Calvary Road Baptist Church

“JUDGMENT DELAYED IS NOT JUDGMENT FORGOTTEN”

Nahum 1.3

 

In Romans 15.4 we find these words: “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.” This morning I want you, by observing God’s dealings with an ancient and wicked city, to learn something about the God with whom we have to do.[1] Turn in your Bible to the book of Jonah. I read Jonah 1.1-2:

 

1      Now the word of the LORD came unto Jonah the son of Amittai, saying,

2      Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me.

 

About 760 years before the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, and about 35 years before the Assyrians would conquer and carry off into captivity the population of the northern kingdom of Israel, the prophet Jonah was commanded by God to go and cry against the wicked city of Nineveh. But instead of immediately obeying God, we all remember Jonah’s futile attempt to flee from the presence of the LORD, which ended with his experience of being swallowed by the great fish and being in its belly for three days and three nights. Let us not for one moment deny the importance of that experience of Jonah, which was later used by the Lord Jesus Christ to teach about His Own resurrection from the dead. But as we remember Jonah’s three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, let us also remember what else the book of Jonah teaches. When Jonah finally did follow the LORD’s instructions, what happened? Jonah 3.4-10:

 

4      And Jonah began to enter into the city a day’s journey, and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.

5      So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them.

6      For word came unto the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, and he laid his robe from him, and covered him with sackcloth, and sat in ashes.

7      And he caused it to be proclaimed and published through Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste any thing: let them not feed, nor drink water:

8      But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily unto God: yea, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands.

9      Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not?

10    And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not.

 

What we find out in this passage that we have just read is that God is merciful and gracious. But have you also missed what many miss who read this passage? Jonah did not promise the people anything. There is no record of God directing Jonah to promise the people anything. The only message he preached was that in 40 days God’s judgment was going to fall. Those people were not given guarantee that if they turned from their evil way God would spare them. But He did spare them when they turned from their evil way. And, surprisingly, it was for just this reason that Jonah had earlier fled from God. Turn to Jonah 4.1-2:

 

1      But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry.

2      And he prayed unto the LORD, and said, I pray thee, O LORD, was not this my saying, when I was yet in my country? Therefore I fled before unto Tarshish: for I knew that thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest thee of the evil.

 

In other words, Jonah disapproved of God’s willingness to delay judgment. He was enough of an observer of geopolitics to know that Assyria was a rising pagan power in the region. And even if God did not give him prophetic revelation concerning the future assaults by Assyria against Israel and against Judah, he was smart enough to figure out what was coming eventually on his own. So, what do we have so far? We have God graciously saving Jonah’s life when he was thrown overboard by sailors at sea. We have God graciously giving Jonah a second chance to serve Him. And we have God graciously sending a prophet to a pagan city to preach repentance. The result? The entire city responded to Jonah’s warning, which is what angered Jonah. Imagine! A prophet actually grousing because God showed Himself to be slow to anger, gracious, and merciful. And God graciously delayed His judgment against Nineveh.

But another generation passed. Life spans were generally much shorter in those days. Those who had repented in Nineveh have by now died and been replaced at every level of society by a new generation. To the west of Nineveh, the northern kingdom of Israel slides ever deeper into the abyss of spiritual apostasy. God then used the Assyrians to punish His people Israel. But Assyrian ruthlessness and cruelty went way beyond what was necessary to accomplish God’s purpose. So when they laid siege to Jerusalem another generation later, and good King Hezekiah pleaded with God for Judah’s deliverance, the angel of the LORD killed 185,000 Assyrian soldiers as they slept, thereby delivering Jerusalem from the Assyrian juggernaut.[2] When the surviving Assyrian forces limped back to Nineveh the king, named Sennacherib, was killed by his own sons while worshipping his false god.[3] But several capable kings later reigned over the empire and Assyria’s power, having recovered from the slaying of those 185,000 soldiers by the angel of the LORD, continued to grow without serious interruption. By now Nineveh, Assyria’s capital city, has fully returned to the idolatry, the violence, and the arrogance she had repented of a century earlier under Jonah’s preaching. With a supposedly impassible moat that was 150 wide and 60 feet deep surrounding the city, Nineveh thought herself to be invulnerable. But God raised up the prophet Nahum to first declare the destruction of Nineveh in advance, then to describe the destruction of Nineveh in advance, and finally to demand the destruction of Nineveh.

An interesting side note to this unfolding saga of the great and wicked city of Nineveh is the fact that although God did send Jonah into the city to cry against the wickedness, there is no record that the Ninevites were ever informed of Nahum’s message of doom against the city. Meaning? God is under no obligation to forewarn the wicked of their destruction.

From this look at God’s dealings with the city of Nineveh there are two things we can focus on seeing. We can either focus on seeing the nature of man illustrated, or we can focus on seeing the nature of God illustrated. Concerning man, we see acted out over about a century’s time a principle that applies with empires, with men, and also with children. Solomon said it best in Ecclesiastes 8.11:

 

“Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.”

 

If judgment doesn’t fall right away sinful men think they’ve gotten away with their wrongdoing.

That said, this morning’s message will instead be about God. So it’s the nature of God illustrated that we are concerned about. Why was God’s judgment so long in coming to Nineveh? When the Tigris River flooded, eroding away a portion of Nineveh’s defenses and leaving the city vulnerable to Babylonian attack and utter annihilation, its location hidden for more than 2,400 years, what does that illustrate to us about the nature of God? Nahum stated the matter succinctly in Nahum 1.3:

 

“The LORD is slow to anger, and great in power, and will not at all acquit the wicked.”

 

Whether it be an empire, a great city, a powerful man, or an ordinary run of the mill sinner, it would do you well to remember that

 

“The LORD is slow to anger, and great in power, and will not at all acquit the wicked.”

 

“Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.”

 

We saw that statement in Ecclesiastes 8.11. And is it not true of every man you have ever known? Do something wrong. Feel bad about it for a while, primarily because you are fearful of discovery and fearful of punishment. But then, with the passing of time, you think to yourself, “It’s okay. I got away with it.”

Whether it be stealing money from your mother’s purse, ripping off your dad, stealing tools or time from your boss at work, cheating on your husband or wife, taking money out of another kid’s back pack at school, or petting and fornicating with a boyfriend or girlfriend, do not be so foolish as to think you got away with it just because your boss, or your wife, or your parents, or your teacher, or the police, or the pastor never found out about it. And do not think that being discovered by husband or wife or mom or dad or boss or teacher, and thereby being somewhat embarrassed or punished, is the judgment which shall befall you. Oh, no. There is so much more to this matter of judgment than that. In Hebrews 4.12 is found a verse of scripture which many of you are familiar with, having heard it quoted so many times, and perhaps even having memorized it yourself for Sunday School or in the Christian school:

 

“For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”

 

But the prominence of that verse in our thinking has overshadowed another verse, which looms significant for our purpose today, speaking not of the Word of God, but of the God of the Word. Hebrews 4.13:

 

“Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.”

 

My friends, it is a relatively unimportant thing to sin against some other person and then to be discovered by that other person, and then to be punished or embarrassed for that offense. As bad as being expelled from school, or being fired from a job, or being prosecuted for a crime, or being divorced for unfaithfulness, or being spanked by a parent may seem at the moment to be, this is not the judgment about which I preach to you. There is a God with whom we have to do. And sins, all sins, every sin, ultimately is an act of defiance and rebellion against Him, a display of animosity against Him. And all things are naked and opened to His eyes. So, even if your mother or wife or boss or teacher or pastor never finds out what you did, God knows. God knows. Because all things are naked and opened to His eyes.

 

“Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.”

 

So, do not think you got away with anything. Do not think there is not a payday someday. Do not make the tragic mistake of the Ninevites who, once spared by God, got it into their thinking that because judgment had not fallen that therefore judgment would not fall. Because judgment did fall. But it fell unexpectedly.

The Ninevites mistakenly thought that judgment delayed was judgment forgotten. But judgment delayed is not judgment forgotten, because of three things about the God with Whom we have to do in today’s text, Nahum 1.3:

 

First, THE LORD IS SLOW TO ANGER

 

There are two comments I would like to make about the slowness of the LORD to anger:

The first comment has to do with slowness. Psalm 103.8 declares that God is slow to anger. So does Psalm 145.8. Joel 2.13, and numerous other passages in the Hebrew scriptures also describe the LORD as “slow to anger.” But what does it actually mean to be “slow to anger?” In James 1.19 we find Christians encouraged to be “swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath,” with wrath there meaning the same thing as anger. It turns out that the Hebrew word for “slow” literally refers to the length of something.[4] So, a long stick or a long time, the same word is used. Therefore, a characteristic of God, and one born out by examining all of God’s dealings with men, is that His anger builds slowly, gradually, and inevitably over time. We do not have to do with a God Who has quick flashes of temper. We do not have to do with a God Who erupts in a spasm of rage a moment after He is sinned against. No, we have to do with One Who is slow to anger.

My second comment has to do with the fact that God does become angry. What a cruel lie has been foisted upon the people by Pentecostals, by Charismatics, and by the new evangelicals who are sent forth by Fuller Seminary in Pasadena. How wicked it is. How deceitful. And what judgment will fall on them from God for their nasty distortions. They tell sinners that God loves them. They always tell sinners that God loves them. Ever do they tell sinners that God loves them. But the distortion, and the deceit, and the wickedness of their lies has to do with the truth about God they refuse to tell the people. They refuse to tell the people that God is angry with them. Let it not be denied, my friend, that God is slow to anger. It is the slowness of God to anger which allows for His long suffering patience in the face of sin. It is the slowness of God to anger which gives sinners space to turn from their sins. But neither let it be denied that God is angry at your sins. You see, God is holy. And you are wicked. And when you express your wickedness, when you commit your sins, such sins as missing church and working on Sunday in the pursuit of your false god of money instead of worshiping God, He is offended by your sins against Him. You dishonor Him when you do not love Him as He deserves to be loved and worshipped as He deserves to be worshipped. And when God is in this way outraged He becomes angry. Oh, how angry He becomes. For that reason “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God,” Hebrews 10.31. And His anger is directed toward you. “But God has not judged me, pastor. I am successful in business and my family is happy.” That is because God is slow to anger, not because God is happy with you. God is happy with no man who sins against Him. His anger grows each day toward that man who misses church and that woman who does not love Him. So, do not think that because God has not judged you, because God has not rushed to punish you, that He is not angry with you. He is very angry with you. But His anger grows slowly.

 

Second, THE LORD IS GREAT IN POWER

 

Consider the greatness Of God’s power. Job tells us that God is mighty in strength, and that He is able if He chooses to remove mountains, shake the earth out of place, and command the sun to not rise. In Job 9 we are reminded that it was God Who spread out the heavens and Who sealed up the stars. In that chapter we are also asked, What could you do to stop God if He withdraws not His anger? In Psalm 62.11 we read these words: “God hath spoken once; twice have I heard this; that power belongeth unto God.” How many times does a sinner have to be told that only God is truly strong, only God is truly powerful, only God is truly mighty, and only God is Almighty? Listen to these words from a song the Israelites used to sing; Psalm 66.3:

 

“through the greatness of thy power shall thine enemies submit themselves unto thee.”

 

And in Psalm 147 we see these words about God’s power and how impressed He is with your power:

 

5      Great is our Lord, and of great power: his understanding is infinite.

6      The LORD lifteth up the meek: he casteth the wicked down to the ground.

7      Sing unto the LORD with thanksgiving; sing praise upon the harp unto our God:

8      Who covereth the heaven with clouds, who prepareth rain for the earth, who maketh grass to grow upon the mountains.

9      He giveth to the beast his food, and to the young ravens which cry.

10    He delighteth not in the strength of the horse: he taketh not pleasure in the legs of a man.

11    The LORD taketh pleasure in them that fear him, in those that hope in his mercy.

 

God is not impressed with how big you think you are. He is not awed by how powerful you think you are. Do you consider yourself to be physically powerful? God is not impressed. He is so powerful that He will cast you down, and you cannot resist Him.

But let us ask why it was that Nahum speaks here of the greatness of God’s power? Because sinners must be reminded that God is powerful. Sinners tend to forget that God is powerful. Sinners convince themselves that they are powerful, and they are wrong. How many times had Pharaoh seen God’s miraculous plagues upon the Egyptians, yet still he was deluded into thinking he was strong enough to resist God? And consider Nebuchadnezzar, king of the Babylonians. God had given Daniel the understanding of his dreams. And Nebuchadnezzar had with his own eyes seen the three Hebrews delivered from the fiery furnace.[5] Yet when Daniel warned him not to be lifted up with pride he ignored the warning and felt himself to be a great and powerful man, able to withstand God. Only when he went insane and behaved like a beast of the field was his lesson learned.[6] My friend, you sin and sin and sin and sin. You live a wild and wicked life that has little or no regard for God. You are corrupted by greed and lust and pride. And you think yourself to be big and bad and tough and smart and strong. But you are nothing before God. You are only moist clay in the Potter’s hands. What kind of vessel has the Potter made you to be? Are you a vessel unto honor or a vessel unto dishonor? Will you be one who sings with the heavenly choir, “Thou are worthy O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power?” Or will you be one of those who is cast into the furnace to howl in agony as an object to display His power in wrath for all eternity?

 

SLOW TO ANGER, GREAT IN POWER. FINALLY, THE LORD WILL NOT AT ALL ACQUIT THE WICKED.

 

I know what some of you are thinking. Some of you are thinking, “I will sin and rebel and do wrong until I decide to get saved. Then I will accept Jesus and my sins will be forgiven and I won’t have to go to Hell.” You don’t understand. It doesn’t work that way. Read the verse again. That third phrase reads, “will not at all acquit the wicked.” I don’t know how you read the Bible, but “will not at all” to me means “will not at all.” In Hebrew this literally means “will not hold innocent.”[7] And how entirely consistent with God’s nature this is. Remember, Titus 1.2 is only one of the verses which declares God’s truthfulness, saying “God, that cannot lie.” You see, God’s Own nature prohibits Him from treating you as innocent. Why? Because you are guilty. God must treat the guilty as if they are guilty because they are guilty. So, you have to be treated by God as guilty . . . because you are guilty. You are wicked. You are sinful. You are rebellious. You do not love Him. You do not worship Him. You do not serve Him. Yet you think you will somehow be saved someday.

Let me tell you why you think this way: You are not truly convinced you are wicked. Oh, you think you see yourself as sinful. You think that because you have a guilty conscience from time to time that you perceive the depths of your wickedness before God. But, my friend, you have no idea. You see yourself as a person who has made mistakes, who has a difference of opinion, who has his own ideas about things, who has a right to have fun, who thinks what you do and what you are is reasonable. But this is not the truth. This is a lie. What you are is evil. What you are is contaminated. What you are is rotten and defiled and smelly. What you are is God’s sworn enemy. What you are is a person who hates God because you do not love God. What you are is a person who deserves to be punished by God and who deserves nothing beyond that.

 

I cannot tell you everything about God this morning. But what I have told you about God is what those out there will not tell you about Him. I tell you what is in the Bible. And since God does not change, what we have learned about God is still true. God is slow to anger. God is great in power. And God will not at all acquit the wicked. Furthermore, you are very, very wicked this morning. How do I know? It used to bother you that God was angry with you. It used to bother you that God was great in power. It used to bother you that you were wicked. But now that you are very, very wicked, now that your heart is so much more callused, now that you are so much more adept at scheming and conniving and getting your own way, such statements do not alarm you.

“Don’t you have anything positive to say?” Go home and read your Bible. Look up those preachers in God’s Word who preached positive messages, who minimized the wickedness of the people, who glossed over the wrong done to God, who portrayed God as One Who is not holy, Who is not angry, Who will not pour out His wrath. You will find that every one of them is a false prophet. Every single one of them.

This is the message you need to hear this morning. This is the message from God’s Word that will awaken you out of your lethargy, will rouse you from your slumber. This is the one which describes for you the God with whom you have to do. And when you leave this auditorium in your smug complacency I pray that God will trouble you. I pray that the Holy Spirit will convict you. Understand, as you go, that judgment delayed is not judgment forgotten.



[1] Hebrews 4.13

[2] Isaiah 37.36

[3] Isaiah 37.37-38

[4] Francis Brown, S. R. Driver & Charles A. Briggs, The New Brown-Driver-Briggs-Gesenius Hebrew And English Lexicon, (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1979), page 74.

[5] Daniel 3.19-30

[6] Daniel 4

[7] Brown, Driver & Briggs, page 667.

Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org