In contemplating the anger of God, we are drawn into a more profound and reverent worship of Him. It is a solemn reminder of our sinfulness, the holiness of God, and the incredible gift of salvation through Jesus Christ.
When attempting to know God, believers are sometimes confronted with attributes and aspects of His character that challenge our finite minds. If it were up to us, we would get to know God by the traits and qualities we enjoy most, such as His grace, mercy, and love. But what about when we are confronted with other attributes wholly central to understanding who He is that chafe a bit more against the soul? What are we to think then? Today, I would like to discuss an aspect of God’s character that many, including weak-kneed preachers, totally avoid. That is His perfect, all-consuming, and righteous fury.
The Nature of God’s Anger
God’s divine wrath, as the psalmist declares, is neither capricious nor born of the frailties that often mar human emotions. He is a righteous judge (Psalm 7:11) whose holiness is demonstrated in all He does (Isaiah 5:16). As Habakkuk so aptly testifies, God’s anger emanates from the pure and undefiled nature. His eyes are too pure to approve of evil or to look favorably upon the wicked (Habakkuk 1:13). When His anger does break out, it is not quick-tempered or wreckless (Nahum 1:3). It emanates, instead, from a long-suffering, compassionate, and gracious countenance that demonstrates His lovingkindness to thousands but who will by no means leave the guilty unscathed (Exodus 34:6-7).
In His sovereign and holy displeasure, God responds with terrifying fury upon the ones who provoke Him with their sin and idolatry (Deuteronomy 9:7-8). Indeed, God is endlessly enraged over all ungodliness (Romans 1:18-23), covenant disloyalty (Joshua 7:1), religious hypocrisy (Matthew 23:27-28), and social injustices (Zechariah 7:9-12). Yet, as fearsome as His anger is, it perfectly accomplishes the will of God (Jeremiah 23:20) and is ever in harmony with His unfathomable holiness and love (Psalm 85:10). The Scriptures, particularly in Romans 2:4, reveal the redemptive purpose behind God’s wrath, which is not solely punitive, but also restorative, leading the sinner to repentance. For those who harden their hearts against Him, His vehement opposition towards them will consume them for His own glory (Deuteronomy 32:16-17). For those who repent and turn back to the Lord, His anger is only for a night, with new joys and mercies coming in the morning (Psalm 30:5).
In the Scriptures, the redemptive arc of God’s anger spans from the very first moments of history (in the fall of man) to the eschatological future when everything that provokes the anger of God will either fall into destruction or find perfect healing in the eternal state. His wrath encompasses the coming judgments upon all nations who oppose His reign, as Jeremiah 4:7 and Psalm 2 reveal, and also extends to the cosmic consequences of sin leveled onto the wicked individual, as Colossians 3:6 so solemnly warns. Yet, in this wrath, there lies a protective purpose for His chosen people (Exodus 32:10), an impartiality that transcends human notions of fairness (Romans 2:11), and an inevitability that marks the certainty of His justice (Nahum 1:2-3), which ought to lead us to repentance. God’s wrath stored up for believers is not a trumpet call for God to blisteringly wage war against them (as He does against the wicked) but a clarion call for our repentance, an invitation to return to the paths of righteousness, as echoed in Revelation 3:19.