The Wrath of God

A Lesson from Nahum
The God of Wrath

Nahum 1:2-6 describes God's wrath:
The Lord is a jealous and avenging God; 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 great in power, 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 withers. The mountains quake before him; the hills melt; the earth heaves before him, the world and all who dwell in it. 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 into pieces by him.

Time and time again, God offered people forgiveness if they would repent. But this time they refused to turn from their sin. And God became angry.

In these verses from Nahum 1, God's wrath is described in these terms: jealous, vengeful, wrathful, anger, indignation, fierceness, and fury.

Still, God's people can rest in the same confidence David expressed in 2 Samuel 24:14: I am in great distress. Let us fall into the hand of the LORD, for his mercy is great; but let me not fall into the hand of man.

Still, for all of us, unbeliever and believer, it's important to heed the words of Hebrews 10:31 are true: It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

God's Personal Wrath

God's wrath is personal. Verse 11 says, "From you came one who plotted evil against the Lord, a worthless counselor."

The wrath of God was directed at the pagan king Sennacherib, who planned the destruction of God's people. One hundred years prior to this time, God was going to destroy Nineveh. The king and all the people repented, and God spared them. God showed them grace, mercy, and kindness.

But in Nahum, we read that they had rejected Him and were plotting to kill His people.

God was not only angry with the Ninevites but also with Sennacherib in particular. When the Assyrians approached Jerusalem, King Sennacherib began taunting the king of Jerusalem. He said there was nothing they could do to stop the invasion.

The king of Jerusalem went before the Lord and pleaded that they be spared.

In verses 12-13, we read God's response: Though they are at full strength and many, they will be cut down 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 apart.

Isaiah chapters 36 and 37 give us details of what happened. The evening after God's reply, He sent the angel of death throughout the Assyrian army and killed 185,000 soldiers (Isaiah 37:36). When the Israelites woke up the next morning and looked out at the Assyrian army, all they saw were dead bodies. The remainder of the Assyrian army left, and Jerusalem was saved.

Second Kings 19 tells us what happened to Sennacherib.

God's people could rest assured that the words of Nahum 1:15 were true: "Behold, upon the mountains, the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace! Keep your feasts, O Judah; fulfill your vows, for never again shall the worthless pass through you; he is utterly cut off."

We would rather think that God directs His wrath at sin rather than people, but that is clearly not the case.

Even in the New Testament, we read, "Remove the wicked man from among yourselves" (1 Corinthians 5:13).

Although there are those who say this is not loving, it is loving both to the people the sinful individual is influencing and to the person himself. After all, it is crucial that those who practice wickedness must recognize how important it is to repent and be restored to fellowship

In chapter 2 of Nahum we learn that God's wrath is not only personal but also thorough.

God's Thorough Wrath

In chapter 2 of Nahum, God addresses Nineveh, the capital of Assyria and says in verse 1, "The scatterer has come up against you. Man the ramparts; watch the road; dress for battle; collect all your strength."

Upon the destruction of Nineveh, we come to see God as the Scatterer. Nahum 2:3-5 says, "The shield of his mighty men is red; his soldiers are clothed in scarlet. The chariots come with flashing metal on the day he musters them; the cypress spears are brandished. The chariots race madly through the streets; they rush to and fro through the squares; they gleam like torches; they dart like lightning. He remembers his officers; they stumble as they go, they hasten to the wall; the siege tower is set up."

Nahum could see the battle taking place. It was fierce and bloody. Even though Nineveh's defenses were ready, they were no match and were conquered. They were going to be treated as Assyria had treated Israel. They were led away into captivity. The nation experienced God's wrath when He used the Babylonians to carry out His judgement.

When God judges and His wrath comes on a person or nation, it carries through to the end, and His wrath is just. If God's wrath were to miss something, it would not be just nor would it uphold His righteous requirements.

When God judges and sends His wrath, it's complete. Still, it is conditional.

Romans 3:23 says, "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."

From conception, we all deserve the Lord's personal, thorough wrath. Yet, there is one thing that can turn away God's wrath from us, repentance.

Romans 5:8-9 says, "God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God."

The only way anyone can turn away the wrath of God and escape His judgment is to genuinely repent.

As we continue to read the book of Nahum, we see in chapter 3 that God's wrath is also irresistible.

God's Irresistible Wrath

Nahum 3:4 says, "All because of the many harlotries of the harlot, The charming one, the mistress of sorceries, Who sells nations by her harlotries And families by her sorceries."

The rulers of Assyria were cruel, even to the point of building monuments to boast of their cruelty. That same brutality was seen in King Sennacherib.

In verse 5, we read, "'Behold, I am against you,' declares the Lord of hosts; 'And I will lift up your skirts over your face, And show to the nations your nakedness And to the kingdoms your disgrace. I will throw filth on you And make you vile, And set you up as a spectacle. And it will come about that all who see you Will shrink from you and say, "Nineveh is devastated! Who will grieve for her?" Where will I seek comforters for you?'"

God said he would take their idols, their "abominable filth," and throw them back in their face. God's wrath was going to come down so hard on the nation, they would be reduced to nothing. They would be made to look weak and foolish.

Nineveh thought they were unbeatable, impenetrable. Yet, when God's wrath came upon them, there was nothing they could do. It was irresistible.

God then did something amazing. In verses 12-19, He not only warned them of the coming destruction but encouraged them to prepare for it. Why would He do that? Why warn them? Because God wanted Nineveh to be fully ready. That way, when God's wrath did come on them, all the world would see that nothing could resist it.

The moment God's wrath is pronounced, and the people's heart reject repentance, His judgment comes. And when it comes, there is no provision, no defense, no preparation that will save us. When the terrible wrath of God falls, nothing can stop it.

God is a God of wrath. His wrath is personal, thorough, and irresistible. But where does God's wrath comes from? What motivates it?

God's Wrath Comes from Love

A god who is never angry is a god who cannot love. Have you ever thought about that?

When my wife and I first put our daughter Natalie in daycare, we faced a number of challenges. One day, when I arrived to pick her up, I saw another child hit her on the head with a toy—while the teacher was busy chatting with a second teacher from another class.

How did I, as Natalie's father, feel? I was angry of course.

However, I cast aside any ill-will I had toward the other child, scooped up my daughter, and took her for French fries.

What motivated my anger? It was love of course.

Because God truly loves His people, He does become angry with those who harm them. And if the offenders fail to repent, the Lord pours out His wrath, a wrath motivated by love.

In Nahum 1:7, we read these words: "The Lord is good, A stronghold in the day of trouble, And He knows those who take refuge in Him."

Those who love Him and trust Him see the goodness of God and find protection in Him. No one who turns to God will ever experience His wrath because it has already been satisfied.

Romans 5:8 says, "God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us."

The spotless, sinless, Lamb of God experienced the full fury of His Father's wrath on the cross. He did it for sinners like you and me. Why would God the Son willingly and purposefully submit to the wrath of His Father? Because He loves us.

Nahum rightly said at the end of chapter 1, in verse 7, that God knows those who take refuge in Him.

In John 5:24, these individuals are referred to as God's sheep. "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life" (NASB).

God only exercises His wrath on people who are not His sheep. For them, there is no escaping it. If you've never trusted in Christ as your Lord and Savior, when you take your last breath, God's wrath will be waiting for you. It will be personal, thorough, and irresistible.

But what does Jesus say? If we believe in Him, God's wrath is fully and completely satisfied—because of His work on the cross.

Unbelievers who fall into the hands of the Lord experience His wrath. But if we trust in Christ, faithfully trusting in His work on the cross, when we fall into the hands of the Lord, we won't experience His wrath. Instead, we'll experience His loving mercy.