"If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater; for this is the witness of God which He has testified of His Son.
He who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself;
he who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed the testimony that God has given of His Son.
And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.
He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.
These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God,
that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God." (1 John 5:9-13)
Is God Angry? Yes, God is actually furious right now today with most of mankind. There are a number of reasons why God is not merely disappointed with us. Many of us now living are provoking God even now while actually living in denial.
If you know Jesus Christ and He is your Lord, relax for now. This is not about you.
Fiery outrage and furious wrath are attributes of the One who is our Creator. God is actually a living Being. Yes, “God is Love,”-- that should be clear a bit later. He is also Holy.
“He who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see, to whom be honor and everlasting power.” (1 Timothy 6:15,16)
The Wrath of God is more about consequences of our unacceptable behavior than about God having a temper tantrum. Yet Romans 1:18-20 is all too true. All men everywhere, regardless of what they know or don't know, are without excuse because of God's revelation of Himself in nature.
For the wrath (orge) of God is revealed (apokalupto) from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress (repress) the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things..." (Romans 1:18-23)
God’s stinging indictment of mankind can be seen throughout the entire Bible, for instance in Romans Chapter 2:
“Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. But we know that the judgment of God is according to truth against those who practice such things. And do you think this, O man, you who judge those practicing such things, and doing the same, that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?
“But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who “will render to each one according to his deeds”: eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness—indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek; but glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For there is no partiality with God.” (Romans 2:1-11)
The specific group of people addressed here are the self-righteous, not the flagrant sinners indicted in Romans Chapter 1, nor the Jewish people addressed in Chapter 3.
Actually ALL of us are included in one way of another in these early chapters of Romans. A way of escape is also clearly given! Trusting and serving God’s Son, Jesus Christ the Lord, is THE one way of escape that a God of love has provided to any and all of us! God is holy and righteous and just, but His "mercy triumphs over judgment." We can not earn God’s favor, get on His “good side,” nor placate Him with meritorious deeds. His help is offered free to us--purchased at enormous cost to Himself. Keep in mind that God is a Person. His mind is infinitely better than all the minds of any sage, scientist, philosopher. His emotions are far deeper than we can ever know. Glimpses? Yet, Psalm 22, for example, hints at God’s personal involvement with our race through His unique Son, Jesus.
This wrath... is primarily God's removal of the restraints upon human wickedness, allowing evil to become widespread and publicly evident. That is the wrath of God at work...these people who have a clear view of what is wrong in society is devastating. He says they are guilty because they are doing the same things themselves. The judges are as guilty as the ones they have in the dock.
As a practiced, self-righteous hypocrite, I always have a feeling of surprise at that statement. I feel that whenever moral people, those who pride themselves on a degree of righteousness and a standard of ethics, read a statement like this, they are taken by surprise. "What do you mean? How could this be?"
This reminds me of our Lord's account of His return, when all the nations are to be judged before Him (Matthew 25:31-46). He will separate them into two bands, the sheep and the goats. The test of judgment is made on the basis of how people treat others.
He will say to the sheep, "When I was thirsty, you gave me to drink, when I was hungry you fed me, when I was naked you clothed me, when I was in prison you visited me."
To the goats He will say, "When I was thirsty you did not give me to drink, when I was hungry you did not feed me, when I was naked you did not clothe me, and when I was sick or in prison you did not visit me."
Both groups are taken by surprise and say, "When did this happen? When did we see you thirsty or hungry or naked? We don't remember that!"
This feeling of surprise is highly indicative of how little we understand ourselves and why we need a passage such as this. We are all guilty. I am going to use myself as an example, simply because I feel I am such an excellent example of what the rest of you are like. As I have been thinking this through, I see three ways by which I try to elude the fact that I am guilty of the things that I accuse others of doing: First, I am congenitally blind toward many of my own faults. I just am not aware of them. I do not see that I am doing the same things that others are doing, and yet other people can see that I am. I don't see it, and neither do you see it in yourself. We all have these blind spots.
One of the greatest lies of our age is the idea that we can know ourselves. We often argue, "Don't you think I know myself?" The answer is, "No, you do not know yourself. You are blind to much of your life." There can be areas that are very hurtful and sinful that you are not aware of...
How tenuous to hope that God, who sees all men openly and intimately, who sees not only what is on the outside but also what is on the inside, will pronounce judgment on these other people, but not on you. People will say, "How can a just and loving God permit the injustice and vileness that takes place in this world? How can he allow a tyrant like Hitler or Stalin to arise and murder millions of innocent people? How can he allow these godless regimes to come into power and crush people, usurp their rights, put thousands in prison, and spread destruction and sorrow across the land? Why does he allow these things to go on year after year? Why doesn't God judge these men?"The question we ought to ask is, "Why didn't he judge me yesterday, when I said that sharp, caustic word that plunged like an arrow into a loved one's heart and hurt him badly? Why didn't he judge me? Why didn't he shrivel my hand when I took a pencil and cheated on my income tax? Why didn't he strike me dumb when I was gossiping on the phone this morning, sharing a tidbit that made someone look bad in someone else's eyes? Why didn't God judge that?"
The God of truth and justice sees the one as well as the other. Paul asks, "Do you think that you will escape the judgment of God?" Then Paul asked the second question, the other horn of the dilemma:
Paul's question is, "Why are you acting the way you are?" Why do you judge others so critically and so constantly, yet never seem to judge yourself? Surely it can't be that you think you are going to escape! If you know that God judges according to truth, you must be included in that judgment as well. If it is not that you think you'll escape his judgment, then it must be that you are treating with disdain the opportunities God gives you to repent. Why are you allowed to live? Why are you permitted to experience life, to find a new year lying ahead of you, with all its chances to correct these wrong attitudes and conditions? God's goodness, tolerance, and patience are exhibited in his giving you a chance to change, a chance to acknowledge your sins and to be forgiven.
Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, even realizing that God's kindness should lead you to repentance? (Romans 2:4 NIV)
Paul says that when we refuse to judge these areas we are storing up wrath for ourselves. The word is "treasures." We are laying up treasures, but the treasure is wrath. This is the same word that Jesus employed when he said, "Lay up treasures for yourselves in heaven," (Matthew 6:20 KJV). We are constantly making deposits in a bank account which we must collect one of these days. In his wrath, God allows us to deteriorate as human beings. We become less than what we want to be. I think C. S. Lewis has described this very accurately. In his book, Mere Christianity, he says,
People often think of Christian morality as a kind of bargain in which God says, "If you keep a lot of rules, I'll reward you; and if you don't, I'll do the other thing." I do not think that's the best way of looking at it. I would much rather say that every time you make a choice, you are turning the central part of you, the part that chooses, into something a little different than what it was before. And, taking your life as a whole, with all your innumerable choices, all your life long you are slowly turning this central thing either into a heavenly creature or into a hellish creature; either into a creature that is in harmony with God and with other creatures and with itself, or else into one that is in a state of war and hatred with God and with its fellow creatures and with itself. To be the one kind of creature is heavenly, i.e., it is joy and peace and knowledge and power; to be the other means madness, horror, idiocy, rage, impotence, and eternal loneliness. Each of us, at each moment, is progressing to the one state or the other.In very eloquent terms, that is saying the same thing Paul brings out here. God is a righteous God. He judges men and he assesses wrath against those who do wrong. No matter what the outward life may be like, he sees the inward heart and judges on that basis. There is a righteous judgment awaiting. It comes, in part, all through life, because we experience the wrath of God even now. But a day is coming when it all will be manifested, one way or the other.
If you are "by persistence in doing good seeking glory and honor and immortality," i.e., if you want God's life, you want to be his kind of a person, you want to honor him and be of value to him -- if that is what you really want above everything else, then you will find it. God will give you eternal life. In the context of the whole Scripture, this means you will find your way to Jesus Christ, for he is life eternal. You will find him as your Redeemer and Lord and Savior. You will grow increasingly like him, as you judge these evil areas of life, and honestly confess them, not assuming that God will pass over them. But what do you really want?
If what you really want is not God, truth, life, glory, and immortality -- if you really want pleasure and fame and wealth and power and prominence, if you want to be the center of things and have everybody thinking of you and looking at you and serving you -- then, according to this passage, "there will be trouble and stress for every human being who does evil, first for the Jew, and then for the Gentile." God plays no favorites. Church member or pagan, civilized or savage, white, brown, red, black or yellow, it makes no difference before God.
Now if all this sounds very harsh, if it sounds unloving, it is because you have not read the passage in its context. For this is not inconsistent with the picture of a loving God, who loves humanity and wants to restore it. It is a picture of a loving God who loves us so much that he tells us the truth, and that is true love. He will not allow us to deceive ourselves, to be tricked and trapped by falling into self-deceit. He tells us the truth. There is no way out, except one, and that is what he wants us to see. God's love is helping us to see that there is only one way to deal with sin -- admit it is there, and recognize that God has already dealt with it in Christ. On that basis, God offers us full and free forgiveness. There is no other way.
Any person who thinks he will escape by taking another route, or listening to some of the other voices that try to trap us into ways of rationalizing these feelings, and accepting them on other terms rather than dealing with them as ugly sins before God, will discover ultimately that he has stored up a treasure house of wrath. That is why God tells us the truth now. God, in great love and at tremendous cost, has provided a way out. It is that we surrender self. We give up self-seeking and living for ourselves, and begin to live for the God who made us. By the power of the Lord who forgives us and restores us and makes us his own, we have heaven instead of hell.
C. S. Lewis says the principle of giving up self runs all through life, from top to bottom:
Give up yourself, and you will find your real self. Lose your life, and you will save it. Submit to the death of your ambitions and your favorite wishes every day, and the death of your whole body in the end, submit with every fiber of your being, and you will find eternal life. Keep back nothing. Nothing that you have not given away will ever be really yours. Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead. Look out for yourself and you will find, in the long run, only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ, and you will find Him, and with Him, everything else thrown in.
This is the gospel. This is what this tremendous passage is aiming at, that we might realize there is no hope, none whatsoever, except in a day-by-day yielding to the plan and the program of God, as we find it in Jesus Christ our Lord...
God is the Source of all life and His capacity for pain and pleasure is way far greater than anything we experience in the best of times or in the worst of times. But believing that “God is love” elicits little more than fuzzy love in us moderns. That fact that God IS love is related to all that He does. In the absence of a created universe, the divine persons “dance” a great round dance of giving and receiving love. (This topic in itself is a classic subject called the “Procession of the Godhead,” among theologians).
Consider the creation of everything.. It was the work of all three Persons in the godhead. God the Father is the Designer and Architect, Jesus the Word of God implemented the concepts and blueprints, giving form and substance to matter, time, and energy. And, God the Holy Spirit infused life and enablement and multiple connections into the whole. The entire creation, visible and invisible, was very good, flawless, and perfect when finished. The crowning glory of it all was us! The apex of creation was our forefather Adam and his wife actually — not you and me and not anyone-- since our first parents ruined everything. Adam messed up big time (and so did Eve) but the Chief Offender (ha Satan) was a very high angel.
How would you feel (if you were God), if a usurper took possession of your great creation with the intent of running everything? You’d be outraged most certainly! To add insult to injury, your greatest work of creating--namely Adam/Eve, made in your image, teamed up with the Evil One forming a partnership, alliance, consortium, conspiracy to change all the rules--calling good evil and evil good among other things. Man ends up “totally depraved” — a puppet not a king. Eve faired no better.
Should God be outraged at all these bad choices by certain angels and man ending up in the camp of the Lord’s cosmic enemy? Yes, the anger of God was surely “kindled” back at the beginning of the show. Has God additional reason to be both hurt and outraged? Can God identity with us since He is holy and sin?
Yes! God can and in fact already HAS SOLVED the problem of evil—both human and angelic. God lives outside of time. He created time.
For thus says the High and Lofty One
Who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy:
“I dwell in the high and holy place,
With him who has a contrite and humble spirit,
To revive the spirit of the humble,
And to revive the heart of the contrite ones.
For I will not contend forever,
Nor will I always be angry;
For the spirit would fail before Me,
And the souls which I have made. (Isaiah 57:15-16)
It is not surprising that Jesus, the Son, should be assigned the greatest honor of all. God knew His pristine universe, His creation masterpiece would be ruined, but our freedom to choose, our free choice, is sacrosanct. That “free will” — which makes us most like God — is cherished and protected deeply by God because of His very own triune nature.
God IS Love—make no mistake about that. He is not a cantankerous, bitter old man subject to out-of-control fits and outbursts of pent-up anger. (We meet people like that). God is not easily provoked even when human behavior is outrageous. How often criminals go unpunished, the innocent suffer, and good people are put-down and marginalized! Why doesn’t God step in? Is He even keeping score? Yes. God’s record books include every detail, all the fine points, every nuance, motives and recorded facts.
Genesis 18 records an amazing dialogue between Abraham and The Angel of the LORD during which God patiently agrees to spare Sodom and the Cities of the Plain from destruction if ten good people live there. The next day we see that only Lot and his two daughters survived. None of these three qualify for sainthood however.
We are not the good people we insist we are.
What then? Are we better than they?
Not at all. For we have previously charged both Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin.
As it is written:
“There is none righteous, no, not one;
There is none who understands;
There is none who seeks after God.
They have all turned aside;
They have together become unprofitable;
There is none who does good, no, not one.”
“Their throat is an open tomb;
With their tongues they have practiced deceit”;
“The poison of asps is under their lips”;
“Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness.”
“Their feet are swift to shed blood;
Destruction and misery are in their ways;
And the way of peace they have not known.”
“There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.
But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” (Romans 3:9-26)
The fact that judgment and justice are long overdue in the universe is linked to an important attribute of God, “long-suffering.” His “stored up wrath” is also mentioned in Romans 2 quoted above.
God is actually not one Person but Three. Before we and our world were even conceived in the mind of God. The Three chose the Son to solve the enormous holocaust of the Fall of man, and the fall of certain angels before that.
Looking ahead, the story of man has a triumphant ending. Everyone will recognize Jesus, those who already know Him personally, and those who did not:
“All who dwell on the earth will worship him,
whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.
If anyone has an ear, let him hear.” (Revelation 13:8-9)
The wrecking of the universe began way back at the beginning but has been compounded many-fold since the Fall.
God is not merely watching history. He has embedded Himself in history since the beginning! He has been pursuing man ever since! He chose to pursue Adam down the long corridor of history and with a slightly different track He has been pursuing Eve also. We are included! Jesus has been called he Hound of Heaven since His desire is for no one to perish. He can not force Himself on us because he can not violate anyone’s will!
“...do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:8-9)
Consider the love Jesus has for his enemies, the Pharisees. He turns up the heat in his last attempts to get their attention but only a few respond and come to Him for life. (Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimathea, Saul of Tarsus, et al).
Emotionally how would you expect God to react to man’s inhumanity to man, down through thousands of years of history till now? On top of that, what about all the rejection, apathy, indifference towards the very Person of God as manifested in Jesus?
An unusual scripture I have often thought about is Revelation 6:5-17:
And the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains, and said to the mountains and rocks,
“Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath (orge) of the Lamb!“
For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?”
I have never seen an angry lamb, a perturbed goat yes.
Until I read about His two cleansings of the temple I thought Jesus was meek and mild and never hurt a fly. I realize now that we can provoke our Heavenly Father to correct us when we get out of line.
But God’s holy indignation for our sins was all transferred to Jesus on the Cross.
God has very good reason to express His fury at those who continue to hate His Son no matter how much patient mercy and long-suffering He expresses.
Another passage about the stored-up wrath of God and of wrath of the Lamb:
“If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives his mark on his forehead or on his hand,“he himself shall also drink of the wine of th e wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation. He shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. “And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.” Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus. (Revelation 14:9-14)Even more awesome are the terrible judgments to be unloosed soon on the earth:
Then I heard a loud voice from the temple saying to the seven angels, “Go and pour out the bowls of the wrath (thumos) of God on the earth. So the first went and poured out his bowl upon the earth, and a foul and loathsome sore came upon the men who had the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. Then the second angel poured out his bowl on the sea, and it became blood as of a dead man; and every living creature in the sea died. Then the third angel poured out his bowl on the rivers and springs of water, and they became blood. And I heard the angel of the waters saying:Since the Lockdown of March 2020, I see God turning up the heat more and more every day to draw people around the world to Himself. At the same time He is sheltering His sheep tenderly!
“You are righteous, O Lord,
The One who is and who was and who is to be,
Because You have judged these things.
For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets,
And You have given them blood to drink.
For it is their just due.”
And I heard another from the altar saying,
“Even so, Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are Your judgments.”
Then the fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and power was given to him to scorch men with fire. And men were scorched with great heat, and they blasphemed the name of God who has power over these plagues; and they did not repent and give Him glory. Then the fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and his kingdom became full of darkness; and they gnawed their tongues because of the pain. They blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and did not repent of their deeds. Then the sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up, so that the way of the kings from the east might be prepared. And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs coming out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. For they are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty.
“Behold, I am coming as a thief. Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame.”
And they gathered them together to the place called in Hebrew, Armageddon. Then the seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple of heaven, from the throne, saying, “It is done!”
And there were noises and thunderings and lightnings; and there was a great earthquake, such a mighty and great earthquake as had not occurred since men were on the earth. Now the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell. And great Babylon was remembered before God, to give her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of His wrath. Then every island fled away, and the mountains were not found. And great hail from heaven fell upon men, each hailstone about the weight of a talent. Men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail, since that plague was exceedingly great. (Revelation 16)
“We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers, remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the sight of our God and Father, knowing, beloved brethren, your election by God. For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit and in much assurance, as you know what kind of men we were among you for your sake. And you became followers of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became examples to all in Macedonia and Achaia who believe. For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place. Your faith toward God has gone out, so that we do not need to say anything.
For they themselves declare concerning us what manner of entry we had to you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.“ |(1 Thessalonians 1:2-10)
Who has believed our report?
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
For He (Messiah) shall grow up before Him (God) as a tender plant,
And as a root out of dry ground.
He has no form or comeliness;
And when we see Him,
There is no beauty that we should desire Him.
He is despised and rejected by men,
A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.
And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him;
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.
Surely He has borne our griefs
And carried our sorrows;
Yet we esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten by God, and afflicted.
But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
We have turned, every one, to his own way;
And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
He was oppressed and He was afflicted,
Yet He opened not His mouth;
He was led as a lamb to the slaughter,
And as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
So He opened not His mouth.
He was taken from prison and from judgment,
And who will declare His generation?
For He was cut off from the land of the living;
For the transgressions of My people He was stricken.
And they made His grave with the wicked—
But with the rich at His death,
Because He had done no violence,
Nor was any deceit in His mouth.
Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him;
He has put Him to grief.
When You make His soul an offering for sin,
He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days,
And the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand.
He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied.
By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many,
For He shall bear their iniquities.
Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great,
And He shall divide the spoil with the strong,
Because He poured out His soul unto death,
And He was numbered with the transgressors,
And He bore the sin of many,
And made intercession for the transgressors.”
Was Jesus well-received among His own people when He showed up in Israel on time, exactly as predicted--with exact credentials? He was soundly rejected and murdered, (as most people realize). Has Jesus been well received since He came triumphantly back from the dead and ascended to the throne room of the Father?
No, Jesus is ignored by most, and widely represented by many of His followers with few exceptions.
If you were God what would you do as Governor, CEO, Commander of the Armies of Heaven, Captain of the Angelic Host, LORD of the cosmos? Surely you would step in and stop mankind’s suicidal self-destruction? How long would you tolerate the exploitation and ruination of a once glorious planet? (If He had stepped in a hundred years ago, you and I would have been left out!)
What about a Just God paying us back for our part in our great personal anarchy? On what grounds should we plead for mercy?
Here is where we can be surprised by joy!
The key word is “propitiation” (a much stronger word than the usual “expiation.” See the footnotes)
If I owe you $20 due Friday and pay you back $20 on time, my debt has been paid as agreed. That’s “expiation” illustrated. The debt is paid.
If I owe you $20 and pay you back $20 plus an extra $20, on time or earlier, we have a clue about the meaning of “propitiation.” The debt is more than satisfied. My actions were over and beyond what I was obliged to pay.
To suggest a simple, naive scenario for events in heaven between God the Father and God the Son (outside of time), suppose the following:
God the Father commissions His Son to solve the problem of human evil by interposing Himself (i.e., the Son) between a righteous, holy God and a hopelessly lost human race. What a great gulf! God is righteous and He must act justly, punishing sin and removing evil from the universe. Sin can only be resolved, covered, removed by a suitable blood sacrifice. Therefore in order for the Son to carry out the Father’s commission He is asked to carry out the most unimaginable task of perfect obedience unto death. Leaving the details for now, the Son of God did in fact become a man, was born of woman, was free from the genetic contamination of Adam. He did obey the Father perfectly for 30+ years and then He died. He did not stay dead which would have prevented Him from conquering death and returning triumphantly to the Father.
Imagine their reunion!
A Third Party, God the Holy Spirit, went through the whole process with Jesus. The Spirit was instrumental in carrying out the requirement of the Law of Moses from the birth birth of Jesus to resurrection and ascension. The Spirit did garbage cleanup by removing all sin to a secure facility--to Hell --so the entire creation is being made safe and a new home for redeemed persons is being built.
Imagine the Father’s delight when the Son reports back to the Father, “I accomplished the task you assigned to me.” “I am back, what is my next assignment.”
The Father was “propitiated” not merely “expiated.”
What is the next assignment for the Son of God in history? We are told! The Father hands the Title Deed of the earth to His incarnate Son in the dramatic scene witnessed by the aged disciple Apostle John in Revelation 4,5!
After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven. And the first voice which I heard was like a trumpet speaking with me, saying, “Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this.” Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne set in heaven, and One sat on the throne. And He who sat there was like a jasper and a sardius stone in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, in appearance like an emerald. Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and on the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white robes; and they had crowns of gold on their heads. And from the throne proceeded lightnings, thunderings, and voices. Seven lamps of fire were burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God. Before the throne there was a sea of glass, like crystal. And in the midst of the throne, and around the throne, were four living creatures full of eyes in front and in back. The first living creature was like a lion, the second living creature like a calf, the third living creature had a face like a man, and the fourth living creature was like a flying eagle. The four living creatures, each having six wings, were full of eyes around and within. And they do not rest day or night, saying:
“Holy, holy, holy,
Lord God Almighty,
Who was and is and is to come!”
Whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying:
“You are worthy, O Lord,
To receive glory and honor and power;
For You created all things,
And by Your will they exist and were created.”
And I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a scroll written inside and on the back, sealed with seven seals. Then I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and to loose its seals?” And no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll, or to look at it. So I wept much, because no one was found worthy to open and read the scroll, or to look at it. But one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals.” And I looked, and behold, in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as though it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent out into all the earth. Then He came and took the scroll out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne. Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying:
“You are worthy to take the scroll,
And to open its seals;
For You were slain,
And have redeemed us to God by Your blood
Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation,
And have made us kings and priests to our God;
And we shall reign on the earth.”
Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice:
“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain
To receive power and riches and wisdom,
And strength and honor and glory and blessing!”
And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying:
“Blessing and honor and glory and power
Be to Him who sits on the throne,
And to the Lamb, forever and ever!”
Then the four living creatures said, “Amen!” And the twenty-four elders fell down and worshiped Him who lives forever and ever. (Revelation 4:1 - 5:14)
Is God just in punishing evil and paying all unpaid bills and debts? It’s tempting to say “Damn right.” He is totally Just. We are given glimpses of God’s behind-the-scenes hands-on personal involvement in human affairs. He can not, my nature, act unjustly. Does the punishment fit the crime? Can anyone in hell accuse God for acting unjustly? Can any of us escape? What about our culpability if we refuse God's solution to our sin problem.
Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away. For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him, God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will?
For He has not put the world (oikoumene) to come, of which we speak, in subjection to angels. But one testified in a certain place, saying:
“What is man that You are mindful of him,
Or the son of man that You take care of him?
You have made him a little lower than the angels;
You have crowned him with glory and honor,
And set him over the works of Your hands.
You have put all things in subjection under his feet.”
For in that He put all in subjection under him, He left nothing that is not put under him. But now we do not yet see all things put under him. But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone.
For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For both He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying:
“I will declare Your name to My brethren;
In the midst of the assembly I will sing praise to You.”
“I will put My trust in Him.”
“Here am I and the children whom God has given Me.”
Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. For indeed He does not give aid to angels, but He does give aid to the seed of Abraham... (Hebrews 2:1-16)
There is more. Many will not believe until a crisis in life comes upon us and we see our deep need for Jesus. He helps of course, even when we turn down further aid, further rescue.
Jesus is always bailing out ungrateful sinners even when most will go their own way after the bail-out! Still Jesus the Hound of Heaven wants no one to perish. In a world now numbering 8000 million persons some estimate that 10% are responders, followers, obedient servants of Jesus. (Only 5% of the people in the world are Americans.) In His announced move we can expect God to soon step back into history, He will take charge directly to set everything straight--working with, and through, His servants. A hard core of humans will continue to refuse Him, or even to acknowledge Jesus as rightful heir. He is King over kings, Lord of lords, whether anyone believes that or not. No matter how much Jesus “turns up the heat” many prefer hell to heaven. If this is the case, God will grant their last wishes. (See Luke 16:18-31)
What’s coming down the pike? At long last the “stored-up,” long overdue, wrath of God will be poured out soon on earth and on earth’s inhabitants. It’s wise to get out of way now by “fleeing from the wrath to come.”
This article has been about “wrath” as an absolute, certain attribute of the living God. Vivid pictures are given to us in the Bible, and here God speaks for Himself.
Jonah walked 700 miles to Nineveh in the 8th Century BC. He reluctantly told that very evil empire that His God Yahweh cared about them and actually loved them. From the king on down they all repented (changed their minds and lifestyles) —to Jonah’s chagrin. The whole nation was spared for two whole generations. But after 166 years they went bad all over again and God then called His prophet Nahum to announce the bad news. God had them "taken out" completely in 612 BC.
Ray Stedman has a great overview of the short Old Testament book of Nahum:
The book of Nahum is one that is neglected because it is so obscure, and so small that it is seldom read and much less frequently understood. But every portion of scripture is indispensable, each has its own contribution to make. This is why the Apostle Paul could say, "All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work." (2 Timothy 3:16,17) And this little prophecy of Nahum is no exception.
When you read this you may feel that it is a rather dry account of ancient history but actually, this prophecy reveals something of God more clearly than any other book of the Bible. It is the job of the prophet to reveal to us the character of God. The prophets unfold for us the divine attributes and each sees God in a different light. As you read through the prophets, therefore, you are seeing one facet after another, flashing like a diamond in the sunlight, of the mighty character and attributes of an eternal God.
Now the attribute which the prophet Nahum was given to reveal was God's anger. There is no doctrine quite as repugnant to people today as that of the anger of God. This is one doctrine which many would like to forget. There are some who picture God as a kindly gentleman with a merry twinkle in his eye who cannot bear the thought of punishing anyone or judging anyone. Nevertheless, it was Nahum's task to unfold the anger of God and in this prophecy the God of Sinai flashes forth in awful fury, a God before whom man must stand silent and trembling. You cannot read this prophecy without sensing something of the solemnity of this tremendous picture of God.
As we begin this book it is important to know why and at whom God is so angry. this prophecy is directed against the city of Nineveh to whom God sent the prophet Jonah. When Jonah preached in Nineveh, the city repented in sackcloth and ashes. God's anger was withheld from the city and he spared it, because from the king on down to the lowest citizen, they turned to God and repented of their sins.
The book of Nahum comes some one hundred years after the prophecy of Jonah. During this time, Nineveh had repented of its repentance, and had begun to do the same things again that called forth the threat of judgment through the prophet Jonah. The prophet Nahum was sent to minister to the southern kingdom of Judah at the time of the invasion of the Assyrian king Sennacherib. King Sennacherib who came from the capital city of Syria, Nineveh, invaded Israel at the time of the prophet Isaiah, and it was from this great city in the north that the armies of the Syrians frequently came against the land of Judah and of Israel. But God moved to protect his people and met and destroyed these enemies of the king overnight.
Nahum means "consolation," or "comfort," and as the Assyrian army was spread out around the city of Jerusalem, the prophet was given a message of consolation. You can imagine how consoling it was when the armies were right there with their terrible reputation as ruthless warriors, burning and destroying, raping and pillaging, killing the children and sparing no one, to have this prophet stand up in Jerusalem and declare to them that God would destroy Nineveh, the capital city of their enemies.
This is one of those parts of prophecy in scripture which already has been fulfilled. Much of scripture remains to be fulfilled, and many of the predictions of the Old Testament prophets look beyond our own day to a time when the Lord will come again. But as we look at this book, we see prophecies that have long since come to pass. This is one of the great proofs that the Book of God is from God, for there is a description here of exactly how this destruction would occur, given years before it took place. Those who are interested in apologetics might use this in talking with some who challenge the fact that the Word of God is predictive.
We can divide the book of Nahum into four sections, and each of them is a description of the anger of God. I think the simplest way to describe this first section, this vision of God in his wrath, is to simply use the Anglo-Saxon word "terrible." These are beautiful poetic expressions, but they powerfully picture the wrath of God (chapter 1, verses 2-6):
The Lord is a jealous God and avenging,
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 of great might,
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.
He rebukes the sea and makes it dry,
he dries up all the rivers;
Bashan and Carmel wither,
the bloom of Lebanon fades.
The mountains quake before him,
the hills melt;
the earth is laid waste before him,
the world and all that dwell therein.
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 asunder by him. (Nahum 1:2-6 RSV)
What a description that is! The prophet sees God in his anger looking at the hosts of Assyria. There are some men and women who live in a perpetual temper. Their hot tempers boil over at the slightest provocation. but the interesting thing is that people do not usually fear this kind of a person. They pity them or they make jokes about them. There are other people who are more quiet and peaceful by nature. It takes a long time to stir them up. They endure irritations for a long time, but when their patience is exhausted and at last they are brought to a boil, watch out. They are terrible in anger.
That is the picture that the prophet gives here, of an infinitely patient God. As the prophet says, "He is slow to anger." He does not move rapidly. He has given this city chance after chance to repent. He has sent prophet after prophet after prophet. They did believe one prophet and repented their evil ways, and God spared the judgment he said he would bring. But they repented from their repentance. That is one of the most terrible things that men can do. Having turned from their evil, they went back to what they had said they would forsake, and this is what evokes the judgment of God at last.
God is angry, and this is no temper tantrum. There is nothing capricious about the anger of God. There is nothing selfish about it. It is a controlled but terrible rage, fearsome to behold. You can get some idea of the awfulness of this divine anger in the fact that all the Hebrew words for wrath or anger are brought together in these six verses. The words are: jealous, vengeance, wrath, anger, indignation, fierceness, fury. All of them describe the anger of God.
Jealousy, that burning zeal for a cause felt so deeply in the heart. This is not the selfish, petty jealousy we exhibit sometimes, but God's overwhelming concern for what he loves. His vengeance, or retribution; his wrath, that towering anger, the blackness of it, the darkness of it, is described here. The word for anger is the word that literally means "heavy breathing," or "hot breathing." And the word for indignation literally means "foaming at the mouth"! You can see how picturesque these words are. The word fierceness in Hebrew literally means "heat," and the word fury means "burning." And all this to describe a God who is terrible in his wrath, moved at last to the point of pouring out his wrath upon that which has awakened it. God in a white-hot passion, burning with a terrible, blistering rage.
The second section, beginning with verse 8 of chapter 1, brings before us another aspect of his anger. Here we learn that the wrath of God, or the anger of God, can be personal, for this is all directed against a single individual. In verse 11 you have reference to Sennacherib, the general of the Assyrian armies.
Did one not come out from you,
who plotted evil against the Lord,
and counseled villainy? (Nahum 1:11 RSV)
God's anger was all directed against this pagan king who deliberately plotted to destroy the people, after God had visited his city with grace and had saved them from his anger. Verse 12 refers to the visit of the angel of death when Sennacherib came down with his armies before Jerusalem. In Isaiah, chapters 36 and 37, you have the description of how the Assyrian armies came down and spread out before the city of Jerusalem. Then with taunting challenges to King Hezekiah, they told him they were going to take the city and that there was no strength that could stand against them. Isaiah tells us how Hezekiah took these messages and spread them before the Lord and asked God to save the city, even with the armies of Assyria surrounding it. And that night, we are told, the angel of death went through the Assyrian hosts and slew 185,000 soldiers. (Is. 37:36) That is referred to in verses 12-13:
Thus says the Lord,
"Though they be strong and many,
they will be cut off and pass away.
Though I have afflicted you,
I will afflict you no more.
And now I will break his yoke from off you
and will burst your bonds asunder." (Nahum 1:12-13 RSV)
As a result of this, the Assyrian armies went back and Jerusalem was saved. (There is an interesting construction there in the Hebrew. It says, "When they woke up in the morning behold they were all dead men." Of course, the ones who woke up in the morning were the Israelites and not the Assyrians.)
Verse 14 was literally fulfilled in the murder of Sennacherib. When the angel went through the camp the Assyrian general was spared, and he returned to Nineveh. But while he was worshiping his false gods in the temple after returning from this engagement with Israel, he was murdered by his own two sons, who stole the crown for themselves. We read here (verse 14):
The Lord has given commandment about you:
"No more shall your name be perpetuated;
from the house of your gods I will cut off
the graven image and the molten image.
I will make your grave, for you are vile." (Nahum 1:14 RSV)
Years before that happened the prophet Nahum was told that God would deal with this man in his own temple, in the house of his gods, and make his grave there. God's anger sought him out and struck him down. In verse 15 you have the joyful shout that went up from Jerusalem when the news came of Sennacherib's death:
Behold, on the mountains the feet of him
who brings good tidings,
who proclaims peace!
Keep you feasts, O Judah,
fulfill your vows,
for never again shall the wicked come against you,
he is utterly cut off. (Nahum 1:15 RSV)
What a picture this is of the fact that God's wrath can be directed against a person. This is what people are so slow to believe. They say that God is a God of love. How can he possibly punish anybody? This is the argument. When it is mentioned that God's justice demands that he punish us, they say that this cannot be so. God's love is greater than his justice, they say, and therefore, under no circumstances can God's justice cause him to punish. There are many who are suffering under this delusion. But here is a man who was singled out, as the prophet tells us, to bear the brunt of the wrath of God, this man who was responsible for the depredations against Judah.
Now there is a third section, comprising all of chapter 2, which reveals still another aspect of God's anger: he is thorough. Here God is addressing Nineveh, the capital city of Assyria, and he says (verse 1):
The shatterer has come up against you.
Man the ramparts;
watch the road;
gird your loins;
collect all your strength. (Nahum 2:1 RSV)
How dramatically this is put, as though the watchman is looking out and he sees the armies of the Babylonians coming up to destroy the city of Nineveh. History tells us that the combined armies of Cyaxares and Nabopolasser, the father of Nebuchadnezzar, came up against Nineveh and this army is called the "Shatterer." "The Shatterer has come." Here is the way the account of the battle in the city begins (verses 3-5):
The shield of his mighty men is red,
his soldiers are clothed in scarlet.
The chariots flash like flame
when mustered in array;
the chargers prance.
The chariots rage in the streets,
they rush to and fro through the squares;
they gleam like torches,
they dart like lightning.
The officers are summoned,
they stumble as they go,
they hasten to the wall
the mantle is set up. (Nahum 2:3-5 RSV)
This fourth verse sounds like it is describing the freeway: "The chariots rage in the streets, they rush to and fro through the squares; they gleam like torches, they dart like lightning." As a matter of fact, that verse has often been interpreted to be a prediction of automobiles, which is a very good example of the folly of removing a verse from its context. It has nothing to do with automobiles, although it can be made to describe them in "They gleam like torches, they dart like lightning." It is simply a predictive description of the battle that raged in the streets of Nineveh as the Babylonians came up against it.
In verse 6 you have an amazing, direct prophecy of the manner in which the city of Nineveh would be taken:
The river gates are opened, the palace is in dismay. (Nahum 2:6 RSV)
The Greek historian Diodorus Siculus recorded an account of how the city of Nineveh fell, and this is what he said:
There was an old prophecy that Nineveh should not be taken till the river become an enemy with the city. And in the third year of the siege, the river being swollen with continual rains overflowed every part of the city and broke down the wall for twenty furlongs. Then the king [of Nineveh] thinking that the oracle was fulfilled and the river became an enemy of the city, built a large funeral pile in the palace and collected together all his wealth and his concubines and his eunuch, burnt himself and the palace with them all. And the enemy entered at the breach that the waters had made and took the city.
In other words, they came in through the river gates. The Babylonian armies came in through the place where the river had broken out and flooded the city and because of this mistaken idea of the king's, the Babylonians found them all gathered in the palace and there they put them to death. And this is exactly what Nahum had predicted years before.
The river gates are opened, the palace is in dismay. (Nahum 2:6 RSV)
Now that is how thoroughly God's anger works when it begins to move in judgment. Nothing escapes. Remember that old saying, "Although the mills of God grind slow, they grind exceedingly small."
There is a story of the agnostic who made fun of a Christian farmer because he refused to work on his fields on Sunday. The agnostic always went out every Sunday to work in his fields, and at the end of the year he came to his Christian neighbor and taunted him. He said, "Look, you are a Christian and you don't work on Sunday, and you have had a fairly good crop, but look at the way God blessed me. I have worked every Sunday and look at the abundance of grain that I have. Why, this has been one of the richest October harvests that I have ever had." And the Christian farmer turned to him and said, "Yes, but God does not always settle his accounts in October." When God begins to move, nothing escapes his grasp, nothing. We are in his universe. We are creatures here. There is no way to run away. There is no place to hide. We must deal with a God who says over and over again that if his grace is thwarted, he will rise in judgment at the last.
Now the third section, in which God addresses the city of Nineveh. We have seen how he portrays the overthrow of the city, and now he says (verse 11-12 ):
Where is the lions' den, the cave of the young lions. (Nahum 2:13a RSV)
[This is a picture of the Assyrian lions, the symbol of the Assyrians, just as the bear is the symbol of Russia and the lion Britain's]
where the lion brought his prey, where his cubs were, with none to disturb? (Nahum 2:13b RSV)
This is a taunt at the overthrow of the city. If you had visited the site of the city of Nineveh 60 years ago you would have stood in the middle of a wilderness, never knowing that this was a site of a great and ancient city. Archaeologists have begun to unearth this city and we know now where Nineveh is located, but for centuries it was lost, buried under the shifting sands of the desert.
The last chapter reveals how irresistible the anger of God is. In verse 4 we are told one of the reasons for Nineveh's destruction:
And all for the countless harlotries of the harlot,
graceful and of deadly charms,
who betrays nations with her harlotries,
and peoples with her charms. (Nahum 3:4 RSV)
This is a reference to the witchcraft that was practiced in Nineveh. And in response to these practices, God says (verses 5-7):
Behold I am against you,
says the Lord of hosts,
and will lift up your skirts over your face;
and I will let nations look on your nakedness
and kingdoms on your shame.
I will throw filth at you
and treat you with contempt,
and make you a gazingstock.
And all who look on you will shrink from you and say,
Wasted is Nineveh; who will bemoan her?
whence shall I seek comforters for her? (Nahum 3:5-7 RSV)
And God reminds Nineveh of what had happened earlier to the Egyptian city of Thebes (verses 8-10):
Are you better than Thebes
that sat by the Nile,
with water around her,
her rampart a sea,
and water her wall?
Ethiopia was her strength,
Egypt too, and that without limit;
Put and the Libyans were her helpers. (Nahum 3:8-10 RSV)
Thebes also looked impregnable,
Yet she was carried away,
she went into captivity;
her little ones were dashed in pieces
at the head of every street;
for her honored men lots were cast,
and all her great men were bound in chains. (Nahum 3:10 RSV)
God controls history and when he decides to move against a nation, a city, or an individual, there is no escape. He is absolutely irresistible. In ironic language he urges the city to fortify itself (verses 14,15):
Draw water for the siege,
strengthen your forts;
go into the clay,
tread the mortar,
take hold of the brick mold!
[Do anything you like, anything you can think of. But]
There will the fire devour you,
the sword will cut you off.
It will devour you like the locust. (Nahum 3:14-15 RSV)
Here we see pictured the anger of God. This terrible, personal, thorough, irresistible anger. Individuals today are in danger of this anger. All through the scripture you see it. Flee from the wrath to come. Avoid the anger of God whose patience is outraged, whose grace is turned aside. The twin sins that will always call forth the wrath of God are pride and impenitence. When a nation or a person walks in pride and counts himself sufficient, saying he is able to handle his own affairs and run his own life, that nation, that person is doomed. When God shows mercy but that man or that nation remains impenitent, then comes the blazing wrath of God.
What, then, is the message of Nahum to our own hearts? Well, there is an interesting application here that is both national and individual. On the national level it is a message of comfort to us today. Just as Nahum's word brought comfort to a nation that was threatened by this godless, cruel foe, we have a somewhat similar facing us. For the interesting thing is that in the Bible the Assyrians were not only the people who were actual enemies of Israel, but they were also a type of a people yet to come who would threaten the peace of the earth and would play an important part on the stage of world history in the last days. The Assyrians in prophecy are a picture of the Soviet Union and the Communist nations, the peoples of the north. If you want an interesting study, I suggest you compare Ezekiel, chapters 38 and 39, with this prophecy of Nahum. You notice in verse 13 of chapter 2 of Nahum God says,
Behold, I am against you, says the Lord of hosts. (Nahum 2:13 RSV)
And verse 5 of chapter 3,
Behold, I am against you, says the Lord of hosts. (Nahum 3:5 RSV)
And when Ezekiel opens his great prophecy against the king of the north, the Gog of the Land of Magog as he calls him, he opens with these very words:
Behold, I am against you, O Gog, chief prince of Meshech. (Ezekiel 38:3 RSV)
This is the word of comfort to us that predicts God's judgment and destruction of the peoples of the north on the mountains of Israel.
Now there is an individual application as well. To those who think that God is only a God of love and never of wrath, let them learn from Nahum that a God who is never angry is a God who cannot love. Did you ever think of that? God's wrath comes from his love. It is because God loves that he is angry; because of love that wrath must blaze forth. You can prove that to yourself. What moves you to anger? Isn't it almost always when something or someone you love is threatened or injured? It may be yourself. We all love ourselves. What makes us angry? Somebody injures us and because we love ourselves, we get mad at them. Or someone injures our child and our wrath blazes forth. And if you cannot get angry when you hear or see injury and injustice, it is proof that you are not capable of love, for the one who cannot be angry is the one who cannot love. If you can read stories of atrocities and oppression and the awful traffic in body-destroying and soul-destroying drugs and narcotics among young people and never be moved to burning anger, then I tell you there is something wrong with you. You are incapable of love. If God cannot smite, if he cannot destroy in vengeance, then he has no capacity for love.
It is certainly true that God loves the sinner but hates his sin, as we sometimes say. But that is only part of the story. The Bible tells us that if a man loves his sin and holds on to it at all costs, refusing the grace of God, then he becomes identified with his sin. And eventually, the wrath of God against his sin is also directed against the sinner.
I remember reading of a man who was convicted of stealing, but he argued before the judge that the sentence was unjust; he said it was not he who stole, it was his arm, and so it was unfair for the judge to sentence him to the penitentiary, he could only sentence his arm. Actually, he thought the judge should let him off because his arm had done the stealing and not him. The judge resolved the issue by sentencing the arm to thirty years in jail saying if the man wanted to accompany it, that was up to him.
We become identified with that to which we cling and this is what the Bible pictures. It is time to reassert that God has this capacity for anger, time again to warn men to flee from the wrath to come. Men have been saying that if you would only talk about a God of love, you could fill the churches. If only you would appeal to men about a God of love, they would turn from their wickedness and be drawn to him. But the facts prove exactly the opposite. For the last thirty years or more the message of the wrath of God has been almost totally absent in Christian pulpits. People have talked about a God of love. But that has been interpreted in the minds of men as a God of permissiveness; one who will let you do anything and get away with it. As a result, the churches are emptier than ever before and instead of turning toward God, men have defied God, refusing to believe in God and turning away from him.
You cannot just preach the God of wrath without the God of love, but the wrath of God grows out of his love, is a manifestation of his love. As Charles Spurgeon said, "He who does not believe that God will punish sin, will not believe that he will pardon it through the blood of his Son." But what is the way to escape the anger of God? Well, Nahum tells you that too, back in chapter 1, verse 7:
The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him. (Nahum 1:7 RSV)
No man who turns to God will ever experience his wrath. This complaint that God is a God of wrath seems to picture him as being vengeful without reason, as being determined upon the destruction of men, but it is never so. God only destroys, only exercises his wrath when men have rejected his love. There is a way of escape and there has been all along. We need not face the wrath of God. No one needs to. God's whole purpose has been to call men's attention to that way so that they might take it. And that way is given here: "He knows those who take refuge in him."
I remember years ago when my children were small, and one of my daughters and I had a disagreement one day and I spanked her hard. I was angry and she was crying and I did not know what to do after I spanked her as she still seemed to be unrepentant. But all of a sudden she ran and threw her arms about my neck. Now what was I to do? Continue to beat her? Oh, no! I could not have lifted a finger against her because she had taken refuge with me.
God knows those who take refuge in him and for those his heart of love is always open. They will never know his wrath. That is what the scriptures say. As the Lord Jesus put it, "He who hears my word and believes him who sent me, has eternal life; he does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life." (John. 5:24)
Our Father, we thank you that you know them that trust in you. God grant to us the wisdom and the simple good sense to believe you and to give up an attempt to try to evade your love and your grace; to feel that somehow we can get away with it, that somehow we will escape, that somehow we will be an exception. Lord, make us to understand that the very persistence and unchangeability that guarantees we will never escape is the same persistence that prompts your grace and reminds us that he who turns to you shall never come into judgment but has passed from death into life. We thank you in Christ's name. Amen.
A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet, according to Shigionoth. O LORD, I have heard the report of thee, and thy work, O LORD, do I fear. In the midst of the years renew it; in the midst of the years make it known; in wrath remember mercy.
God will come from Teman, and the Holy One from Mount Paran (i.e., from Sinai and Edom; Petra).
His glory will cover the heavens, and the earth will be full of his praise. Selah. His brightness is like the light, rays flash from his hand; and there he will veil his power. Before him goes pestilence, and plague follows close behind. He will stand and measure the earth; he will look and shake the nations; then the eternal mountains will be scattered, the everlasting hills sink low. His ways will be as of old. I see the tents of Cushan in affliction; the curtains of the land of Midian tremble. Is your wrath against the rivers, O LORD? Is your anger against the rivers, or your indignation against the sea, when you ride upon thy horses, upon your chariot of victory? You will strip the sheath from thy bow, and put the arrows to the string. Selah.
You will cleave the earth with rivers. The mountains will see you, and writhe; the raging waters sweep on; the deep gives forth its voice, it lifts its hands on high. The sun and moon stand still in their habitation at the light of your arrows as they speed, at the flash of your glittering spear. You will stride the earth in fury, you will trample the nations in anger. You will go forth for the salvation of your people, for the salvation of your anointed. You will crush the head of the wicked (one), laying him bare from thigh to neck. Selah.
You will pierce with your shafts the head of his warriors, who come like a whirlwind to scatter me, rejoicing as if to devour the poor in secret. You will trample the sea with your horses, the surging of mighty waters.
I hear, and my body trembles, my lips quiver at the sound; rottenness enters into my bones, my steps totter beneath me. I will quietly wait for the day of trouble to come upon people who invade us. Though the fig tree do not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation. GOD, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like hinds' feet, he makes me tread upon my high places. (Habakkuk 3:1-19)
Note: The Hebrew Prophetic Future Verb Tense
Verb tenses are not as clearly specified in the Hebrew language as they are in English. In a number of prophetic passages of the Old Testament the verbs are commonly translated as past tense in our English Bibles. However, the prophetic future tense can equally well be used. (Note: When the Hebrew letter waw is added before a word it means "and." When added as a suffix it means "his." Waw before a verb indicates a change of the tense of the verb from past to future and vice versa (a verb in the past tense with a waw in front of it is to be understood as future tense).
Notice in the passage quoted below how the words of the prophet Habakkuk take on new meaning for the end of the age if one switches the verb tenses from past tense to future. Habakkuk lived just before Nebuchadnezzar's siege and destruction of Jerusalem and the Second Temple so he was downhearted and grieved because God was bringing great Israel against the chosen people through a foreign people of even great wickedness. It was a dark hour for history similar to the hour that Israel faces in our own time, so Habakkuk's words and prayers applied both to his immediate situation. Yet his prayer would seem to apply equally well to the end of the present age:
Habakkuk said: "The vision will speak in the end," as all true words from God do. When Jesus Christ returns He will come from Bozra/Petra brining with him the Jews from the remnant who fled Jerusalem at the mid-point of the Tribulation (see Matthew 24:15-22). His garments will be spattered by the blood of His enemies, (Revelation 19:13 and Isaiah 63). Jewish believers down through the centuries will be resurrected from the dead and brought to Petra where the Great Shepherd will separate believers from nonbelievers. As the Greater Moses, Jesus will bring all of the Jews who are true believers with him when he returns to stand on the Mount of Olives, Zechariah 14. See also Bozra for more details. A Wonderful Hebrew word is Perez, Ha Parats, translated "Breaker" when referring to Messiah as Shepherd King.
Jewish Encyclopedia: Originally, the name of a tribe and then of a district of the Edomites. In Biblical genealogy it is the name of the eldest son of Eliphaz, the first-born of Esau, and one of the "dukes" of Edom (Gensis xxxvi. 11, 15, 42; I Chron. i. 36, 53). The genealogy here noted proves that Teman was one of the most important of the Edomite tribes, and this is confirmed by the fact that "Teman" is used as a synonym for Edom itself (Amos i. 12; Obad. 9; comp. Jer. xlix. 20, 22; Hab. iii. 3). The Temanites were famed for their wisdom (Jer. xlix. 7; Baruch iii. 22); Eliphaz, the oldest and wisest of the friends of Job, is described as a member of this tribe (Job ii. 11 et passim).
Teman is referred to in Obad. 9 as a part of the mount of Esau, while Amos i. 12 mentions it in connection with the Edomitic "palaces of Bozrah"; Ezek. xxv. 13 speaks of it in contrast to the southern boundary Dedan. The "Onomasticon" of Eusebius (260, 155) mentions a region called Thaiman, in Gebalene (the Gebal of Ps. lxxxiii. 8 [A. V. 7]), and thus in the district of Petra, noting also an East Teman, a town with a Roman garrison fifteen (according to Jerome, five) miles from Petra.
Zephaniah the Prophet is even more relevant for us than Nahum because he wrote about God’s preservation of a faithful remnant in “the Day of the Lord.”
In Hebrew, this word is Zaam literally means 'foam' or 'froth at the mouth' and describes fury or rage, the just wrath of God. Zephaniah is describing God’s displeasure with sin or His wrath which will result in punishment.
Ray Stedman has left us a powerful summary of Zephaniah from 1966:
It was Zephaniah's lot to speak on the most unpleasant subject in the Bible -- the judgment of God. This is not the only place where this theme occurs, of course, but it is the most concentrated treatment of the judgment of God as the whole book is devoted to this one theme.
There are many people who would like to rule this subject of judgment out of the Bible entirely. There are those who tell us that the God of the New Testament, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, is the kind of a God who can never move in judgment. His heart is so tender, his love is so gracious, his patience is so infinite that there never will be a time when God will move in vengeance. It is remarkable, though, that in the New Testament the Lord Jesus spoke very frequently about the judgment of God. In the fourth chapter of Luke we are told that the Lord came back to his home town after preaching in Judea for many months. He had done many miracles and the word of his miracles had preceded him, so all the folks in Nazareth were very anxious to see him. He had not behaved like this when he was a boy growing up, and they were keen to see if he was going to do some mighty work when he came home.
Luke tells us that Jesus went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day and he was given the book of the prophecy of Isaiah to read. Opening the scroll he found the place (which happens to be the sixty-first chapter of our version of Isaiah) where it read, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor." (Luke 4:10) That passage predicts the ministry of the Messiah. Then he stopped right in the middle of a sentence, right at a comma, and his last word was that he had come to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord. But Isaiah goes on to say, "and the day of vengeance of our God." (Isaah 61:2) Now the Lord did not read that because it was not the time to proclaim the day of vengeance of God. But the day of vengeance is coming, and it was the Lord himself who described the day of the Lord (recorded in Matthew, Mark and Luke), and it is this day particularly that Zephaniah is talking about.
Zephaniah means "hidden of the Lord" and the prophet is speaking as if he were a representative of the remnant of faith -- those relatively few people who will remain true to God and be faithful to his word through the time of trouble that is to come upon the earth. They will be hidden, as it were, by God himself among the nations of the earth and God will watch over them to keep them in faith during this time. And it is about these people that the book of Zephaniah is written, and especially of that coming day, the day of the Lord, which is vividly described by the prophet.
In chapter 1, Zephaniah gives us the character of God's vengeance. It is not a pleasant passage. It begins after the prophet identifies himself as a great-great-grandson of one of the kings of Judah (verses 2-6):
"I will utterly sweep away everything
from the face of the earth," says the Lord.
"I will sweep away man and beast;
I will sweep away the birds of the air
and the fish of the sea.
I will overthrow the wicked;
I will cut off mankind
from the face of the earth," says the Lord.
"I will stretch out my hand against Judah,
and against all the inhabitants of Jerusalem;
and I will cut off from this place the remnant of Baal [the false god of the peoples around Israel]
and the name of the idolatrous priests;
those who bow down on the roofs to the host of heavens; [the star worshipers]
those who bow down and swear to the Lord
and yet swear by Milcom; [one of the other gods of the surrounding nations]
those who have turned back from following the Lord,
who do not seek the Lord or inquire of him." (Zephaniah 1:2-6 RSV)
And Zephaniah says (verse 7):
Be silent before the Lord God! For the day of the Lord is at hand... (Zephaniah 1:7 RSV)
There is a great deal of difference between the day of the Lord and the Lord's day. Sunday is the Lord's day, the day of resurrection, but the day of the Lord is something different and we should never confuse these terms. (It is like the difference between a horse chestnut and a chestnut horse.) The Lord's day was the day when our Lord arose from the dead and that is why we celebrate it on Sunday.
But the day of the Lord is the day of the manifestation of God's hand directly in human affairs. Notice the personal pronoun all through that passage: "I will sweep away everything." I will sweep away man and beast." "I will cut off mankind." God is working through events in history, working through nations and armies and calamities of various sorts. His hand is hidden in the glove of history, but all the writers of Scripture agree that a day is coming when God will intervene directly in the affairs of men again.
A reference to this time, in the words of Jesus himself, is found in Matthew, where our Lord speaks of a time of great tribulation.
"Then they will deliver you up to tribulation, and put you to death; and you will be hated by all nations for my name's sake." (Matthew 24:9 RSV)
And the Lord goes on to describe this time. But still, this is not the day of the Lord that Zephaniah is talking about, because this is a time when the nations will still be moving against one another in warfare. Then Jesus says (Matthew 24:21, 22):
"For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. And if those days had not been shortened, no human being would be saved..." (Matthew 24:21-22a RSV)
This is right in line with Zephaniah's prophecy. God says he will sweep everything off the face of the earth, "...but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened." Then Jesus says Matthew. 24:24):
"For false Christs and false prophets will arise and show great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect." (Matthew 24:24 RSV)
And he says plainly (verse 25):
"Lo, I have told you beforehand." (Matthew 24:25 RSV)
In other words, do not get excited about this. Then we come to the description of the day of the Lord (Matthew. 24:29-31):
"Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken; then will appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory: and he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other." (Matthew 24:29-31 RSV)
The Apostle Paul speaks somewhat similarly and he uses the very term "the day of the Lord." In I Thessalonians you will find one of several references that Paul makes to this great event. In chapter 5, verses 1-6, he says:
But as to the times and seasons, brethren, you have no need to have anything written to you. [Why not? Well, because they already had it in the Old Testament.] For you yourselves know well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. When people say, "There is peace and security," then sudden destruction will come upon them as travail comes upon a woman with child, and there will be no escape. But you are not in darkness, brethren, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all sons of light and sons of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness. So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. (1 Thessalonians 5:1-6 RSV)
There are many other passages that also refer to the day of the Lord and they all agree that in the time when men are proclaiming peace, but preparing for war; in a time when they are holding to a form of godliness but denying the powers thereof; in a time when they are declaring that the problems of life are being solved. but when actually they are in greater danger than they have ever been before, then the day of the Lord will come.
Now let us return to Zephaniah and see what he has to say about this (chapter 1. verses 7-9):
Be silent before the Lord God!
For the day of the Lord is at hand;
the Lord has prepared a sacrifice
and consecrated his guests.
And on the day of the Lord's sacrifice --
"I will punish the officials and the king's sons
and all who array themselves in foreign attire ...
every one who leaps over the threshold,
and those who fill their master's house
with violence and fraud." (Zephaniah 1:7-9 RSV)
Now what is this feast and who are these guests that are invited to the day of the Lord? Well, this is the great supper of God that is also described in Revelation 19, verses 17-20, where John says:
Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, and with a loud voice he called to all the birds that fly in midheaven, "Come, gather for the great supper of God, to eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all men, both free and slave, both small and great." And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth with their armies gathered to make war against him who sits upon the horse and against his army. And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who in its presence had worked the signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast... (Revelation 19:17-20a RSV)
This is the great supper of God. It is the birds and the vultures that are invited, to feast upon the bodies of men. There is another description of this in Ezekiel 39. The guests are the buzzards, the vultures, and the eagles called to feed upon the dead, the millions that are slain in this terrible day when God again moves directly in human affairs.
"Well, now," you say, "How can this be? How can the God of love -- the God of the New Testament -- do a thing like this? How can God, who loves mercy and is slow to anger, ever come to this place?" And there are many who tell us that we should eliminate these passages from the Bible. They say we should read our Bibles in much the same way that we read literature. For instance, we read in Robert Louis Stevenson's novel Treasure Island of a character named Long John Silver. We read that he is a cruel, rapacious, untrustworthy individual. Now if, after reading that, somebody tells us that Long John Silver is really a great guy, that he is kind to his mother, and is a nice fellow once you get to know him, we do not believe this because we know Long John Silver and we know that he is not that kind of a man. Therefore, if anybody tells us that, we will not believe him. Someone with this attitude might go on to say, "I have come to know God as the God of love and the God of grace. Therefore, when I read in the Bible something that says he is a God of vengeance, and that he is going to destroy people, I just don't believe it. I just wipe that out. I say that someone else has insinuated that, because that is not the kind of God I know."
It is this kind of reasoning that suggests we should go through our Bibles and tear out every part that does not agree with our concepts of God. But what we have left, of course, is nothing more than w hat we like, what we think God ought to be like.
You can see how such an argument defeats itself. The very book that tells us that God is a God of love also says he is a God of vengeance. And any one who thinks carefully about himself and about love will understand why a God of love has to be a God of vengeance. For if we love someone, we hate everything that injures that person. We are against whatever threatens or destroys what we love. And the very love that moves the heart of God to pour himself out over the centuries in an unceasing effort to awaken man to his need and to hear the call of grace, is the same love that at last prompts him to eliminate those who refuse all the province of his grace, and identify themselves with that which is opposed to his will and to his work among men. Then he has nothing left to do but to destroy them. And that is why the prophet speaks so plainly about this.
Continuing in Zephaniah now, we read (chapter 1, verses 14-18):
The great day of the Lord is near,
near and hastening fast;
the sound of the day of the Lord is bitter,
the mighty man cries aloud there.
A day of wrath is that day,
a day of distress and anguish,
a day of ruin and devastation,
a day of darkness and gloom,
a day of clouds and thick darkness,
a day of trumpet blast and battle cry
against the fortified cities
and against the lofty battlements. (Zephaniah 1:14-16 RSV)
And God says in stark frankness,
I will bring distress on men,
so that they shall walk like the blind,
because they have sinned against the Lord;
their blood shall be poured out like dust,
and their flesh like dung.
Neither their silver nor their gold
shall be able to deliver them
on the day of the wrath of the Lord. (Zephaniah 1:17-18a RSV)
Now it is not easy for God to speak this way. He himself says that he takes no delight in the death of men. He says that he does not delight in judgment. Judgment, the prophet says, is his strange work. His heart delights in mercy. But eventually, if his will is to be done, if earth at last is to break out into the glorious freedom of the promises of the prophets concerning man, if the dreams that lie hidden away in the hearts of men of a warless world, a time of prosperity. a time when joy floods the earth, when men live together in glorious harmony, when even the animals lose their enmity toward one another and peace shall cover the earth as the waters cover the sea -- if that is ever to come, then God must deal with the entrenched evil of men. This is why the coming of the day of vengeance of our God is absolutely certain. The prophets warn of this and the word speaks very clearly. all through the New Testament as well, that when God's grace is turned aside, God's judgment awaits.
In chapter 2 we trace the extent of God's vengeance. Certain nations are named (verses 8, 9):
"I have heard the taunts of Moab and the revilings of the Ammonites, 'Moab shall become like Sodom,
and the Ammonites like Gomorrah...'" (Zephaniah 2:8-9 RSV)
The Ethiopians are mentioned in verse 12 and the Assyrians in verse 13. The interesting thing is that although all these nations are long since lost in the dust of history, the promise of this day of the Lord is in the future. How can this be? Why are these nations mentioned here when they have long been buried in antiquity? How can they yet be destroyed in a day to come?
The answer is, of course, that these nations are used symbolically throughout the Scriptures as well as literally. They were literally destroyed in the course of history, but they are used symbolically with reference to the full and final meaning of the day of the Lord. Moab, for instance, is always a picture of the flesh of man -- his dependence upon his own resources. The Ammonites picture the same thing. Ethiopia is a picture of the stubbornness, or the intransigence of man. "Can the Ethiopian change his color?" the Scriptures say. And Assyria is man in his arrogance and his pride. Now God says he is against all these things, and as he moves at last in judgment on the human race, these are to be eliminated. In chapter 3 you will notice how extensive God's wrath is (verses 1, 2):
Woe to her that is rebellious and defiled,
the oppressing city!
She listens to no voice,
she accepts no correction.
She does not trust in the Lord,
she does not draw near to her God. (Zephaniah 3:1-2 RSV)
This could be said of almost all the cities of the earth. As you read on you see that this is a world-wide matter (verse 8):
"Therefore wait for me," says the Lord,
"for the day when I arise as a witness.
For my decision is to gather nations,
to assemble kingdoms,
to pour out upon them my indignation,
all the heat of my anger;
for in the fire of my jealous wrath
all the earth shall be consumed." (Zephaniah 3:8 RSV)
What for? What is God after? Is he just interested in getting even, wreaking his vengeance at last upon the stubbornness and willfulness of men? Is he visiting the earth with this terrible hurricane of destruction in order to leave it nothing but a smoking ruin, barren and desolate, without inhabitants? No, that is what men would do if there were another world war. We would leave the earth desolate, but God will never leave it that way.
After you read the description of all the darkness, gloom, and slaughter -- after the desolation and the destruction, what is the next word? Verse 14:
Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion;
shout, O Israel!
Rejoice and exult with all your heart,
O daughter of Jerusalem! (Zephaniah 3:14 RSV)
Why? You see, this is the new order that is to follow. This is why God is dealing with men, so that he might bring out songs instead of sorrow, service instead of selfishness, security instead of slavery. This will be the consequence of God's judgment. And we are told that the Lord God is in the midst of the people, not for judgment, as he is in chapter 3, verse 5:
The Lord within her is righteous, he does no wrong... (Zephaniah 3:5a RSV)
But here in verse 17:
The Lord, your God, is in your midst,
a warrior who gives victory;
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. (Zephaniah 3:17-18a RSV)
Furthermore, the Lord says (verses 18-20):
"I will remove disaster from you...
deal with all your oppressors.
And I will save the lame
and gather the outcast,...
change their shame into praise
and renown in all the earth.
At that time I will bring you home, (Zephaniah 3:18-3:20a RSV)
What a picture this is! Specifically, of course, it has to do with the remnant of Israel, but it is a picture of God's loving care during any time of despair or darkness. It is my personal belief that this is something that the church does not see. The church is caught away before these events occur but, in the time that follows, God calls back the remnant of Israel to himself and they will at last break out into the song of the redeemed. Now the singing here is led by the Lord himself in a marvelous, glorious melody of joy. It reminds me of that beautiful passage in the Song of Songs:
For lo, the winter is past,
the rain is over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth,
the time of singing has come. (Song 2:11-12a RSV)
That is what follows the time of judgment. But no one but the redeemed can join in that song. Elizabeth Browning, in her poem, the Seraphim, describes the angels watching the work of the Son of God on earth and at last, seeing with stupefied amazement the incarnation and ultimately the cross, one angel looks at this host of ransomed souls and he says to the other, "Hereafter shall the blood bought captives raise their passion song of blood." And the other one replies, "And we extend our holy vacant hands toward the throne and cry, 'We have no music.'" You see, only the redeemed can sing like this. After the darkness, after the slaughter, after the terrible destruction comes the time of the singing. That is what God is after in your life. That is possible on the level of the Spirit right now when God deals death's stroke against the flesh within us and brings us through that painful experience of saying no to the ego and the self-life. There follows the time of the singing, the time that he is after, the reason he takes us through the pain and the darkness. What you see to be true of the individual life will also be true on the whole wide canvas of history as God brings human history to an end.
That is what Zephaniah tells us about. Although it is a painful scene, one that begins in darkness and gloom, it ends in joy and gladness and singing.
Our Father, we know that these words are true, and how they make us tremble, how they make us solemn and quiet before you. What a God -- a God who sees everything, who deals in righteousness, a God who loves but who cannot be turned aside, who will not water down his precepts, who will not cater to our weakness though he supplies us with fullness of strength. Lord, help us to walk softly before you and to love you with all our heart and mind and strength. We pray that in our own lives we may come to the day of singing when our hearts are filled with gladness as we anticipate this coming day when the earth shall break forth into beauty and glory. We thank you in Christ's name. Amen.
Change your mind and get acquainted with Jesus. He is alive today and in charge of everything. He is now working behind the scenes, but not for much longer.
“He who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself; he who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed the testimony that God has given of His Son. And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.” (1 John 5:10-13)
Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen.
“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,” says the Lord, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.(Revelation 1:8,9)
John Chapter 3
1 There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.”
3 Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”
5 Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” 9 Nicodemus answered and said to Him, “How can these things be?” 10 Jesus answered and said to him, “Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things?
11 Most assuredly, I say to you, We speak what We know and testify what We have seen, and you do not receive Our witness. 12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven. 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. 16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. 18 “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 19 And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. 21 But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.”
The Ruthlessness of God
Jesus, Judge of All
Notes on Habbakuk
(Strong's #3709 — Noun Feminine — orge — or-gay' )
see ANGER and Notes (1) and (2).
(Strong's #2372 — Noun Masculine — thumos — thoo-mos' )
"hot anger, passion," for which see ANGER , Notes (1) and (2), is translated "wrath" in Luke 4:28; Acts 19:28; Romans 2:8 , RV; Galatians 5:20; Ephesians 4:31; Colossians 3:8; Hebrews 11:27; Revelation 12:12; 14:8,10,19; 15:1,7; 16:1; 18:3; "wraths" in 2 Corinthians 12:20; "fierceness" in Revelation 16:19; 19:15 (followed by No. 1).
(Strong's #3950 — Noun Masculine — parorgismos — par-org-is-mos' )
occurs in Ephesians 4:26 : see ANGER , A, Note (2).
Note: For the verb parorgizo, "to provoke to wrath," Ephesians 6:4 , AV, see ANGER , B, No. 2.
A — 1: μακροθυμία
(Strong's #3115 — Noun Feminine — makrothumia — mak-roth-oo-mee'-ah )
"forbearance, patience, longsuffering" (makros, "long," thumos, "temper"), is usually rendered "longsuffering," Romans 2:4; 9:22; 2 Corinthians 6:6; Galatians 5:22; Ephesians 4:2; Colossians 1:11; 3:12; 1 Timothy 1:16; 2 Timothy 3:10; 4:2; 1 Peter 3:20; 2 Peter 3:15; "patience" in Hebrews 6:12; James 5:10 . See PATIENCE , and Note under FORBEAR.
B — 1: μακροθυμέω
(Strong's #3114 — Verb — makrothumeo — mak-roth-oo-meh'-o )
akin to A, "to be patient, longsuffering, to bear with," lit., "to be long-tempered," is rendered by the verb "to be longsuffering" in Luke 18:7 , RV (AV, "bear long"); in 1 Thessalonians 5:14 , RV (AV, "be patient"); so in James 5:7,8; in 2 Peter 3:9 , AV and RV, "is longsuffering. See BEAR , No. 14, ENDURE, PATIENT, SUFFER.
Note: "Longsuffering is that quality of self-restraint in the face of provocation which does not hastily retaliate or promptly punish; it is the opposite of anger, and is associated with mercy, and is used of God, Exodus 34:6 (Sept.); Romans 2:4; 1 Peter 3:20 . Patience is the quality that does not surrender to circumstances or succumb under trial; it is the opposite of despondency and is associated with hope, 1 Thessalonians 1:3; it is not used of God." * [* From Notes on Thessalonians, by Hogg and Vine, pp. 183,184.]
Patience, Patient, Patiently
A — 1: ὑπομονή
(Strong's #5281 — Noun Feminine — hupomone — hoop-om-on-ay' )
lit., "an abiding under" (hupo, "under," meno, "to abide"), is almost invariably rendered "patience." "Patience, which grows only in trial, James 1:3 , may be passive, i.e., == "endurance," as, (a) in trials, generally, Luke 21:19 (which is to be understood by Matthew 24:13 ); cp. Romans 12:12; James 1:12; (b) in trials incident to service in the gospel, 2 Corinthians 6:4; 12:12; 2 Timothy 3:10; (c) under chastisement, which is trial viewed as coming from the hand of God our Father, Hebrews 12:7; (d) under undeserved affliction, 1 Peter 2:20; or active, i.e. == "persistence, perseverance," as (e) in well doing, Romans 2:7(AV, "patient continuance"); (f) in fruit bearing, Luke 8:15; (g) in running the appointed race, Hebrews 12:1 .
"Patience perfects Christian character, James 1:4, and fellowship in the patience of Christ is therefore the condition upon which believers are to be admitted to reign with Him, 2 Timothy 2:12; Revelation 1:9 . For this patience believers are 'strengthened with all power,' Colossians 1:11 , 'through His Spirit in the inward man,' Ephesians 3:16 .
"In 2 Thessalonians 3:5 , the phrase "the patience of Christ,' RV, is possible of three interpretations, (a) the patient waiting for Christ, so AV paraphrases the words, (b) that they might be patient in their sufferings as Christ was in His, see Hebrews 12:2 , (c) that since Christ is "expecting till His enemies be made the footstool of His feet,' Hebrews 10:13 , so they might be patient also in their hopes of His triumph and their deliverance. While a too rigid exegesis is to be avoided, it may, perhaps, be permissible to paraphrase: 'the Lord teach and enable you to love as God loves, and to be patient as Christ is patient." * [* From Notes on Thessalonians by Hogg and Vine, pp. 222,285.]
In Revelation 3:10 , "the word of My patience" is the word which tells of Christ's patience, and its effects in producing "patience" on the part of those who are His (see above on 2 Thessalonians 3:5 ).
A — 2: μακροθυμία
(Strong's #3115 — Noun Feminine — makrothumia — mak-roth-oo-mee'-ah )
"long-suffering" (see B, No. 2), is rendered "patience" in Hebrews 6:12; James 5:10; see LONGSUFFERING.
B — 1: ὑπομένω
(Strong's #5278 — Verb — hupomeno — hoop-om-en'-o )
akin to A, No. 1, (a) used intransitively, means "to tarry behind, still abide," Luke 2:43; Acts 17:14; (b) transitively, "to wait for," Romans 8:24 (in some mss.), "to bear patiently, endure," translated "patient" (present participle) in Romans 12:12; "ye take it patiently," 1 Peter 2:20 (twice). See also under A, No. 1.
B — 2: μακροθυμέω
(Strong's #3114 — Verb — makrothumeo — mak-roth-oo-meh'-o )
akin to A, No. 2, "to be long-tempered," is translated "to have patience," or "to be patient," in Matthew 18:26,29; 1 Thessalonians 5:14 , AV (RV, "be longsuffering"); James 5:7 (1st part, "be patient;" 2nd part, RV, "being patient," AV, "hath long patience"); in Hebrews 6:15 , RV, "having (AV, after he had) patiently endured." See LONGSUFFERING.
Notes: (Adjectives). (1) For epieikes, translated "patient" in 1 Timothy 3:3 , AV, see GENTLE. (2) For anexikakos, translated, "patient" in 2 Timothy 2:24 , AV, see FOREBEAR.
C — 1: μακροθύμως
(Strong's #3116 — Adverb — makrothumos — mak-roth-oo-moce' )
akin to A, No. 2, and B, No. 2, denotes "patiently" Acts 26:3 .
A — 1: ἱλάσκομαι
(Strong's #2433 — Verb — hilaskomai — hil-as'-kom-ahee )
was used amongst the Greeks with the significance "to make the gods propitious, to appease, propitiate," inasmuch as their good will was not conceived as their natural attitude, but something to be earned first. This use of the word is foreign to the Greek Bible, with respect to God, whether in the Sept. or in the NT. It is never used of any act whereby man brings God into a favorable attude or gracious disposition. It is God who is "propitiated" by the vindication of His holy and righteous character, whereby, through the provision He has made in the vicarious and expiatory sacrifice of Christ, He has so dealt with sin that He can show mercy to the believing sinner in the removal of his guilt and the remission of his sins.
Thus in Luke 18:13 it signifies "to be propitious" or "merciful to" (with the person as the object of the verb), and in Hebrews 2:17 "to expiate, to make propitiation for" (the object of the verb being sins); here the RV, "to make propitiation" is an important correction of the AV, "to make reconciliation." Through the "propitiation" sacrifice of Christ, he who believes upon Him is by God's own act delivered from justly deserved wrath, and comes under the covenant of grace. Never is God said to be reconciled, a fact itself indicative that the enmity exists on man's part alone, and that it is man who needs to be reconciled to God, and not God to man. God is always the same and, since He is Himself immutable, His relative attitude does change towards those who change. He can act differently towards those who come to Him by faith, and solely on the ground of the "propitiatory" sacrifice of Christ, not because He has changed, but because He ever acts according to His unchanging righteousness.
The expiatory work of the Cross is therefore the means whereby the barrier which sin interposes between God and man is broken down. By the giving up of His sinless life sacrificially, Christ annuls the power of sin to separate between God and the believer.
In the OT the Hebrew verb kaphar is connected with kopher, "a covering" (see MERCY SEAT), and is used in connection with the burnt offering, e.g., Leviticus 1:4; 14:20; 16:24 , the guilt offering e.g., Leviticus 5:16,18 , the sin offering, e.g., Leviticus 4:20,26,31,35 , the sin offering and burnt offering together, e.g., Leviticus 5:10; 9:7 , the meal offering and peace offering, e.g., Ezekiel 45:15,17 , as well as in other respects. It is used of the ram offered at the consecration of the high priest, Exodus 29:33 , and of the blood which God gave upon the altar to make "propitiation" for the souls of the people, and that because "the life of the flesh is in the blood," Leviticus 17:11 , and "it is the blood that maketh atonement by reason of the life" (RV). Man has forfeited his life on account of sin and God has provided the one and only way whereby eternal life could be bestowed, namely, by the voluntary laying down of His life by His Son, under Divine retribution. Of this the former sacrifices appointed by God were foreshadowings.
B — 1: ἱλαστήριον
(Strong's #2435 — Noun Neuter — hilasterion — hil-as-tay'-ree-on )
akin to A, is regarded as the neuter of an adjective signifying "propitiatory." In the Sept. it is used adjectivelly in connection with epithema, "a cover," in Exodus 25:17; 37:6 , of the lid of the ark (see MERCY SEAT), but it is used as a noun (without epithema), of locality, in Exodus 25:18-22; 31:7; 35:12; 37:7,8,9; Leviticus 16:2,13-15; Numbers 7:89 , and this is its use in Hebrews 9:5.
Elsewhere in the NT it occurs in Romans 3:25 , where it is used of Christ Himself; the RV text and punctuation in this verse are important: "whom God set forth to be a propitiation, through faith, by His blood." The phrase "by His blood" is to be taken in immediate connection with "propitiation." Christ, through His expiatory death, is the Personal means by whom God shows the mercy of His justifying grace to the sinner who believes. His "blood" stands for the voluntary giving up of His life, by the shedding of His blood in expiatory sacrifice, under Divine judgment righteously due to us as sinners, faith being the sole condition on man's part.
Note: "By metonymy, 'blood' is sometimes put for 'death,' inasmuch as, blood being essential to life, Leviticus 17:11 , when the blood is shed life is given up, that is, death takes place. The fundamental principle on which God deals with sinners is expressed in the words 'apart from shedding of blood,' i.e., unless a death takes place, 'there is no remission' of sins, Hebrews 9:22 .
"But whereas the essential of the type lay in the fact that blood was shed, the essential of the antitype lies in this, that the blood shed was that of Christ. Hence, in connection with Jewish sacrifices, 'the blood' is mentioned without reference to the victim from which it flowed, but in connection with the great antitypical sacrifice of the NT the words 'the blood' never stand alone; the One Who shed the blood is invariably specified, for it is the Person that gives value to the work; the saving efficacy of the Death depends entirely upon the fact that He Who died was the Son of God." * [* From Notes on Thessalonians by Hogg and Vine, p. 168.]
B — 2: ἱλασμός
(Strong's #2434 — Noun Masculine — hilasmos — hil-as-mos' )
akin to hileos ("merciful, propitious"), signifies "an expiation, a means whereby sin is covered and remitted." It is used in the NT of Christ Himself as "the propitiation," in 1 John 2:2; 4:10 , signifying that He Himself, through the expiatory sacrifice of His Death, is the Personal means by whom God shows mercy to the sinner who believes on Christ as the One thus provided. In the former passage He is described as "the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the whole world." The italicized addition in the AV, "the sins of," gives a wrong interpretation. What is indicated is that provision is made for the whole world, so that no one is, by Divine predetermination, excluded from the scope of God's mercy; the efficacy of the "propitiation," however, is made actual for those who believe. In 1 John 4:10 , the fact that God "sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins," is shown to be the great expression of God's love toward man, and the reason why Christians should love one another. In the Sept., Leviticus 25:9; Numbers 5:8; 1 Chronicles 28:20; Psalms 130:4; Ezekiel 44:27; Amos 8:14 .
A — 1: ὀργή
(Strong's #3709 — Noun Feminine — orge — or-gay' )
originally any "natural impulse, or desire, or disposition," came to signify "anger," as the strongest of all passions. It is used of the wrath of man, Ephesians 4:31; Colossians 3:8; 1 Timothy 2:8; James 1:19,20; the displeasure of human governments, Romans 13:4,5; the sufferings of the Jews at the hands of the Gentiles, Luke 21:23; the terrors of the Law, Romans 4:15; "the anger" of the Lord Jesus, Mark 3:5; God's "anger" with Israel in the wilderness, in a quotation from the OT, Hebrews 3:11; 4:3; God's present "anger" with the Jews nationally, Romans 9:22; 1 Thessalonians 2:16; His present "anger" with those who disobey the Lord Jesus in His Gospel, John 3:36; God's purposes in judgment, Matthew 3:7; Luke 3:7; Romans 1:18; 2:5,8; 3:5; 5:9; 12:19; Ephesians 2:3; 5:6; Colossians 3:6; 1 Thessalonians 1:10; 5:9 . See INDIGNATION , VENGEANCE , WRATH.
Notes: (1) Thumos, "wrath" (not translated "anger"), is to be distinguished from orge, in this respect, that thumos indicates a more agitated condition of the feelings, an outburst of wrath from inward indignation, while orge suggests a more settled or abiding condition of mind, frequently with a view to taking revenge. Orge is less sudden in its rise than thumos, but more lasting in its nature. Thumos expresses more the inward feeling, orge the more active emotion. Thumos may issue in revenge, though it does not necessarily include it. It is characteristic that it quickly blazes up and quickly subsides, though that is not necessarily implied in each case.
(2) Parorgismos, a strengthened form of orge, and used in Ephesians 4:26 , RV margin, "provocation," points especially to that which provokes the wrath, and suggests a less continued state than No. (1). "The first keenness of the sense of provocation must not be cherished, though righteous resentment may remain" (Westcott). The preceding verb, orgizo, in this verse implies a just occasion for the feeling. This is confirmed by the fact that it is a quotation from Psalms 4:4 (Sept.), where the Hebrew word signifies to quiver with strong emotion.
Thumos is found eighteen times in the NT, ten of which are in the Apocalypse, in seven of which the reference is to the wrath of God; so in Romans 2:8 , RV, "wrath (thumos) and indignation" (orge); the order in the AV is inaccurate. Everywhere else the word thumos is used in a bad sense. In Galatians 5:20 , it follows the word "jealousies," which when smoldering in the heart break out in wrath. Thumos and orge are coupled in two places in the Apocalypse, Revelation 16:19 , "the fierceness (thumos) of His wrath" (orge); and Revelation 19:15 , "the fierceness of the wrath of Almighty God." See WROTH (be).
(3) Aganaktesis originally signified "physical pain or irritation" (probably from agan, "very much," and achomai, "to grieve"), hence. "annoyance, vexation," and is used in 2 Corinthians 7:11 , "indignation."
B — 1: ὀργίζω
(Strong's #3710 — Verb — orgizo — or-gid'-zo )
"to provoke, to arouse to anger," is used in the Middle Voice in the eight places where it is found, and signifies "to be angry, wroth." It is said of individuals, in Matthew 5:22; 18:34; 22:7; Luke 14:21; 15:28 , and Ephesians 4:26 (where a possible meaning is "be ye angry with yourselves"); of nations, Revelation 11:18; of Satan as the Dragon, Revelation 12:17 . See WRATH.
B — 2: παροργίζω
(Strong's #3949 — Verb — parorgizo — par-org-id'-zo )
is "to arouse to wrath, provoke" (para, used intensively, and No. 1); Romans 10:19 , "will I anger;" Ephesians 6:4 , "provoke to wrath." See PROVOKE.
B — 3: χολάω
(Strong's #5520 — Verb — cholao — khol-ah'-o )
connected with chole, "gall, bile," which became used metaphorically to signify bitter anger, means "to be enraged," John 7:23 , "wroth," RV, in the Lord's remonstrance with the Jews on account of their indignation at His having made a man whole on the Sabbath Day.
Notes: (1) Thumomacheo (from thumos, "wrath," machomai, "to fight") originally denoted to fight with great animosity, and hence came to mean "to be very angry, to be exasperated," Acts 12:20 , of the anger of Herod, "was highly displeased."
(2) Thumoo, the corresponding verb, signifies "to provoke to anger," but in the Passive Voice "to be wroth," as in Matthew 2:16 , of the wrath of Herod, "was exceeding wroth."
(3) Aganakteo, see A, Note (3), is rendered in various ways in the seven places where it is used; "moved with indignation," Matthew 20:24; 21:15 , RV (AV, "sore displeased"); "had indignation," Matthew 26:8; Mark 14:4 . In Mark 10:14 the RV has "was moved with indignation" (AV, "was much displeased"), said of the Lord Jesus. The same renderings are given in Mark 10:41 . In Luke 13:14 (AV, "with indignation"), the RV rightly puts "being moved with indignation." These words more particularly point to the cause of the vexation. See DISPLEASE, INDIGNATION.
(4) In Colossians 3:21 , erethizo signifies "to provoke." The RV correctly omits "to anger."
C — 1: ὀργίλος
(Strong's #3711 — Adjective — orgilos — org-ee'-los )
"angry, prone to anger, irascible" (see B, Nos. 1,2), is rendered "soon angry" in Titus 1:7.
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