Thursday, December 5, 2013

Nahum 1-2: A Jealous and Avenging God

Nah 1:1-8 An oracle concerning Nineveh. The book of the vision of Nahum the Elkoshite. The Lord is a jealous and avenging God; the Lord takes vengeance and is filled with wrath. The Lord takes vengeance on his foes and maintains his wrath against his enemies. The Lord is slow to anger and great in power; the Lord will not leave the guilty unpunished.His way is in the whirlwind and the storm, and clouds are the dust of his feet. He rebukes the sea and dries it up; he makes all the rivers run dry. Bashan and Carmel wither and the blossoms of Lebanon fade. The mountains quake before him and the hills melt away. The earth trembles at his presence, the world and all who live in it.  Who can withstand his indignation? Who can endure his fierce anger? His wrath is poured out like fire; the rocks are shattered before him.  The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him, but with an overwhelming flood he will make an end of [Nineveh]; he will pursue his foes into darkness. 

Nahum declares God as a "jealous and avenging God." While we usually think of jealousy and vengeance as negative (and therefore bad), yet jealousy and vengeance are part of God's attributes. The Second of the Ten Commandments says: "You shall not bow down to them (idols) or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand [ generations] of those who love me and keep my commandments" (Ex 20:5-6). Even in the New Testament, Paul probably has in mind the Second Commandment when he mentions God's jealousy against idolatry: "Are we trying to arouse the Lord's jealousy? Are we stronger than he?" (1 Cor 10:22). 

But Paul makes a distinction between godly and ungodly jealousy: "I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him" (2 Cor 11:2). Not all negative emotions are ungodly, though because of our sinful nature, many negative emotions are expressed in ungodly actions. Just because we have the Spirit of God doesn't mean we will not be jealous or angry. But hopefully, our jealousy or anger will be godly, not carnal.

The NT Greek word translated into English as "jealous" is zelos, which is sometime translated as "envy" (ungodly jealousy) and something as "zealous" (godly jealousy). The word (zelos) in itself has neutral connotation--it refers to a strong desire for or against something. However, when used in the context of a relationship, it refers to that strong desire to protect the relationship from outside influences that seek to undermine it.

So because God is jealous, He is also avenging. He will do whatever necessary to protect His covenant relationship with His people, even to the point of destroying whatever or whoever stands in the the way of that relationship. Even to the point of sacrificing His Son to die on the Cross so that the devil's control over people can be broken.

Father, thank You that You are a jealous and zealous God, for there is no half-measure in the way You have chosen to love us as Your children. Amen.

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