Sunday, October 24, 2010

What Do I Say First?

Wyatt snatches the plastic school bus from Amelia's hands, turns, and races down the hall to the other end of the house. Her screams immediately hit the upper octaves. As if on cue, huge crocodile tears follow, splashing onto her shirt.

In a week where my oldest has tried everything in his almost-4-year-old power to annoy, irritate, and frustrate his younger siblings, this is the last straw in a whole fist full of last straws.

It's time for the naughty bench.

When all the tears have stopped, I come and sit on the floor before him, somber and with an intentionally wrinkled brow. I wait patiently for him to describe exactly what he did wrong. Then, we discuss the rules and how there are consequences for breaking them. I repeat for the thousandth time that not sharing makes mommy sad, but more importantly, it makes Jesus sad.

He speaks the words, "I'm sorry mommy." Usually, I get a hug and kiss, but this time, I send him to give one to the little girl whose feelings he hurt.

This is the structured punishment my household repeats dozens of times each week--mommy's hand of judgment doles out consequences, many times with the explanation of why coming afterwards.

It's the same way, many times, we as Christians approach non-Christians, with this in-your-face discussion of sin, judgment, and consequences before explaining the why sin is so heinous to God.

I've long been a firm believer that for one to understand her position as a sinner, she must first understand her role in breaking God's law, the Ten Commandments. One cannot understand the need for grace, for a Savior, if one doesn't understand that to break even the tiniest part of the law means necessary judgment from a perfect God.

This past week, though, I've been having different thoughts. As part of my ladies' Bible study class, I've been reading and re-reading the book of Nahum, a small 3-chapter book of prophecy concerning Nineveh's complete annihilation and, ultimately, Assyria's fall.

What's interested me is that the prophecy doesn't begin as I expected--with God laying out Nineveh's sin. Instead, it begins with a half a chapter description of who God is:

"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.

5 The mountains quake before him
and the hills melt away.
The earth trembles at his presence,
the world and all who live in it."(Nah. 1:2-5).

Here, Nahum explains God's character--God is jealous, is the perfect avenger of wrongs, is wrathful against His enemies. God is slow to anger, is all-powerful, and is completely just in His punishments. God is in control of all creation and all mankind, both of which tremble before His almighty power.

But that's not all God is. While God is wrathful towards those who are His enemies and the enemies of His chosen people, in the next sentence, Nahum explains, "The LORD is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him" (Nah. 1:7).

God is good. God cares for His people.

To understand the first five verses explaining part of God's character helps one understand this verse explaining more of God's character.

All parts of God's character are intertwined.

For instance, it may seem like God is not giving justice to those of His people who have been wronged, but that's only because His character is one that is "slow to anger." He is slow to anger because He is just and merciful.

Likewise, God must be the avenger, must be wrathful because He is completely good, completely caring towards those who love Him, and completely just.

You cannot have one characteristic without the other. They complement each other in perfection.

Only after describing God's character does Nahum then pronounce God's judgment on Nineveh. He describes Nineveh's sin of "endless cruelty" and gives graphic details concerning the judgment to come (Nah. 3:19).

Based on this passage, I'm inclined to believe that trying to explain God's law isn't enough when presenting the gospel to non-believers. Instead, I think Nahum was divinely "on to something" here as he shows that understanding God's character is key to understanding the law and what must happen when one breaks God's law.

Transgressing God's law doesn't mean much to the person who doesn't understand the God who created it in the first place.

Only when a person truly understands who God is can he understand why God would need to send His son Jesus to die a brutal death on an old rugged cross so He could offer each of us grace.

1 comment:

  1. Great post, Jennifer. Like disappointing a mommy you love, hearing these truths about who GOD is, makes us even more aware of our sin, somehow. Thanks for sharing.