Praying in Response to Evil
There are some passages in the Bible that can leave us feeling a little uncomfortable. Often these are passages about God’s judgement. ‘Does God really act like that?’, we think. ‘Is that really fair?’, we ask. But then sometimes things happen in our own lives or in the world around us and we see something of the full horror of sin and evil. Our heart response in those situations gives us a little flavour of God’s just hatred of evil. And in the midst of that experience, those uncomfortable Bible passages can start to make a little more sense.
I think Nahum 1 could be one of those passages for us at the moment. Nahum was a prophet speaking in the 7th century BC. He records God’s words about the Assyrians, the powerful empire who at this time had recently invaded and destroyed the northern kingdom of Israel. Nahum’s prophecy speaks of the judgement and destruction that will soon come to Assyria for their sin and evil.
But Nahum 1 opens with a much broader message. It speaks of God’s response to evil, rooted in who he is. God is one who is jealous, avenging, and wrathful; he takes vengeance on his enemies (Nahum 1:2). He is slow to experience or express anger, but this doesn’t mean the guilty will get away with their evil (Nahum 1:3). Even the sky and the earth and all who are in and on them are under his power (Nahum 1:4-5). No one can endure it when he pours out his wrath (Nahum 1:6). His promise is that he will make an end to those who set themselves against him and for evil (Nahum 1:8). God will not let evil go unchecked and unpunished. He cannot. This is God being God.
We might often find these sorts of words difficult. But world events can help us to understand something of what is being said here. The anger and indignation we feel in the face of evil are a pale reflection of how God feels. Against the backdrop of such blatant injustice, the God of justice shines as a great light in the darkness, a beacon of hope in the hopelessness.
But this isn’t all that Nahum 1 says. Because God isn’t only avenging, jealous and wrathful, He is also good (Nahum 1:7). In fact, it is because God is good that he is avenging, jealous and wrathful. God’s justice and judgement are an outworking of his goodness. And because he is good, God promises to be a safe place in the midst of trouble for those who will come to him (Nahum 1:7). This is God being God.
These words in Nahum 1 are an outworking of who God is. They are therefore also promises rooted in who God is. And promises are good foundations for prayer; we take what God has said and we present that back to him, calling on him to act, partnering with him as he puts into action who he is.
As we face the reality of evil in our world, we can take the promises enclosed in Nahum 1 and from them we can pray for our world. We can pray for the execution of God’s justice on evil – that God would be God. And we can pray for God to be a refuge to those who come to him – that God would be God.