“The Lord is slow to anger, and great in power.”
Jehovah “is slow to anger.” Is a phrase that is familiar to us, and one that gladdens our hearts. Jehovah, of course, is Yahweh, that great name for God that appears 6519 times in the OT. In the English text it is given as “Lord”6510 times, and “God” four times, Jehovah 4 times and what we could call a “variant” the other single time. The phrase is, quite often used as it is in this verse, used along with the word for mercy and thus forming the fuller concept that suggests that He is both. Of course, there is no direct mention of the truth of God’s mercy.
“Slow” speaks of being “not lively” or being “slack” in the accomplishment of a task. Actually, the Greek word only appears in 2 Peter 3:9 where, actually, it speaks of the exact opposite of what is said here (in Nahum):
9 The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.
“…to anger” is quite an interesting word for us to think about. It is the Hebrew word “áppayim”. It is translated as “wrath” quite a number of times and refers mostly as the idea of the permanent attitude of the holy and just God when confronted by sin and evil. It is inadequate to regard this term merely as a description of ‘the inevitable process of cause and effect in a moral universe’ or as another way of speaking of the results of sin.
It is rather a personal quality, without which God would cease to be fully righteous and his love would degenerate into sentimentality. His wrath, however, even though like his love (insofar as it is character quality belonging fully to Him as that which can and will be demonstrated) it has to be described in human language, is not wayward, fitful or spasmodic, as human anger always is. It is as permanent and as consistent an element in his nature as is his love. Just like God is always loving and seeking to demonstrate and draw men to that love (John 3:16, et.al.); so also God is consistently wrathful toward sin and, according to the other 6510 times it is spoken of in the OT. I suspect it does not bring Him the joy and anticipation that love brings Him, but it is constant never the less.
There are many who descry the fact of God’s wrath and the coming result of that quality of His character. The claim that it is inconsistent and even terrible that God will one day punish the wicked with an everlasting punishment. It “isn’t loving” and “how could a loving God do such a thing”? “I don’t want to serve that kind of a God!”
How arrogant and self-serving such ideas are! How completely arrogant and utterly bold that is! I read this kind of nonsense a lot these days. I suspect the reason is that men think waaaay more of themselves than they ought and they have such little respect and regard for God and His Word that they think themselves free to vent their spleens’ anger whenever and in whatever fashion they fancy themselves.
We might conclude that God is every bit as consistent regarding His wrath as He is about His love. One writer said:
When mercy cometh into the world she driveth winged steeds; the axles of her chariot-wheels are red hot with speed; but when wrath goeth forth, it toileth on with tardy footsteps, for God taketh no pleasure in the sinner’s death. God’s rod of mercy is ever in his hands outstretched; his sword of justice is in its scabbard, held down by that pierced hand of love which bled for the sins of men.
We should note that Nahum says here “The Lord is slow to anger,” and tells us that this is because he is great in power. Quite a number of coomentators drew the conclusion:
He is truly great in power who hath power over himself. When God’s power doth restrain himself, then it is power indeed: the power that binds omnipotence is omnipotence surpassed. A man who has a strong mind can bear to be insulted long, and only resents the wrong when a sense of right demands his action. The weak mind is irritated at a little: the strong mind bears it like a rock which moveth not, though a thousand breakers dash upon it, and cast their pitiful malice in spray upon its summit. God marketh his enemies, and yet he bestirs not himself, but holdeth in his anger. If he were less divine than he is, he would long ere this have sent forth the whole of his thunders, and emptied the magazines of heaven; he would long ere this have blasted the earth with the wondrous fires of its lower regions, and man would have been utterly destroyed; but the greatness of his power brings us mercy. Dear reader, what is your state this evening? Can you by humble faith look to Jesus, and say, “My substitute, thou art my rock, my trust”? Then, beloved, be not afraid of God’s power; for by faith more terrify you, than the shield and sword of the warrior need terrify those whom he loves. Rather rejoice that he who is “great in power” is your Father and Friend.