36. Anger

God in the Psalms No.36  – God of anger

Psa 21:9 In his wrath the LORD will swallow them up, and his fire will consume them.

There are some things about the Lord that make us do a double-take. Is the Lord really like this? On one hand we’re told that God is love (1 Jn 4:8), so how, we wonder can He also be a God of anger, a God of wrath who destroys people? This needs thinking about!

Let’s start with that incredible man of God, Moses: Then the LORD’s anger burned against Moses and he said, “What about your brother, Aaron the Levite? I know he can speak well. He is already on his way to meet you, and his heart will be glad when he sees you. You shall speak to him and put words in his mouth; I will help both of you speak and will teach you what to do.” (Ex 4:14,15).   This is where looking at the context is important, for this comes near the end of a long conversation where the Lord has answered all of Moses’ questions, explained what would happen, given two miraculous signs and still Moses says, send someone else to do it.” There is nothing more that God could say or do more than He has already done in this conversation. Moses’ response is now just selfish obtuseness and there is no excuse for it. God’s anger has been slow to come but anger is the only response to it.

So what is anger?  A Bible dictionary definition is, “a feeling of displeasure resulting from injury, mistreatment, opposition, etc.” It is a natural, right and just response in certain circumstances. We so often link anger or wrath with a quick, hasty and selfish response to an offence, but with God it is the exact opposite. It is a slow, measured and concerned response of justice. It is slow (Psa 103:8) because God doesn’t just react to people, He gives a fully measured, perfect response to the situation. The anger or wrath of the Lord is not a capricious self-concerned response, but a slow concerned response. We might nod at someone’s sin and excuse or ignore it  but God knows that unrestrained sin spreads and destroys so He first speaks against it, speaks and speaks again, and then acts against it. A willful ignoring of His calls is just that, a willful ignoring! It is an act of stupid rebellion; it is pure folly. Stop and think what emotions you could express: happiness at it. Well that is obviously stupid! Neutral and unfeeling?  How can you remain unfeeling about a gross crime?  Our problem sometimes is that we simply don’t feel enough, we don’t think enough about the crime. If you were a husband and father and your house was invaded by an armed gang and you were tied up and your wife and daughter raped in front of your eyes, what would you be feeling? Happiness? Don’t be silly!  Passive neutrality? You’ve got to be joking! It will be absolute, total, hostile anger. Everything in you will be blazing against them – and rightly so!

So why do we wonder, when perfect, beautiful God who calls out and calls out and calls out and has to watch increasing (because it is increasing before He acts) stupidity, eventually expresses anger?  The answer has to be because we simply are blind to the awfulness of the stupidity. Why does God judge and destroy?  To stop the spread of destructive sin. As someone has said, the incredible thing is not that God destroys one or two individuals, but that He doesn’t destroy all of us!  That is the wonder of the Cross! It is God’s means of diverting His righteous anger over sin. Why does He ever act against sinners then?  So save the situation getting worse, to save others from the spreading destructive nature of what this person or people do.

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