Danger, threats and opposition are part and parcel of our existence. Sometimes these dangers are global. Around the world from China to Mali many Christians are constantly persecuted for their belief in Jesus Christ. But more often than not it is local. Every day we make choices to stand with God and often such decisions have costs. We lose friends, suffer job losses, incur financial hardship and face general ridicule, to name a few.
Such events can often shake our trust and confidence in God. We are forced to ask “who is truly in charge”? God’s people around 680 years before Christ faced similar suffering. The military superpower Nineveh (Assyria). Where was God in all of this? They needed a fresh vision from God to comfort them. Nahum means “comfort”. God sent Nahum declaring an oracle / burden steeped in the heart of God to comfort His people. God’s vision to Nahum was clear. I am still the God of Israel who is present in your suffering.
The Lord is a jealous and avenging God; the Lord takes vengeance and is filled with wrath. The Lord takes vengeance on his foes and vents his wrath against his enemies. The Lord is slow to anger but great in power; the Lord will not leave the guilty unpunished. His way is in the whirlwind and the storm, and clouds are the dust of his feet. (Nahum 1:2-3 NIV)
God announces that he is extremely angry and filled with wrath. He has such anger that later on it is described as so fierce that it burns like fire. The target of this anger is Nineveh who have been oppressing the nation of Judah. God describes this empire as a foe and enemy.
Nineveh of course did not regard God as the enemy when it oppressed God's people. But God does! From God's vantage point anyone who is an enemy of his people is ultimately against God himself. This is an important point of comfort for God's people. If you are God's child your enemies are ultimately God’s enemies. Your battles are God's battles – and vice versa.
We all face different foes in our day to day living. Forces that are beyond our control. Sometimes we don't even know we have enemies. These could be physical e.g. sickness, physical danger, emotional abuse. Sometimes this could be real physical enemies that hate us. It may be an abusing partner or a persecuting government. It may be spiritual opposition. The Bible says all Christians have three enemies at war against us. The Devil, the world system and the flesh.
Whatever adversaries or opposition we are facing, Nahum's message is that if we are God's people our enemies are his enemies by virtue of our covenant relationship with him. God will always act in our interest against our enemies. This is not say God will always do what we want, but we can be confident that we are firm and secure in him. As long as we are seeking his glory we are have nothing to worry about.
We can also be confident that God's actions will always be just. God will never let anyone get away with injustice. In verse 3, Nahum adds that “the Lord will not leave the guilty unpunished”. God’s justice is not like human justice. It is not based on some act of vindictiveness. It is an expression of his perfect justice. All God’s enemies are marked by sin against him that why they are punished. The word for guilty can also be translated “wicked”. God will not let the vile offenders go free! This is a cause for celebration!
Man’s justice will always never be enough. Who can ever forget the story of Milly Dowler and the poignant word of her father after waiting for nine years for justice?
"The pain and agony that we have endured as a family since 21 March 2002 has been compounded by the devastating effects of this trial....it was a truly mental scarring experience on an unimaginable scale..the questioning of my wife was particularly cruel and inhuman…we felt as if it had been us who had been on trial....We despair of a justice system that is so loaded in favour of the perpetrator of the crime. It has often appeared as almost incidental that this is a trial concerning the murder of our daughter."
Man's justice failed the Dowler family. In the end they got a verdict but not true justice. Where will Milly ever get ultimate justice? The Bible’s answer thankfully is that God hears and he has promised a day of reckoning when he will judge the world. Justice will be done one day for all who suffer injustice.
Of course as human beings we long that judgement arrives now. God’s people too longed for judgement to arrive as fast as possible, so God immediately reminded them that he is also patient: “The Lord is slow to anger”. God’s judgement is always timely. He stores up his anger to the appointed time and then unleashes it to maximum effect.
God’s lack of immediate judgement is not a sign of weakness rather it is necessary for maximum effect. God is like a chess grandmaster who has already seen the inevitable check mate and all that remains is to play out the game with a flourish. His patience is in fact a forewarning of the fury that awaits our evil actions. For in his patience he extends a temporary hand of friendship that man in his evil nature rejects and therefore multiplying his own self-judgement. It is because God is so patient that’s why judgement from him is so severe. And it is because God is so severe in his judgement that’s why he is so patient.
This truth is also not a only a challenge to non-Christians, it is a challenge to believers as well. In particular, it challenges the old “now” Christian mindset when facing difficulties. The Christian should be the most patient because we understand that we are sinners saved by grace. In many ways we are no different from Nineveh and the worst offenders of today. We too are sinners who deserve judgement. It is only by the reality of the full penalty that Christ paid on the cross of Golgotha that we stand forgiven and freed from the death penalty.
Copyright © Chola Mukanga 2013