Hi, @LeAnne_Gross! God’s judgement on the nations (and the instruments used…mainly people, whether Israel or other nations) has historically been for me a source of discomfort. I’ve gained a little more perspective over the last couple of years, and one of the most insightful pieces I’ve read that addresses the co-existence of the God’s love and holiness is in John Stott’s masterpiece, The Cross of Christ. I just wanted to record a couple of excerpts from that chapter that may help you gain some footholds for explanation.
If you happen to own that book, flip over to Ch. 4 – ‘The Problem of Forgiveness’. In it, he presents the objection, ‘If God is loving, why doesn’t he just forgive?’ Instead, he asks the question, ‘If God is holy, how is it possible for him to forgive at all?’ So, like @mmingus36 mentioned above, it’s about understanding and articulating how both justice and mercy co-exist within the concept of love, since God is both loving and holy.
Some other good snippets include…
God’s wrath = ‘God’s holy reaction to evil’ [p. 122].
Sin cannot co-exist with holiness. As his holiness exposes sin, his wrath opposes it. [p. 125]
The is nothing inexplicable about God’s wrath: it’s explanation is always the presence of evil in some form or other. [p.127]
God must not only respect us as the responsible beings we are, but he must also respect himself as the holy God he is. [p.130]
Also, @BretG, I’d be careful when using the word ‘punish’. I don’t believe that discipline is always the same thing as ‘punishing’…though it may feel punishing. Jesus bore our punishment/judgement; as disciples, we learn (via discipline) to walk in the ways of Christ.