God Is Powerful

Nahum 1:1-8 contains at least three attributes or characteristics of the LORD. The first is His justice. The second is His power, which we want to consider in this article.

Verse 3 says, “The LORD is great in power…” His power is infinite and irresistible. The universe came into existence at His mere utterance, and there is no power in all of nature that can match or resist His supernatural power.

This attribute is important in the book of Nahum. Why? Because from a human point of view, the Assyrians were unmatched in their military strength and might. It seemed well-nigh impossible that any force on earth could prevent or even slow down the progress of their ever-expanding empire.  

It is precisely at this point that the thought of the greatness of God’s power is most fitting. “The LORD is great in power…”

The mighty creator of all things and the powerful redeemer of Israel has all the supernatural strength necessary for just such an overthrow and victory.

But the prophet Nahum doesn’t just mention this attribute of God and then leave it at that. Instead, he goes on from the second part of verse 3 to describe the powerful God in action.

We read, “the LORD hath his way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet.” The whirlwind, the storm and the clouds are physical phenomena that occur in the sky above the ground. The picture is this – as the Lord descends from on high to visit the earth, as it were, the clouds and winds are the first to be moved and stirred up by His presence. Like warning signals sent from heaven, the stirring of these elements serve to alert mankind of the One who is approaching, who is awesome and infinite in power.

Now to human beings, the clouds, the wind and the storm all appear to be totally random and arbitrary in their motion and activity. They move about without any seeming rhyme or reason. And yet, God is in absolute control over them. Notice the words of our text. The LORD has His way in the whirlwind and storm, and the clouds are the dust of His feet.

We may not physically see Him in the clouds and in the wind but He is there. Even the slightest movement of the air is not random or without purpose. The Lord orders all things. They follow the path of His divine ordination for them.  

But not only is He the God of the sky and of the air, He is also the God of the sea and of the water. Verse 4 says, “He rebuketh the sea, and maketh it dry, and drieth up all the rivers: Bashan languisheth, and Carmel, and the flower of Lebanon languisheth.”

The LORD rebukes or commands the sea and it obeys His voice immediately. The most vivid example of this is at the Exodus when Israel came to the Red Sea. Exodus 15:8 says, “And with the blast of thy nostrils the waters were gathered together, the floods stood upright as an heap, and the depths were congealed in the heart of the sea.” And even more explicitly, Psalm 106:9 says, “He rebuked the Red sea also, and it was dried up: so he led them through the depths, as through the wilderness.”

But not only did the Lord’s rebuke of the red sea allow the Israelites to cross over, it also resulted in the total destruction of Pharaoh and his army as they tried to pursue after them. Exodus 15:9-11 goes on to say, “The enemy said, I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the spoil; my lust shall be satisfied upon them; I will draw my sword, my hand shall destroy them. Thou didst blow with thy wind, the sea covered them: they sank as lead in the mighty waters. Who is like unto thee, O LORD, among the gods? who is like thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?”

God has done it once, and He will do it again. Just as the Lord did to the Egyptians of old, so the Lord would do to the mighty Assyrians during the days of Nahum.

Then besides drying up the sea, verse 4 also speaks of the Lord drying up the river. Here, the idea is not that the people would be able to cross it. Rather, the idea is that of a shortage of water for both plants and animals. Those three places mentioned in verse 4 – Bashan, Carmel and Lebanon are among the most fertile and well-watered areas of Palestine.

Bashan is across the river Jordan and stretches from Mount Hermon in the north all the way to the river Jabbok in the south, including all the territory of Gilead. The whole realm became a symbol of fertility and the cattle of Bashan are known for their fatness. Carmel was a fertile mountain region in the northwest of Palestine, and Lebanon was world famous for its strong and beautiful and very useful cedar trees.

But when the LORD dries up the water supplies to these areas, then the resulting drought will cause them to languish and waste away. Now if the LORD would bring such judgment upon the regions of His own people, what reason does Nineveh have to hope that it would somehow be spared a similar judgment? It is true that judgment will begin in the house of God but it will not stop there. The Assyrians will not be spared the devastation and wrath of Almighty God. He who dried up the rivers of Palestine will likewise dry up the streams and rivers of Assyria. 

So from the sky to the sea, the Lord exercises His sovereign power. But next, in verse 5, the prophet shifts his focus to the earth. We read, “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.”

Mountains and mountain ranges are very impressive features of the earth and they are seemingly unshakable. Yet at the presence of the Lord, they quake or shake violently. The hills melt away or dissolve into nothing, and the earth burns or is lifted up at His presence. The whole world and all that dwell therein are affected.

This verse describes events that shake the earth to its very core and foundation. Nothing is left untouched or unaffected. No one but God can bring about such things. No one but God has such awesome power.

But if you think about it more, you’ll realize that it is not difficult at all for God to do such earth-shaking feats. Why? Because in the first place, it is the power of God that is holding all the elements together. We don’t often think about it that way, do we?

When we see, for example, a huge mountain or mountain range, we are impressed, and we think that it is standing there all on its own or by its own strength without the aid of anything or anyone. But really, the mountain is sustained and held together every moment by the almighty power of God. 

All that is required to shake the mountain is for God to loosen His grip, as it were, on the mountain just a little and it begins to tremble and quake. And if He loosens His grip further, the whole mountain itself will begin to disintegrate and dissolve. 

Nahum then goes on to say in verse 6, “Who can stand before his indignation? and who can abide in the fierceness of his anger? his fury is poured out like fire, and the rocks are thrown down by him.”

This verse combines both the attribute of God’s absolute justice and wrath, and His awesome power.

The prophet asks two rhetorical questions – who can stand before God’s indignation and who can abide or endure the fierceness of His anger? The word “abide” can be translated arise or stand up. Who can arise or who can stand up to God’s fierce wrath?

Surely the answer is no one. No one in all this world and in all of history. Not Egypt, not Assyria, not Babylon, not Greece, not Rome and so on. Not any of the great empires or nations.

Each empire in its turn will crumble under the devastating weight of God’s judgment. None is strong enough to resist or withstand it. Not even Satan and his evil kingdom can stand against God. The last part of verse 6 says, “his fury is poured out like fire, and the rocks are thrown down by him.” God’s fury is likened to a fierce fire that consumes not just a part of something but the whole of it. It is utterly burned up in the flames. God’s fury is also likened to rocks that are thrown down and smashed into pieces.

I remember something that happened in my home one night, almost six years ago. I was asleep when I thought I heard a very loud crashing sound. I woke up with a start and walked around the house in the dark but didn’t see anything wrong. I went back to sleep thinking it was just a dream or my imagination.

The next morning when I was just about to step into the toilet outside, I saw it. The ceiling light cover, which was made of frosted glass, had somehow gotten loose and came crashing right down in the middle of the toilet. There were small bits of shattered glass all over the place, and not many large pieces left. The devastation was quite a sight to behold. Thankfully no one was in the toilet at the time it came down.

But that’s the picture we have in verse 6. When God’s judgment falls, it utterly smashes and shatters even the solid rocks and boulders. Nothing remains after His fury is poured out. Nothing can stand before His fierce wrath and indignation. Everything will be utterly consumed and smashed to pieces.

The question for all of us is this – where do we stand in relation to the wrath of the Almighty? Shall we and our family and our nation stand? The rhetorical questions of the prophet Nahum in verse 6 demand sober self-examination from all of us.

Next time, we will consider the attribute of the goodness of God.

—Linus Chua