The Wrath of the Lamb

In The God Blog

The Wrath of the Lamb

The pillar of every doctrinal belief should have, at its core, the belief that God is exactly as Jesus revealed Him to be. Another way of expressing that of course is to say that Jesus is God, but I think that it gives a focus and clarity to say that the supreme evidence about what God is like is seen in the life and death of Jesus, who was God in human form. And so, especially as we think about a subject like this, if God’s anger or his wrath is every described in a way such that we are coming to the conclusion that God is different than Jesus in character, then we know that we are on the wrong path of understanding. God is love personified. Our question is this: can we harmonize a God who is love personified, with the wrath and anger of God that is described in the Bible?

Fear of God

There was a brief time in my life, around the age of 11 or 12, when I was afraid of God. This fear was triggered by an experience at summer camp. It was a beautiful camp actually, right on a large and peaceful lake in Oregon, and I remember months earlier, in anticipation of this camp, looking over all the activities in the brochure that listed the classes that I could choose from: canoeing, archery, horseback riding  – finally, I chose sailing.

But for me, the lasting memory of that week had nothing to do with sailing, swimming, or campfires. For this was a Christian camp, and every evening this pastor came and talked about God. I don’t remember his name or I’m sure 95% of what he said, but the net result of those meetings created in me a very intense fear of God.

I remember a vivid telling of Lot’s wife being turned into a pillar of salt; he also told about the flood and he really brought home those people who were pounding on the ark as the flood waters rose, pleading with God to let them in; and finally was a very terrifying description of the lake of fire.

But that was not all! I must have attended this camp for at least 4 or 5 summers, and in every other year my camp counselor was laid back and fun. But this particular summer, the young man who tucked us in bed every night felt that he had quite a mission to tell us boys about the mark of beast – – every evening, for the entire week.

And so, during the day I enjoyed being on this quite, peaceful blue lake, with fluffy white clouds above, and lush green vegetation on every shore, salamanders in the water and birds above. God seemed powerful, but at the same time gentle, caring, and very close. But in the evening: Lot’s wife, mark of the beast; Lake of fire, mark of the beast; God as a punishing tyrant, mark of the beast, and so on. It was quite a contrast!

For several weeks after, I remember trying to get to sleep and imagining what it would feel like to burn all over and yet to be fully conscience of the pain. There was very real anxiety about this and finally my parents suggested that maybe I should read the Bible – that this might give me some comfort. And so, I started to read Kenneth Taylor’s Bible – “The Living Bible” – a book which I remember had a wonderful picture of Jesus holding a lamb on the cover. But, at the time it didn’t occur to me that Genesis might not be the best place to begin if one is afraid of God.

I don’t actually remember how much of it I got through, but I do remember several stories in that first book that did not alleviate my fear of God. There was a color painting within the pages of Genesis of a fearsome angel holding a flaming sword and guarding the tree in Eden after Adam and Eve sinned. Then there was the flood, followed by Sodom and Gomorrah, then Lot’s wife, and I was sure that the mark of the beast was soon to follow.

With great relief, I stopped reading, and other interests and pleasures of life distracted me away from my fear of God.

 

God is love

But now, many years later, I have now come to the strong conviction that in whatever aspect of God’s character we explore to its depths and to the core of reality, whether it be God’s wrath, his anger, or his justice, that the ultimate conclusion we will arrive, are the three words – “God is love”.

God is love personified. The familiar words in 1 John 4:18:

“There is no fear in love; perfect love drives out all fear. So then, love has not been made perfect in anyone who is afraid, because fear has to do with punishment.”

Fear has to do with punishment. That certainly was my fear as a boy. Does God punish? Does God inflict pain to satisfy his justice?

I will state now as a summary statement that I believe what God is trying to tell us all through the Bible is that the destructive element, the punishing element, the thing that we should be greatly afraid of, is the result of our own sinful, distrusting, disconnected and rebellious heart. Sin, rebellion and distrust are inherently destructive and God hates that which destroys the children that he loves so much – just as any Father would hate with a passion the cancer that was killing his son.

“There is no fear in love; perfect love drives out all fear. So then, love has not been made perfect in anyone who is afraid, because fear has to do with punishment.” Punishment, of course, is something that is frequently associated with God’s anger, and I’d like to take this passage very seriously during this paper, because our goal is to see God as clearly as we can, because when we do, we will see perfect love – and perfect love drives out all fear.

 

How does God feel in his “wrath”?

First, what evidence do we have as to the emotions of God that are involved when he gets angry?

Of course, any time we want to see the clearest revelation about God’s character, we turn to the life of Jesus – who was none other than God in human form. Did Jesus ever get angry?

First, this account of the man with the paralyzed hand:

“Then Jesus went back to the synagogue, where there was a man who had a paralyzed hand. Some people were there who wanted to accuse Jesus of doing wrong; so they watched him closely to see whether he would cure the man on the Sabbath. Jesus said to the man, ‘Come up here to the front.’ Then he asked the people, ‘What does our Law allow us to do on the Sabbath? To help or to harm? To save someone’s life or to destroy it?’ But they did not say a thing. Jesus was angry as he looked around at them, but at the same time he felt sorry for them, because they were so stubborn and wrong. Then he said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ He stretched it out, and it became well again. So the Pharisees left the synagogue and met at once with some members of Herod’s party, and they made plans to kill Jesus.” (Mark 3:1-6 – GN)

Now, the writer of Mark looked at Jesus and as he tried to capture the emotions of Jesus looking at this group of religious leaders who had concluded that it would be a bad thing to relieve suffering on the Sabbath, he looked into the face of Jesus and this is what he saw: he “was angry as he looked around at them, but at the same time he felt sorry for them…”

How do you feel anger and sorrow – simultaneously?

I believe that Jesus’ complex emotions in this story may be something like this:

Imagine that you are watching the news on T.V. and the story is told of a man who robbed and killed an elderly woman. You are watching as the picture of the woman is put on the screen and you are shocked to discover that it is your mother. Would it be possible to not feel great anger toward that man?

But if, in this scenario, we want to better put ourselves in God’s shoes as He observes the daily cruelty that takes place on planet earth, imagine that they proceed to show a picture of the man who did this horrible thing, and that it is none other than your son.

With this additional knowledge, would you no longer be angry about what happened to your mother? Of course you would, but in your anger would you no longer love your son?

And here we begin to experience the great pain and sorrow that God deals with on a daily basis. These religious leaders in Jesus’ day had developed such a warped picture of God’s character that they would believe that to love others by relieving their suffering would be a bad thing if it was done on the Sabbath. But yet, these religious leaders were not, to Jesus, just some nobodies who were impeding his mission – they were his precious children and he loved them.

And so, in the face of Jesus in this story there was a complex mixture of anger, love, pity, and sorrow for his precious children who had gone so badly astray. I believe that Jesus’ anger toward the Pharisees in this story did not in the slightest fraction diminish His great love for them, and thus we also see great sorrow on the face of Jesus – for these were His children that He came to save.

The cleansing of the temple, of course, is another example of Jesus seeming to get angry. The Matthew account of this story is fascinating, however, because after overturning the tables and saying, “My Temple will be called a house of prayer. But you are making it a hideout for thieves!’ [that] The blind and the crippled came to him in the Temple, and he healed them. The chief priests and the teachers of the Law became angry when they saw the wonderful things he was doing and the children shouting in the Temple, ‘Praise to David’s Son!’” (Matthew 21:12-15 – GN)

I want you to imagine watching a man kicking and overturning tables and chairs, many people running for their lives to get away from this man, but yet simultaneously sick people coming to him for help and children coming to him and singing.

Are children naturally inclined to begin singing and coming close to a man who is knocking over tables and who has a whip in hand? Does this not give us some insight into the fact that when God gets angry, the wicked flee, but yet others are completely comfortable in his presence. Incredible!

These and many other stories in the Bible suggest to me that we cannot define God’s anger by looking up the word “anger” in the dictionary and forcing that definition onto God.

But now, using Jesus then as our anchor of the ultimate revelation of God’s character, we can safely go back to the Old Testament and gain some insights into the emotions of God when his children leave his side.

For example, during a very low time – one of the low points in scripture, the book of Judges – God describes the relationship that he is having with his people. And, when you read through this book, it is a recurring cycle. They leave his side, get in trouble, suffer consequences, and then beg for him to help; God helps them, they leave his side, suffer consequences, and so on. Until finally we have this description:

“So the LORD became angry with the Israelites, and let the Philistines and the Ammonites conquer them.” (Judges 10:7 – GN)

Now, this is a critical point that we will come back to in much detail. They left God’s side, God is perceived as being angry, but what did he do in his anger? He didn’t protect them. He allowed them to be conquered by their enemies. But read on, how does God feel?

“The Lord replied, ‘When [the surrounding nations] oppressed you and you cried to me for help, did I not save you from their hands? But you have forsaken me and served other gods, so I will no longer save you. Go and cry out to the gods you have chosen. Let them save you when you are in trouble!’ But the Israelites said to the Lord, ‘We have sinned. Do with us whatever you think best, but please rescue us now.’ Then they got rid of the foreign gods among them and served the Lord. And he could bear Israel’s misery no longer.” (Judges 10:11-16 – NIV)

How does God feel in his anger? He can’t bear to watch? It makes him sick to see that his children refuse to trust him, and can God force his protection on people if they do not want it?

And, it’s also interesting to note, that God said very directly to his people, “I will no longer help you.” But did he no longer help them? Yes, a thousand times more, but God here is using very hard words to reach a very hardened people.

 

God loves his rebellious children

Now, before we go on to discuss what God’s anger looks like in action, the point must be made emphatically that the rebelliousness and sinfulness of God’s children, does not in any way diminish his great love for them. They remain his precious children. God loves the sinner though he hates the sin:

“The LORD says, ‘The people I love are doing evil things.’” (Jeremiah 11:15 – GN)

Who does God love? His children who are doing evil things?

And to reinforce this point, God in human form said these very sad words about his people who were so steeped in rebellion:

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem! You kill the prophets and stone the messengers God has sent you! How many times I wanted to put my arms around all your people, just as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you would not let me!” (Matthew 23:37 – GN)

Who is it in this passage that God wants so desperately to express his love by wrapping his arms around them? Would it not be those people who killed and stoned the prophets of God? God is hurting because he cannot wrap his arms around his rebellious children.

 

God’s anger in action

But now, let’s change the focus of our discussion and ask the question, ‘what does God’s anger look like, in action?’ Tsunami’s, earthquakes, and floods – are these natural disasters a manifestation of God’s anger? We do call them ‘acts of God’ after all.

As some would point out, God did send a flood many years ago, but was that event a manifestation of God’s anger? Let’s just look very briefly at a few details from this story.

“Noah had no faults and was the only good man of his time. He lived in fellowship with God, but everyone else was evil in God’s sight, and violence had spread everywhere. God looked at the world and saw that it was evil, for the people were all living evil lives.” (Genesis 6:9-12 – GN)

And a few verses later:

“The LORD said to Noah, ‘Go into the boat with your whole family; I have found that you are the only one in all the world who does what is right.” (Genesis 7:1 – GN)

The Bible says that Noah was the only good man of his generation. Noah was the only man in the world with a true knowledge of God. God was down to one good man!

Is the Bible accurate in this statement? How many got on the boat? If God had known that he had 10,000 friends during this time, wouldn’t he have had Noah build hundreds of boats? But God knew that the entire world was evil and that no one would respond.

So, what does God do? In mercy, he has Noah preach a message to plead with the people over a very long period of time. Anyone could have gotten on that boat and God patiently called out to that generation, but no one responded.

Imagine what would have happened had God not sent the flood. The last man with a real trusting relationship with God would have died and the knowledge of God on the earth would have been extinguished.

In fact, is it not true that we would not be here today if God had not sent the flood? All of the evidence that we have today about what kind of a person God is – primarily based on his life and death on earth – had not yet been given. God had to rescue the last man, the last family, in order to preserve contact with planet earth and to win the great controversy.

I would say that God’s act of sending the flood is not an example of his anger but rather the flood should be viewed as a rescue mission, not a mission of destruction.

Of course, there are a number of other stories where God appears to get angry. Let’s reflect on the interaction between God and Moses who were together on Mount Sinai when the people rebelled by choosing to worship a golden calf rather than the Creator of the Universe.

“The Lord said to Moses, ‘Hurry and go back down, because your people, whom you led out of Egypt, have sinned and rejected me. They have already left the way that I commanded them to follow; they have made a bull-calf out of melted gold and have worshiped it and offered sacrifices to it. They are saying that this is their god, who led them out of Egypt. I know how stubborn these people are. Now, don’t try to stop me. I am angry with them, and I am going to destroy them. Then I will make you and your descendants into a great nation.” (Exodus 32:7-10 – GN)

God certainly appears angry and ready to destroy this entire nation of “about 600,000 men, not counting women and children” (Exodus 12:37), completely out of existence. This nation, of whom he had promised great things and many descendants to Abraham. Was God caught off guard by this rebellion? It could appear superficially that God was surprised by their rebellion and lost control of his emotions, but does not God have a very detailed knowledge of the future? Was he surprised?

We read on of course about how Moses pled with God for these people, but did Moses in this instance have greater control over his emotions that God? Did a creature need to step in to talk down the Creator from his anger?

Well notice God’s emphasis to Moses is that they are his people, not God’s. “…your people Moses, whom you led out of Egypt…and that he would make you and your descendants Moses into a great nation.”

But just 40 days earlier God had claimed them as his own in very tender language.

“The whole earth is mine, but you will be my chosen people, a people dedicated to me alone, and you will serve me as priests” (Exodus 19:5, 6). That was just 40 days earlier!

Is this an opportunity for Moses to rid himself of these rebellious people and start up a proud country of his own children? What an honor, and after all who would dare argue with God?

This conversation between God and Moses makes so much more sense, and I believe places God in a much better (and true) light, if it is seen with the on-looking angels, and all of us reading this story and searching for the heart of God. Is God a destroying tyrant?

I believe that God spoke to his friend Moses in this way to reveal something very important to you and I. Notice what happened:

“But Moses pleaded with the Lord his God and said, ‘Lord, why should you be so angry with your people, whom you rescued from Egypt with great might and power? Why should the Egyptians be able to say that you led your people out of Egypt, planning to kill them in the mountains and destroy them completely? Stop being angry; change your mind and do not bring this disaster on your people.” (Exodus 32:11-12 – GN)

Moses recognized that these are not his people as God suggested. They are God’s children, and their success or failure would rest solely on the trust that the people and Moses would place in God.

But there was something much more important that God wanted to reveal. Moses in this story – the one who spoke with God “face to face, just as someone speaks with a friend” (Exodus 33:11) – had more concern for others than self. Moses was more concerned about God’s reputation than any personal honor.

Moses loves these people so much that he is even willing to say this to God, and these words are the climax of this story:

“Please forgive their sin; but if you won’t, then remove my name from the book in which you have written the names of your people.” (Exodus 32:32 – GN)

This is one of the high points in all of scripture. Moses revealed the ideal of love for others in this story, and I believe that what God wants to say to you and I in this story is this: “Did you all hear what Moses just said? Did you all hear what my friend Moses just said? That is it! That is what I am looking for – selfless love for others; love for others that exceeds love for self!”

You see, had God not come to Moses in the way he did, we would have only the record of a very rebellious people stumbling through the desert. But God said, “No, I will say something about the ideal of love through the one I speak face to face with as a friend.”

In fact, this great ideal was not understood until thousands of years later when Jesus would die on the Cross with the same attitude: “there is no greater love than to lay down your life for your friends.” God allowed Moses in this story to reveal the ideal of love for others.

So, even though God is stated to be angry in this story, I would say that this is also not a good example of God’s anger in action. And in story after story in the Old Testament, as we come closer to the reality of what actually happened, any picture of God as a destroying, arbitrary, and vengeful tyrant slowly evaporates, and our picture of who God is becomes more and more like Jesus.

 

“Why Have You Abandoned Me?”

But we still haven’t answered the question. Where do we turn to see God’s anger in action?

There is an expression all through the OT that is again and again associated with God’s anger. This expression reaches its climax in the dying words of Jesus, which was a quote from Psalms 22:

“My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” There are many variations of this that have essentially the same meaning. Why have you forsaken me? Why have you given me up? Why have you handed me over?

There are dozens of times that these expressions are used in the Old Testament in the context of God’s anger – many more than I will include in this paper – but look for them the next time you read through the Bible. It is pervasive and redundant!

For example, listen to the hard words of God in Deuteronomy:

My anger will flame up like fire and burn everything on earth. It will reach to the world below and consume the roots of the mountains. I will bring on them endless disasters and use all my arrows against them.” (Deuteronomy 32:22,23 – GN).

What happens when God pours out his anger and shoots his arrows and takes revenge? Don’t stop reading!

“They fail to see why they were defeated; they cannot understand what happened. Why were a thousand defeated by one, and ten thousand by only two? The Lord, their God, had abandoned them; their mighty God had given them up” (Deuteronomy 32:29,30). And again in this same passage in Deuteronomy:

“When that happens, I will become angry with them; [what does God do in his anger?] I will abandon them, and they will be destroyed. Many terrible disasters will come upon them, and then they will realize that these things are happening to them because I, their God, am no longer with them.” (Deuteronomy 31:17 – GN)

So God, in his anger, abandons and gives up his children. But what does this really mean? We need some specific illustrations.

 

Babylonian captivity

First, the Babylonian captivity. Jeremiah, the weeping prophet, lived during this awful time leading up to the captivity and he described God’s children who were in a state of complete rebellion and distrust to their Creator.

And notice in these passages from Jeremiah, that he describes the reason for the pain – it is that they have abandoned God – and I will try to make the case just now that when we of our own free-will choice abandon and cut ourselves off from God and are separated from the God who is love, this is the experience of God’s wrath.

Notice, what brings the suffering:

“You have brought this on yourself by abandoning the LORD your God when he led you on his way… Your own wickedness will correct you, and your unfaithful ways will punish you. You should know and see how evil and bitter it is for you if you abandon the LORD your God…” (Jeremiah 2:17-19 – GN)

Who does the punishing? It is our rebellion, our willful separation and abandonment of God.

“Judah, you have brought this on yourself by the way you have lived and by the things you have done. Your sin has caused this suffering; it has stabbed you through the heart.” (Jeremiah 4:18 – GN)

Living apart from God has deadly consequences. Sin is inherently destructive.

God’s methods of love and discipline had failed to keep these people from this great rebellion. What is God to do? His people have told him to take a hike. Get lost. And so his choice is really one of two things. He can either become the puppet master and say, “you were free to rebel to a certain point, but now I am taking control. You are no longer free. I am going to control your life and you will obey.” Or, God can grant freedom to his people – freedom even to completely leave his side. What is the more loving thing to do?

“The LORD says, ‘I have abandoned Israel; I have rejected my chosen nation. I have given the people I love into the power of their enemies.’” (Jeremiah 12:7 – GN)

God gives them the freedom to leave his side.

But is this really the most loving thing, for a God of love to do?

Let’s say that someone wants to defy the law of gravity and jump off a cliff. Should God say, ‘No, you’re not free to experience that; I’ll suspend the law of gravity for you and you’ll have a soft landing.”?

Or what about an individual who slowly begins to drink more alcohol? On his way to becoming an alcoholic, should God intervene and forcibly restrict his freedom to drink? Or at least, shouldn’t God take away his freedom to drive? Well, if God lets him drive shouldn’t he at least ensure that if he does have an accident, that no one will be hurt? Or, should God at least make sure that only bad people will be hurt when he drives under the influence? Does God micromanage and manipulate the world in this way?

Let’s say that God watches as one of his children begins to develop a warped picture that of a god who is a severe and angry tyrant. God intervenes by every means possible in that person’s life – he pulls out all the stops as He always does – but should he over-ride that mans free will in order to prevent him from developing a satanic picture of God?

What if that man decided to act on it, and actually came to the conclusion that his god would be very pleased if he flew a plane loaded with passengers into one of the trade towers in New York? Should God limit his freedom and prevent him from acting on his warped picture of God? Or should God at least intervene and make sure that only bad people got on those planes on that day?

This is the dilemma that God is in, and when God allows his intelligent creatures to reject the truth and to make bad choices and to be given up to suffer natural consequences which are devastating to all around them, this is the experience of God’s anger.

Notice as we read on in Jeremiah, the association between God’s wrath and this giving up process. God’s words:

I will fight against you with all my might, my anger, my wrath, and my fury. I will kill everyone living in this city; people and animals alike will die of a terrible disease…. Anyone who stays in the city will be killed in war or by starvation or disease. [I thought God said that he would kill them?]…It will be given over to the king of Babylonia, and he will burn it to the ground. I, the LORD, have spoken.” (Jeremiah 21:5,6,10 – GN)

Did God burn Jerusalem down?

The use of God’s anger and his abandoning the people are so intermixed, as we read on:

“The LORD has abandoned his people like a lion that leaves its cave. The horrors of war and the LORD’s fierce anger have turned the country into a desert.” (Jeremiah 25:38 – GN)

God’s fierce anger is his sadly abandoning his children when they tell him to get lost.

God said very clearly that in his anger he would punish, and that he would burn the city down. What actually happened? Jeremiah goes on to clarify:

“The LORD, the God of Israel, told me to go and say to King Zedekiah of Judah, ‘I, the LORD, will hand this city over to the king of Babylonia, and he will burn it down. (Jeremiah 34:2 – GN)

In the book of Lamentations, Jeremiah would reinforce this concept of God’s anger:

“The Lord in his anger has covered Zion with darkness. Its heavenly splendor he has turned into ruins. On the day of his anger he abandoned even his temple.” (Lamentations 2:1 – GN)

The book of Lamentations ends with these very sad words:

“Why have you abandoned us so long? Will you ever remember us again? Bring us back to you, LORD! Bring us back! Restore our ancient glory. Or have you rejected us forever? Is there no limit to your anger?” (Lamentation 5:20-22 – GN)

How free has God made us? God’s words:

“Very well, then, I will give you freedom: the freedom to die by war, disease, and starvation.” (Jeremiah 34:17 – GN)

Ezekiel lived at the same time as Jeremiah and had the same message of warning to Jerusalem. Let’s look at just a few verses:

You will feel my anger when I turn it loose on you like a blazing fire”…[what actually happened?]…“And I will hand you over to brutal men, experts at destruction” (Ezekiel 21:31).

We won’t read so much of the evidence about this in Ezekiel, but in this book God even warned that in his anger he would kindle the fire and stoke the flames that burned Jerusalem down. But again, what actually happened? Did God really stoke the fire? Ezekiel goes on to clarify the true meaning of God’s anger – removal of protection from those who want God to leave them alone:

I will hand you over to other nations who will rob you and plunder you.” (Ezekiel 25:7)

And the historical record shows that God did not lay a hand on his people. God respected the free-will choice of his rebellious children and allowed them to suffer the consequences. For the Babylonians burned down Jerusalem, not God?

“The king killed the young men of Judah even in the Temple. He had no mercy on anyone, young or old, man or woman, sick or healthy. God handed them all over to him.” (2 Chronicles 36:17 – GN)

 

Assyrian captivity

Let’s turn briefly to the 10 tribes of Israel, who were taken captive by the Assyrians? How was God involved? In Hosea, just prior to Israel’s captivity, God is at first described as an angry lion against Israel.

I will attack the people of Israel and Judah like a lion. I myself will tear them to pieces and then leave them. When I drag them off, no one will be able to save them. [Does God attack his people like an angry lion? We read on for clarification.] I will abandon my people until they have suffered enough for their sins and come looking for me. Perhaps in their suffering they will try to find me.” (Hosea 5:14,15 – GN)

God is hoping that as they suffer the pain of separation from God that this will lead them to turn and seek him again. But in the case of Israel and the Assyrian captivity, the people did not respond, and God lost those 10 northern tribes forever, never to come back again. Listen to the words and the tears in God’s voice as he watches his children abandon him:

“They insist on turning away from me. They will cry out because of the yoke that is on them, but not one will lift it from them. How can I give you up, Israel? How can I abandon you?” (Hosea 11:7,8 – GN)

And how does God feel at this moment? Listen to His great emotion: “I can’t bear to even think such thoughts. My insides churn in protest.” (Hosea 11:8 – The Message)

This is how God feels in His anger!

 

Strong language

Now, parenthetically, I think a fair question to raise at this point is why God would ever use such threatening words in Hosea like, “I will attack you like a lion and tear you apart”, if the real meaning is that God, with tears, gives them up to the natural consequences? Well, right here in Hosea, God explains:

“The people of Israel are as stubborn as mules. How can I feed them like lambs in a meadow?” (Hosea 4:16 – GN)

Guess what? God loves stubborn mules, and he is willing to speak the language that only a stubborn mule can understand. God doesn’t like to speak in this manner, but can’t those of us who are parents understand? If your 3 children are playing outside and you see from a distance that there is a rattlesnake sitting right where they are playing what would you do? Suppose that you said, “Children, this is very serious, come over to me right now!”, but they ignore you? What if you raised your voice, but they are just annoyed and perceive that you are meddling in their play, and they don’t listen. Would you say as a parent, “well, I warned them, but they wouldn’t listen”?

No!

The only loving thing to do in that situation is to shout and even to threaten if necessary! And once they run to you, perhaps out of fear of you, wouldn’t you then tell them, “I only shouted like that because I love you, now don’t be afraid”?

This definition of God’s anger as his sadly removing his hand of protection can be carried all the way through the Bible.

 

The Philistine capture of the covenant box

When the children of Israel abandoned God to the point that they even lost the covenant box to the Philistines, God is “angry”, but notice how the event is described:

“They angered him with their heathen places of worship, and with their idols they made him furious. God was angry when he saw it, so he rejected his people completely. He abandoned his tent in Shiloh, the home where he had lived among us. He allowed our enemies to capture the Covenant Box, the symbol of his power and glory.” (Psalm 78:58-61 – GN)

 

The Romans destroy Jerusalem

The Jewish people, who by and large rejected their God when he came in human form, had so hardened their hearts that God could do no more for them. Paul would say that “In this way they have brought to completion all the sins they have always committed. And now God’s anger has at last come down on them!” (1 Thessalonians 2:14-16 – GN). What actually happened? Who destroyed Jerusalem in 70 AD? The Romans burned down Jerusalem, not God, but yet it is described as an act of God’s anger.

Does not all of this stimulate meaningful thoughts as to the meaning of things such as the plagues in Revelation which described as “the final outpouring of God’s wrath”? Could this event be consistent with this description?

“I was shown that the judgments of God would not come directly out from the Lord upon them, but in this way: They place themselves beyond His protection. He warns, corrects, reproves, and points out the only path of safety; then if those who have been the objects of His special care will follow their own course independent of the Spirit of God, after repeated warnings, if they choose their own way, then He does not commission His angels to prevent Satan’s decided attacks upon them. It is Satan’s power that is at work at sea and on land, bringing calamity and distress, and sweeping off multitudes to make sure of his prey. And storm and tempest both by sea and land will be, for Satan has come down in great wrath. He is at work. He knows his time is short and, if he is not restrained, we shall see more terrible manifestations of his power than we have ever dreamed of.” {14MR 3.1}

Interesting thoughts!

 

Paul

Paul puts all of this evidence together from the Old Testament more clearly than in any other place in scripture in Romans chapter 1:

God’s anger is revealed from heaven against all the sin and evil of the people whose evil ways prevent the truth from being known. God punishes them, because what can be known about God is plain to them, for God himself made it plain” (Romans 1:18,19 – GN).

Paul is going to make it clear for us, “what is God’s anger? How does he punish?”

“They say they are wise, but they are fools; instead of worshiping the immortal God, they worship images made to look like mortals or birds or animals or reptiles. And so God has given those people over to do the filthy things their hearts desire, and they do shameful things with each other. They exchange the truth about God for a lie; they worship and serve what God has created instead of the Creator himself, who is to be praised forever! Amen. Because they do this, God has given them over to shameful passions….Because those people refuse to keep in mind the true knowledge about God, he has given them over to corrupted minds, so that they do the things that they should not do” (Romans 1:22-26,28 – GN).

And Paul goes on the explain that rebellion, distrust, and sin separate us from the love of God and that the one who ultimately came to show us the malignant and inherently destructive nature of sin, was one who was not rebellious, one who was not distrustful, one who never for a moment abandoned his Father. Paul would say about what Jesus experienced:

“Because of our sins he was given over to die…” (Romans 4:25 – GN)

Please read the article on the Atonement for further clarification of this, but the Father was not angry with His Son as He died, as he will not be angry with the wicked as they perish. If we want to see the face of God in his anger, we should look to the face of Jesus as he died, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” And we should also turn and look into the face of the Father who was right beside his Son.

I believe that if we could see the face and hear the words of the Father at the Cross we would see the same face and hear the same crying words in return, “My Son, my Son, how can I give you up?” This is the face of God when he loses a single one of his children.

God’s anger, when seen in this way, is perfect love. God is perfect love – a perfect love that casts out all fear. Is there still fear? If there is any fear it should be directed to the devastating consequences of cutting ourselves off from our loving Father.

As with any loving parent, God will make it very difficult for any one of his children to abandon him and to leave his side. God is always and at all times pulling out all the stops for each and every one of us, his children, so that we will experience the opposite of separation and abandonment (His “wrath”), and instead to be wrapped up in His arms, like chicks by a mother hen. This is the perfect love of God and His perfect love casts out all fear.