Nahum is an interesting missionary book. The destruction and judgment by the Lord on his enemies was quite graphic and comprehensive. Yet in chapter one the author stops twice to mention God’s grace and mercy: “The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble, and he knows those who take refuge in him”( v.7); and “Behold on the mountains the feet of him who brings good news, who announces peace”( v.15). These verses sound like passages from the Psalms. Of course Isaiah spoke them and Paul repeated them (Isa 52:7; Rom 10:15). Nahum sets forth two universal truths– they are two sides of the same coin. By juxtaposing them we get a fuller picture of God’s work. 1. He will destroy the wicked– those who refuse God. The Ninevites, to whom Nahum is speaking, had received 150 years of grace since the days of the preaching and revival under Jonah. So complete was their evil that God now does what Jonah wanted all along: destroy them. 2. God’s mercy, compassion and grace are always present, tempering his judgment. He was not willing that any should perish but that all should repent.
Since the fall of man into sin through Adam, God has been about bringing a people for his name. Salvador Dali is not one whom I would hold up as a model Christian. In fact I have no idea of his spiritual commitment. But this painting (right) caught my attention and captures my imagination. Dali was inspired by the life and writings of St. John of the Cross, a Spanish cleric who lived in the 1500s. John envisioned the overarching, all encompassing, redemptive love of God through Christ and his atoning sacrifice for all mankind. He said, “Grace opens the eyes of the soul to the high holiness and beauty and transcendent wisdom of God– the way of life that is above. Grace is the touch and movement of God’s living power within.” It is this grace of God demonstrated in Christ the picture seeks to engender in our heart and mind.
This view of the crucifixion is an unusual one. I imagine the decree of the Father from the foundation of the world to redeem lost humanity. Somehow it seems normal to me that God would be looking down at mankind through his Son.
Out of the teeming masses of lost humanity God is bringing forth a people for his name. I see them in this picture. These are ones for whom Christ died. If we think of “unreached people” as those who are farthest from the Gospel, then we are thinking of all those for whom Christ died; all those who are invisible in this picture, but nonetheless there.
Europeans and the immigrants from Africa, the Middle East, and Asia who now live in Europe are the “peoples” of Europe. Do you see the peoples of Europe in this painting? I mean, can you visualize the masses who are represented even though they are conspicuously absent in the way Dali painted it? Doesn’t your heart resonate with the simple truth of John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life”? Before Jesus went to the cross, he said to his newly chosen and appointed disciples, “Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men!” We, his disciples today, have the privilege of making disciples, in Europe, where some from every tongue, tribe and nation now dwell.
Image above right: “Christ of Saint John of the Cross.” Salvador Dali. Oil on canvas, 1951.