The anger of God in the Bible, especially in the Old Testament, is inescapable. In fact, God’s anger and wrath is mentioned more times in the Bible than His love and mercy. We can not side step it.
I find myself, as I read through the Old Testament, tempted to want to explain God’s anger and wrath away. The accounts of God’s anger make me uncomfortable and long to get back to the New Testament.
Even in the New Testament, however, we find passages like this:
“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” John 3:36
“Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.'” Romans 12:17-19
I have spoken with people who do not believe in God or who do not accept the Bible as true because of the statements and stories about God’s anger and jealousy. They say they can’t believe in a God like that.
It strikes me that God, the Creator of the Universe, is no less God if we do not believe in Him or do not acknowledge Him as He is. It also seems the height of folly to submit God to our judgment, which is essentially what people do who reject Him for being or appearing to be angry or jealous.
At the same time, I have long played with the thought, which I acknowledge is just my thinking and may be way off, that what we see as anger is really something very different. We experience it or receive it as anger in a moral and emotional sense, but it may not be what it appears to be.
God is God and cannot be anything other than who He is. We are the ones out of sync. When we are out of sync, we are like the opposite pole of a magnet facing God. We sense that tension. We feel it like the opposing force of north poles facing each other.
If we are to approach God in that state (opposed to Him), we would likely perceive the tension as anger from Him – a sense of repulsion (and being repelled). We can not stand in His presence when we are opposed to Him.
We can hardly stand in His presence when we are in right relation to Him! Moses had to hide His face. Isaiah cried out that was” undone” and “ruined” in God’s presence.
What we perceive as God’s judgment, a moral stance, is really just God’s character. He is who He is. God is the standard by which everything is measured. We can no more divine God to be something other than who He is than turn off gravity (or magnetism), and our judgment of Him is like the ant claiming the ground underneath the elephant’s foot.
The Bible reveals that God wants no one to perish. (2 Peter 3:9) At the same time, He cannot be other than Himself.
“As I live, declares the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways….” Ezekiel 33:11
Evil is whatever is opposed to God.
It is we who need to change and come into alignment with Him. He provided the way in Jesus and his atoning death on the cross. Through Jesus we are aligned with God and can stand before Him and experience His love. When we confess our sins, die to ourselves, accept the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross, receive Him and, thereby, submit to God, we are turned around and aligned with Him.
I dare say that we should not gloss over the anger and wrath of God. “Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom….” Proverbs 9:10 If we let the knowledge that God is an angry, jealous God creep into our consciousness, we have motivation to want to make things right with Him.
We can not change Him. “He is not a tame Lion,” as C.S. Lewis says. He can not be other than who He is. We must approach God on His terms. What we find, when we do, however, is that God is Love.
I continue with some additional thoughts on the subject in Putting the Anger of God in Perspective: Part II in the next blog post.