Monday, February 15, 2016

Which Side?

The prophet Nahum, by James Tissot
The prophet Nahum, by James Tissot
(written by Pastor Joe)
The Word for today:
Nahum 1
In the next week or so, we will look at three different prophets and their warnings to three different pagan nations.
Nahum addresses the Assyrians;
Habbakuk addresses the Babylonians;
Obadiah addresses the Edomites.
The prophet Nahum has been called by God, like his predecessor Johah, to proclaim judgment upon Assyria. Only this time, there will be no repentance, and therefore nothing to stop the inevitable results of that nation's blatant sin. But before we get into that, and more specificially Nahum, it's essential that we see what today's reading has to say about God and clarify a common misconception.
In the first seven verses of this chapter, we are given two different, and seemingly contradictory, descriptions of God. The first is that of a holy and terrifying judge, wreaking havoc upon His enemies. He is jealous, avenging, wrathful, and powerful (1:2-4). His awesome presence literally melts, smashes, shakes, rattles and rolls the whole earth (1:4-5).
But at the same time, a second portrait emerges. The God who is slow to anger (1:3), who is good and who is is a stronghold from troubles (1:7). Hello! It seems to me that from this chapter God is very much expressing His anger and causing quite a bit of trouble on His enemies. How can both of these be right at the same time?
Often, even as believers, we will find ourselves dividing God up in our minds. We've come up with all sorts of false dichotomies concerning Him:
- The God of the Old Testament versus the God of the New Testament
- The God who transcends everything versus the God who is intimately present
- The God of Justice versus the God of Mercy
- The God of Truth versus the God of Grace
What a tragedy to turn God into some sort of schizophrenic. But sadly, most of the inhabitants of the earth do so. The problem is not with God, it's with us, and the limits of our minds (or hearts). Never forget that sin has affected us in every category--morally, relationally, physically, and intellectually as well. When God doesn't fit our usual boundaries and expectations, that is a good thing--because a god that we could fit in our mind is no god at all.
In reality, there is no real contradiction. God is perfectly complete and all of His attributes work in harmony, without diminishing each other in any way. Omnipotence and humility, love and wrath, justice and mercy are all there in full, without cancelling each other out.
So what really is of utmost importance is not our opinion concerning God and His often mysterious ways. No, in this passage here, as well as in everyday life, what matters is where we stand in relationship with God. God is unchanging, it is we who need to align ourselves to Him, not vice versa. God is like a cannon. It makes all the difference in the world which side you are standing on. These words in Nahum were life to those rightly related to God, but at the same time, death to His enemies.
We see this repeatedly in Scripture:
There were twelve spies who explored the same Promised Land, but only two thrived by faith and ten died in doubt and depair. (Numbers 14)
There were two criminals executed next to the same Jesus, but only one found eternal life. (Luke 23:39-43)
There are many who hear the same gospel message but to one group "it is foolishness", but to the other "it is the power of God." (1 Corinthians 1:18)
And when we boil everything down, it make sense that God doesn't always make sense. Just consider the Son of God, Jesus Christ. Is He: - Fully God or Fully man? - The King of kings or the Suffering Servant? - The Lion or the Lamb?
All of the above!

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