The Wrath of God: The Holy Response of Justice
Read Nahum 1:2-9
“Who can stand before his indignation? Who can endure the burning of His anger?”
The title of the sermon that day is one that would hardly be popular today. The text for the message was found in Deuteronomy 32:35 “Vengeance is Mine, and retribution. In due time their foot will slip; for the day of their calamity is near, and the impeding things are hastening upon them.” In this sermon the preacher would confront the sinner with the inevitable wrath of God, “The wrath of God burns against them, their damnation does not slumber; the pit is prepared, the fire is made ready, the furnace is now hot, ready to receive them; the flames do now rage and glow. The glittering sword is whet, and held over them, and the pit hath opened its mouth under them.” He would conclude that day with this invitation, “Therefore, let everyone that is out of Christ, now awake and fly from the wrath to come. The wrath of Almighty God is now undoubtedly hanging over a great part of this congregation. Let every one fly out of Sodom: ‘Haste and escape for your lives, look not behind you, escape to the mountain, lest you be consumed.’”
The message preached that day would have a profound effect upon the listeners and would result in one of the greatest revivals to occur in our nation. The Preacher that day was Jonathan Edwards, and the title of the message, one that would be ignored today, was “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” In a world where we want a God who accepts all people regardless of their religious beliefs, lifestyle or behavior, we have forgotten that intrinsic in the nature of God is his wrath. It should not escape our notice that the wrath of God is mentioned more frequently in scripture than the love of God.
This is what Nahum reminds us in his message, that the wrath of God should never be dismissed or taken lightly. When God’s anger bursts forth against sin, even the foundations of the earth quake in his presence (vs 5). When we speak of the righteousness and justice of God, in the same breath we must affirm his holy indignation and anger of sin. When we speak of the wrath of God, we are not talking about the explosive anger of a spoiled child who did not get his way. Rather we are referring to his deep and intense hatred of all sin. It is a judicial wrath that is poured out on those who reject righteousness and in so doing choose for themselves the judgment of God (for the New Testament equivalent see John 3:16-19 and verse 36).
However, in the terror-stricken outpouring of God’s anger, we find a ray of hope, for in the midst of the description of the terrible wrath of God, we find the offer of hope and protection for those who trust in him. In verse 7 we read, “The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble, and He knows those who take refuge in him.” Our greatest terror is to stand in the presence of a holy God who, in the outworking of his justice, pours out his wrath upon our sin. But the greatest joy is to have that wrath averted to the person of Christ who paid the penalty for our sin so that we might experience his grace. Today, the suffering we face serve as a reminder that sin needs a remedy, and the remedy is found only in Christ. Our acceptance or rejection of that message will determine whether we experience his wrath or grace. If we have accepted Christ’s offer of salvation, in our greatest suffering now we find hope, for there awaits for us the joys of heaven because of God’s grace. If we have rejected the offer of salvation, our greatest joys in the present are empty for in the end there only awaits the eternal wrath of God. The choice is now ours to make.