We have discussed how ‘wrath’ is an outflow of ‘justice’ within God’s love to recap a little. God’s love is infinite, and we have discussed how it is also “genuine,” and it is genuine. Therefore, it must “abhor” what is evil, just as the scriptures iterate.
God Gives Himself
We have discussed that God is the definer of all things, especially love, as He so associates it with his character that it represents his person. He portrayed this love by showing not only his grace but also his wrath… and this wrath poured out onto himself, making grace available to us:
“But the LORD was pleased To crush Him, putting Him to grief; If He would render Himself as a guilt offering, He will see His offspring, He will prolong His days, And the good pleasure of the LORD will prosper in His hand” (Isaiah 53:10, NASB 1977).
The Implications of Jesus personally EXPERIENCING Wrath.
Jesus not only conducts justice by pronouncing and handing out wrath and vengeance, but he also experienced it firsthand at the cross. He took on the wrath due to others, like myself, and you if you bear saving faith, and in a true sense drank down our hell. Ponder this, what made the savior of the universe cry out, “why have you forsaken me?” Ponder that Jesus was spiritually experiencing your hell, and wrath reigned down on him.
An Often Overlooked Book
Now, considering this knowledge, let’s reflect on how this lens informs our reading of otherwise difficult passages focused on wrath, judgment, and condemnation.
Look with me at the book of Nahum, an often avoided section of scripture. When’s the last time you heard a sermon on Nahum? We often avoid it because it is raw, difficult to talk about, and unmitigatedly intense. Yet, this book apologizes to no one for what it is.
For context, the book of Nahum is from the prophet Nahum preaching to Nineveh. This city formerly repented and turned to Yahweh, the true living God of Israel, when Jonah eventually preached to them. Jonah avoided preaching to them because he wanted their judgment rather than mercy for them – as they were known for their evil conduct toward Israel and other nations and amidst themselves. But amidst that generation, many turned and heard Jonah’s message!
Now, a generation later, Jonah’s desire for judgment – is coming to fruition in a sense (a poetic justice, if you will, though God is still offering mercy if they would merely hear him and repent). And as a side note, it’s interesting how much we relate with the story of Jonah and the call to give grace to those we don’t desire to, to love our enemies, but often in the West… we struggle to relate with the side of justice as well.
The Doom-Bringing Avenger
Now, in this future generation of Assyrians, in the city known as “the city of bloodshed,” are no longer following after God and are turning back to their old domineering and treacherous ways. God warns them of what is coming, and if truly considered in its gravity, is bone-chillingly terrifying.
“The Lord is a jealous and avenging God;
the Lord takes vengeance and is filled with wrath.
The Lord takes vengeance on his foes
and vents his wrath against his enemies.
The Lord is slow to anger but great in power;
the Lord will not leave the guilty unpunished.
His way is in the whirlwind and the storm,
and clouds are the dust of his feet.” (Nahum 1:2-3, ESV)
Nothing gets missed. See how the guilty don’t go unpunished, this punishment for us who believe is on Jesus instead, but it didn’t get overlooked. All sin gets dealt with, whether on our brow or on Jesus’.
Here we see God “filled with wrath,” and at the same time called “slow to anger.” This may come off as conflicting unless you consider how much God is patiently enduring the evil of the world. They are slaughtering, some gang-raped, horrid things occurring, and God hears all the prayers for help, hears the cries; none of it is going on deaf ears.
Yet, God is aware of the evil, and he is “filled” with wrath. Consider, the universe could not fill God, and He is a patient God, so this is deservedly endangering. Another note is that His “jealous” character here is one of jealous love, like that of a lover straining for his bride not to run toward a cliff or eat a plant that will poison her – he is jealous for her to have everything that is good, the second-best dress just will not do.
The Mountain Melter
“He rebukes the sea and dries it up;
he makes all the rivers run dry.
Bashan and Carmel wither
and the blossoms of Lebanon fade.
The mountains quake before him
and the hills melt away.
The earth trembles at his presence,
the world and all who live in it.
Who can withstand his indignation?
Who can endure his fierce anger?
His wrath is poured out like fire;
the rocks are shattered before him.” (Nahum 1:3-6, ESV)
Consider three things from this passage:
- How fearsome one must be to cause a mountain to “melt” and, as later reiterated in chapter 2, that “hearts melt” before Him. It’s difficult to imagine even getting a quarter-sized blister or holding a lighter over my finger and not pulling away, but this describes something far more. Think of Olaf, the Disney character snowman who melted for his friend (an archetype for Christ in the first place, whether unintended or not). Olaf melted like a snowman. Jesus melted as one who spiritually could bear the weight of the universe and took the full brunt wrath of an infinite being against sin, his wrath at that (knowing its weight). Sheering molten melting with a magnitude worthy of 100x’s that of the heart-blistering screaming of the tortured Wesley in The Princess Bride (a movie in which a man comes to rescue a princess and in the process is tortured to the degree of losing life-force comparable to years of his life).
- “Who can withstand his indignation?” His rage is not human; it is unbearably powerful; this is something we can worship about Him. There is no force imaginably able to even stand before him. Consider, He is like a lion – strong jaws and teeth, but like a lion who lets you pet him and grow near to him and be protected by him.
- WHENEVER you read of God melting those before him in His infinite power and justice, think to yourself, ‘Jesus experienced this wrath in full, he melted for me, every sin I’ve ever done, he chose to make this judgment on Himself for my behalf. The absolute fear I would feel and rightfully deserve in facing Him, He experienced for me.’ For us who believe, wrath here is a pseudonym of love. Each time it is expressed, it cries out to you: ‘I experienced this unimaginable destruction for you. I want you. I delight in you and what I am making you into.’
This is not only the ‘God of the Old Testament,’ but the heart of Jesus.
Jesus also echoes the crushing or melting that occurs from being squashed in his presence. Jesus is wading through death and stomping his way up to take on the cross. He has already been mocked, spat on, beaten, lashed, and no longer able to even stand and carry the physical cross up the hill anymore. Naturally, and understandably, the women who knew him are following behind and weeping (much like some of us would on Good Friday). However, instead, he still has the wherewithal to redirect and exhort them at that very moment!
“And there followed him a great multitude of the people and of women who were mourning and lamenting for him. But turning to them, Jesus said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For behold, the days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren and the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us,’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ For if they do these things when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?” (Luke 23:27-31, ESV)
Would Rather Be Crushed By a Mountain
Imagine you are seeing what seems to be the very long-awaited savior, and he is being taken away to his death – the redemption you thought was coming seems to be foiled. And you weep as you have never wept, and instead of approval, Jesus warns you that one day people will ask to be instead crushed by mountains rather than be forced to face God.
People would rather be ground to powder than face him, and Jesus, fully understanding what is coming His way in but moments, says this. He says to them, in essence, I know what I’m doing, this is not random, I am choosing this purposely because there is no other path to heal or rescue you. There is no other hope, and I am the answer, do not pity me – rather – pity yourselves, and make sure you are right with God because, under heaven, there is no other solution but for me. This is a rescue mission.
With Shoulders Broader Than Atlas
“The Lord is good,
a refuge in times of trouble.
He cares for those who trust in him,
but with an overwhelming flood
he will make an end of Nineveh;
he will pursue his foes into the realm of darkness.
Whatever they plot against the Lord
he will bring to an end;” (Nahum 1:7-9, ESV)
Consider Jesus in this passage. Can’t you just smell him all over the whole of Nahum? So, there is this universe where a sun is enveloping and eating away all of the galaxies, and it is an ever-growing inevitable black hole of doom and eternal despair. It is inching toward earth. Now one greater than Atlas covers his arms around and huddles this planet – making it impervious to the ever-growing sun. Instead of being enveloped and dissolved in blue fire, this shields everything.
This story may sound sci-fi or space-age, but it represents what Jesus is doing in this passage. Years after this passage of scripture will come the long-awaited messiah, the chosen one, who, instead of allowing a flood to swallow us into doom, shields us. He is dissolved so that we might not be swept away, and every millisecond felt. Every. Last. Drop.
Nothing Overlooked; All Dealt With
“For in the hand of the LORD there is a cup with foaming wine, well mixed, and he pours out from it, and all the wicked of the earth shall drain it down to the dregs.” (Psalm 75:8, ESV)
Will you rest and surrender to this, that which was drunk, for those who trust him? Fall back like one falling back into a pool and breathe in mercy.
Casey is passionate about helping other Christian men in their walk with Jesus Christ. His writings on faith draws from a love of malacology, kinesiology, and quantum physics.