God is Just

The book of Nahum is the biblical sequel to the book of Jonah. In the opening verses, we see three characteristics of God, namely, God is just, God is powerful, and God is good. In this article, we will consider the first of three.

Verse 2 reads, “God is jealous, and the LORD revengeth; the LORD revengeth, and is furious; the LORD will take vengeance on his adversaries, and he reserveth wrath for his enemies.” And then verse 3 says, “The LORD…will not at all acquit the wicked…”

Three times in verse 2, the Hebrew word for revenge or vengeance appears, clearly indicating that emphasis is being placed on this aspect of God. The LORD is an avenging God. He takes vengeance and is filled with wrath, and He will take vengeance on His adversaries and enemies.

Vengeance may be defined as the measuring out of a just recompense for evil, and this measuring out or this repayment for evil is done in the context of God’s righteous indignation and wrath. The God of the universe is an absolutely just God and Judge. There is no possibility that He will be unjust or exercise any injustice in His judgments.

The phrase in verse 3, “and will not at all acquit the wicked…” gives further emphasis to this fact. The Lord will by no means clear the guilty or leave the guilty person unpunished.

So long as a person or city or nation remains in sin and continues to bear the burden of its own guilt, then God will never declare it innocent or remove from it the liability to punishment. The only way for the just God to absolve or clear a guilty person of guilt is for that person’s guilt to be transferred to another who acts as a legitimate substitute.

Apart from this act of substitution, the Lord will by no means acquit the wicked. There can be no exceptions to this rule. For Him to do so, even once, would be injustice; and it is impossible for God to be unjust since His justice is infinite, eternal and unchangeable.

But notice whom the Lord will take vengeance on – not on His friends or people but on His adversaries and enemies, as verse 2 says. These are the ones who are the objects of His fierce vengeance and wrath.

Now the implication of this is clear. The enemies and adversaries of the LORD are those who are wicked and guilty. In contrast, the friends and children of God are those who are righteous and just.

This is clearly stated in the first epistle of John in chapter 1 verses 5-6, where the apostle writes, “This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth…”

And again in chapter 2 verse 28, “If ye know that he (God) is righteous, ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of him.”       

Are you a stranger to the righteousness of God in Jesus Christ? If so, then know that you are guilty before God and God is furious with you for all your sins. You are guilty for the numerous times that you have broken His law in the past and in the present. And because of your corrupt and sinful nature, you will continue to break His law in the future and become guilty of those sins as well.

O, do not continue in such a state of guilt and wickedness before God. There is a way of escape. There is hope for guilty sinners. And that way is found in Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the only substitute for sin that God the Just Judge will accept.

If you try to appear before God in the Day of Judgment in any other way, you will hear the words of verse 3, “The LORD…will not at all acquit the wicked…”

But if you appear before Him in the merits and righteousness of Christ, then the words of 1 Peter 3:18 will apply to you, “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God…” And again Romans 5:19, “For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.”

Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved. Turn to Him this day and find in Him that perfect righteousness that God will accept and receive.

Coming back to our text, notice that this vengeance and wrath of God are related to and flow from His jealousy. Verse 2 says, “God is jealous and the LORD revengeth; the LORD revengeth, and is furious; the LORD will take vengeance on his adversaries, and he reserveth wrath for his enemies.”

But what does “God is jealous” mean? The word “jealousy” often carries a negative or bad connotation. We often associate it with a sinful attitude or emotion. But God’s jealousy must be understood differently. When the Bible speaks of the jealousy of God, it refers to the fact that God is zealous and fervent and very desirous of maintaining His own honour and glory. God is holy, that is, He is utterly distinct and separate from everything in this universe; and thus He cannot and will not share His glory with any other.

In the second commandment, we read,

“Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God…” (Ex 20:5-6)    

And again when reinstituting the covenant after the golden calf incident, the Lord said,

“Take heed to thyself, lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land whither thou goest, lest it be for a snare in the midst of thee…For thou shalt worship no other god: for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.” (Ex 34:12-14)

Isn’t it interesting that the very name and essence of God is associated with jealousy? But the question needs to be asked, “Why does Nahum begin with the jealousy of God?” “What does God’s jealousy have to do with Nineveh and His own people?”

There are at least two reasons. First, Nineveh and the Assyrians have greatly insulted His honour and glory by their idolatry, brutality, and other forms of wickedness. God shall defend the honour of His own name by destroying the wicked Assyrians.

Second, the Lord cares for His own people. They are the apple or pupil of His eye. Just as a man will carefully protect and guard his own eye, which is most tender and precious to him, so the Lord will watch over and protect His precious people.

The Assyrians had already destroyed the Northern Kingdom and were a constant threat to the South. But the Lord would not allow His covenant people to be utterly destroyed or wiped out from the face of the earth. He will jealously watch over and keep them so that nothing ultimately evil will fall upon them.

This brings us to the next attribute or characteristic of God mentioned in these verses, namely, the power of God, which we will look at next time.

—Linus Chua