“The Lord is slow to anger and great in power, and will not at all acquit the wicked” (Nahum 1:3)
About one hundred years before Nahum recorded this prophecy against Nineveh the reluctant prophet, Jonah, was also sent to Nineveh with a warning of imminent destruction. Though Jonah gave no more than the minimum message required, and he spoke nothing of repentance and the mercy of God, the king of Nineveh and the people did repent and call on the Lord for mercy. To Jonah’s disgust the Lord did not destroy Nineveh at that time.
Two or three generations later the people of Nineveh had either forgotten Jonah’s message or because nothing had happened they treated the former things relating to their (great-)grandparents as mythical. The city had grown wealthier and gained in might in the years following its repentance. The people had, in so few generations, returned to the idolatrous pagan and wicked ways of those before the people of the city repented.
Even so, the Lord sent another more willing prophet with a more detailed message that had finality even more powerful than that of the message of Jonah. With the experience of their recent ancestors in their knowledge one might expect that this generation would also repent but as is so often the case in history, both with collective groups and individuals, they did not. Apparently, they dismissed the prophets warning and carried on without concern. That some individuals may have followed their ancestors’ example and repented is suggested when the prophet records, “He knows those who trust Him” (1:7). Of course that means that He also knows those who don’t!
The generation to whom Nahum prophesied rejected the warning from the Lord and the word of the Lord that came through Nahum was fulfilled. Nineveh soon ceased to exist and violent was its destruction. No one and no nation can ignore the Word of the Lord with impunity.
Jonah’s desire was eventually met but not before at least one generation of the people of Nineveh was saved. The generation that repented and received God’s mercy will be a testimony against the generation that did not.
The Lord will not acquit the wicked but just as surely He will show mercy to any who will humbly confess their sin, repent and receive His forgiveness. This is only available through Jesus Christ because He alone has taken away the sin of the world He is the Lamb of God who was slain on our behalf.