The emphasis in our era that God is love may make it hard for us to conceive that God is also angry. This difficulty comes from a faulty understanding of true love and righteous anger. Anger is a loving and proper response when betrayal and unfaithfulness occur within a covenant relationship. How strange if a husband or wife were not angered by the infidelity of their spouse! However, the problem with human anger is that it tends to mingle with sinful responses as well. That is why we are warned in Ephesians 4:26 to “Be angry and do not sin” and to “not let the sun go down on your anger.” Human anger slides quickly into the sins listed in the context of this verse: stealing, corrupt speech, bitterness, clamor, slander, and malice. Can you remember how anger led to any of these sins in your own life? Surely you can! But not so with God! His anger is never bitter or malicious. God’s anger is always honest, pure, and right. His anger and wrath are always under the complete control of His other divine perfections, so He can choose and say, “I will not execute my burning anger; I will not again destroy Ephraim; for I am God and not a man, the Holy One in your midst, and I will not come in wrath” (Hosea 11:9).
Most of the references in the Bible to God’s anger and wrath come in a context where the nation of Israel has been unfaithful to Yahweh—they had broken their covenant relationship with Him. Scripture often refers to the fact that they “provoked the LORD to anger.” Judges 2:12 is such an example, “And they abandoned the LORD, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt. They went after other gods, from among the gods of the peoples who were around them, and bowed down to them. And they provoked the LORD to anger.” God’s anger over their spiritual adultery should not have surprised the children of Israel. God had warned them numerous times. Deuteronomy 6:14-15 says, “You shall not go after other gods, the gods of the peoples who are around you–for the LORD your God in your midst is a jealous God–lest the anger of the LORD your God be kindled against you, and he destroy you from off the face of the earth.”
About 9 times in the Bible we are reminded and comforted with the fact that God is “slow to anger”. Exodus 34:5-7 is the first time:
The LORD descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD. The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”
The final time that the scriptures mention that God is slow to anger is in a context of God’s powerful and righteous judgment upon the wrongful acts of a nation:
The LORD is a jealous and avenging God; the LORD is avenging and wrathful; the LORD takes vengeance on his adversaries and keeps wrath for his enemies. The LORD is slow to anger and great in power, and the LORD will by no means clear the guilty. His way is in whirlwind and storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet. He rebukes the sea and makes it dry; he dries up all the rivers; Bashan and Carmel wither; the bloom of Lebanon withers. The mountains quake before him; the hills melt; the earth heaves before him, the world and all who dwell in it. Who can stand before his indignation? Who can endure the heat of his anger? His wrath is poured out like fire, and the rocks are broken into pieces by him (Nahum 1:2-6).
The knowledge that God will deal justly in anger and wrath with those who reject and turn from Him is sobering. However, it is amazing that He provides a way in mercy for us to come to him for forgiveness. But it takes humility to do so on each individual’s part! Have you heeded the instruction of Psalm 2:10-12? “Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.” Have you taken refuge in God’s Son, Jesus Christ who took upon Himself the wrath of God as your substitute? The purpose of Jesus Christ’s death on the cross was made clear by the prophet Isaiah about 700 years before the fact. I would encourage you to read and meditate on all of Isaiah 52:13 – 53:12. I will quote verses 4 – 6, “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned–every one–to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Do these verses help you to understand John 3:16-18 better? “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” What have you done with the Son, Jesus Christ?
With Prayer, Mark |
© November, 2011 Scripture quoted: ESV – Emphasis added
Verses for our meditation: God Is Angry and Wrathful
Joshua 23:16, Joshua speaking – “If you transgress the covenant of the LORD your God, which he commanded you, and go and serve other gods and bow down to them. Then the anger of the LORD will be kindled against you, and you shall perish quickly from off the good land that he has given to you.”
2 Samuel 6:6-7, And when [David and all the house of Israel] came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah put out his hand to the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen stumbled. And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Uzzah, and God struck him down there because of his error, and he died there beside the ark of God.
1 Kings 16:12-13, Thus Zimri destroyed all the house of Baasha, according to the word of the LORD, which he spoke against Baasha by Jehu the prophet, for all the sins of Baasha and the sins of Elah his son, which they sinned and which they made Israel to sin, provoking the LORD God of Israel to anger with their idols.
2 Chronicles 29:6-10, King Hezekiah speaking – “For our fathers have been unfaithful and have done what was evil in the sight of the LORD our God. They have forsaken him and have turned away their faces from the habitation of the LORD and turned their backs. They also shut the doors of the vestibule and put out the lamps and have not burned incense or offered burnt offerings in the Holy Place to the God of Israel. Therefore the wrath of the LORD came on Judah and Jerusalem, and he has made them an object of horror, of astonishment, and of hissing, as you see with your own eyes. For behold, our fathers have fallen by the sword, and our sons and our daughters and our wives are in captivity for this. Now it is in my heart to make a covenant with the LORD, the God of Israel, in order that his fierce anger may turn away from us.”
2 Chronicles 34:24-25, Thus says the LORD, Behold, I will bring disaster upon this place and upon its inhabitants, all the curses that are written in the book that was read before the king of Judah. Because they have forsaken me and have made offerings to other gods, that they might provoke me to anger with all the works of their hands, therefore my wrath will be poured out on this place and will not be quenched.
Nehemiah 9:17, Group of Levites recounting the history of Israel – “They refused to obey and were not mindful of the wonders that you performed among them, but they stiffened their neck and appointed a leader to return to their slavery in Egypt. But you are a God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and did not forsake them.”
Psalm 78:37-39, Asaph, contemplating the Israel relationship with God– “Their heart was not steadfast toward him; they were not faithful to his covenant. Yet he, being compassionate, atoned for their iniquity and did not destroy them; he restrained his anger often and did not stir up all his wrath. He remembered that they were but flesh, a wind that passes and comes not again.”
Psalm 86:15, But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.
Psalm 103:8-13, The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever. He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him.
Isaiah 13:9-13, Behold, the day of the LORD comes, cruel, with wrath and fierce anger, to make the land a desolation and to destroy its sinners from it. For the stars of the heavens and their constellations will not give their light; the sun will be dark at its rising, and the moon will not shed its light. I will punish the world for its evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; I will put an end to the pomp of the arrogant, and lay low the pompous pride of the ruthless. I will make people more rare than fine gold, and mankind than the gold of Ophir. Therefore I will make the heavens tremble, and the earth will be shaken out of its place, at the wrath of the LORD of hosts in the day of his fierce anger.
Ezekiel 25:14-17, And I will lay my vengeance upon Edom by the hand of my people Israel, and they shall do in Edom according to my anger and according to my wrath, and they shall know my vengeance, declares the Lord GOD. “Thus says the Lord GOD: Because the Philistines acted revengefully and took vengeance with malice of soul to destroy in never-ending enmity, therefore thus says the Lord GOD, Behold, I will stretch out my hand against the Philistines, and I will cut off the Cherethites and destroy the rest of the seacoast. I will execute great vengeance on them with wrathful rebukes. Then they will know that I am the LORD, when I lay my vengeance upon them.”
Joel 2:13, “Rend your hearts and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster.”
Jonah 3:9, King of Nineveh “Who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish.”
Jonah 4:2, And [Jonah] prayed to the LORD and said, “O LORD, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.”
Micah 7:18-19, Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love. He will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities underfoot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.
Revelation 14:10, He [the one who receives the mark of the beast] also will drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger, and he will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb.