Monday, September 20, 2010

The Anger of the Lord

Perhaps the title might seem to be a strange one. Can we really talk about the anger of the Lord? It's not a spelling mistake; I didn't mean to write the 'angel' of the Lord. The anger of the Lord. Is God actually angry? Surely God is love, so how can he be angry?

In each generation, there is a tendency to over-emphasise one doctrine to the detriment of another doctrine; or to focus on one aspect of God's character at the expense of another. In our day, it could just be that we have focused so much on God's love and acceptance that we have neglected, ignored or totally forgotten about the Lord's anger.

We doubt that God could actually have anger, or that it is directed towards us personally. After all, doesn't he love us? What we fail to understand in this sort of approach is that we're deciding that one aspect of God's character is the lens through which we judge the rest of his character. So if anger doesn't fit with love, then love must be the one we keep, and we reject any notion of God being angry.

The thing is, though, that God can simultaneously be love and have anger. His characteristics are not in tension, but in perfect unity in their totality. So God is perfectly love; perfectly wise; perfectly glorious; and perfectly holy. Which brings us back to the anger of God.

In our balancing / comparative act, we've magnified the love of God and ignored the holiness of God, so that God is all love and no anger. It almost offends us that God could be angry at us or our sin.

All of the above came about as I reflected on perhaps the shortest chapter in the book of the prophet Isaiah. A wonderful chapter, which provides a hymn for the church - I wonder if anyone has set this to music. Isaiah 12:

I will give thanks to you, O LORD,
for though you were angry with me,
your anger turned away,
that you might comfort me.'
(Isaiah 12:1)

What a great little summary of the gospel. Line 2 reminds us that God was angry with me (past tense); angry because of my sin, his perfect wrath unleashed against my sin; my punishment the perfect response to my rebellion.

Line 3 reminds us that God's anger was turned away from me. Isaiah may not have fully understood how this could be - although perhaps the Spirit of the Lord granted him some measure of understanding through his prophecy contained in chapter 53. We know now, that the Lord Jesus took our sins upon him, propitiating the wrath of God, taking it away, so that Jesus bore our wrath; that the Father was angry at Jesus instead of me.

Line 4 reminds us that instead of wrath, we receive comfort, through the presence of the Holy Spirit, the Comforter; as we enjoy the blessings of the gospel through the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus.

Line 1 shows that our response to all that God has done for us is to give him thanks.

Four short lines, but a wonderful summary of the gospel, and one worth committing to memory. Yes, the Lord was angry with me, but his anger was turned away, giving me comfort and calling me to thank him.

1 comment :

  1. An important balance... I love my children... and that love is sometimes what is the source of my anger towards them and others around them... I think however that the heresy of a loving God who condones sin is a reaction to a picture of a holy God who is so wrathful at sinful humanity that he is a reluctant redeemer... Who has to "love us" because he is love, but doesn't actually like us very much...