Today’s Bible post covers both the loving and just nature of God. He’s not wrathful all the time, but nor does He let just any kind of conduct slide by, either!
Woe to the city of blood, full of lies, full of plunder, never without victims! 2 The crack of whips, the clatter of wheels, galloping horses and jolting chariots! 3 Charging cavalry, flashing swords and glittering spears! Many casualties, piles of dead, bodies without number, people stumbling over the corpses–4 all because of the wanton lust of a harlot, alluring, the mistress of sorceries, who enslaved nations by her prostitution and peoples by her witchcraft. 5 “I am against you,” declares the Lord Almighty. “I will lift your skirts over your face. I will show the nations your nakedness and the kingdoms your shame.”
Here, Nahum, one of the Minor Prophets of the Old Testament, speaks God’s opinion and judgment of Nineveh, the capital city and representative of the ancient Assyrian nation.
A Little History about Assyria
Assyria was an aggressive, conquering nation that had already swallowed Samaria; by the time of this prophetic writing, the northern part of Israel was conquered as well. The Assyrians posed a great threat to the Israelites, God’s chosen people, but it seemed nothing and no one could stop them–or so they believed.
But Nahum’s prophecy speaks against their self-importance. Not only does God disapprove of what the Assyrians have done, but His judgment is coming for them, and swiftly. Nineveh isn’t called “the city of blood” for no reason, after all; God has seen the massacres and torture they have inflicted on the populations they conquered. (Several historical accounts contemporary with the Bible have the ancient Assyrian kings stacking thousands of corpses like felled wood, or arranging body parts into whole pyramids.)
It is not only the Assyrians’ brutality in conquering that has angered God, however. Nineveh has also tempted many from around the known world to seek pleasure and wealth within its walls, like an ancient Las Vegas, only to then inflict brutality on them. Worship practices to other deities go on within the city as well, drawing God’s people away and ultimately leading them to ruin.
God’s Judgment: Stern but Absolutely Just
God is righteously angry at the Assyrians’ blatant, grievous sins, and for these He declares judgment against them. He will punish them the only way they can be punished–through shame and revelation, immobilizing and stopping their rampage. Nineveh, being the symbolic prostitute in these verses, will be stripped of her wealth and beauty, her crimes against humanity exposed for all to see.
Notice that God is not doing evil acts. This punishment is exactly that–a tactic meant to halt bad behavior and correct it in the long run. While God’s words sound harsh to modern readers, Assyria’s treatment of its nation-state neighbors was far worse, and needed to be stopped. God is the only One who can, and yet it must grieve His heart to have to do so; He created these people, too, and now has to stop them from continuing these bloody sins.
God is not happy or forgiving here; He’s very different from how He seems in the New Testament especially. Yet this is part of God’s personality, too–He is indeed kind, but firm to the point of sternness, too. He leaps to the defense of His people, and moreover intervenes in the middle of sin to keep more from happening. Sin angers and grieves God, and He always acts to stop it.
What Can We Learn from This?
- God is just, not overly wrathful and out of control. He is still holy and forgiving even as He punishes, much like a parent must be.
- God’s judgment always comes for the wicked who will not stop sinning and hurting others. It may not be right away, it may be even years or decades later, but it always comes, and we have justice in that.
“7 The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in Him, but with an overwhelming flood he will make an end of Nineveh; he will pursue his foes into darkness.”
These two verses don’t mess around! If you have faith in God, He will care for you. But if you act against God, He will be quick to discipline you. (Nineveh, a city which continually acted against God, was finally and utterly destroyed after several years so that not even its foundations could be discovered.)
This verse does not, however, contradict other Biblical depictions of God as loving Father. God is just, fair, and loving, but He is also quite the disciplinarian. He guards us, just as He guarded Israel from attacks, but that protection requires us to trust in Him. When we don’t trust and believe, and when we act against Him, we can find ourselves suddenly out of that protection and thrust into a world we’re not ready to deal with. Just like a parent guides and protects his or her child, God does the same for all believers. But God also admonishes us and reminds us just Who is in control of the world.
There is nothing on earth that God does not know about, nor anything that God is not able to control. Our free will, given by God, simply enables us to make the choice to be faithful or unfaithful to God, and these two verses remind us of the results of each choice. …I think I know which choice I’d rather go with!