God of Mercy & Justice

Today’s Reading:  2 Kings 21, 2 Chronicles 33, Nahum

Through the life of Hezekiah’s son, Manasseh, we see again that God loves a repentant heart.  But to fully understand just how merciful God is, you need to fully understand just how ugly sin can be.  Manasseh was 12 years old when he became king and he reigned in Jerusalem for 55 years.  He rebuilt the pagan shrines his father had destroyed, and even went so far as to build pagan altars IN the temple of the Lord.  He was SO steeped in idolatry that he sacrificed his own sons in the fire.  He practiced sorcery, divination, and witchcraft, consulting with mediums and psychics.  Scripture says he aroused God’s anger.  

Manasseh also murdered many innocent people until Jerusalem was filled from one end to the other with innocent blood.  This was in addition to the sin that he caused the people of Judah to commit, leading them to do evil in the Lord’s sight. – 2 Kings 21:16

The Lord spoke to Manasseh and his people, but they ignored all his warnings.  So the Lord sent the commanders of the Assyrian armies, and they took Manasseh prisoner.  They put a ring through his nose, bound him in bronze chains, and led him away to Babylon.  But while in deep distress, Manasseh sought the Lord his God and SINCERELY humbled himself before the God of his ancestors.  And when he prayed, the Lord listened to him and was moved by his request.  So the Lord brought Manasseh back to Jerusalem and to his kingdom.  Then Manasseh finally realized that the Lord alone is God! – 2 Chronicles 33:10-13

Manasseh, one of the most evil kings Judah experienced, cried out to God for forgiveness…and God listened.  That’s the kind of God we serve – a God who is holy and punishes sin, but who is also merciful and forgiving for those who SINCERELY repent.  

The prophet Nahum helps us understand our God, how He is a loving God but also a just God.  God is patient and forgiving but also a holy God who punishes sin.  How does our knowledge of a loving God fit with Nahum’s prophecies?

The Lord is a jealous God, filled with vengeance and rage.  He takes revenge on all who oppose him and continues to rage against his enemies!  The Lord is slow to get angry, BUT his power is great, and he never lets the guilty go unpunished…The Lord is good, a strong refuge when trouble comes.  He is close to those who trust in him.  BUT he will sweep away his enemies in an overwhelming flood.  He will pursue his foes into the darkness of night. – Nahum 1:3a,7-8

God is once again sending a message of judgment through one of his prophets, this time the judgment is against Israel and Judah’s enemy – the city of Ninevah, which is part of the country of Assyria.  The empire of Assyria has grown strong and left a path of destruction across the land.  Israel is one of many countries that has been defeated and captured by Assyria and now this victor is pressing in on Judah.  Nahum’s prophecy against Judah’s enemy is coming at a good time – a time when they need to hear that God is powerful and will punish his enemies.  The people of Ninevah had repented of their sins after Jonah came to them but they have again turned to wickedness.  The prophet Nahum declared God’s judgment on the city – the city that was rich and appeared to the world as beautiful, but was full of evil.  A city of murder and lies!

What sorrow awaits Nineveh, the city of murder and lies!

She is crammed with wealth and is never without victims.

Hear the crack of whips, the rumble of wheels!

Horses’ hooves pound, and charioteers charge past!

There are countless casualties, heaps of bodies – so many bodies that people stumble over them.

All this because Nineveh, the beautiful and faithless city, mistress of deadly charms, enticed the nations with her beauty.

She taught them all her magic, enchanting people everywhere.

“I am your enemy!” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.

“And now I will lift your skirts and show all the earth your nakedness and shame.

I will cover you with filth and show the world how vile you really are.

All who see you will shrink back and say, ‘Nineveh lies in ruins.  Where are the mourners?’

Does anyone regret your destruction?” – Nahum 3:1-7

Scriptures like this convince me that God will someday put an end to the many industries leaving a path of destruction behind them, like pornography and abortion.  They glamourize themselves and collect their riches, but God sees that they are surrounded by those they have destroyed – He hears the cries of the babies who never had the chance to be born.  He hears the cries of the men and women who have been deceived and lied to.  He sees the wounds of those who have been abused and mistreated.

The abortion industry has convinced society to consider abortion socially acceptable, a good option for women.  The government pours money into their pockets.  Good organizations like Susan G. Komen have been caught in their web of deceit and cannot get out unharmed.  Every year, well-meaning individuals raise money for the cause of breast cancer research, only to have their money go to an industry that profits from the death of 1.3 million babies a year in the US.  

The stench of death surrounds us and the world continues to shout their praises.  BUT God… God will sweep over his enemies in an overwhelming flood.  He will pursue his foes into the darkness of night (1:8).

The Lord is a jealous God, filled with vengeance and rage.

He takes revenge on all who oppose him and continues to rage against his enemies!

The Lord is slow to get angry, but his power is great, and he never lets the guilty go unpunished…

In his presence the mountains quake, and the hills melt away;

The earth trembles, and its people are destroyed.

Who can stand before his fierce anger?

Who can survive his burning fury?

His rage blazes forth like fire, and the mountains crumble to dust in his presence. – Nahum 1:1-3a,5-6

Lord, we thank you for being a God of power – a God aware of the hurts, pains and injustices of this world.  Lord, forgive us as a nation who allows and promotes the death of those who cannot defend themselves.  Strengthen us and equip us to protect with the power of your love and to speak your truth to this lost and dying world.  Expose evil empires that veil themselves as if to appear beautiful.  May those who work in these industries see that you are the only true God and sincerely repent, finding forgiveness in our merciful God.  Lord, break our hearts over what breaks yours and calm our troubled hearts.  Oh God, we trust in you for you are the God of love and the God of justice.  Amen.