Friday, November 16, 2012

The God we try to avoid

The  Lord  is a jealous and avenging God; the  Lord  is avenging and wrathful; the  Lord  takes vengeance on his adversaries and  keeps wrath for his enemies. (Nahum 1:2 ESV)

Let's state the obvious: this vision of God is unpopular among enlightened twenty first century people. A God who behaves this way seems petulant, emotional, lacking reason and control and should therefore be avoided at all costs. On the surface one could reach such a conclusion. But that is not the whole story.

Jealousy in humans is a perversion because it implies a right that does not belong to us. We hoard possessions, and to the extent that even relationships, creatures, and other people can become possessions rather than genuine others, our jealousy confirms our oppressive stance. Our jealousy confirms dark urges and our neediness.

On the other hand, the God of Scripture possesses creation and as king and Lord over all, gives rather than possesses. The God of Scripture sacrifices rather than hoards, and spends liberally rather than save his wealth. The God of Scripture is holy--this alone separates the human from the Creator. This means, God's wrath is always a just response to anything or anyone who tramples the holiness of God.

Strange as it sounds, it is God's jealousy for his people, in fact, that underscores his love and eventuates in their salvation.

In us, jealousy is a form of coveting--claiming that which is not ours. But in God, jealousy is a form of protecting--guarding that which is precious to God, both his character and his covenant people.

No wonder the very next verse in Nahum says, The  Lord  is slow to anger and  great in power, and  the  Lord  will by no means clear the guilty. His way is in whirlwind and storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet. (Nahum 1:3 ESV)

Who can stand before his indignation? Who can endure the heat of his anger? His wrath  is poured out like fire, and  the rocks are broken into pieces by him. The  Lord  is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him. (Nahum 1:6, 7 ESV)

Love and justice, grace and wrath, salvation and judgement, are all attributes of the one, same glorious Lord, whom alone we worship and adore. And it is at the cross where the wrath of God and the mercy of God meet. God's righteous demands, God's demand for holiness has never and can never be met by our own strivings. Our inability to meet God's righteous requirements brings condemnation. But the gift of righteousness through Christ, the only one who perfectly fulfilled God's righteous requirements, brings justification and eternal life. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!