Thursday, May 9, 2024

God's Anger

God is always angry with sin. 

I know you probably didn't want to hear that. For thousands of years, the people of God have wrestled with what we like to call God's "wrath," and the truth is that we don't have a whole lot of answers to it. 

We might say that God took His wrath out on His Son on Calvary, but to say that is to say that God killed His Son out of anger and offense when what's really truth is that God sacrificed His Son out of love. He had to show us the lengths to which He would go to love us, not what He would do to us if we kept on sinning. The Cross wasn't a threat; it was a promise. 

So the whole "wrath of God" on the Cross thing just doesn't work. At least, it doesn't work for me. 

But that still leaves us with sin and the problem of sin and the fact that God is always angry with sin, so it leaves us with God's anger with which we must wrestle. 

God's anger shows up no more prominently than in the Old Testament histories about the kings. Saul was who he was, but when David shows up, God seems to be okay with things and makes a grand promise. Then, there is a series of very human kings, kings who are sometimes faithful and sometimes not. Kings who lead Israel and Judah away from the Lord and back to Him and then away from Him again. And what we see is that God seems to have decided on a judgment for His people long before He executed it, and not even their reclaimed faithfulness can save them from it. 

It seems harsh. Doesn't God say that if we turn from our sin, He will return to us? Doesn't He say He will forgive us, not seven times, but seven times seven? Doesn't He say that forgiveness and redemption and restoration is what this is all about? How can He just get mad and stay mad? 

First, remember that God is not mad at us; He's mad at sin. He's mad at the things that the lies and the empty promises and the temptations do to us. 

Second, remember that God has said that He will be our God and we will be His children. Like any good parent, He can't just let the bad behavior go. That doesn't teach us anything. It doesn't help us to learn and grow. 

If you have a child and your child does wrong, then comes to you and admits their wrong and demonstrates that they want do to better, do you simply let them get away with whatever they've done? Of course not. Actions have consequences. The only thing they learn by absolute forgiveness is what to say when they've done wrong so that they won't be punished for it. 

But take a kid who paints graffiti on a public building and make him paint over it, and he learns the cost of his own transgression; he learns what it takes to clean up after him. This makes an impression. Take the kid who uses ugly language and make her read the thesaurus, and she learns how easy a word she's chosen and how rich and full the language actually can be. Take a kid who keeps sneaking out and ground him, and he learns what freedom really is. 

We learn from the consequences of our actions. We learn from the forgiveness of them, too - we learn something about God - but we learn our human lessons from the consequences. And that's why God can never just let sin go. If He did, we wouldn't learn anything about being human. And we'd only learn questionable things about God. 

So when we see God's anger burning in the OT against Israel's repeated sin, even in the face of their repentance, the question we have to ask ourselves is: what is God hoping His people will learn? 

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