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God has mercy.
After all, Nahum begins our Scripture lesson with the wonderful promise, “God is slow to anger.”
But the successful preaching of Jonah is 150 years in the past.
That is like relating our day to what this country was like ten years before the Civil War.
Jonah got the people of Nineveh to repent, but that generation has all died away. Nineveh is back to its evil ways, and now it is Nahum’s turn to preach to them.
Through Nahum, God makes it plain that He is angry at Nineveh.
We don’t like to think of God as being angry, yet the Bible is clear that He hates sin.
Jonah is a message of what happens when people turn back to God.
Nahum is a message of what happens when people turn away from God.
You’ve likely heard about billboards along the highway with messages from God. Or maybe you have seen one. There is a whole series of these simple quotations from God, and my favorite one says, “Don’t make Me come down there.”
The Hebrew word used by Nahum for anger literally means “heavy or hot breathing”. Like a vicious bull, snorting in anger. Have you ever seen anyone so angry that they literally begin to snort like a bull? Just think – God is able to become angry with us.
Yet even when God is angry at sin, He is patient with us. Verse 3 of our reading says “The Lord is slow to anger.”
He has control over His wrath.
He gives us many chances to repent.
However, God clearly warns us in Genesis 6:3, “My Spirit will not contend/strive with people forever.” There is a limit to God’s patience.
Many people today are spiritually blind.
They don’t believe God will punish sin,
and they won’t believe that He will pardon sin through the blood of His Son.
In John 3 we’re told, “God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already because he has not believed in the Name of God’s one and only Son … Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him” (verses 17-18, 36).
When we place our trust in Christ, God in His grace gives us what we don’t deserve—eternal life. God in His mercy does not give us what we do deserve!
But when we reject Christ, we turn our backs on grace and mercy and eternal life. Which brings us to the thing we deserve – justice.
There is a wonderful story told by historian Shelby Foote. A young soldier was brought before General Robert E. Lee. The soldier had deserted his post. He was young and tired and frightened. He was trembling almost uncontrollably. General Lee tried to reassure the young man, saying, “Don’t worry son. You’ll find justice here.”
To which the young soldier replied, “That’s what I’m afraid of.”
We have two problems with justice. One is that we are like that young soldier. We don’t want justice in our lives. We are afraid of justice. We’d rather have mercy.
The other problem is that there is a part of us that never really believes we deserve justice.
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