We are familiar with Paul’s words to the Romans “If God is for us, who can be against us?” This is a comforting message to claim when the world turns its back on us. When we feel persecuted and we face people’s angst on us, we know that we got God on our side. If He is on our side, does it matter who is against us?
But what if God has this to say: “I am against you”? Does it matter who is on our side? We can have all the superpowers and the most influential in this world but if God is against us, we know we are in deep trouble.
This is the overwhelming message of God to Nineveh through the Prophet Nahum. Nahum, whose name means “comforted”, or “consolation”, brings a message of destruction for the ruthless city of Nineveh, who was once offered mercy when they repented through Jonah’s reluctant warning a century ago. It is as if they “repented of their repentance”. They turned their backs to the Lord who offered them mercy.
Now they are back from their old, evil ways. Nineveh, the capital city of Assyria, brings terror to their neighboring countries, overpowering their enemies. They were so cruel that they would leave cities utterly destroyed. And now that this ruthless nation turns its attention to God’s own people, He finally intervened.
The Lord is good,
A stronghold in the day of trouble;
And He knows those who trust in Him.
But with an overflowing flood
He will make an utter end of its place,
And darkness will pursue His enemies.
What do you conspire against the Lord?
He will make an utter end of it.
Affliction will not rise up a second time.
Nahum 1:7-9 (NKJV)
How do we reconcile God’s wrath with God’s love? Is one primary and the other one secondary? Are they flip sides of the same coin? Or is there no way to bring consistency out of these two natures of God?
When the Bible speaks of vengeance, it is not because about Him getting even because He’s into retaliation. It is not because He wants to get even with all the offenses we have done against Him. What He’s after is for justice to be served. He is a just God in the first place, and should He opt to not to bring justice, He is not worthy to be revered. Being just is one of His unchanging nature. His righteousness and commitment to what is good and just is evidenced by His anger against evil.
Yet while He is committed to bring about justice, He is a good God – a God full of patience.
The Lord is slow to anger and great in power,
And will not at all acquit the wicked.
The Lord has His way
In the whirlwind and in the storm,
And the clouds are the dust of His feet.
Nahum 1:3 (NKJV)
God isn’t delighted when the people He created will also be the subject of His wrath. He doesn’t delight in the suffering of the wicked so He gives His people an opportunity to repent. He gives His people an opportunity to see how wrong we have gone, how unruly we have become. He is totally committed to bringing about justice because of His holy anger, yet He is also totally committed to His people. That is why He is slow to anger. He can both be good and angry.
In His total commitment to execute justice, there should be a recipient of such judgment. Someone has to pay the price. And unfortunately, we are all worthy candidates. But again in His total commitment to His people, He is the One who provided an offering to receive judgment. He sent His one and only Son, Jesus Christ. Through Jesus, justice is served. Through Jesus Christ, we can be set free from God’s wrath, only if we believe and take for ourselves what He did on the cross for us.
When the good God gets angry, will you repent and take His offer? Or will be like Nineveh and ignore the warning?