AUSTRALIAN BIBLE CHURCH
October 3, 2004
JUSTICE AND MERCY ARE POLES APART
There is about the prophecy of Nahum an uncompromising directness which does not hesitate to declare judgment, ruin and justice which is worse in a way, than ever cruelty could be. It is searing because it is true. Nineveh, scene of a thousand depravities, heartless acts, an al Qaeda of the past blooming into an Empire, is up for removal from the earth.
“Who will bemoan you!”
asks the Lord, declaring prophetically in advance,
“Nineveh is fallen!”
Indeed, said the Lord, the voice of its nobles would be heard no more, and its name, He commanded, would be perpetuated no longer!
This is precisely what happened. It became a literal heap, buried, and it was not until the 19th century that secular evidence was found of the regal name, Sargon, which some 'liberal scholars' had pretended to be wrong, since it had not till then been found. When it was found stamped on bricks, which were exhumed, unbelievers were amazed; but it is always the same with all but monotonous regularity: speak against the Bible and facts demote your impudence, and the word of the great King of Kings proceeds to demolish not only kingdoms of arrogant power, but of errant unbelief.
To the last tittle it is fulfilled, and will be; and many are the Ninevehs of nonsense which articulate themselves similarly, that their name be no longer remembered, since they fought against the Lord of truth, and cavilled at the King of Glory. NO OTHER NAME is given to man by which to be saved; and His is the name of salvation, truth and justice, mercy and goodness, the living Word of God manifest, wedded to what is written by His Spirit (I Peter 1:10-12, Matthew 5:17ff., Acts 4:11ff., 17:31, John 5:19ff., 14:6, Philippians 2:1-12).
Trust in the Lord, as mighty to save (Isaiah 63:1) what seeks and trusts Him, as to doom after much patience, what arrogantly despises or carelessly ignores Him (II Peter 3:9). Shalmaneser of Assyria, that Empire of which Nineveh was head, is reputed ruthlessly to have moved whole populations about at his pleasure, to secure the result he desired; but Nineveh is not moved about, but down and out, inhabitant of dust, blighted by Babylon, righted by none!
As to that divinely judged city, its predicted and perpetuated end clearly depicted by Nahum in its loud days, before it crashed into oblivion (1:14, 2:13 cf. Zephaniah 2:13-15), what became of it ? It fell so far that for centuries it was of an unknown site, a desert victim, simply lost, rubble covered. Nineveh is merely one of the emblems that God “will not at all acquit the wicked.”
History happily obeys the God of creation, and knows no other Lord. It is His word the Bible alone which so acts in His name; for it is His.
Like chaff blown from the residual wheat, wandering from truth in its dusty throes, wantonry has its woes, and flies futile at last, into the wind (cf. Psalm 1:4-6).
On the other hand, in Nahum is the entire faithfulness of God shown: for
“the LORD is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; and He knows those who trust in Him,”
to whom He gives His own righteousness (Romans 5:15-17) and in whom He places His own life by His Spirit (John 15:1), with grant of enduring not for a season, but for eternity (John 10:9,27-28, 5:24, I John 5:11-12, Romans 5:1-11).
Mercy is not justice, and justice is not mercy. If you want it straight, then there is no mercy in justice when sin is the disease and death is the penalty. Judgment according to truth (Romans 2:1ff.) is the least savoury of the spiritual realities; but not the least necessary. Waste has to go. Imagine however waste about to go, and not relishing the thought of its everlasting burnings, yet refusing to trust in the Lord, so that He, instead of removing garbage (Matthew 13:38-39,42, 13:12), would be a stronghold! Whatever be the nature of time in that realm, unwise is he or she who has time for it! (Romans 8:37-39). It is the domain of everlasting contempt (Daniel 12:2).
It is no good attacking God because He attacks relentless rubbish; He spares it long, but infection is the problem with defection: it is not its creation but its desecration which is the point. If it becomes evil-smelling, a fantasy in deformity, equipped with the energies of dissolution, then its end is assignable. The wonder is that God is willing to reconstitute rather than re-cycle, so that what sin has rubbished, mercy may regenerate. THAT, it is the wonder of grace.
If grace however is despised, and trust in the Lord is not exercised, then
“Who can stand before His indignation” – Nahum 1:6.
“Darkness will pursue His enemies!”
If you reject the light of the world, then darkness is all that is left (John 8:12, 9:4; 3:19,36). Coming is a trial and tribulation such as the world has not before known since Israel became a nation (Daniel 12:1-2), so great that without divine intervention, human beings would cease to exist on this earth altogether (Matthew 24:22). While Australia ponders the possibility of an atheist PM, we do well to remember that if that sort of folly were to find its end, it would simply be death. War on the God of life can mean no less; and the end is interminable, destiny undesired (Mark 9), rebellion’s depiction.
The “wrath of God” abides not only on smashed Nineveh, but on all that proud and exalts itself to the demeaning of God (cf. Isaiah 2:11 –
“The lofty looks of man shall be humbled,
the haughtiness of men shall be bowed down,
and the LORD alone shall be exalted in that day”).
It is well then that
“The LORD is slow to anger and great in power”,
but it is well also that
“He will not at all acquit the wicked” (Nahum 1:3).
What takes the tar, gets the bar: cleansing is essential.
WHAT DOES NOT STAND, FALLS
The end comes, as it did for Nineveh, so for this world. -
“What do you conspire against the LORD ?”
asks Nahum of the enemy of His rule and mercy. “
He will make an utter end of it. Affliction will not rise up a second time”
– Nahum 1:9.
So is this present Gentile era, the enemy who now is more than Empire, and quickly becomes international: Britain falling into a freedom trap now it appears, the UN already a bastion of spiritual corruption, Europe forsaking principle in its new Constitution, the USA long involved in Power Politics instead of pure principles at the governmental level, seedy substitutes for spirituality, while the false prophets in sects and Islamic terrorists flower like sour grass instead of crops. When the end comes, it does not manufacture other endings. The curtain falls, the whistle blows, the trumpet will sound (I Corinthians 15:52).
In Nahum 2, God chides and
challenges Nineveh to ‘man the fort’, but all in vain,
for her destiny is certain.
“ 'Behold I am against you,’ says the LORD of hosts. 'I will burn you' ” – 2:13.
The name fell too! It is for them of old, a part of the evil of this world: like its flower of evil now, the rest of the evil of this world, as in II Peter 3, where this world and its evil works will be burnt up. The challenge is the same, the Speaker is the same and the result will not differ! Again, 1:14,
”The Lord has given a command concerning you, Your name shall be perpetuated no longer.”
BUT SO IS THE SAVING STRENGTH
God Himself compares Nineveh to former fallen cities, and declares,
“It shall come to pass that all who look upon you, will flee from you and say,
'Nineveh is laid waste, who will bemoan her
Where shall I seek comforters for you ?' ” (3:7).
The end is graphically described (3:18):
shepherds slumber, O king of
Your nobles rest in the dust.
Your people are scattered on the mountains,
and no one gathers them.”
Indeed, “Your injury has no healing,” and worse,
who hear news of you will clap their hands over you.
For on whom has not your wickedness passed continually ?”
Broken morals are not rebuilt: they must be pardoned in humility, atoned.
This world is dying. Its time has been sufficient. Its death notice is already in the spiritual paper, the Bible, and the newspapers continually confirm all the Lord’s predictions as its wickedness proceeds where there is no healing; for there is no help but in holiness, no holiness but in mercy, no mercy but in the Cross of Christ (Galatians 6:14, Acts 4:11-12), no truth but in God (John 14:6, I Cor. 2:9ff.), and no escape but in the propitiation of His wrath (Hebrews 6:19-20, 2:1-4). This is for the spiritual fornications of man (Romans 3:25), who turn from God as if their destiny were their own, their world their creation: their consciences captives to lusts of mind, spirit and body.
How beautiful therefore that there are on the mountains (Nahum 1:15 as in Isaiah 52:7) the feet of the Gospel bearers whose word focusses the Messiah, the Christ, captor of sin, liberator of life (John 8:32-36). The feet have beauty because of what they carry, and it has beauty because of its strength of salvation, that Gospel which not only publishes peace, presents pardon to faith, but a Lord to life, that man might know the mind of his Maker, and do the will of his Saviour with relish, practising righteousness with joy, and meeting with the Lord (Isaiah 63:5).
Look at the last two paragraphs, and what do you see ? It is one road or the other.
For or against Christ: these ways are poles apart.
The poles however do not meet.
There is to be, says Daniel, as the resurrection comes into its place in the divine drama which is called history (12:1), “a time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation, even to that time. “
Who is to be delivered ?
“Everyone who is found written in the book” will be delivered.
In what is the name written ? In blood, but whose ?
In that of Christ, in effect, since “in Him, we have redemption through His blood” (Eph. 1:7), for He has reconciled many to Himself
“in the body of His flesh through death,
to present you holy, and blameless,
and above reproach in His sight.”
But HE is “a STRONGHOLD in the day of trouble,” and He KNOWS “those who trust in Him.”
TRUST therefore in Him, for there is no substitute for faith, nor for mercy, which is everlasting and places those regenerated by Him, in the site for His children (John 14:1-3, II Cor. 5:1ff.), ransomed by grace.