God Is Good


We come now to the third of three attributes of God mentioned in Nahum 1:1-8, namely, the goodness of God.

Our God is a good God. We see this first of all in verse 3, where we read, “The LORD is slow to anger….” This phrase speaks of the patience and longsuffering of the Lord. He mercifully withholds His judgment and does not carry it out immediately or quickly but rather slowly. He is slow to arrive at anger.

When we were looking at Jonah chapter 4 some months ago, we came across this exact same phrase “slow to anger.” The context was Jonah’s angry prayer and complaint after the Lord withheld His threatened judgment on Nineveh.

Jonah knew that if he went and preached in that city, the people would repent and God would respond by sparing them for He, by nature, is a gracious, merciful, patient and kind God. He didn’t want Nineveh to be spared and so he fled. 

A hundred years later, the prophet Nahum says the same thing about God as Jonah, namely, that He is slow to anger. Nineveh repented during the time of Jonah but it did not continue very long in a state of true penitence. For much of those hundred or so years that intervened between Jonah from Nahum, the city of Nineveh returned to their old and sinful ways. The Lord could have destroyed them long ago, but He did not. The reason, or at least one of the reasons, for His long delay in bringing about His judgment is His longsuffering or patience. 

But notice how in verse 3, unlike Jonah, who also spoke of God’s grace and mercy and lovingkindness, Nahum mentions nothing of those other attributes. Instead, Nahum speaks of God’s patience in the context of God’s vengeance and anger against sin. The reason is that Nahum is seeking to stress the justice and judgment of God.

Yes, the Lord may be merciful and gracious, but the Nineveh of Nahum’s day had already crossed the point of no return. The Lord was not going to show them any more mercy and grace. Their day of repentance and salvation had come and gone. The only thing left for them now was the fierce wrath of God that was sure and soon to come.

This is a reminder to all of us, isn’t it, that the day and time for seeking God’s forgiveness and salvation will not last indefinitely or forever? The day of salvation will come to a close when a person dies or when Christ comes again a second time. All who remain in unbelief and sin at that time will be brought to the horrible realisation that it is too late to repent and to turn to Christ for salvation.   

So the patience of God is one aspect of His goodness that we see in this text. But God’s goodness is also and especially seen in verse 7, which reads, “The LORD is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble; and he knoweth them that trust in him.”

If you’ve read through the book of Nahum recently or remember anything about it, you’ll know that it contains very little that is explicitly positive and encouraging. But here in Nahum 1:7, we have a verse that is very positive and very encouraging for God’s people.

In contrast to the vengeance and wrath of God, and the fearful scene of His judgment, the prophet declares that the LORD is good. He is not only a God of strict justice and judgment, He is also a God of great mercy and grace and compassion.

The difference, of course, lies in the object of God’s dealings. To those who are His adversaries and enemies, He will execute His vengeance, but to those who are His people, He will exercise His goodness, and the particular outworking of God’s goodness mentioned in this verse is His protection.

The Lord is a stronghold or a refuge in the day of trouble. All the fearful things associated with God’s fierce judgment will not fall upon God’s people. They will be sheltered and protected from His fury. They will not be consumed by fire or smashed to bits.

Isn’t it interesting that the ultimate source of danger that men need shelter from is not Satan or the Assyrians or anyone or anything in this universe? The ultimate source of danger is actually the LORD Himself! And it is the LORD alone who can be a refuge and stronghold from His own righteous judgment, which He Himself will pour out in the Day of Judgment. It is thus foolish to seek shelter outside of God for there is no shelter strong enough to withstand the power of His wrath.

The last part of verse 7 tells us that the Lord knows those who trust or take refuge in Him. Now when the Bible speaks of the Lord knowing certain people, it goes way beyond just having some information or awareness about those people.

Rather, it refers to the Lord having a very special love and care and affection for them. They belong to Him in the sense of having been chosen by Him. He will certainly preserve them from the coming judgment. In fact, this coming judgment is sent for the sake of saving His people. God’s judgment of Nineveh and the Assyrians is really part of the outworking of His plan of redemption for His people.

But I want us to notice one more thing from verse 7, namely, that God’s people are described as those who have put their trust in Him. They are the ones who believe in His word, and who depend and wait upon Him for their salvation. They do not look to the might or skill or wisdom of men. Rather, their hope and help is in the Lord.

If you would know whether you truly belong to the Lord and whether the Lord knows you, then ask yourself whether you truly trust in Him and have fled to Him for refuge. 

The final verse in our text, i.e. verse 8, serves as a striking contrast to verse 7. “But with an overrunning flood he will make an utter end of the place thereof, and darkness shall pursue his enemies.”

Here is another description of how God will deal with His enemies. He will overwhelm them with a flood, as in the days of Noah, and pursue them into darkness, as in the days of the Egyptian plague. Darkness is a symbol for terror, distress, mourning and dread. Ultimately, it points to the terrors of hell where the light of God’s countenance is totally absent and there is nothing but weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Conclusion

And so in these past few articles, we’ve considered a description of our God as we find it in the opening verses of the book of Nahum – a book that has to do entirely with God’s judgment on Nineveh, the capital city of the Assyrian empire. We’ve seen that God is just, God is powerful, and God is good.

I close by asking you again – where do you stand in relation to this God? Do you fear Him, love Him and put your wholehearted trust in Him? Or do you have no regard for Him, no respect for His word, and no concern for His honour and glory?   

Remember that the Lord knows those who put their trust in Him but will take vengeance on all His adversaries.

The LORD is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble; and he knoweth them that trust in him. But with an overrunning flood he will make an utter end of the place thereof, and darkness shall pursue his enemies.” Amen.

—Linus Chua