By Elizabeth Yeamans Simrell (Guest Blogger)
Scripture Readings: Nahum
Key Scripture Verse: Nahum 1:8 (NIV, Life Application Bible)
“But with an everlasting flood he will make an end of Nineveh; he will pursue his foes into the realm of darkness.”
The prophet Nahum was sent by God to Assyria’s great city of Nineveh to warn the people yet again that his wrath was upon them. As you may remember when we studied Jonah, God had already warned Nineveh to change their evil ways and they had responded to Jonah’s warnings and repented. God forgave the Assyrians at that time, but now at approximately a century after Jonah had come to them, they returned to their wickedness and God was angry. This took place between 663 and 612 B.C.
Assyria was strong and powerful, had taken over the northern kingdom of Israel and was creating havoc in Judah and the people were suffering under their control. My Bible’s commentary indicates that the Assyrians were merciless and cruel and wielded their power over other nations who because of their fear courted friendship with Assyria, but Nahum says, “All who hear the news about you clap their hands at your fall, for who has not felt your endless cruelty?”
God was angry and he must have known that there was no hope for Nineveh and they were not going to change at this point. In the Old Testament, stories of God’s wrath are noted where he just could not allow the forces of evil to continue to influence his people—in order to protect the remnant of Israel who were faithful to him, he sometimes had to act to destroy evil. He would wait patiently, offering forgiveness and first warning the people, but when they would not and could not change because of the evil within them, he acted with a vengeance. God could not allow evil to prevail.
It’s hard to reconcile the anger and wrath of God with the nature of his loving, forgiving compassion; however, the Bible is consistent with the teaching that God hates sin and that sin must be punished.
Do we take it for granted that God loves us and is forgiving, but we continue to go against his will, knowingly and actively defying him? When the Bible mentions how we should “fear” God, I think it refers to this concept. If we love God, we will follow his commands, we will respect and honor his authority, knowing that he loves us and that his will is for us to be holy and to be in relationship with him. Sin separates us from God and keeps us at a distance from his ability to provide the abundant love he so wants to provide.
He forgives us, sent Jesus to the cross to allow a way for us to be washed clean of our sins; but, if we persist in sin and become hardened to his calling and his love, we then can no longer hear his urgings and we allow evil to permeate our souls– then his Holy Spirit cannot dwell within us.
This is why we need to learn some humility—to be able to admit when we are wrong and to ask for forgiveness when we sin, because we all fall short of his holiness.
His grace is real. He has provided for us to be treated as his own son, adopting us as his sons and daughters, should we accept that gift of grace. If we accept it and return his love back to him and love one another, we are following his commands and his Holy Spirit can dwell within us. When that is the case, there will be no question that we belong to God, because we cannot but do what is pleasing in his sight in how we live our lives.
May we open our hearts to the urgings of a loving God. May we let go of pride and humble ourselves so that we can reject the evil that continually preys upon us. May we respond to love with love in all that we do. May we choose to live within his Holy Spirit instead of the evil of Nineveh.