Have you ever had a turkey over the holidays that was overcooked or burned? You know the kind where someone had never cooked one before, or forgot it in the oven. Most of the turkeys have that little “pop-up” thing that tells you when it’s done, but I’ve seen a hard and crusty bird come out of the oven before with that little plastic device all melted and deformed.
Have you ever been dreaming all day of a moist and juicy and delicious turkey only to end up settling for dry and crunchy and tasteless one?
There’s a little thing I read called “The Silver Lining to the Burning Question, Who Burnt the Bird? Some reasons to be thankful” by Craig Boldman and Pete Matthews from their book “Every Excuse in the Book, Seven Hundred and Fourteen Ways to Say It’s Not My Fault.” I’ll read this little section.
How you can be thankful even if you burned the turkey? [Think about the positive side of burning it to a crisp] Salmonella [poisoning] would never be a concern. That’s positive, isn’t it? No one would overeat [so you wouldn’t run out of food] That’s positive too. [Maybe] Everyone would think it was just [cooked that way on purpose, you know] Cajun blackened [style. You could spin the story that way]. [It would save you money in the long run because] Uninvited guests would think twice next year. [It’s an opportunity to give people a chance to expand there eating horizons by having extra helpings of the other dishes] Your cheese broccoli lima bean casserole would gain newly found appreciation. … [I like this one] Pets would NOT pester you under that table for scraps [but there would be all that food on the floor he refused to eat] [You could remind yourself that] The smoke alarm was due for a test anyway. [You could sell the heath and fitness angle by inviting people up and telling them that] Carving the bird would provide
See there’s good news in a story about things getting burnt to a crisp.
I started with some humor because today I am preaching on the Fiery Wrath of God. Which is, by the way, no laughing matter.
Some of you might be thinking, “Well, it’s about time. Some of these OTHER folks really need to hear about the Fiery Wrath of God.” Some of you might be thinking, “Oh, come on, these wooden pews are already uncomfortable, isn’t that enough suffering for one Sunday?” Others of you are just kind of thinking, “Whatever, I don’t pay much attention anyway. Wake me when it’s over.”
That last one is what was going on the people in Nahum’s time.
As we read through the Old Testament we seem to read a lot about the wrath of God, His vengeance, His Jealousy. To be honest, when we read the Word we can see that there were more that a few birds that got burnt up in the fire of God’s wrath. Remember the guys in Leviticus who literally burst into flames because they didn’t follow God’s instructions. I remember vividly worrying about bursting into flames by upsetting God when I was growing up. Maybe it’s because I saw how my parents exploded when I did something wrong, and how much more powerful is God?
We hear about preachers pounding their congregations with this type of message of God’s fierce wrath toward sinful people, we hear about it and imagine it, but how many of us here this morning have ever actually, I mean really heard very many sermons like that?
One of the reasons we don’t hear much of God’s wrath anymore is because some will argue that the God of the New Testament is a different God than the God of the Old Testament, so discussions of God’s wrath are no longer needed. There is no need for hellfire and brimstone sermons telling us that God will clobber us if we step out of line. He’s just not like that any more.
Yes, He is.
God is the same as he always was and always will be and scripture tells us that sinful people deserve and sometimes receive his wrath.
But what’s wrong with a sermon with that message, and what was wrong with the message I was getting when I grew up was that the preacher seemed to have forgotten the ending.
For those who believe, we know that God is a wrathful God, but He rained down his wrath on His own Son on the cross. The wrath that we deserved and still deserve. Jesus took his Father’s wrath upon Himself, for us, because He loves us.
That’s the part that can be missing in the hellfire and brimstone sermon. Yes, we deserve it, and our God is a vengeful and wrathful and jealous God, that hasn’t changed. But for believers, that wrath was diverted from those who deserved it onto Jesus Himself.
Robert William Dale, the great preacher and theologian, said that he had known one man that he felt had a perfect right to talk about Hell, and that man was D. L. Moody. He stated that the reason that he felt that way was that he never heard Moody refer to Hell without tears in his voice.
And that’s the other part of the problem. Sometimes, because of the wonderful freely given gift in Christ, we celebrate our salvation, but frankly sometimes, we forget the tears in our voice in realizing WHAT we are being saved from and how GREAT a price was paid.
You can de-horn calves, and that would make them less dangerous. If you have a cat, you can take him to be de-clawed. They can de-fang snakes. Skunks have been known to make excellent pets, once you get them de-scented.
But in forgetting the full nature of our God, it’s like trying to de-claw God. That’s why I think it’s so vital to preach the whole scripture. Because the God of Genesis is the God of the Psalms, The God of Isaiah is the God of Matthew, and the God of Romans is the God of Revelation. He’s the same one God. How He was then is the same as He is now and How He will always be.
But we soft sell parts of scripture, or leave them out all together because we tend to want to discard the aspects of God that we don’t like to hear about. We take away this and add that until we have a soft and cuddly God that resembles Barney, Big Bird, Santa Claus, or somebody’s kind hearted grandfather.
The only problem with “that God” is that He is not a God at all. He is an idol, a human construction. He’s the God we’d like Him to be and not the God He is.
So we must again look upon how we see God and how we view the Scripture. The words of Nahum are not pretty. But ask yourself: Is what we are going to read here merely the rants of a seventh century B.C. fire and brimstone lunatic, or is it God actually revealing himself, through the inerrant words of the prophecy of Nahum?
And after you come to conclusion that indeed it is the true Word of God, and I hope that you do, then be sure to take a special look to the last verse of this first chapter. When you do you will once again see that God always points us to the way out, shows us salvation.
But we can’t just preach verses 1-14 (which is what people focused of the Hell and Brimstone sometimes do), or conversely we can’t just preach verse 15 (which is what the New Softer Gentler God folks sometimes do).
They go together.
There is no true understanding of salvation if we do not have a true understanding of what we are being saved from.
Nahum Chapter 1 [From the NLT – New Living Translation]
1 This message concerning Nineveh came as a vision to Nahum, who lived in Elkosh.
2 The Lord is a jealous God, filled with vengeance and wrath.
He takes revenge on all who oppose him and continues to rage against his enemies!
3 The Lord is slow to get angry, but his power is great,
and he never lets the guilty go unpunished.
He displays his power in the whirlwind and the storm.
The billowing clouds are the dust beneath his feet.
4 At his command the oceans dry up, and the rivers disappear.
The lush pastures of Bashan and Carmel fade, and the green forests of Lebanon wither.
5 In his presence the mountains quake, and the hills melt away;
the earth trembles, and its people are destroyed.
6 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.
7 The Lord is good, a strong refuge when trouble comes.
He is close to those who trust in him.
8 But he will sweep away his enemies in an overwhelming flood.
He will pursue his foes into the darkness of night.
9 Why are you scheming against the Lord?
He will destroy you with one blow; he won’t need to strike twice!
10 His enemies, tangled like thornbushes and staggering like drunks,
will be burned up like dry stubble in a field.
11 Who is this wicked counselor of yours who plots evil against the Lord?
12 This is what the Lord says: “Though the Assyrians have many allies,
they will be destroyed and disappear. O my people, I have punished you before,
but I will not punish you again.
13 Now I will break the yoke of bondage from your neck
and tear off the chains of Assyrian oppression.”
14 And this is what the Lord says concerning the Assyrians in Nineveh:
“You will have no more children to carry on your name.
I will destroy all the idols in the temples of your gods.
I am preparing a grave for you because you are despicable!”
15 Look! A messenger is coming over the mountains with good news!
He is bringing a message of peace. Celebrate your festivals, O people of Judah,
and fulfill all your vows, for your wicked enemies will never invade your land again.
They will be completely destroyed!
The city of Nineveh had become burdensome to God. And so he raises up the prophet Nahum to prophesy against Nineveh, and to lay on the table the wrath of God.
You’ll notice this scripture to the people of Nineveh is a companion peace to Jonah’s prophecy. Nineveh was just about the last place any prophet would want to be sent. And God has been very patient with them. He warns them, but they keep going back to the same stuff. So approximately one-hundred fifty years after Nineveh repents and is spared before Jonah’s watching eyes, the city has returned to its old evil ways. Once again God’s sends a message to the city. This time the message is more than a warning. It is a prediction of the coming judgment.
Nahum reminds them and us that God is not a God who is to be trifled with.
For years, Nineveh had shaken its fist in the face of God and seemingly got away with it.
Nahum reminds, ‘God is jealous. He is an avenging God. His wrath will break forth against his foes.’
Now any time we hear the word “jealousy” or “anger” or “wrath” used in conjunction with God, it can kind of ruffle us.
Because when I get jealous, when you get angry, when we display our wrath for one reason or another, it is always tainted by sin. There is always mixed motives, good and bad tied up in it.
And because of that, we hear these word we think God has these same aspects in Him.
But that is completely wrong.
God is totally pure. He is completely holy, righteous, and just. He is incapable of co-existing with sin. His wrath, his anger is never arbitrary. It is never out of control. It is never tainted in the least by sin. His wrath is a part of his holiness and his purity.
So when God is jealous, or angry, or wrathful is because he’s completely 100% just in doing so. There is no mistake. When God doles out His fiery wrath, it was completely deserved.
That’s our state of being. Our sinful nature makes the wrath of God 100% completely deserved.
And if you think that all this fiery wrath of God stuff is just Old Testament history, consider this: Jesus speaks about the wrath of God, and does so in a more eternal way than the Old Testament ever does. Paul talks about it and so does Peter and James and John. In every book of the New Testament it’s in there.
But rather than destroy all of those who have rebelled against him, God pours out his wrath chiefly, supremely, yet to us, gracefully, at the cross upon the person of his own very son, Jesus.
A wrath that rightfully (at least in the eyes of man’s judgment) should have been directed at you and me.
The guilty will not go unpunished. Yet Jesus, the totally “not guilty”, steps forward and takes on God’s wrath for the guilty, for you and me. So we cannot separate God’s wrath from his grace, they are totally interlinked.
Who can stand before his fierce anger? Who can survive his burning fury? (we see in verse 6)
“Nobody.” That’s you and me included, unless we are in Christ Jesus. It is those that have a relationship with Christ that find refuge in the graceful wrath of God.
When you and I understand the gospel, then the wrath of God is actually a comfort. A reminder that in eternity, there will be no sin, no injustice, no evil. All of that will be destroyed by God’s wrath in the fullness of time by the Fiery Wrath of God. And even more a comfort to know that, in the meantime, in Jesus Christ we are spared from it.
©2010 Timothy Henry