If God is for us… (Ed Mackenzie)

Many of us turn away from thoughts of God as ‘jealous and avenging’ (1:2), and yet Nahum is a book full of judgement, and judgement of the most severe kind. Perhaps the most sobering expression of judgement in this short prophetic book is God’s declaration to Nineveh that ‘I am against you’, an announcement that occurs not just once but twice (2:13; 3:5).

http://12baskets.co.uk/view/images/electric-cross

http://12baskets.co.uk/view/images/electric-cross

Other bloggers in this series have warned against too easily ignoring or side-lining the theme of judgement. We are all at risk of making God in our own image, and the reality of God’s wrath is revealed in the New Testament as well as the Old. God’s wrath is an expression of God’s justice, and so is an assurance that God will judge the wicked and bring an end to those who cause ‘endless cruelty’ (3:19).

Are we too quick, however, to see ourselves as those who will benefit from God’s wrath? Do we naturally see ourselves as beneficiaries of God’s judgement, those who will be freed from the wickedness and cruelty of others?

While such a tendency might come easily to us all, the New Testament radicalises the teaching on divine wrath by declaring that we are all its objects. The apostle Paul writes that ‘the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness’ (Rom 1:18), and argues that all are ungodly; ‘there is no one righteous, not even one’ (Rom 3:10b). Such a theme runs throughout the great theologians of the past. To take just one example, John Wesley once preached that, ‘all are dead, dead to God, dead in sin, dwelling in a corruptible, mortal body, shortly to be dissolved, and under the sentence of death eternal.’

While such an announcement – the news that God is ‘against us’ – is hard to accept, the New Testament narrates that God sends His own Son to absorb the wrath and judgement that hangs over us all. A kind of divine transaction takes place – Christ takes our judgement and we receive Christ’s righteousness – and so God becomes the God ‘for us’.

God’s love embraces us in Jesus, and nothing – not cruelty or wickedness or suffering – can take us from His hands (Rom 8:31-39). God is no longer ‘against us’, but speaks to us in the word of his Son, ‘I am with you always, to the very end of the age’ (Matt 28:20).

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About Ed Mackenzie

Ed is the Discipleship Development Officer for the Methodist Church, and has previously worked as a lecturer at Birmingham Christian College and as an Associate Leader of B1 Church. He has a PhD in New Testament studies and lives in Derbyshire with his wife and two sons.