Daily Devotional - 8 July 2020
“ For I will not fight against you forever; I will not always be angry. If I were, all people would pass away—all the souls I have made. I was angry, so I punished these greedy people. I withdrew from them...” (Isaiah 57:16-17).
We speak often of God’s love, but what of God’s anger? The Old Testament is filled with stories of God’s anger, punishment and righteousness indignation that tend to cause us to squirm a little. We like the idea that God will have ‘vengeance on our enemies,’ yet cower at the thought of His anger being directed at us. As much as God is a God of love, He is also a God of justice; and even though He is patient, giving us opportunities to rectify wrongs, at some point He promises to step in–at which point His righteous anger is displayed. How can we accept both our God as a God of love–sacrificial, compassionate and full of grace–and as a God of justice–sword drawn, ready to punish and even to spill the blood of His enemies?
Some people have attempted to deal with this apparent discrepancy by separating the Old Testament and New Testament or by separating God the Father from God the Son and Holy Spirit. I have heard Christians reject the Old Testament portrayal of God the Father–that was God in the past, but is no longer applicable--in favour of the more loving, forgiving and compassionate manifestation of God the Son in the New Testament. By doing so, however, we demonstrate our rejection of Jesus’ own words, “The Father and I are one” (John 10:30) and “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9)! The Old Testament is full of examples of God’s love and mercy, too; the New Testament also tells of God’s anger. Rather than creating an ‘old god’ and ‘new god’ historical view, might it not be better to examine the causes of God’s anger?
The prophet Isaiah paints a picture of God using both tender and punitive terms. But as I have been reading the book of Isaiah one thing has been brought to my attention repeatedly–God really hates it when people abuse and mistreat other people–and He will see that justice is done; however, there’s something else–many of the passages about God’s impending judgement and day of wrath are prophetic. It is the Son, the Chosen One, our coming King and Lord, who will be the one to wield the sword of righteousness. Take these words from Isaiah 59:16-20a, “The Lord looked and was displeased to find there was no justice. He was amazed to see that no one intervened to help the oppressed. So he himself stepped in to save them with his strong arm, and his justice sustained him. He put on righteousness as his body armour and placed the helmet of salvation on his head. He clothed himself with a robe of vengeance and wrapped himself in a cloak of divine passion. He will repay his enemies for their evil deeds. His fury will fall on his foes. He will pay them back even to the ends of the earth. In the west, people will respect the name of the Lord; in the east, they will glorify him. For he will come like a raging flood tide driven by the breath of the Lord. The Redeemer will come...” Jesus is the One who steps in to take the side of the oppressed, the Redeemer!
The days of God’s anger at sin and punishment for evil and disobedience cannot be relegated to some dusty archive of human existence. The God of Creation, the God of the wilderness, the God in the manger, the God on the cross, the God whose return we are to be eagerly anticipating is the same God–three in One–Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God still gets angry at disobedience; He will discipline us when we mistreat others while He comes to their defense. He hasn’t changed–just read the account of Jesus at the Temple (Matthew 21; John 2) or of the rider on the white horse (Revelation 19). But even in the midst of dire warnings, God also provides His many promises, “I restore the crushed spirit of the humble and revive the courage of those with repentant hearts” (Isaiah 57:15b).
Those who choose to live their lives in obedience to the two greatest commandments, “Love God and love others as yourself” have nothing to fear from our God of love and justice. I pray that God will help us to understand who He is, His character, His goodness and the relationship that He desires from each of us. Solomon had some good advice when he wrote Proverbs 9:10, “Fear of the Lord is the foundation of wisdom. Knowledge of the Holy One results in good judgment.” Those who live in obedience to God’s ways need not fear His anger, but can rest securely in His grace and love.
~ Pastor Jane
First licensed for pastoral ministry in 1994, Pastor Jane Peck has served in camp and church ministries in three denominations, five provinces and in a variety of roles. Her most recent position is that of Pastor at Hope Chapel which she began in 2020. She is excited to see what God can and will do in the days to come!