Studying Nahum, Habakkuk and Zephaniah in conjunction with all the others has really helped me become comfortable and in fact happy about God’s anger, not fearful. I’m learning so much about God’s judgment, wrath, anger and justice, all topics I was pretty uncomfortable speaking about before simply because I had never studied the bible. I knew that God was just and did have righteous anger, but apart from that knowledge I had no other context to support any kind of conviction about God’s love in His wrath.
I can only share what I learned from the perspective of the Old Covenant since we haven’t studied the New Testament yet, but I do know that some of this is relevant to mankind today.
Our teacher for Nahum conveyed the idea that God’s anger was discriminate. It was only for certain people. It was always controlled and for a purpose. His purpose was to either judge sin so that justice would be established (and thus the innocent would be protected), or to get people to repent (after waiting a long time in mercy and graciousness), or both. His anger wasn’t like human anger that rises out of pride or impatience. God is not temperamental. He was (and is) slow to anger.
In the Book of Nahum, God was promising that justice would be brought to Assyria for the sins they had committed. He waited many many years for the nation of Assyria to turn away from their sins. Jonah the prophet went to their capital, Nineveh, about a century before this book was written, to call them to repentance. Even though they seemed to have repented initially, it obviously didn’t stick because God was angry and would put up with it no longer.
The Lord is slow to anger but great in power,
and the Lord will by no means clear the guilty.
I like this Scripture because it communicates God’s mercy and justice in a single sentence. God had given Assyria time to turn from their ways (mercy), but at some point was forced to judge their sin in order to establish justice in the land. He could not clear the guilty, and they were guilty for as long as they remained unrepentant toward God.
After studying Nahum I began to like God’s anger because without it this world would be in total chaos. His anger is meant to protect. And back then, there would be no reason for the Israelites to have put their trust in God. They had to trust God to protect them against those who practiced lawlessness.
That is what the message of Habakkuk is. Habakkuk was upset that God wasn’t punishing the wickedness of the people of Judah. The ones who remained faithful to God were suffering for their disobedience, and it didn’t seem that God was doing anything about it.
So the law becomes slack
and justice never prevails.
The wicked surround the righteous—
therefore judgment comes forth perverted.
And God’s response is:
Look at the nations, and see!
Be astonished! Be astounded!
For a work is being done in your days
that you would not believe if you were told.
For I am rousing the Chaldeans,
that fierce and impetuous nation…
God promised Habakkuk that justice would come through Babylon (the Chaldeans).
But Habakkuk didn’t like this answer because Babylon was a godless nation, and God was going to use them to judge the sins of Judah. This is how God responds:
Alas for you who build a town by bloodshed,
and found a city on iniquity!”
Is it not from the Lord of hosts
that peoples labor only to feed the flames,
and nations weary themselves for nothing?
But the earth will be filled
with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord,
as the waters cover the sea.
God promised Habakkuk that He would judge Babylon, too, in their appointed time. And in the end, all nations will truly know God and submit to Him.
This message is relevant for us today. Though there seems to be so much injustice in the world and in everyday situations, God is a God of justice and won’t let evil prevail in the end. Believers don’t have to be afraid of injustice, but instead we can trust God to have it under control even if we can’t see from His perspective. He loves justice even more than we do.
For there is still a vision for the appointed time;
it speaks of the end, and does not lie.
If it seems to tarry, wait for it;
it will surely come, it will not delay.
Look at the proud!
Their spirit is not right in them,
but the righteous live by their faith.
Zephaniah was a pretty cool book, too. I liked seeing the contrast between the haughty and the humble.
God was telling the people of Judah that He would spare the humble, or rather, those who trusted in Him for all their needs. The haughty, on the other hand, exalted themselves and thought they could do everything apart from God. The haughty would not be spared and therefore wouldn’t be able to heap any shame upon others to make themselves feel better (and thus exalt themselves). God was promising those who sought a refuge in Him protection from shame, just like He does today!
On that day you shall not be put to shame
because of all the deeds by which you have rebelled against me;
for then I will remove from your midst
your proudly exultant ones,
and you shall no longer be haughty
in my holy mountain.
For I will leave in the midst of you
a people humble and lowly.
They shall seek refuge in the name of the Lord—
the remnant of Israel;
Not only did God promise to remove their shame that came from their judgment, but He also promised to pile on His love and make their praise known throughout the earth.
The Lord has taken away the judgments against you,
he has turned away your enemies…
he will rejoice over you with gladness,
he will renew you in his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing
as on a day of festival.
I will remove disaster from you,
so that you will not bear reproach for it.
I will deal with all your oppressors
at that time.
And I will save the lame
and gather the outcast,
and I will change their shame into praise
and renown in all the earth.
At that time I will bring you home,
at the time when I gather you;
for I will make you renowned and praised
among all the peoples of the earth,
when I restore your fortunes
before your eyes, says the Lord.
His judgment and anger against them was always for them. Their exile was the only way to bring about their restoration because they had refused to listen to the prophets and other warning signals. But He was going to turn it all around for their good because of His faithfulness to the covenant and because He was/is always determined to love and redeem mankind.
Next week is Jeremiah and I’m PUMPED!