Does God Ever Loose His Patience?

Nahum offers some harsh words to the city of Nineveh about their future

Does God Ever Loose His Patience?The book of Nahum, a short three-chapter prophecy, centers on the city of Nineveh. If this city sounds familiar, if might be from the book of Jonah when God sends his prophet there to prophesy its destruction. After hearing Jonah’s blunt, half-hearted message of doom, all of Nineveh, from its king to its people, repents, and God gives them a reprieve. Jonah becomes mad and complains about this to God, almost criticizing his mercy.

Later the prophet Nahum resumes the predictions of doom on the people of Nineveh. In fact the entire book of Nahum focuses on Nineveh. It ends with the ominous words, “Nothing can heal you; your wound is fatal,” (Nahum 3:19). There is no hope. There is no call to repent or make amends for their errors. The verdict is final with no chance for appeal.

Though we tend to see God as full of grace and mercy, of forgiveness and second chances, his patience is not limitless. When it comes to the city of Nineveh and all the evil it represents, God has had enough. Their sins are lethal, with no option for restoration. This time there is no repentance; this time there is no second chance. History records its destruction.

If this view of God makes you uncomfortable, as it does me, recall that we cannot fully know God or understand his ways. We want to rightly bask in his love, but we must not lose sight of the need to also fear him. Nahum and the city of Nineveh remind us of this other side to God’s sovereignty.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Nahum 1-3, and today’s post is on Nahum 3:19.]

Are You a Friend of Sinners?

It’s hard to embrace those who are different from us but we should

Jesus is a Friend of Sinners, by Peter DeHaanThe word sin is an unpopular one in today’s culture. Postmodern thinking rejects moral absolutes and advocates that anything goes. Under an ideal of tolerance, society claims that to label an action as sinful is judgmental, closeminded, and unacceptable. Ironically they become intolerant of people who talk about sin.

In reality, everyone sins (Romans 3:23).

It’s just that we downplay or even ignore our own sins, while we recoil from the sins of others, which we deem as more objectionable or even abhorrent.

The Bible says Jesus is a friend of sinners (Matthew 11:19, Luke 7:34). This slur comes from his detractors, and he repeats it. They intend it as criticism, but we see it as a badge of honor. We admire Jesus for hanging out with the people that the righteous religious society rejects: prostitutes, adulterers, tax collectors, lepers, the sick and unclean, other races and mixed races, and so forth.

It seems Jesus accepts everyone the religious leaders discard. In fact he makes a point to do so, often going out of his way to welcome them. He embraces them; he loves them.

We respect Jesus for doing so. Shouldn’t we do the same?

Shouldn’t we make a point to behave more like Jesus and reach out to those the organized church reviles? Who might this be? The other political party? Muslims? The LGBT community? Pornographers? Those with a criminal record? The list goes on. There is no end.

Hosea writes that God desires mercy not sacrifice, that is, offering mercy trumps following a bunch of rules (Hosea 6:6). Jesus confirms this and adds that these folks are the reason he came (Matthew 9:12-13).

Let’s be more like Jesus and befriend those who the church rejects.

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Where Do You Stand on the Judgement Versus Mercy Debate?

If you’ve been reading along in our New Testament reading plan, you’ve just finished the book of Titus and will wrap up your Bible reading for the year with the short book of Philemon. Congratulations for finishing! (Next year let’s read the entire Bible together. Look for posts here each Tuesday that align with the reading plan.)

Where Do You Stand on the Judgement Versus Mercy Debate?The book of Philemon is actually a letter Paul writes to Philemon. In it Paul advocates for mercy instead of judgement for their mutual colleague, Onesimus. Onesimus deserves a stern dose of justice for running away, but Paul pleads for mercy instead.

This sounds a lot like Jesus and us. Our misdeeds demand judgement but Jesus offers mercy to everyone, but only those who follow Jesus can actually receive his mercy and grace. God’s Law demands justice, but his love gives grace. Jesus makes the difference.

The Bible doesn’t say if Philemon extends Onesimus the mercy he doesn’t deserve or demands the justice that he does, but I think Philemon sets aside judgement and justice to present mercy and grace – just like Jesus does for us.

Thank God for Jesus, for mercy, and for grace!

What do you think Philemon did after reading Paul’s letter? How would you have treated Onesimus? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

How Many Times Should We Forgive Someone?

Jesus shared a story (parable) about forgiving others.

Jesus’ illustration was prompted by Peter, who asked if forgiving someone seven times was enough; Peter thought seven times was generous. Jesus upped the figure considerably, saying seventy-seven times. But we don’t take this amount literally, instead understanding that Jesus really meant we need to forgive others “more times than we can count” or “without limit.”

Jesus’ story, however, takes the idea of forgiveness to another level. A man, who owed a huge debt he could never repay, begged for mercy, for more time to make payment. But instead of receiving additional time, the debt was forgiven.

But then the man threatened someone who owed him a tiny bit of money. No mercy was given; no forgiveness was offered. He withheld from others what had been given to him.

Because of the man’s selfishness and not treating others as he was treated, his debt was reinstated and he was thrown into prison and tortured. Our fate will be no different if we don’t forgive others.

We, who have been forgiven much by God, need to likewise forgive others. The risk of withholding forgiveness is too great.

[Matthew 18:21-35]

Beware the Adulteress

The book of Proverbs contains the majority of the Bible’s mentions of the word “adulteress” (seven times in Proverbs compared to five times in the rest of the Bible). An “adulteress” is “a woman who commits adultery,” that is, she has sex with someone other than her husband. In today’s language, that is referred to as “cheating.”

Solomon warns his son — and all men — to stay away from the adulteress.

The Law of Moses notes that both the adulterer (the male participant) and the adulteress (the female participant) should be put to death (Leviticus 20:10). That is how serious God views the breaking of marriage vows.

Although the majority of modern society takes a much more casual perspective on lifelong monogamy, God’s staunch opposition to adultery hasn’t changed. Fortunately, his response has. In the Old Testament (as mentioned above), the prescribed response to adultery is judgment. However, in the New Testament, Jesus — God’s son — demonstrates a kinder, gentler response: mercy (John 8:1-11).

However, remember that even though Jesus will give both the adulterer and adulteress mercy and forgiveness, the offended spouse may not likely be so understanding.

[Mentions of adulteress in the Bible.]

How to Treat One Another

Consider how the Bible teaches us to treat one another:

Love one another [John 13:34, John 13:35, Romans 13:8, 1 Peter 1:22, 1 John 3:11, 1 John 3:23, 1 John 4:7, 1 John 4:11, 1 John 4:12, 2 John 1:5]

Accept one another [Romans 15:7]

Instruct one another [Romans 15:14]

Submit to one another [Ephesians 5:21]

Forgive one another [Colossians 3:13]

Teach one another [Jeremiah 9:20]

Teach and admonish one another [Colossians 3:16]

Encourage one another [Judges 20:22, 1 Thessalonians 5:11, Hebrews 3:13, Hebrews 10:25]

Agree with one another [1 Corinthians 1:10]

Fellowship with one another [1 John 1:7]

Give to one another [Esther 9:22]

Live in harmony with one another [Romans 12:16, 1 Peter 3:8]

Be kind and compassionate to one another [Ephesians 4:32]

Serve one another in love [Galatians 5:13]

Bear with one another in love [Ephesians 4:2]

Be devoted to one another in brotherly love [Romans 12:10a]

Honor one another above yourselves [Romans 12:10b]

Greet one another with a kiss of love [1 Peter 5:14]

Greet one another with a holy kiss [Romans 16:16, 1 Corinthians 16:20, 2 Corinthians 13:12]

Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs [Ephesians 5:19]

Spur one another on toward love and good deeds [Hebrews 10:24]

Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling [1 Peter 4:9]

Administer justice, show mercy and compassion to one another [Zechariah 7:9]

Clothe yourselves with humility toward one another [1 Peter 5:5]

Do not deceive one another [Leviticus 19:11]

Do not break faith with one another [Malachi 2:10]

Do not degrade your bodies with one another [Romans 1:24]

Do not lust for one another [Romans 1:27]

Stop judging one another [Romans 14:13]

Do not hate one another [Titus 3:3]

Do not slander one another [James 4:11]

Micah’s Personal Prescription

As the prophet Micah gives a series of stinging rebukes against the nations of Israel and Judah, he takes pause for some personal reflection.

As if keeping a journal, he wonders how he should approach God.  With reverence, with offerings, with sacrifices?  No.  That is not what God wants.  God requires something much different, for him to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly.

Then Micah returns to his God-promoted discourse of doom.  After a bit more invective, he becomes filled with remorse, saying, “What misery is mine?”

Micah then reflects some more, delving into a depressing bit of introspection, before confidently affirming that his hope is in God; Micah will wait and God will hear him.

So Micah’s personal prescription then becomes to:

Act justly, love mercy, walk humbly, and hope in and wait on God.

Works for me.

[Micah 6:6-8, Micah 7:1, Micah 7:7]

God’s Sovereignty At Work

In the story of Jonah, we see God’s sovereignty at work, with God exercising control over nature.  Here’s what God does:

  • He sends a wind [Jonah 1:4]
  • He calms the sea [Jonah 1:15]
  • He provides a fish to shallow Jonah [Jonah 1:17]
  • He commands the fish to deposit Jonah on dry land [Jonah 2:10]
  • He makes a vine grow to give shade to Jonah [Jonah 4:6]
  • He causes a worm to chew the vine and kill it [Jonah 4:7]

Furthermore, God’s sovereignty allows him to show mercy towards the people of Nineveh and not destroy them as he had originally planned.

However, God does not exercise control over Jonah, allowing him to do what he wants, when he chooses,and how pleases.  Jonah has free will — and God does not interfere with that even though Jonah’s choices cause him a lot of grief.

God gives Jonah the freedom to mess up — or to do what is right.  That’s how God rolls.

God’s Sovereignty Allows Him to be Benevolent

God is sovereign; it is one of his characteristics.  To be sovereign means to have supreme rank, power, and authority.

The word sovereign appears hundreds of times in the Bible (mostly in the Old Testament) and is usually used as a title for God or in addressing him, as in “Sovereign Lord.”

Many people object to the idea that God is sovereign; it offends them or causes fear.  That may be because of a tendency to see sovereignty from a human perspective.  They assume that God’s sovereignty allows him to be malevolent; that is, he is just waiting for us to mess up and then he will do us harm — or give us grief just because he can.  But that is not his nature.

God is good and just.  His sovereignty actually allows him to be benevolent.  He wants to do good to us, to offer us good things we don’t deserve (grace) and to withhold punishment that we do deserve (mercy).

God’s sovereignty allows for benevolence; his love prohibits malevolence.

Fasting for the Right Reasons

Although many people ignore its practice, fasting is demonstrated in the Bible and is an encouraged practice.  (See the blog entry, “When You Fast…“.)

However, fasting rightly requires fasting for the right reasons.  Here are some of them:

Wrong reasons for fasting includes to earn God’s attention or favor, out of a sense of duty and obligation, or to gain the respect of others.