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Understanding the Wrath of a Loving God.

Tomb Empty With Shroud And Crucifixion At Sunrise - Resurrection

Devotional Thought of the Day:
10  But it was the LORD’s good plan to crush him and cause him grief. Yet when his life is made an offering for sin, he will have many descendants. He will enjoy a long life, and the LORD’s good plan will prosper in his hands. 11  When he sees all that is accomplished by his anguish, he will be satisfied. And because of his experience, my righteous servant will make it possible for many to be counted righteous, for he will bear all their sins.    Isaiah 53:10-11 (NLT2)

But the Old Testament speaks of God’s wrath as well as God’s love. So does the New. What is the wrath of God then? Is it real or not?
It is real, but it is not part of God Himself. God is not half love and half wrath, or 99 percent love and 1 percent wrath. God is love. Wrath is how His love appears to us when we sin or rebel or run away from Him. The very light that is meant to help us appears to us as our enemy when we seek the darkness. The mother’s embrace can appear as the worst imaginable torture to the angry child who wants only to fight. Thus some of the saints say the very fires of Hell are made of the love of God but experienced as wrath by the spiritually insane.

Over the years, I’ve encountered two primary attitudes toward the idea of God’s wrath.

Neither is accurate.

The first is to ignore or deny that God can and will pour out His wrath on those who choose to dwell in sin. This usually goes along with the fact that we disagree with what sin is, as we defend those we love engaged in it, or we rejoice in that form of sin ourselves. Because of this, we simply can fathom how God could be so mad at the sin as to condemn us for it.

The second used to be more prevalent in the church, and that is to see wrath as purely an action that is driven by God’s righteous anger. Those lousy people (and sometimes including us) deserve to get punished, and God gets painted as a sadist who enjoys watching them suffer.  In reality, the sadist (or masochist if we think we deserve the wrath) is us.  We see a lot of this in those people who have wanted to portray this virus (and the ones before it like AIDS) as a form of God’s almighty anger, and a foretaste of the wrath to come at the judgment.

Both are wrong, and in my opinion, so change the image of God that they are heretical.

Ezekiel tells us several times that God does not take joy in the death of the wicked. he also divinely shares that repentance by those who are evil will see them forgiven, not punished, restored, not condemned.  Let me say it again, God doesn’t take joy in the wicked. Never has, never will.

Similarly,  the Apostle Peter tells us that God is patient with us because He doesn’t want any of us to perish. The apocryphal picture of Peter at the gate of heaven allowing some and barring others is misleading – Peter and the church being given the keys is about freeing people from bondage – allowing them to enter the kingdom of God (Matthew 16) even as the church rocks the gates of hell to free people from its embrace.

Are there good people that will reject God that Ezekiel mentions? Yes

Are there people who will choose the bondage of sin, despite the availability of grace and forgiveness, surely.

And this is where God’s wrath comes in, not from a sense of anger, but the sense of love. While we may see it as punitive, the goal for God is restorative.  It is not contrary to His nature of love, but love requires it.  Kreeft makes this point clear above in the words shared purple – a point that C.S. Lewis wrote an entire book (the Great Divorce) to demonstrate. Simply put, those who end up suffering in Hell would choose their idol and their sin, they would embrace its cost, rather than enjoy the presence of God.

Only once has it pleased God to pour out His wrath, and that was on Jesus.

It was God’s good plan this translation says, others say it gave God pleasure, it pleased Him, to pour out that wrath on Jesus.

On Jesus…

No one else.

And the satisfaction of restoring people to God is all worth it.  The satisfaction for restoring you to God was why Jesus endured the cross – that is the glory was Hebrews 12 describes.

All other times God disciplines and pours out His wrath is the hardest act of love, the ay to embracing an angry child, for, in that embrace, Jesus takes into Himself our sin, and pays the price.

With that understanding of God’s wrath, we no longer have to deny it, we no longer have to project it on others. We now longer have to judge and condemn, we can simply urge people to let God love them and to rejoice as He does, and they change, relaxing and knowing His peace.

Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 128.

You Were, You are, I am! A Sermon on Isaiah 12:1-6

You Were, You are, I am!
Isaiah 12:1-6

† In Jesus Name †

May the grace and peace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ bring you great comfort.

 Have you ever seen….

 He was so angry that his nostrils flared.

He couldn’t control his breathing, as his strongly worded rebuke comes out with great deliberation and focus.  His face was bright red, the kind of anger that you wonder whether his heart or mind will explode before you.

If it weren’t for the control over those words, you would wonder if there was any control left in Him.

The anger so powerful, that you can’t focus

I don’t think this is exactly what we were picturing when we chanted the gradual, when we said, “fix your eyes on Jesus…”

I think most of us have a hard time seeing God this angry, especially Jesus or the Holy Spirit.  I mean – how does a dove get angry?  God the Father maybe, but God that angry?  But then we think of the parable of the prodigal, and that Father wasn’t all that mad…

That furious?  So much so that it physically was revealed?

Who was God that mad at????

For the definition of the word angry describes someone based on physical appearance, so angry their body cannot hide it.

You were…

Who was it Isaiah was quoting when he wrote, “You were angry with me, O LORD”.

Most of us would love to point at someone else, and say – God must have been mad at, and name a name.  Most likely a name that betrayed and hurt us in the past.  Or maybe someone who is breaking the laws, or threatening our way of life, our future or children/grandchildren’s future.

This is what we need to realize, God was that angry with us.

Angry with us because of our sin, because of our rebelling against Him, angry as we rejected His love and his care.

I think sometimes we would prefer to think he was disappointed, or maybe a little upset.  That because God is understanding, that he doesn’t get emotional over our idolatry, our gossip, our sexual sin, our jealousy, and coveting.  Somehow I think we want to minimize the things we do wrong, we want to justify them, argue that their right, say that the Greek or Hebrew doesn’t really mean that its wrong, just that it isn’t as good as God would hope for us to be.

Sorry,

God was mad; he was angry, so angry that it caught there attention.

He caught our attention.

He was that mad at us, that angry at our sin,

There is a need to recognize this, that we can cause God so much anger that He must pour it out on someone, for if we don’t understand this, we don’t understand the cross.

We can’t understand the wrath of God that was poured out upon Jesus, that He bore out of obedience.

What happens if we don’t understand how angry God was with us, is that we don’t worry about our sin, and we continue to dwell on it, and we will struggle with the need for repentance, with the need for more than a quick “I’m sorry.”

We need to look at the cross from the point of seeing God so angry, that He needed to pour out that anger, and instead of pouring it out on us, He chose Christ Jesus.

You are…

Hear those words again,   

In that day, you will sing: “I will praise you, O LORD! You were angry with me, but not any more. Now you comfort me. 2  See, God has come to save me. I will trust in him and not be afraid. The LORD GOD is my strength and my song; he has given me victory.”    Isaiah 12:1-2 (NLT)

You were angry O LORD- not His title but His Name…
You were angry, but not any more… now you comfort me.

Now you comfort me.

All because of the cross.  Where that anger was satisfied, where the sins met the wrath of God and were consumed.  The cross where the people who had no god, who had walked away from Him saw His love overcome to His anger, and broken, and crushed, we were given life in Jesus.

Yes, we ticked God off, more perhaps than we can ever understand.

He didn’t set it aside, He dealt with it, as Christ Jesus was nailed to the cross.

He was angry, but because of Jesus- He is no longer.

And that is why we worship and praise Him, that is why we tell the world what Jesus has done.  The wonderful things He has done, that we make known around the world.

That He has brought people from around the world to hear about.

He was angry at us, not any more, now He comforts us…literally in Hebrew, He allows us to breath easy.  He allows us to sigh in relief and drink deeply of His cup of salvation!

I am…

This is the reason for our joy!  That one little verse, not even a whole verse, talks of our sin angering God, and the rest of the chapter praises Him.  It is that joy that springs up from seeing what was crushed, restored, what was broken healed.

At first, we cannot believe it, and then we are in awe… then life becomes incredibly infused with the love of God.

Hear the last words of Isaiah’s reading this morning

6  Let all the people of Jerusalem/Concordia shout his praise with joy! For great is the Holy One of Israel who lives among you.”

 

A Godly Paradox: The Blessing of a Angry, Jealous God

Devotional Thought of the Day:
Featured image
1   GOD, you smiled on your good earth! You brought good times back to Jacob! 2  You lifted the cloud of guilt from your people, you put their sins far out of sight. 3  You took back your sin-provoked threats, you cooled your hot, righteous anger. 4  Help us again, God of our help; don’t hold a grudge against us forever. 5  You aren’t going to keep this up, are you? Scowling and angry, year after year? 6  Why not help us make a fresh start—a resurrection life? Then your people will laugh and sing! 7  Show us how much you love us, GOD! Give us the salvation we need! 8  I can’t wait to hear what he’ll say. GOD’s about to pronounce his people well, The holy people he loves so much, so they’ll never again live like fools. Psalm 85:1-8 (MSG)

1  I hope you will put up with a little more of my foolishness. Please bear with me. 2  For I am jealous for you with the jealousy of God himself. I promised you as a pure bride to one husband—Christ. 3  But I fear that somehow your pure and undivided devotion to Christ will be corrupted, just as Eve was deceived by the cunning ways of the serpent. 4  You happily put up with whatever anyone tells you, even if they preach a different Jesus than the one we preach, or a different kind of Spirit than the one you received, or a different kind of gospel than the one you believed. 2 Corinthians 11:1-4 (NLT)

We find in scripture many mysteries, many things that we can know, but never quite understand.  There are also things that we label paradox, the things we can understand, yet seem, not quite right, perhaps a little unbelievable.

The concept of a jealous God fits that last category, and if we don’t work through it, we will never understand His anger, and why He threatens and pours out His wrath.

If we do understand why God is a jealous God, if we understand why He is angry, there is a wonderful blessing to be known. A simple blessing.

Here it is:

You don’t get jealous, you don’t get angry when a relationship is stepped all over, or worse, ignored, unless you care, and care deeply.

God’s anger, God’s jealousy is proof of how much He loves us, how much He cares, how he longs to show us His mercy and love.

But this seems paradoxical at first.   So take a moment, stop, breath a few times and think it through,

We like the fact that God is patient with us, but does patience have a cost?  Of course it does.  It means that God is willing to wait until we remember He is there, until we come to our senses, until the Holy Spirit’s work is done.

We like the fact that God is willing to go to extremes to bring us back to Him.  Searching for us, (even though He knows where we are), calling to us; sending us messengers prophets and evangelists, and shepherds to rescue us and guide us,

Foreknowledge doesn’t turn God into some kind of metaphysical robot,  It doesn’t take away the pain of the times we rebel, of the times we walk away, the times we choose to sin rather then revel in His love and care.   While He knows the outcome, that doesn’t relieve the sorrow He knows as we spend time away from Him, as we spend time like the prodigal, dirty and muddy and hungry for something that will sustain us.

God wants this intimate relationship with us, He wants to care for us, to be our God, we His beloved children.

When stuff gets in the way of this relationship, when we create other things that would take His place, that we trust in, that we place our hopes in, He would destroy them.  And someday He will.  Yet for those who trust in Him, the wrather and anger that we deserve, that we are owed.  God dealt with that too, and poured out all His anger and wrath, because He desires this, and was jealous of how we spend our time and energy, by nailing Jesus to the cross.

In doing so, we can be restored, the jealousy fades and we become what He desires more than anything…. HIs family.

Rejoice that we are in the hands of an angry God….. and realize that His desire for us is a blessed thing!

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