Meditating on the Judgments of God: 1.4 God’s Love and Anger and Judgment
Deut 9:18-20 I ate no bread and drank no water, because of all the sin you had committed, doing what was evil in the LORD’s sight and so provoking him to anger. I feared the anger and wrath of the LORD, for he was angry enough with you to destroy you. But again the LORD listened to me. And the LORD was angry enough with Aaron to destroy him, but at that time I prayed for Aaron too
While we are still in this first part laying down foundations of understanding God before we move into considering specific judgments, there is an aspect of the Lord that is vital to investigate. So often, it appears, God seems to be motivated by anger. The Bible often refers to the ‘wrath of God’ and wrath is just strong anger. So how does this fit with a God of love. I believe we need to understand here two things. First that love shows itself in a number of different ways, and then, second, how emotions and rational assessment of wrong are related.
Let’s try and understand how love is there but may be expressed in different ways. Let’s think about a loving human father. Some of us may be turned off because we haven’t experienced a loving father, but stay with me if you will as we consider how a loving father might express his love for his child or children. Here are a variety of ways, and they are ALL expressions of love:
i) Sacrificial Earner: He works long hours to earn money to provide for the needs of the family. It often means he is not there for them – but it is an expression of the strong love he has for them
ii) Gentle listener and encourager: He sits with his children, reading to them and listening to them, and encouraging them. He is there for them and they feel secure with him there.
iii) Firm Limiter: When they ask for things that are harmful, he withholds them and gently says no. They don’t understand and think him mean, but it is an expression of his caring concern for their protection and wellbeing that makes him say no.
iv) Strong Corrector: From time to time he brings necessary correction for he can see destructive traits growing in his child and so he brings correction to try to encourage them to not go in that direction. Sometimes that correction appears hard and painful, but he only brings it when it has become obvious that his wilful child will respond to no other correction.
v) Shadows Watcher: Sometimes he stands back and simply watches his child from a distance. He has conveyed his wisdom but his child needs to learn it for himself or herself, sometimes by the hard way of failure. Yet he is always there in the shadows watching them, ready to come the moment he is called and always there for them.
Similarly we may see God doing things that perplex us, but we must realise that they will always be expressions of His love.
- Sometimes He provides, and sometimes He seems to be there for us and encourages us, and those times seem good to us.
- But then sometimes we ask for things and He either says no or remains silent, for He knows that either now is not the right time or there is something better He wants for us.
- Sometimes bad things seem to come into our lives and for a time we can see no good reason for them. Yet in the fullness of time we see how they benefited us, or what God was able to bring about and achieve through them.
- Sometimes God seems distant and we wonder why, and it is only later that we come to realise that He was teaching us to stand on our own two feet, or to appreciate Him more.
In a whole variety of ways God’s love is expressed differently – but it is still love.
Now to move on to the second aspect, and that is of emotion versus rational assessment. When something wrong or very bad is done, it is right to be angry about it. At Lazarus’s tomb, when Jesus wept, there was also in the original Greek a sense of anger involved, anger at sin that had brought death, and anger at the grief it had caused. If we are complacent about wrongs, it means we have become hard hearted and callous and indifferent to injustice. Sometimes it needs something to strike close to home before we wake up and accept that strong emotions rightly arise when evil hits. Righteous anger is, as a dictionary puts it, “passionate displeasure”
Please distinguish angers from reactive hostility or revenge. Righteous anger is simply an objective emotion that responds rightly to wrong. What follows, when it is God, is a dispassionate objective assessment of what to do about it.
God’s judgement is His dispassionate objective assessment of what to do about the wrong which has been highlighted by His instinctive anger.
Our passionate displeasure rises up in the face of something awful, something wrong. If it is us, we react and may over-react and get it wrong but God, we saw, is perfect so He looks and He assesses what is the right thing to do, the perfect thing to do, the thing to be done in the light of ALL of the facts of both past, present and future. Only He can do this, for He knows all things and He knows how things could work out and how they can work out and how they will work out, and all the differences depend on His actions now. He chooses that which is perfect. But all of that follows His anger which triggers this assessment, a righteous anger that highlights the awfulness of what is being observed. His anger leads to His judgement but that judgement is objective.
So when we look at His acts of judgment in the Bible, realise you don’t have all the facts, your emotions are stunted, you see imperfectly, but God has seen, God has assessed perfectly, and even though you cannot see it, know that what He has done has been The best, The only right thing to be done. Bear ALL of this in mind when you think of the Judgment of God. This may give us a great deal of fuel to ponder on WHY God brings a particular judgement and why having made a dispassionate objective assessment of what to do about it, God’s judgement is this particular thing – which, with all the facts and information available to Him, is faultless!