In the last week, I memorized Nahum 1:2-7, a passage that will surely prove unpopular in modern American culture yet leads the believer to a place of peace, to an affirmation that proper justice will be mediated by the Lord, at the proper time and in the proper way–and that justice will be real and visceral and terrifying. As translated into the ESV, the passage reads as follows:
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.
The Lord is slow to anger and great in power, and the Lord will by no means clear the guilty.
His way is in the whirlwind and storm,
and the clouds are the dust of his feet.
He rebukes the sea and makes it dry;
he dries up all the rivers; Bashon and Carmel wither; the bloom of Lebanon withers.
The mountains quake before him; the hills melt; the earth heaves before him, the world and all who dwell in it.
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.
Not a long passage (though not a short one, either) but a powerful one. ‘Jealous’, ‘avenging’, ‘wrathful’–these are not our usual adjectives for the Lord, but they are real and true. And they are a strong reminder for those of us who call him father to maintain an earnest honor and reverent fear before him. The world is hard; we believe we are entitled to more than we have received. We grow in indignation over the way things unfold, and we carry discontentment over this and that. Well, perhaps you don’t, but I do–almost daily, at least, far too regularly.
But a passage like this silences my malcontented and arrogant heart. These words stop me in my tracks. They remind me, fiercely, of the God who oversees the human narrative, and who knows all from the dawn to dusk, well into the night and until the dawn anew. These words strike at the sinner’s heart. They are good words. Yes, they are hard and, perhaps, frightening; but sometimes even those of us who are in the kingdom need a harsh reminder of who we serve and how blessed we are to be his adopted sons and daughters rather than his enemies.
Praise be to God that he is slow to anger, and rich in mercy, and abounding in steadfast love (Joel 2:11-13).
Thanks for reading,
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Inclusion of this translation does not imply endorsement of this author’s thoughts by the copyright holders.