The LORD is slow to anger and great in power, and the LORD will by no means clear the guilty. His way is in whirlwind and storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet. (Nahum 1:3, ESV)
“The Lord is slow to anger and/but great in power, and will not acquit the wicked.” This verse continues to express the nature of God, not in full, but with more detail of his character quality of patience.
Consider his power, his sovereignty, his patience, and his determination to punish the unjust with justice. “You men of Nineveh have no idea who you are dealing with!”
Its as though Nahum is preempting a challenge he expects to hear. “When, you foolish preacher?” “When will God judge?” they mock.
The Lord is slow to anger, Nahum tells them. He is never late. He is never early. He is never apathetic. Both his patience and his wrath at rebellion are sure.
To use God’s name in such a way as to bring disrepute upon his character or deeds is blasphemy – using his name in vain. “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain. (Exodus 20:7, ESV)
It is not only cussing that is considered blasphemy. To accuse him of not caring is blasphemy. To accuse him of excessive cruelty is blasphemy. To accuse him of over-reacting is blasphemy. It is true that we often try to remind those who are suffering of some possible reasons why God’s patients may look to us like a delay, but we must also point out that it is only a delay from our very limited point of view. It is, in reality, never actually a delay. He is patient.
This character quality is one we would do well to imitate. Justice and wisdom in a particular situation may demand action on our part, but there is often a wise time to act and a foolish time to act. The foolish time is usually “now!”
Patience is not apathy or weakness. Patience properly exercised is power and resolve under control. This is an attribute of God. When God is angry, he is appropriately angry and fully in control. Since he always knows everything it is impossible for him to jump to an inappropriate conclusion.
We cannot be saved from all error by following his example of patience because no matter how long we wait we are not perfect. However, you would be amazed how often patience allows a fuller understanding of a situation, preventing us from taking unwise action. “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” (James 1:19-20ESV)
God is patient, but do not despair, none shall escape his or her just end. Insolence against the Almighty may be tolerated temporarily but it will always be punished, eternally. “He will not acquit the wicked.” He is a just judge. Never is the innocent punished. Never is the impenitent rebel pardoned.
“God will deal strictly with sinners, so as to remit no punishment” says John Calvin. No charge will be overlooked or simply swept from the docket. No plea deal to reduce the charges will be entertained. God does not judge or grade on a curve. Every sin will be paid for. By the sinner, or by Christ as the only acceptable substitute for the repentant sinners who trusts in God’s promise to accept Christ’s substitution. That is the only choice.
Nahum here is not mentioning this possibility of pardon that God has arranged. He is only squashing the hope of the foolish who tried to comfort themselves by saying “there is no punishment yet, so that means we are in the clear.” They abuse God’s forbearance. All we who repent fully believe that judgment due will always be paid. The unrepented choose to not believe that God’s perfect holy reckoning will eventually come.
We, in faith, fear and repent. Wait patiently for God’s perfect timing.
The arrogant in unbelief, refuse. Pity them and pray for them. Because for the unrepentant, Nahum warns, there is absolutely no hope of escape.