God’s Wrath: Attribute or Reaction?

June 28, 2017 at 1:14 pm | Posted in Q&A | 5 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

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.

God’s Demolition Methods

July 15, 2016 at 10:18 am | Posted in Amos, Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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The prophet Amos was concerned that the people would ignore his warnings concerning God’s impending wrath. They did not seem to be taking their sin – or God’s holiness and righteousness – seriously at all.

That lie upon beds of ivory, and stretch themselves upon their couches, and eat the lambs out of the flock, and the calves out of the midst of the stall; That chant to the sound of the viol, and invent to themselves instruments of musick, like David; That drink wine in bowls, and anoint themselves with the chief ointments: but they are not grieved for the affliction of Joseph.

Amos 6:4-6

They weren’t interested in repentance and forgiveness. They were too preoccupied with rest, recreation, entertainment, amusement, eating, and drinking. They believed their houses were safe, and they forgot the Word of the Lord and the reality of their abject dependence upon Him for their safety and survival.

It had become necessary for the Lord to smite them.

For, behold, the Lord commandeth, and he will smite the great house with breaches, and the little house with clefts.

Amos 6:11

The affluent men, who lived in “great houses” would find “breaches.” The Hebrew word translated as “breaches” has a connotation of small cracks or leaks – places where the elements would begin to seep in unnoticed and weaken the structural integrity of their homes. By the time they were stirred from their slumber or jarred from their amusements, it would be too late to escape the collapse of the buildings on which they relied for safety.

The lesser or poorer citizens, who perhaps thought their wickedness would go unnoticed due to their lack of influence or notoriety, would also meet a rude awakening. Those in the “little houses” would have their homes smitten by “clefts.” The Hebrew word translated as “clefts” has a connotation of a large and glaring fissure or division. These little houses would be struck suddenly with God’s wrath.

When God’s patience wears thin and His time of pleading and/or warning to turn from wickedness has ended, neither the “great” nor the “little” will find refuge from His destructive power. Let us make sure today that the foundations of our homes are stable – that our “spiritual houses” are built upon the rock of Jesus Christ. Let us make sure that our walls and ceilings are not concealing from the world the sin and hypocrisy which can never be concealed from God the Omniscient.

Catechism Question 17

February 9, 2015 at 4:28 pm | Posted in Children's Bible Catechism, John | 5 Comments
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Question 17: How did Jesus die?
Answer: He was crucified.
Prove it.

Where they crucified him, and two other with him, on either side one, and Jesus in the midst.

John 19:18

Despite the horror, humiliation, and hurtfulness of death on a cross, there can be no denying that it was precisely the type of death ordained by God the Father to be experienced by God the Son. Why did He choose this type of death?

I do not know if we can answer that question with 100% certainty. Traditionally, I have heard it explained that this was the cruelest, most painful death possible, and that the physical suffering of Christ had to be immense beyond measure in order to pay the outrageous sin debt that was owed by His people. I do not want to minimize or denigrate the physical suffering of Christ on the Cross. There can be no doubt it was horrific. However, I have read of the deaths of many of the martyrs, and – physically speaking – there may be more torturous, drawn-out, and even intensely painful ways to die.

I think, first of all, as we explain the suffering of Christ to our children, we would do better to explain it in terms of the transaction of bearing the weight of sin and its guilt by the perfect sinless Savior, and experiencing the indescribable wrath of God poured out against sin. There is a sense in which this transaction took place in the eternal realm between God the Father and Christ the Son, and was a unique type of painfully propitiatory sacrifice which our finite brains can not come close to fathoming.

Second, I also think we need to teach our kids the significance of death by hanging on a tree-like Cross as a picture of the curse of sin being dealt with, and as a fulfillment of prophecy by which God made known the commingling of His forgiveness and His justice. The Cross of Christ had been illustrated in the Old Testament, and was now being orchestrated to prove God’s love and truth.

Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.

I Peter 2:24

And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up:

John 3:14

Cut-Outs, Cut-Ups, or Cut-Offs

March 5, 2014 at 12:56 pm | Posted in Micah | 5 Comments
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Do you remember the 70s when everyone wore “cut-offs?” Those old blue jeans that had been modified into shorts by a sturdy pair of scissors?

https://encrypted-tbn0.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcRgT_X4Yawxz0091f0dM2O7JYm5huhsuQvrmCczSY1n3jl6dpy7

Micah Chapter 5 is God’s “cut-off” chapter, where He announces the cutting off of the things that His people never seemed to tire of, even when God’s patience had run completely out.

Thine hand shall be lifted up upon thine adversaries, and all thine enemies shall be cut off. And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the LORD, that I will cut off thy horses out of the midst of thee, and I will destroy thy chariots: And I will cut off the cities of thy land, and throw down all thy strong holds: And I will cut off witchcrafts out of thine hand; and thou shalt have no more soothsayers: Thy graven images also will I cut off, and thy standing images out of the midst of thee; and thou shalt no more worship the work of thine hands.

Micah 5:9-13

God cuts off, not to make a fashion statement, but because He will have the preeminent place in this world, not only in the hearts of believers, but, one day, in the suddenly-opened eyes and ears of everyone in the whole world.

And I will execute vengeance in anger and fury upon the heathen, such as they have not heard.

Micah 5:15

Would you rather God have you by the heart, or by the throat? Would you rather be one of His friends, or be a part of His footstool?

Evil Angels

March 3, 2014 at 12:39 pm | Posted in Exodus | 5 Comments
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And Moses said, Thus saith the LORD, About midnight will I go out into the midst of Egypt: And all the firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the first born of Pharaoh that sitteth upon his throne, even unto the firstborn of the maidservant that is behind the mill; and all the firstborn of beasts.

Exodus 11:4-5

“Midnight” was the time when most of the Egyptians were the most likely to be the most soundly asleep, so this was a actually an act of mercy on the part of God. We know that the Israelites avoided this final plague or judgment by painting the blood of a lamb onto the door posts of their homes. How exactly, though, did God carry out this judgment on the unbelieving Egyptians?

For the LORD will pass through to smite the Egyptians; and when he seeth the blood upon the lintel, and on the two side posts, the LORD will pass over the door, and will not suffer the destroyer to come in unto your houses to smite you.

Exodus 12:23

The LORD Himself, rather than “passing over,” passed “through” and smote the Egyptians, but He also “passed over” the homes of the obedient Israelites and would not let the “destroyer” come in. The way this is often portrayed in popular media depictions is to show a shadowy entity called the “death angel” coming through and doing the killing. We might get the impression that this death angel sort of checks the door posts, passing over some homes and entering in to others.

https://swimthedeepend.files.wordpress.com/2014/03/49307-passover-angelofdeathatdoor.jpg

That idea may have partially come from Psalm 78, which is a very good synopsis of these events.

Psalm 78 gives insight into how we’re supposed to think about these plagues and the deliverance, and what God wanted His people to remember about them later on. It’s worth studying, and I would highly recommend it in connection with these lessons, but for now let’s just look at one particular passage:

They remembered not his hand, nor the day when he delivered them from the enemy. How he had wrought his signs in Egypt, and his wonders in the field of Zoan. And had turned their rivers into blood; and their floods, that they could not drink. He sent divers sorts of flies among them, which devoured them; and frogs, which destroyed them. He gave also their increase unto the caterpiller, and their labour unto the locust. He destroyed their vines with hail, and their sycomore trees with frost. He gave up their cattle also to the hail, and their flocks to hot thunderbolts. He cast upon them the fierceness of his anger, wrath, and indignation, and trouble, by sending evil angels among them.

Psalm 78:42-49

What does this mean? Did God send special angels to deliver the plagues and the last was the “death angel?” That’s possible. Does God have a dark side and a secret undercover team of “evil angels” that He sends when He wants to do something wicked? That’s impossible. Could this refer to the false gods of Egypt, lending credence to the possibility that they were in fact representative of demonic entities that were being ultimately controlled by God, and were now being allowed to turn against the people that worshiped them? Possibly. (Being evil, it is logical to think these demons would have no qualms about doing such a thing.) Does the “evil” in Psalm 78:49 refer not to moral evil, but to catastrophic events – what we would call “calamities?” Possibly. The point is – and it has been throughout the deliverance narrative of Exodus – that God is in control. He was keeping His Word and fulfilling what He said He would do. God has the power and the right and the authority to give and take life as He chooses.

God’s Less-Popular Attributes

July 19, 2013 at 8:36 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments
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The prophet Nahum was from the town of Elkosh, but we don’t know very much about his background – which is okay. When it comes to those who speak for the Lord, His Word is more important than the speaker’s personal experiences.

Just as the prophet Obadiah had pronounced God’s judgment against Edom, Nahum pronounced God’s judgment against Nineveh. Nineveh was a major city of Assyria. Jonah had already gone to them, preaching repentance, and they had repented, but after a little over 100 years they turned again to their evil ways. On a historical timeline 100 years does not seem very long, but many of us have seen people repent in a Sunday morning church service, and turn back to their evil ways by Sunday afternoon!

Assyria had conquered the Northern Kingdom (Israel) in 722 B.C., and had tried to conquer the Southern Kingdom (Judah) in 701, but the Lord intervened and His angel killed 185,000 Assyrians in one night.

Nahum’s name meant “comfort” or “compassion.” He prophesied during the time of Jeremiah and Habakkuk. If we began to name the characteristics of God (or the “virtues” or “attributes” of God), we would speak of His “glory,” which is sort of the “weight” of His attributes and/or virtues – the “manifest substance” of God – and we would probably think of things like His love, His grace, His mercy, His holiness, His righteousness, His patience, His longsuffering, His faithfulness, His truthfulness. But there are three attributes or virtues of God that are often overlooked.

1. His jealousy

God is jealous…

Nahum 1:2

It is wrong for us to be jealous of what others have, because what they have does not really belong to us. Jealousy in a marriage, however, is not always wrong – especially if it is manifested in a desire to protect the God-ordained relationship. Likewise it is not wrong for God to be jealous. He is the owner of everything, and He wants what is best for His people. In fact, He would be an idolator if He sought glory for anything or anyone else. He is jealous over His glory, His name, and the worship and honor that are due to Him alone.

2. His vengeance

God is jealous, and the LORD revengeth…

Nahum 1:2

Vengeance is a sin – for us. Because vengeance belongs to the Lord. All sinners are enemies of God. He has declared peace first, but when man refuses peace, God must declare war. (Psalm 7 is a good place to study this principle.) Because God is holy and just, there must be payment for sin – a price must be paid. Unsaved sinners raise their weapons against God, and His wrath is aimed back at them. If they put their weapons down, but do not come to Him in repentance and faith in Jesus, His wrath is still directed at them. A righteous judge does not let a lawbreaker go free just because he is sorry and says he won’t do it anymore.

3. His anger

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

Our anger is almost always close to sin. It usually tips over into sin because we are selfish and because we lack self-control. But there is an anger that is motivated by, and manifested as, righteous indignation. God doesn’t throw a “fit” or a temper tantrum. He is slow to anger – not because His fuse is slowly burning – but because it is His nature to offer repentance and mercy. Assyria was God’s weapon. He used the Assyrians to chasten His people, but they themselves became proud, and pride is an abomination to God.

This was His declaration of peace:

Behold upon the mountains the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace! O Judah, keep thy solemn feasts, perform thy vows: for the wicked shall no more pass through thee; he is utterly cut off.

Nahum 1:15

This was His declaration of war:

He that dasheth in pieces is come up before thy face: keep the munition, watch the way, make thy loins strong, fortify thy power mightily.

Nahum 2:1

The “he” in that verse is Nebuchadnezzar, who was being temporarily used as God’s weapon, and God’s warning is in the form of ridiculing Assyria’s pride. Assyria’s pride took God’s staying hand of patience away from them, and caused God to deal with their sins, including their unwarranted bloodshed.

Woe to the bloody city! it is all full of lies and robbery; the prey departeth not;

Nahum 3:1

He also punished them for their idolatry.

Because of the multitude of the whoredoms of the wellfavoured harlot, the mistress of witchcrafts, that selleth nations through her whoredoms, and families through her witchcrafts.

Nahum 3:4

Thou also shalt be drunken: thou shalt be hid, thou also shalt seek strength because of the enemy. All thy strong holds shall be like fig trees with the firstripe figs: if they be shaken, they shall even fall into the mouth of the eater.

Nahum 3:11-12

The cup of God’s wrath must be drunk by the sinner unless there is a Savior to drink it for him.

Behold, thy people in the midst of thee are women: the gates of thy land shall be set wide open unto thine enemies: the fire shall devour thy bars.

Nahum 3:13

Domination of the weak will lead to God treating us the way we have treated them. We must teach this to our children. Teach them that they must take up the cause of the weak and protect the weak.

Nineveh fell in 612 B.C. at the hands of the Medes and Babylonians, and Assyria fell in 609.

Lord, bless each and every person who reads this. Thank you for divinely ordaining the Church, and making a symptom and evidence of our belief in You the love we show for each other. I pray that we will submit one to another, in love preferring one another, not just on this day, but every day, for this is right in Your eyes, and we bring glory to You by doing what is right in obedience. In the name of the Lord Jesus I pray. Amen.

The Cleansing Fountain

May 13, 2010 at 11:43 am | Posted in Zechariah | 2 Comments
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In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness.

Zechariah 13:1

Zechariah prophesied about a fountain that would cleanse God’s people from their sins.

There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Emmanuel’s veins;
And sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains.
Lose all their guilty stains, lose all their guilty stains;
And sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains.

The dying thief rejoiced to see that fountain in his day;
And there have I, though vile as he, washed all my sins away.
Washed all my sins away, washed all my sins away;
And there have I, though vile as he, washed all my sins away.

William Cowper

Unlike earthly water, this blood cleanses the heart, and it will cleanse the people from their desire to worship false idols and follow false prophets.

Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of trembling unto all the people round about, when they shall be in the siege both against Judah and against Jerusalem. And in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it.

Zechariah 12:2-3

Here we see the nations preparing to drink the cup of Jerusalem, but the contents make them sick and drunk. This describes the campaign of Armageddon.

For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city.

Zechariah 14:2

The nations will invade and find an immovable rock that will cut them to pieces. This is the result:

And the LORD shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall there be one LORD, and his name one.

Zechariah 14:9

The geography will change and the land will be healed.

All the land shall be turned as a plain from Geba to Rimmon south of Jerusalem: and it shall be lifted up, and inhabited in her place, from Benjamin’s gate unto the place of the first gate, unto the corner gate, and from the tower of Hananeel unto the king’s winepresses. And men shall dwell in it, and there shall be no more utter destruction; but Jerusalem shall be safely inhabited.

Zechariah 14:10-11

The Lord will be worshiped at Jerusalem.

And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles.

Zechariah 14:16

Safety will be the order of the day.

And men shall dwell in it, and there shall be no more utter destruction; but Jerusalem shall be safely inhabited.

Zechariah 14:11

There will be true justice.

And if the family of Egypt go not up, and come not, that have no rain; there shall be the plague, wherewith the LORD will smite the heathen that come not up to keep the feast of tabernacles.

Zechariah 14:18

Holiness will be the norm.

In that day shall there be upon the bells of the horses, HOLINESS UNTO THE LORD; and the pots in the LORD’S house shall be like the bowls before the altar. Yea, every pot in Jerusalem and in Judah shall be holiness unto the LORD of hosts: and all they that sacrifice shall come and take of them, and seethe therein: and in that day there shall be no more the Canaanite in the house of the LORD of hosts.

Zechariah 14:20-21

Zechariah, following the great comforting pattern of Bible prophecy, gives us wondrous promises to keep us looking to God.


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