The Judgment and Grace of God Pt 1: The Severity of God's Judgment
The Judgment and Grace of God Pt 1: The Severity of God’s Judgment.
“The Lord is slow to anger and great in power, and the Lord will by no means leave the guilty unpunished.”
The message of Nahum is the message Jonah wanted to preach. As we saw in our overview of Jonah, Jonah was not pleased that God forgave the people of Nineveh after their repentance. Yet it is often a message we do not want to hear today, for it does not fit our desire that God is only a loving and forgiving God who will never bring severe judgment upon sin. Jonah was written in 760 BC when God threatened judgment upon the Nineveh because of their gross sin. However, when confronted with the message of judgment, the people repented, and God relented. However, 100 years later, the people of Nineveh had reverted to their idolatry and evil. This time, their sin and idolatry were beyond repair. Verses 2-8 are written as an acrostic hymn in which each line begins with a different letter of the Hebrew alphabet. However, in this across, it is somewhat irregular. But this irregularity is not a mistake but intentional, as Nahum heightens the cosmic upheaval that comes when God pours out his judgment. Not only is the world thrown into turmoil, but even the language of the people is also disrupted.
Nahum begins by describing God in a manner that does not fit many people's view of god today. We want a God who is always loving and always merciful to all people regardless of their response to God. However, Nahum begins by describing God in words that highlight his severity and judgment. He is a jealous God. The term “jealous” describes one who is fiercely protective and unaccepting of disloyalty. God is fiercely jealous of his holiness and does not tolerate idolatry and the worship of other gods. J.J.M. Roberts, in his commentary, describes the reference to God’s jealousy as “a statement about God’s self-respect; he will not be treated as merely one among many, nor will he allow his demands to be ignored; he is God, and he will be acknowledged as God or else.” He is not indifferent when his righteousness and truth are ignored and cast aside. Thus he is an avenging God who brings judgment upon those who violate his word and reject his sovereign rule.
The judgment of God is both terrifying and comprehensive. When God brings forth his judgment, the whole earth is shaken. Jonathan Edwards, in his classic and transformative message, “Sinners in the Hand of an Angry God,” captures the severity of God’s wrath upon sin: “The wrath of God is like great waters that are dammed for the present; they increase more and more, and rise higher and higher, till an outlet is given; and the longer the stream is stopped, the more rapid and mighty is its course, when once it is let loose.” The one mistake we should never make is to think that the delay we see in the presence of God’s judgment upon sin somehow reflects an attitude of complacency and indifference on the part of God towards sin. Peter points out that the delay is for the opportunity for repentance (1 Peter 3:9). While God is merciful and gracious, he will also will “by no means leave the guilty unpunished.” to worship and affirm the character of God, we must establish and honor him for his justice, holiness, and judgment.
Yet there is hope, amid the pronouncement of his terrifying judgment, there is the offer of hope for those who seek him. Tomorrow Pt 2: the Grace of God.