Monday, September 5, 2016

"'Vengeance is mine, I shall repay,' says the Lord …"

Day #250

Scripture Reading:  Nahum 1 - 3 …

"Vengeance is mine, I shall repay!"  That sounds like a quote from the "Old Testament God," doesn't it?  That's what some people like to think.  Actually, most people today seem to think that God developed a new personality in the New Testament, but the quote from Deuteronomy 32:35 is repeated in Paul's letter to the Romans:  "Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: 'It is mine to avenge, I will repay,' says the Lord" (Romans 12:19).  God has not changed His mind or His character.  Those who reject God's offer of forgiveness and life through faith in His Son Jesus Christ will ultimately face His wrath and judgment.  This is the lesson to be learned in the prophecy of Nahum.

Nahum's prophecy of Nineveh's fall was given after Assyria had destroyed the northern kingdom of Israel, scattering the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob throughout their empire and taking over their land.  Nineveh was made the capital city of Assyria and Jonah's trip to Nineveh took place some 100 years before Nahum's prophecy of Nineveh's downfall.  God had spared Nineveh at that time to point out the foolish rebellion of Israel, who rejected the message of the prophets and God's call to turn from their idolatry and return to Him.  God used Assyria to bring judgment on His own people, but now their time had come.

While they had oppressed the people of Judah, God delivered Judah from their hand and their power was fading because God's hand was now against them.  Through Nahum God declares to Nineveh, "I am against you!" (2:13; 3:5).  What a horrible thing to hear - that the LORD Almighty is against you.  As He was against the enemies of Israel and Judah, so He is against every nation, every people who defy His authority and reject His Word … then and now.  

Those in Nineveh in the time of Nahum, like those in the days of Noah, ignored God's warnings and faced His judgment.  Millions, even billions today do the same, but He is still the God who says, "Vengeance is mine, I shall repay!"  Yet, even in Nahum's words of impending judgment, there is the offer of hope.  "The LORD is a jealous and avenging God, the LORD takes vengeance and is filled with wrath … The LORD is slow to anger and great in power; the LORD will not leave the guilty unpunished. … His wrath is poured out like fire; the rocks are shattered before Him" (1:2-3, 6).  Yet, "The LORD is good, a refuge in times of trouble.  He cares for those who trust in Him" (1:7).

The only escape from God's just judgment is faith; trusting in His promises of mercy, grace and forgiveness to those who draw near to Him, believing His promise to send a Savior … and we know Who that Savior is:  Jesus, the Messiah, the Christ, the eternal Son of God.  Sometimes it appears that evil is winning.  It must have appeared that way to those living in Judah in Nahum's day.  But God says, "Although they have allies and are numerous, they will be cut off and pass away.  Although I have afflicted you, O Judah, I will afflict you no more. …  Celebrate your festivals, O Judah and fulfill your vows.  No more will the wicked invade you; they will be completely destroyed" (1:15).

Those words are a comfort to those who believe in Israel's God today even as they were then.  There will be a future time when all who believe will celebrate the festivals of Israel as Jesus reigns over the nations in Jerusalem. These prophecies will be fulfilled literally, even as the prophecies of Jesus' first coming were fulfilled literally.  "The LORD will restore the splendor of Jacob like the splendor of Israel" (2:2).  But to those who continue in their unbelief and rebellion against our God, He says, "Nothing can heal your wound; your injury is fatal" (3:19).

All people and all nations will soon face the just judgment of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  It will happen, just as the prophets, Jesus and the New Testament writers have said.  Those who refuse to heed God's warnings, who refuse to humble themselves, to repent, to believe in Jesus Christ, will perish in their sin, facing the eternal judgment of God in hell.  Still, "The LORD is good, a refuge in times of trouble.  He cares for those who trust in Him" (1:7).

Are you trusting in Jesus Christ?  Do you confess Him as your Savior and Lord?  Do you desire to turn from sin and to follow the path of righteousness for His name's sake?  It's time to stop listening to the false teachers who promise peace when there is no peace with God except through confession of your sin and faith in Jesus Christ.

God has not changed His character or His mind.  "The LORD will not leave the guilty unpunished" (1:3), and we are ALL guilty.  Either you accept Jesus as your sin-offering, or you face God's judgment for your sin.  These are the only two options.  Isaiah writes, "He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by HIs wounds we are healed.  We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all" (Isaiah 53:5-6).

"God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM shall not perish but have eternal life. …  Whoever does NOT believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son" (John 3:16,18).  If verse 16 is true, then verse 18 is also true.  God WILL pour out His vengeance and wrath upon an unsuspecting world in the very near future, but those who call on the name of the Lord will be saved.  His name is JESUS! Call on Him today.  "Seek the LORD while He may be found; call on Him while He is near.  Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts.  Let him turn to the LORD, and He will have mercy on him, and to our God, for He will freely pardon" (Isaiah 55:6-7).

"Almighty God, Your judgments are true and just and Your wrath displays Your holiness, for You cannot look upon sin or tolerate evil in Your presence. I humble myself before You, O Lord, confessing my sin and trusting Your promise that all who come to You in the name of Jesus Christ will receive forgiveness and will enter into Your glorious presence on that day when Your judgment is poured out on all the peoples of the earth.  Use me, O Lord, to warn others, that those whom You have chosen might hear Your Word and through the work of Your Spirit within them repent of their sin and believe and be saved.  In Jesus' name, Amen"

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