God’s Wrath: Attribute or Reaction?

June 28, 2017 at 1:14 pm | Posted in Q&A | 6 Comments
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Question: The Bible makes it clear that God does get angry. Is the anger of God something that resides in him by nature, or is His anger only a provoked response to the existence of sin or evil?

Answer: I am not aware of a Bible verse that indicates that God’s anger is merely a provoked response, although I believe if we took a poll of Bible commentators, that would be the majority view*. Let’s start out by affirming what the Bible does affirm, though: God is love (I John 4:8). Also:

The Lord did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people: But because the Lord loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers, hath the Lord brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.

Deuteronomy 7:-7-8

These verses do show that the attribute of love is something inherent in God’s divine character, but they do not rule out the possibility that wrath is one of God’s divine attributes, also inherent to His character or nature. Love and wrath existing in the same being are not logically contradictory, and, while it is true that the Bible does portray God’s wrath as being EXPRESSED against sin or evil, the Bible does not state that the entrance of sin and evil into the world CREATED God’s wrath or provoked something which did not exist in Him before. I believe the Bible teaches that all human emotions were originally given to man as a part of the God’s Imago Dei creation, so that they existed in God before being communicated to His creatures, but that the entrance of sin into the world warped these emotions in us, so that they are often expressed sinfully by us. If God had chosen not to allow sin to enter His creation, His attribute of wrath/anger would have still existed, only it would be expressed by us as righteous indignation or “holy wrath,” rather than as the loss of control or temper. For example, the serpent’s twisting of God’s words should have (and could have) made Adam and Eve angry and wrathful toward the serpent, and that anger would not have been sinful. It would have been an obedient and worshipful expression of God’s wrath. In fact, one reason why God allowed such a thing as sin in the first place might have been to show His righteous wrath, thereby demonstrating the glory of the full spectrum of His attributes for all eternity.

The Lord hath made all things for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil.

Proverbs 16:4

*Martin Luther, for instance, in his commenatry on the Noahic flood, wrote, “This story bears witness that, as God’s wrath, once aroused, is unbearable, so [H]is mercy is likewise endless and without measure when it again begins to glow. But [H]is mercy is the more abundantly exercised because it is the very nature of God, while wrath really is foreign to God; [H]e takes it upon [H]imself contrary to [H]is nature and forced thereto by the wickedness of man.”

Heman and the Master of the Universe (Part Three)

February 23, 2017 at 1:36 pm | Posted in Heman and the Master of the Universe | 5 Comments
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In Psalm 88 Heman prayed openly. He prayed obstinately. And he prayed obnoxiously. Note some of the broad generalizations he used, and the self-centered assumption that God was doing His absolute worst to Heman:

For my soul is full of troubles: and my life draweth nigh unto the grave.

Psalm 88:3

Full?” We often feel this way when we are in extreme distress, but this is an exaggeration that attempts to disguise the fact that God truly sees to the very depths of our soul.

Thou hast laid me in the lowest pit, in darkness, in the deeps.

Psalm 88:6

The lowest?” No matter how low we may feel, the pit of anguish in which we languish is far shallower, by God’s grace, than the one we deserve, apart from Him.

Thy wrath lieth hard upon me, and thou hast afflicted [me] with all thy waves.

Psalm 88:7

All Thy waves?” No, not a one of us, from the strongest to the most faithful to the most affliction-hardened, could withstand one instant under the full tide of God’s wrathful surf. We would be obliterated. Only Christ could, and has, experienced this type of wrath in our place.

Thy fierce wrath goeth over me; thy terrors have cut me off.

Psalm 88:16

What Heman was truly experiencing was not the “fierce wrath” of God. What he was actually experiencing was the chastisement of his loving God, which, although no doubt severe, is done out of kindness, with the goal of correction, the way a good father disciplines his son, not out of petty anger, frustration, or perverse joy, but with the intention that the son may benefit, grow, and learn – not be “cut off.”

That Heman’s feelings, although sincere, were not valid in their extremity, is evidenced by the fact that He was still given grace to pray, and that he had the consolation of knowing that the Master of the Universe was listening.

Next time we will see that Heman also prayed obstetrically.

Sleeping with the Enemy

September 16, 2015 at 2:25 pm | Posted in Weeping Creeping and Sleeping with the Enemy | 2 Comments
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In a previous lesson I discussed the blessings that Phinehas somewhat surprisingly received from the Lord for his violent attack on Zimri and Cozbi. When thinking through the reasons for this it is important to remember that Phinehas, unlike so many of his compatriots, had not joined himself unto Baal, and so his thinking was not cloudy or unclear or tainted by self-interest. He was thinking like God, and therefore He had a zeal – even a violent passion – for the holiness of God

Phinehas expressed God’s wrath in an atoning way. He did not kill the offenders because Zimri had personally ticked him off. It wasn’t because he was jealous that Zimri appeared to be getting away with what he wanted to be doing. It wasn’t because Phinehas wanted to show off, or because he was a sadist who just liked a good spearing. What motivated Phinehas was his intense hatred for what Zimri’s actions said about the Lord his God, and he discerned that it was time for something extreme.

As stated in the previous lesson, though, extreme physical violence inflicted upon sinners is not commanded for New Testament Christians. A principle to be taken from Phinehas’s attitude, however, is that there is a time for something as extreme as telling the truth in actions, not just words. Too many Christians today are sleeping with the enemy – if not physically, then intellectually, practically, and even spiritually. This is seen most blatantly in the ecumenism invading Christian churches, homes, and families. An adulterated, watered-down version of the Gospel deserves pointed and harsh truth. A hybrid bastardized version of the Gospel – part Christianity and part pragmatism, right in the midst of the camp, right in the middle of a ministry that calls itself by the name of the Lord Jesus – deserves pointed and harsh truth.

When Phinehas took up his spear, it looked like it was over – like it was too late. Have we lost the battle for the truth in our culture? Is right now wrong, and wrong now right? Are there now just no such things as “right” or “truth?” This is going to sound bad, but, in a way, I hope so. I hope the battle that we’ve been trying to win in our strength is over – that we’ve lost – that it’s too late. God often comes to the rescue when all seems lost. It was too late when Phinehas stood up and executed judgment. It was too late for the Israelites, and it may be too late for us, but when it’s “too late” by our estimate, that is often when God shows up – when He sends someone with the courage and the conviction, with the disregard for popularity, to take a stand and to symbolize atonement.

Phinehas stopped the plague because God really stopped the plague. Jesus didn’t make atonement by impaling us sinners on the point of God’s wrath, although that’s what we clearly deserved. He stopped God’s wrath by offering Himself as the atoning sacrifice. Will you and I weep rightly? Will we stop creeping around with the enemy? Will we stop sleeping with the enemy? Will we get out of bed with the enemy and get on board with God? May He help us.

Beware the Flammable Frauds

September 24, 2014 at 12:33 pm | Posted in Amos, The Fives | 1 Comment
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The people of the “House of Israel” thought they had worked out a viable system. Historically, they had been called the people of Yahweh, the One True God, the God of holiness Who hated sin. But they also really liked to indulge in the practices of their pagan neighbors and their many “gods.” So, they took sort of a “best of both worlds” approach, and attempted to worship idols and the true God at the same time.

God’s prophet, Amos, tried to warn them that the real God was coming to deal with them concerning their abominable syncretism.

For thus saith the Lord unto the house of Israel, Seek ye me, and ye shall live: But seek not Bethel, nor enter into Gilgal, and pass not to Beersheba: for Gilgal shall surely go into captivity, and Bethel shall come to nought.

Amos 5:4-5

Bethel, Gilgal, and Beersheba were places where the people could find altars set up to golden bulls and other false idols representing little fake gods. The Lord was giving them one last chance. They could turn to Him and repent… or they could behave irrationally. What does an irrational person do when he’s confronted with the threat of judgment from a powerful God? He seeks refuge in other, kinder, gentler gods. In those days, the fake gods were images or statues that were built, graven, carried around, and spoken to (although the images themselves were silent and couldn’t talk back). This still goes on today. A person mired in sin gets confronted with the Truth, and, instead of repenting and trusting the mercy of the Savior, he looks for relief in the form of alcohol, drugs, sinful sexual behavior, hobbies, entertainment, luxury purchases, or fine dining. These are just a few of the Gilgals, Bethels, and Beershebas of our day.

Amos was very clear about the consequences of this:

Seek the Lord, and ye shall live; lest he break out like fire in the house of Joseph, and devour it, and there be none to quench it in Bethel.

Amos 5:6

Trying to escape the consuming wrath of the Creator by hiding in or among His creation is like trying to dodge a forest fire by crawling into a papier-mâché tent.

https://i0.wp.com/i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2011/09/07/article-2034549-0DBE1C6600000578-23_634x443.jpg

If you have fallen into the sin of idolatry, seek refuge from the wrath of the Savior in the Savior Himself. He is merciful to the repentant.

More Powerful than a Roaring Shadow

October 7, 2011 at 9:10 am | Posted in Salvation, Selected Psalms, Uncategorized | 8 Comments
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My grandparents lived in a house that my grandfather built with his own hands. Behind the backyard he kept a garden where he grew peanuts, watermelons, sugar cane, mustard greens, and various vegetables. Beyond this garden was a shallow ditch, and beyond that, a set of railroad tracks. When the train came every day, it moved very fast. My younger brother and I used to talk about jumping onto one of the cars as the train went speeding past, but, thankfully, we never had the nerve to actually try it. The closest we came was when we would huddle down in the ditch right next to the tracks. It is a thrilling and frightening feeling to have the shadow of a roaring locomotive pass over you, but the shadow of a train passing over is far different from having the actual train itself “pass over” you.

David the Psalmist once wrote about the shadow of something even more awe-inspiring.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Psalm 23:4

Note that the Holy Spirit inspired David to write about, not the valley of death, but the valley of the shadow of death.

Our sins, and the sins of the whole world, had been heaped onto the freight train of God’s wrath (I John 2:2). That train was racing straight for us, and we deserved to be plowed into hell by the force of its judgment. Those of us, like David, who, by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, have become the sheep of the Good Shepherd, may one day shiver in the shadow of death as it passes over us (John 10:11). However, the locomotive of God’s righteous vengeance against sin was re-routed onto Christ the Lord Himself on the Cross of Calvary as He took the punishment we deserved (I Peter 2:24). When you enter the valley at the end of life, will you be in the protective shadow of God’s covering (Psalm 91:1), or will you stand alone on the tracks, having made the fatal mistake of rejecting the Savior?

Righteous Jealousy

September 30, 2009 at 8:42 am | Posted in Biblical Violence | 23 Comments
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A currently popular television talk show host grew up attending traditional Christian churches, holding to fundamental Biblical teaching and preaching. She recently explained her rejection of these beliefs by referring to something, at the age of 28, she heard preached in church: The God of the Bible is a jealous God. This struck her as very strange. How could God, Who is all-powerful, and Who owns everything, be jealous of human beings? What a tragic misunderstanding, and what a shallow view of Scripture.

Oh, God is jealous, alright.

God is jealous, and the LORD revengeth; the LORD revengeth, and is furious; the LORD will take vengeance on his adversaries, and he reserveth wrath for his enemies.

Nahum 1:2

But He is not jealous of what people have or what they are able to do. He is jealous because of the love He has for his Own people. We might say He is jealous over His people, not of His people – the way a loving and faithful husband would be jealous over anything that would tend to steal his wife’s affection away from him.

God loves His people very much. And although we would rather hear about the love of God, we must not ignore the fact that God reserves wrath for the enemies of His people. Did you know that, even though God is love (I John 4:8), He also hates (Psalm 11:5)?

Recently, my wife and I visited California. On the flight I was reading Nahum Chapter 1, and looking down at the tops of the clouds, which the Bible calls “the dust of his feet,” and I got to thinking about some of the ways the Lord shows His righteous anger, and His power over His creation.

The LORD is slow to anger, and great in power, and will not at all acquit the wicked: the LORD hath his way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet.

Nahum 1:3 (tornadoes, hurricanes, and storms)

He rebuketh the sea, and maketh it dry, and drieth up all the rivers: Bashan languisheth, and Carmel, and the flower of Lebanon languisheth.

Nahum 1:4 (droughts)

The mountains quake at him, and the hills melt, and the earth is burned at his presence, yea, the world, and all that dwell therein.

Nahum 1:5 (earthquakes, mudslides, and forest fires)

Who can stand before his indignation? and who can abide in the fierceness of his anger? his fury is poured out like fire, and the rocks are thrown down by him.

Nahum 1:6 (volcanoes, avalanches)

But with an overrunning flood he will make an utter end of the place thereof, and darkness shall pursue his enemies.

Nahum 1:8 (floods)

Most people, when asked to quickly name the opposite of “love,” will blurt out, “hate.” But this is incorrect. The opposite of love is not hate. The opposite of love is indifference. And our loving and just and jealous God is anything but indifferent.


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