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The Wrath of God

Greetings All,

     This week's 'thought' comes to you from J. I Packer, and is found in his superb book, "Knowing God."
     It deals with a topic many people (believer and non-believer) struggle with -- the concept, or better yet, the reality of God's wrath. Packer, knowing the confusion people have in regard to this common biblical subject seeks to explain, clarify and clear up some of the common misconceptions with regard to it.

     I have also added a second helpful thought from A. W. Tozer.  Years ago I found them very helpful. I trust some of you might find them helpful as well. Enjoy.

The Wrath of God
     "The modern habit throughout the Christian church is to downplay this subject. Those who still believe in the wrath of God (and not all do) say little about it. To an age that has unashamedly sold itself to the god's of greed and pride and sex and self-will, the church mumbles on about God's kindness but says virtually nothing about His judgment.
     How often during the past year did you hear (or if you are a minister did you preach) on the wrath of God? How long is it, I wonder, since a Christian spoke straight about this topic on the radio, or television, or in one of those half-column sermonettes that appear in the national dailies or magazines.  And if they did so, how long would it be before they were asked to speak or write again. The fact is that the subject of divine wrath has become taboo, and modern society, and Christians by and large, have accepted the taboo and agreed never to even bring the subject up....
       [Yet] the theme of God's wrath is one about which the biblical writers felt no inhibitions whatever. Why then, should we?  Why, when the Bible is vocal about it, should we feel obliged to be silent?  What is it that makes us awkward and embarrassed when the subject comes up; that prompts us to soft-pedal it and hedge when asked about it? The root cause of our unhappiness seems to be a disquieting suspicion that idea of wrath is, in one way or another, unworthy of God.
     To some, for instance, wrath suggests a loss of self-control, an outburst of "seeing red" which is partly, if not wholly, irrational. To others it suggests the rage of conscious impotence, or wounded pride, or plain bad temper. Surely, it is said, it would be wrong to ascribe to God such attitudes as these.
     The reply is: Indeed it would.  But the Bible does not ask us to do this.  There seems to be here a misunderstanding of the anthropomorphic language of Scripture - that is, the biblical habit of describing God's attitudes and affections in terms ordinarily used for talking about human beings. But when Scripture speaks of God anthropomorphically, it does not imply that the limitations and imperfections which belong to the personal characteristics of us sinful creatures belong also to the corresponding qualities in our holy Creator. Rather it takes for granted that they do not.
     Thus, God's love, as the Bible views it, never leads Him to foolish, impulsive, immoral actions in the way that its human counterpart too often leads us.  And in the same way, God's wrath in the Bible is never the capricious, self-indulgent, irritable, morally ignoble thing that human anger so often is.  It is, instead, a right and necessary reaction to objective moral evil.  God is only angry where anger is called for.  Even among humans, there is such a thing as righteous indignation, though it is, perhaps, rarely found.  But all God's indignation is righteous.
     Would a God who took as much pleasure in evil as he did in good be a good God? Would a God who did not react adversely to evil in His world be morally perfect?  Surely not.  Yet it is precisely this adverse reaction to evil, which is a necessary part of moral perfection, that the Bible has in view when it speaks of God's wrath."

It might also help to know that God's "wrath" is often devoid of "anger" altogether. It is, rather, a very intentional and "calm" determination to "give people over" (let them have) the sin they want (along with the consequences of that sin). Paul speaks of this when he tells us that "the wrath of God is being poured out" -- not in fire from heaven, or cataclysmic disasters -- but in simply letting people have the sinful things they want (see Romans 1:18-32, and especially verses 24, 26, and 28). In this sense His wrath is a "calm" form of judgment upon people who stubbornly persist in their sin and rebellion.

     A. W. Tozer's words from his book "The Knowledge of the Holy," are also helpful here.  There he states:

     "Holy is the way God is. To be holy He does not conform to a standard. He is that standard. He is absolutely holy with an infinite, incomprehensible fullness of purity that is incapable of being other than it is. Because He is holy, His attributes are holy. That is, whatever we think of as belonging to God must be thought of as holy.
     God is holy and He has made holiness the moral condition necessary to the health of His universe. Sin's temporary presence in the world only serves to accent this. Whatever is holy is healthy; evil is a moral sickness that must end ultimately in death. The formation of the language itself suggests this, the English word holy deriving from the Anglo-Saxon halig, or hal, meaning "well, whole."
     Since God's first concern for His universe is its moral health, that is, its holiness, whatever is contrary to this is necessarily under His eternal displeasure.  To preserve His creation God must destroy whatever would destroy it. When He arises to put down iniquity and save the world from irreparable moral collapse, He is said to be angry. Every wrathful judgment in the history of the world has been a holy act of preservation.  The holiness of God, the wrath of God, and the health of the creation are inseparably united. God's wrath is His utter intolerance of whatever degrades and destroys. He hates iniquity as a mother hates the polio that takes the life of her child."

     I hope -- if nothing else -- you may have gained insight into what God's wrath is; why it is a necessary aspect of His being as God, and thus be less hesitant to affirm it, speak of it, or explain it to others.
To the end that we might worship God as He is and must ever be, Pastor Jeff