Why Godís Anger is Comforting

The Wrath of God Shows his Love?


By Grantley Morris


God gets angry. Terrifyingly angry. And it makes him so lovable.
Correctly understood, Godís wrath gives us all immense dignity, and so much more.



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It takes little Bible-reading to know that the forgiving Lord can rage with superhuman fury. The wrath of God and his forgiveness are not only compatible, they are fuelled by the same power Ė his astounding love and goodness. To grasp this, we must first grapple with the morality of anger.

    Exodus 11:4,8 So Moses said, ďThis is what the LORD says: . . .Ē Then Moses, hot with anger, left Pharaoh.

    Numbers 12:3 Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.

    Jeremiah 6:11 But I am full of the wrath of the LORD, and I cannot hold it in.

    Ezekiel 3:14 The Spirit then lifted me up . . . and I went . . . in the anger of my spirit, with the strong hand of the LORD upon me.

    Mark 3:5 He [Jesus] looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts . . .

    Mark 10:14 When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. . . .

    Ephesians 4:26 ďIn your anger do not sinĒ [quoting Psalm 4:4] : Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry

    Revelation 6:16  . . . the wrath of the Lamb

These Scriptures startle us, especially if taught as children an oversimplified moral code. We might expect the Bible to say all anger is sin, but not only does it not say that, such an oversimplification causes us to puzzle or even take offense when the Bible records the sinless Son of God getting angry and the Father himself exploding in anger.

Letís briefly drill down into this mystery.

There is a link between eating and overindulgence, but not all eating is sin. Likewise, there is a link between anger and sin, but not all anger is sin.

Just as it is not a sin for two teenagers to be madly in love, but it could easily lead to sexual sin, so anger is not sin, but it could easily lead to sin. Strong passions in weak people are so morally dangerous that they are often best avoided. This does not mean the passions themselves are wrong but, like alcohol, they can lower self-control and make it harder for the average person to avoid sin.

Sex is easily defiled into selfishness or lust or rape, and yet it has the potential to be a beautiful expression of love. Likewise, anger could be a manifestation of selfishness, hypocrisy or a bitter, unforgiving spirit. But despite being so easily defiled, anger could be a manifestation of love.

Tragically, we humans are so corrupt that most of us have little conception of love, let alone righteous anger. Selfish love is as impossible as hateful love and yet when couples say they are in love, they are usually referring not to love but to selfishness. They mean they are excited about how much they think the person could give them, not how much they long to lay down their lives for that person. Anger fired by selfishness is hideously different to anger fired by selflessness (genuine love).

So how could anger be beautiful?

We would rightly be devastated if, when we do wrong, Godís response were, ďItís okay. I realize humans are too pathetic to do anything right.Ē God getting angry at us when we sin says something powerful about our potential and moral capacity. Godís wrath affirms that our all-knowing Creator believes in us. He sees us as capable of resisting horrific temptation and achieving immense good.

I would be equally crushed if whenever I sin God says, ďNo problem. Youíre just my puppet and plaything. Nothing you do makes the slightest difference to me or my plans. I keep overriding everything you do anyhow.Ē Godís wrath gives us dignity. It proves that the One who lacks nothing has lovingly graced us with enormous power. The Giver of all things has exalted us to such dizzy heights that our actions are not only of eternal significance; they deeply affect the Almighty himself. This makes my heart leap. It instills our lives with stupendous meaning.

Godís Selflessness

Stare into the night sky. Are the stars shaken from the heavens when you sin? Regardless of how good or bad or significant our puny actions might seem to us, how can they touch the Omnipotent Lord? [Inspired by Job 35:5-8] Except for the enormity of Godís love for us, we can affect the Creator of galaxies infinitely less than a flea could bother a hurtling freight train. Only love could make our actions of such supreme importance to the Almighty that they stir his emotions.

Suppose you own two cars. One is a heap of junk you care little for. The other is your pride and joy that has not only cost you greatly but to you is irreplaceable. Someone breaks the news that one of your cars has been vandalized. Wouldnít you be on tenterhooks, anxious to know what car it is? Wouldnít your anger over that act of vandalism differ markedly, depending on which car was damaged? Oneís anger is proportional to how much one values the damaged object.

Our sins inevitably end up damaging ourselves and almost always hurt other people as well. Godís wrath proves how dearly he prizes us and how deeply moved he is when any of us are in any way hurt.

The Divine Risk-Taker

There is no doubt about it: God has the right and ability to eliminate risk and be the ultimate control freak. If we had divine powers we would be sorely tempted to use them for our own advancement and self-protection. But letís not trip ourselves up on blind presumptions as to how God uses or abuses his power. It would be tragic to fall into the hole of mistakenly supposing we are glorifying God by assuming he indulges himself in the same self-serving way that we might if we had his supernatural powers.

The All-powerful One is not some inflated version of ourselves. Just as Jesusí glory was in surrendering all his rights and riches and powers of self-protection in order to become the Final Solution to human sin, so Godís greatest glory is in him surrendering his right to be a control freak.

The infinite Lord is incomprehensively beyond us, not just in raw power, but in self-crushing humility and the extremity of sacrificial love. The true God is the Almighty Lord who has everything and yet gave it all up to be treated not just as the lowest of the low but to be tortured to death to save his enemies so that he might exalt them from being the scum of the universe to sharing his holy throne. The real God passionately paid to the last excruciating torment the highest conceivable personal cost to empower those who opposed him so that they could rule the galaxies with him in celestial splendor.

Yes, if anyone has the power to avoid disappointment and getting hurt, and if anyone has the right to be an arrogant despot, it is the exalted Lord. But God is so driven by supernatural love that he not only posseses infinite reserves of pure love; he is so driven by love that he is love. And this mind-shattering fact disintegrates every guess as to how God in his divine omnipotence might act.

To love is to truly live, but the stakes are enormous. As Richard Bach observed, ďIf you love something, set it free; if it comes back itís yours, if it doesnít, it never was.Ē At the heart of love is courageously releasing your iron grip of control over the one you love.

Because God is perfect, it is blissfully safe to love him. Heíll never slip up. Heíll never let you down or die or change. To love a human, however, is one of the riskiest things in the universe. It is, as it were, putting all your eggs in the one basket. It is relinquishing white-knuckled control over what touches your heart and daring to knowingly give some fallible, changeable being the power to do to you anything he or she chooses, from thrilling you to emotionally tormenting you.

Unlike us, God is not emotionally repressed. He has no hang-ups hindering him from feeling with full intensity. Even those of us not too afraid to love, let ourselves love a bit but still hold back somewhat, being consciously or unconsciously haunted by a fear of rejection or being let down by the ones we love. The Almighty caves in to no such inhibitions.

Just as we hold ourselves back from plunging unreservedly into love, so fear keeps us from letting ourselves fully feel other emotions, including anger. We fear getting hurt or being so overwhelmed by emotion that we end up hurting others or in some other way acting unwisely. Godís goodness and self-mastery renders it safe for him to feel with supernatural intensity, and a selfless God does not spare himself the pain that extreme feelings might bring him. So both because of Godís enormous capacity and because he does not flinch from exposing himself to emotional torment, he feels more than any of us, and his anger is one indicator of the depth of his passion.

A selfish omnipotent God would always get his way. He would ensure nothing happens that even slightly disappoints him, let alone infuriates him. A loving omnipotent God, however, plots a very different course. A selfish weak God might get angry because of his own limitations, but only love could drive an all-powerful God to anger.

An historian, Lord Acton, made this famous observation of fallen humanity: ďPower tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.Ē

Godís anger proves he does not let power corrupt him into becoming a control freak. If he were a self-serving autocrat, nothing would upset him; he would strip everyone of dignity by manipulating everyone into always doing his bidding.

Reduce people to puppets and they will never disappoint you, nor do anything praiseworthy. The honor for their every achievement would be yours alone. Thatís the obvious choice for a power-crazed egomaniac.

Dignify and empower people, however, and you hand them the ability to break your heart and also to achieve things for which they Ė not just you alone Ė deserve praise. By dignifying humans with the power of choice, there is a very real sense is which they become little gods (John 10:34-35), capable of genuine love (rather than some dismal robotic counterfeit) and of making praiseworthy decisions. This is the risky path the true God Ė not a despotic, self-protecting manipulator but the God of love Ė has chosen.

Divine Jealousy

Letís look to the Bible to help us understand passionate love and the jealousy it arouses:

    Song of Solomon 8:6  . . . love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave. It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame.

    Proverbs 6:30-35 Men do not despise a thief if he steals to satisfy his hunger when he is starving. Yet if he is caught, he must pay sevenfold, though it costs him all the wealth of his house. But a man who commits adultery lacks judgment . . . and his shame will never be wiped away; for jealousy arouses a husbandís fury, and he will show no mercy when he takes revenge. He will not accept any compensation; he will refuse the bribe, however great it is.

    Proverbs 27:4 Anger is cruel and fury overwhelming, but who can stand before jealousy?

One of the things the above crystallizes for us is that no matter how furious a man might be over having $1,000 stolen from him, his anger will fade if the thief gives him back seven times more than he took. When love is violated, however, not even a trillion dollars is adequate compensation. There is nothing in the universe the offender can do to diminish the anger of the aggrieved partner.

We see this displayed in Godís heart in such Scriptures as this:

    Zephaniah 1:18 Neither their silver nor their gold will be able to save them on the day of the LORDís wrath. In the fire of his jealousy the whole world will be consumed . . .

It is highly flattering to have a lover who is so passionate about you as to be jealous. No one wants a lover who is insanely (irrationally) jealous. You would not want someone who does not trust you, for example. But neither would you want your lover to not care enough to feel hurt if you were unfaithful.

Divine jealousy means it is dangerous to get on the wrong side of your Lover:

    Joshua 24:19-20 Joshua said to the people, ďYou are not able to serve the LORD. He is a holy God; he is a jealous God. He will not forgive your rebellion and your sins. If you forsake the LORD and serve foreign gods, he will turn and bring disaster on you and make an end of you, after he has been good to you.Ē

But divine jealousy also means God will defend you against anyone who would dare hurt you.

    Joel 2:18-20 Then the LORD will be jealous for his land and take pity on his people. The LORD will reply to them: ĎI am sending you grain, new wine and oil, enough to satisfy you fully . . . I will drive the northern army far from you . . .í

    Ezekiel 36:6-11  . . . This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I speak in my jealous wrath because you have suffered the scorn of the nations. Therefore this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I swear with uplifted hand that the nations around you will also suffer scorn. But you, O mountains of Israel, will produce branches and fruit for my people Israel, for they will soon come home. I am concerned for you and will look on you with favor; you will be plowed and sown, and I will multiply the number of people upon you, even the whole house of Israel. The towns will be inhabited and the ruins rebuilt. I will increase the number of men and animals upon you, and they will be fruitful and become numerous. I will settle people on you as in the past and will make you prosper more than before. Then you will know that I am the LORD.

    (Similar Scriptures in Zechariah)

God & Emotions

In their purest form, emotions are beautiful and highly desirable. They are among the stellar features distinguishing us as more lovable and sophisticated than intelligent machines. Since God is in everyway superior to us, he exceeds us in warmth, passion and other emotions.

On the other hand, out-of-control emotions are ugly and hypocritical anger is despicable. Youíll never find that in a perfect God. Emotions that fail to stand up to rational and moral scrutiny are a source of shame. Most human anger fails so miserably in this area that we can barely conceive of anger in its divine perfection.

God is not emotional in the sense of being so overwhelmed by emotions that his feelings are ever allowed to tear down the constraints of wisdom and compassion. He is always wise and compassionate; always selfless and fair; always slow to anger and quick to forgive.

    Psalms 85:2-3 You forgave the iniquity of your people and covered all their sins. You set aside all your wrath and turned from your fierce anger.

    Jonah 4:2  . . . I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.

    Isaiah 54:8 In a surge of anger I hid my face from you for a moment, but with everlasting kindness I will have compassion on you, says the LORD your Redeemer.

Nevertheless, the Almighty has God-sized emotions that are so intense and perfect that alongside him we are cold, impersonal and uncaring. And the fury of his anger brings this into sharp focus. As the terrifying roar of a jet gives even a blind person some idea of how close and fast the jet is, so descriptions of Godís anger slightly open blind eyes to the heart-thumping magnitude of how precious we are to him and how much he cares for us.

    2 Kings 22:17 Because they have forsaken me and burned incense to other gods and provoked me to anger by all the idols their hands have made, my anger will burn against this place and will not be quenched.

    Psalms 2:5,2 Then he rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath . . . Kiss the Son, lest he be angry and you be destroyed in your way, for his wrath can flare up in a moment. . . .

    Psalms 76:7 You alone are to be feared. Who can stand before you when you are angry?

    Psalms 78:49 He unleashed against them his hot anger, his wrath, indignation and hostility Ė a band of destroying angels.

    Psalms 88:7,16 Your wrath lies heavily upon me; you have overwhelmed me with all your waves. Your wrath has swept over me; your terrors have destroyed me.

    Psalms 90:7-9,11 We are consumed by your anger and terrified by your indignation. You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence. All our days pass away under your wrath; we finish our years with a moan. . . . Who knows the power of your anger? For your wrath is as great as the fear that is due you.

    Jeremiah 10:10 But the LORD is the true God . . . When he is angry, the earth trembles; the nations cannot endure his wrath.

    Jeremiah 21:5 I myself will fight against you with an outstretched hand and a mighty arm in anger and fury and great wrath.

    More Examples

Of course, the God of the Old Testament is the God of the New and so Godís wrath is repeatedly taught in the New Testament (examples).

Conclusion

Suppose a father, who thinks the world of his eighteen-year-old son, comes home to find the son molesting his three-year-old niece. We would be appalled if the father were unmoved, saying, ďSo what? There are plenty more girls where she came from.Ē

And not even the son would want his father to respond in defeat, ďItís tragic, but heís incapable of anything better.Ē The only acceptable response is anger Ė not dangerous, out-of-control anger, of course, nor hypocritical anger, but passionate anger, nonetheless. Moreover, the more the father respects and loves the girl, and the higher his opinion of his son, the smaller the offense required to trigger his love-fuelled anger.

Our sin ends up hurting ourselves Ė and often other people as well. Since God passionately loves us and anyone else hurt by our sin, how could the God of love possibly be unmoved when we sin? Sin rightly infuriates God. If we want to sin, we would prefer God to be some distant, uncaring machine, but the real God is highly personal and always vitally interested in every one of us.

God is slow to anger and quick to forgive. Nevertheless, Godís anger tells us much about his love and the moral perfection that fires his passion for justice. The intensity of Godís fury reveals how astoundingly important we are to the Almighty and it gives us immense dignity. Our lives are neither frivolous nor meaningless, but of stupendous significance. Our actions truly matter. And God passionately cares.

Our awareness of God is often vague. If to us he ever seems distant or superficial and of only moderate importance, however, the feeling is most certainly not mutual. We must avoid misinterpreting Godís superhuman restraint as indicating that he couldnít care less. He couldnít care more.

    Isaiah 63:9 In all their distress he too was distressed . . .

    Psalms 130:3 If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand?

    Isaiah 30:18 Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!

    Psalms 78:38 Yet he was merciful; he forgave their iniquities and did not destroy them. Time after time he restrained his anger and did not stir up his full wrath.

    Romans 2:4 Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that Godís kindness leads you toward repentance?

    2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

If ever a mother has meticulously examined her newborn in awe; if ever a love-crazed teen has stared wide-eyed seeking to drink in the full beauty of the girl who mesmerizes him; and if ever a pop starís greatest fan gave rapt attention to every note of his song, it pales to nothing compared with Godís love-charged scrutiny of our every fleeting thought and how he gazes enthralled upon every subatomic particle comprising our body. Like a colossal magnifying glass focusing the burning rays of the sun with pinpoint accuracy, all the staggering powers of an omnipotent God are focused on you. Thatís what happens when an infinite God falls in love, even though you are seldom aware of it.

Careful not to overwhelm you, Almighty God slips into the background, taking on the role of a secret admirer. No matter how little you sense it, however, you are the focus of infinite love.

Vital Links

God Loves Everyone: The Terrifying Implications

The Fear of God: Exposing the Full Truth about God

Godís Goodness

Divine Vengeance Against Those Who Hurt You

The Righteous Lust for Vengeance: Turning Hate into Healing

How Much Does God Love Me? Have Your Very Own Revelation of Godís Love

Not to be sold. © Copyright, Grantley Morris, 2009. For much more by the same author, see www.net-burst.net
No part of these writings may be copied without citing this entire paragraph. No part may be sold.


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