7. Judgment to Joy: Nahum
God’s grace will never be precious to us until we grasp his judgment. God’s judgment, satisfied on the cross, moves us to gratitude and worship.
The Lord is slow to anger and great in power,
And the Lord will by no means leave the guilty unpunished.
In whirlwind and storm is His way,
And clouds are the dust beneath His feet.
The prophet Nahum is commissioned by God to speak to the Israelites after they’ve been taken into exile. His message is an announcement of judgment upon Israel’s captor: the nation of Assyria. Assyria, and specifically its capital, Nineveh, is an extremely violent, oppressive group of people. Though God had sent the prophet Jonah to warn them of their coming judgment, that they might repent and experience forgiveness, Nineveh's repentance was short-lived. God is grieved by their ways, and he communicates that he has orchestrated this nation’s downfall.
God’s message is meant to bring comfort to the Israelites, reminding them that he is their deliverer who will bring down their captors. Despite its world-wide reputation for strength and power, Assyria doesn’t amount to anything up against God. God’s message is also meant to awaken the Israelites to God’s justice, a reality for anyone who rejects God.
The downfall of Assyria is a model of the justice God is going to one day execute on all evil. God loves his creation and is committed to driving out the darkness! This is good news for the Israelites and for anyone today suffering because of the brokenness in this world. They can wait in confident expectation that one day God will make everything right!
But God’s justice is also intimidating news. The reality is, all humanity is deserving of this justice. Without Christ, we are enemies of God in our sin. Our fate should be the same as Nineveh's.
But there is hope: Jesus in his mercy bore God’s justice for us. He took the downfall we deserved, giving his life for ours. In Nahum, the downfall of Assyria is graphically described: “‘Behold, I am against you,’ declares the Lord of hosts; ‘And I will lift up your skirts over your face, And show to the nations your nakedness and to the kingdoms your disgrace. I will throw filth on you and make you vile, And set you up as a spectacle,’ (Nahum 3:5-7).” If God’s justice on Assyria is representative of the justice we all as sinners deserve, then this verse is actually descriptive of the pain and humiliation Jesus endured when he took on our judgment!
We see this affirmed in the Gospel accounts of Jesus’s death. After allowing himself to be arrested by Roman officials, Jesus was tortured. He was stripped, mocked, spit on and made a spectacle. He was humiliated and hung naked on a cross. The wrath of God for the sin of all humanity was poured out on Him. He experienced the horrific reality of separation from his father, who he had been in perfect relationship with for all eternity. Jesus experienced literal hell so we would not have to face the justice of God.
If we don’t grasp the reality of God’s justice, his grace will never be precious to us.
RESPOND: Take a moment to reflect: How do you respond when you’ve done something wrong?
If your response is a shrug-of-the-shoulders indifference, God’s justice, satisfied on the cross, declares that your sin required dying for. And though it was that costly, God did it anyway because he loves you.
If your response is fear or shame, God’s justice, satisfied on the cross, declares that there is now no condemnation for you! You are clean! You are free!
Whichever bent your heart takes, the cross reframes our perspective and compels us to respond with worship! Spend a few moments in prayer, thanking God for eternally saving you from the justice you deserved.