For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that who ever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life
Let us pray:
Hide me behind your cross, Lord Jesus. Articulate the Father’s heart through my voice and let the Holy Spirit breathe new life to us, opening our ears to hear the message of God. Amen
Do any of you remember Carnac the Magnificent? I don’t remember him, per se, but I have heard of him. Johnny Carson would dress up in a crazy costume and make fun of psychics. Psychics make a living by predicting the future. Usually the really good ones will be able to stand in a room of 50 or 60 people and do what my husband has taught me is called “a cold read” meaning, they can get you to tell them enough about themselves to give you back that information in a way that makes it seem like they know it, when what they are really doing is guessing and you are telling them they guessed correctly. “Anyone here have an Aunt? I’m hearing from Aunt Jane, no Jessie, no Julie…” they might say and then someone will gasp because they have an Aunt Julie and the “psychic” will go and guess more things about Aunt Julie.
Today as we read about Nahum, I started getting that picture in my mind of a psychic telling you something that is based on intuition and a reading of the circumstances, but it makes you feel better if you want it to. Nahum isn’t guessing about what is going to happen to Ninevah and Assyria, he’s getting his oracles and the prophecies in them from God, BUT their intention is not so much a warning for the ones it is about (because they’ll never hear it) as much as a comfort to the ones that are hearing it: God doesn’t care for injustice, especially when it is coming from the hands of an entire nation.
And eventually, those nations will no longer be powerful and mighty, but instead will be destroyed by others. It is only a matter of time. In this case, God has sent prophets to Ninevah before – remember the story of Jonah? But that was 200 years ago, and now Ninevah (the capital of Assyria) has essentially dispersed the Northern Kingdom of Israel into oblivion. The remaining Southern Kingdom of Judah is quaking in fear over the possibility that the Assyrians will come for them, too. They will, of course, eventually be destroyed and captured and held in Babylon, but they will ultimately return (those are some of the stories we’ve talked about already in this series: remember Ezra and Nehemiah and Daniel) but God wants them to know that it is not ok for a nation to be oppressive and abusive and horrible to everyone around them – eventually a nation like that will come to a not so great end.
It might seem like a prophesy such as this has no bearing on us, but although we are not a great nation, it ties in quite a bit to our message last week: Act justly is one of the commands God has for us. And why? Because it is in God’s very character to demand justice. God’s justice requires righteousness. God’s justice insists that the poor and the widow and the orphan are to be cared for – no matter what. God’s justice asks us to wait on God for retribution – we don’t have to punish our enemies, in God’s time they will see the results of their actions. Instead, God’s justice says be kind to those who are against you, love those whom you would fear and stand firm, because GOD will fight for you.
God has promised to Judah that the good news of God’s justice is coming for them and they do not have to wait long to see it develop in Ninevah. God is already watching the world powers of the day align to make the prophetic true in their time and God is already protecting the people of Judah.
God’s justice also has something to say about how we treat others. About how we judge others. In Matthew, chapter 7, part of the sermon on the mount, Jesus tells us exactly how God feels about US meting out justice:
“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
3“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
In other words: let God deliver judgement. God is pretty good at this justice thing – it’s part of who God is. And we know that God’s judgement always comes with this caveat: if you repent, if you believe, if you turn from what you were doing – mercy triumphs over judgement: God will forgive, God will offer grace.
It is because God loves the whole world that judgement is reserved for him. God’s ability to see into the hearts and minds, to see the whole of circumstance, to know all of the parts and pieces to every person’s actions: that is why God reserves justice for himself. God is the only one who can be just. God is the only one who knows the truth of every situation and circumstance.
So God gives us pretty clear instructions that our justice is not to be God’s justice – rather our justice comes when we are fair and reasonable and kind and thoughtful: not just to those we care most about, but to everyone we encounter. We should try to put ourselves in another’s shoes and think compassionately even about those we do not agree with. Acting justly for us is going to most often look like standing with those who are treated un-justly, rather than enacting any kind of specific justice for them.
So, maybe you have a friend who has been laid off from work, so your just act might be buying them groceries.
Maybe someone has been mistreated at school or work. You can stand with them against those who are bullying or mean.
Maybe someone is struggling with depression. You can walk with them to fight the darkness that threatens to overpower them.
Maybe someone is sick. You can walk with them to fight their illness or disease.
Sometimes there is real injustice in the world – false accusations, false imprisonments, mistreatment by governments and authorities – sometimes there is racism that needs to be confronted from a systemic perspective. Sometimes there are places where we can see cruelty and hardship that needs a strong voice to rise against.
Recently, in New Zealand, armed gunmen shot up a mosque and killed many people.
Christian justice demands that we not stay quiet about these things. In some places, churches have written letters or offered protection to their local Muslim neighbors. In some places, Christians have gathered around their Muslim neighbors to protect them while they pray.
God asks us to be just in a world that is often unjust. God asks us to discount injustices done to us in this world, because our Kingdom responsibilities offer us the opportunity to be just even when the other is not. God is a just God and he asks that we respond justly in every circumstance and every moment. Because God loves the
This is not an easy thing. This is not a thing done without great discipline. We don’t always get it right. We don’t always follow through, but if we have trusted Jesus with our lives, we can trust Jesus to build in us not only the desire for justice, but the ability to create it and live it and offer it where ever we can.
As we have been doing every week in this series, I will remind you of what it looks like to say that the love of God is found in every page of Scripture. Follow along on your sheets and whenever I point at you say whatever is bolded on your page:
What does it mean to say God loves?
God loved us enough to create us, to form us from the dust.
God loved us enough to let us fail, to let us choose our own way over God’s – to let us chain ourselves to sin and defeat and heartbreak and sorrow and death.
God loved us enough to provide a rescue, a way back: through wanderers, murderers, adulterers, defaulters, promise-breakers, foreigners, strangers, and lovers.
God loved us enough to show us mothers, judges, kings, and prophets who loved and spoke for God and kept reminding us of the promise of redemption
God loved us enough to show us how evil and wrong continually mess things up and how obedience to God fosters holiness and bestows blessing
God loved us enough to send us Jesus, the only begotten Son of God, to preach and live peace, grace, hope, joy, and love.
God loved us enough to see Jesus rejected, to see him die, to see him buried.
God loved us enough to raise Jesus from the dead and send the Holy Spirit to remind us of all we have in him and empower us to live like Jesus.
God loves us enough to want us to live like Jesus – an abundant life infused with all the fruit of the Spirit, redeemed, free, loved.
God loves us enough to still let us choose our own destiny.
God loves us enough to promise the hope of forever, of resurrection from the dead, and final judgement.
God loved us enough, God loves us enough, God will always love us enough.
For God so loved the world…
God loves you.
God wants you to know it. God wants you to live in it.
God wants you to be able to love others because you know you are loved.
God’s love is expressed to us every week, most tangibly, as we gather at this table: The Son who died and yet lives, gave everything so we could know the depth of God’s love.
So, Come. Drink the wine. Eat the bread. Know you ARE loved.
God loves you. Go, love the world with him.