The LORD is a jealous and avenging God; the LORD is avenging and full of wrath. The LORD takes vengeance on His foes and reserves wrath for His enemies.
I. LIGHT IS CAST UPON THE NATURE OF THE DIVINE VENGEANCE. Our conceptions of the Divine Being are sometimes assisted by our ascribing to him certain characteristics belonging to the children of men. Analogy, however, in this direction must not be pressed too far, or we may be led to form very erroneous views concerning our God. We have in these verses a case in point. Nothing is more strongly to be condemned in men than the cherishing by them of the spirit of jealousy and of vengeance; yet this is here ascribed to God. "The Lord is jealous, and the Lord revengeth," etc. (ver. 2). But then "jealousy" and "vengeance" mean something very different when applied to man from what is intended when the same terms are used in reference to God. By jealousy on the part of man we understand envy, but by the same word in reference to God we are reminded of his regard for the maintenance of truth, his holy concern for the upholding of righteousness. And by vengeance on the part of man we understand revenge, a determination that satisfaction shall be given for the injury we consider has been done to us; whereas the same word as applied to God carries with it no such idea of vindictiveness, but simply a pure desire that the cause of justice and rectitude may be established and secure complete vindication. Since this brief book of prophecy has almost exclusive reference to the Divine judgments to fall upon the Assyrians, it is all-important that we clearly understand at the outset that Divine vengeance has absolutely no malice in it, and is ever exercised in the maintenance of righteousness. This is indicated in the next verse in three particulars (ver. 3).
1. The Divine slowness. "The Lord is slow to anger." Vindictiveness will not brook delay; human vengeance reckons with its victims at the earliest moment; revenge burns; passion rages; but the Divine vengeance delays, that perchance, through penitence, the blow may not be required to fall.
2. The restraining of Divine power. Man, cherishing the spirit of vindictiveness, sometimes lingers because conscious of his want of power to inflict the penalty; but God "great in power" (ver. 3) restrains his might, holds back his avenging hand, that "space for repentance" may be given, and the fact be made manifest that he "desires not the death of the wicked."
3. The Divine concern for the maintenance of his pure Law. "And will not at all acquit the wicked" (ver. 3). His vengeance is not vindictive, but is exercised in order that the supremacy of his holy Law may be asserted. He has graciously made provision for the forgiveness of sin and the salvation of transgressors from condemnation (Romans 8:1), and they who wilfully persist in iniquity must bear the consequences, which will light upon them, not because God is vindictive, but because the honour of his pure Law must be sustained.
II. THIS ASPECT OF THE DIVINE CHARACTER IS SET FORTH IN GRAPHIC IMAGERY. (Vers. 3-6.) For sublimity and grandeur this passage stands unrivalled. The Divine vengeance is presented to us here:
1. In its irresistibleness. Like the whirlwind, it sweeps everything before it (ver. 3).
2. In its terribleness. In vivid symbolical language all nature is represented as full of terror at the Divine manifestations (ver. 5).
3. In its destructiveness. Desolation is brought about - the sea and the rivers are dried up at the rebuke of the Lord; the rich pastures of Bashan, the beautiful gardens of Carmel, and the fragrant flowers and fruitful vines and stately trees of Lebanon languish (ver. 4); as a devouring fire this vengeance consumes in every direction (vers 5, 6); yea, so mighty is it that the very rocks crumble to pieces when it is put forth (ver. 6).
III. THIS VIEW OF OUR GOD IS PRESSED HOME UPON OUR HEARTS BY EARNEST INQUIRY. "Who can stand before his indignation? and who can abide in the fierceness of his anger?" (ver. 6). The design of the questions is to quicken conscience. They contain and suggest the answers. Humbled in the very dust of self-abasement, we cry, "Enter not into judgment with thy servants, O Lord; for in thy sight shall no man living be justified" (Psalm 143:2). - S.D.H.
God is jealous, and the Lord revengeth.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.
The Lord will take vengeance on His adversaries
Homilist.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.)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.)
( T. Guthrie, D. D.)
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