-out and distracted country was about to enter again upon its wonted career of prosperity. Thus, every one becoming a herald, the news soon reached every man, woman, and child in the city, and filled their hearts with joy.”
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Nahum 1". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
the Seventh Sunday after Easter