He sent His burning anger against them: fury, indignation, and calamity.—Psalm 78:49
For many of us, “wrath” conjures up the idea of being out of control, an outburst of “seeing red,” a sense of wounded pride or just downright petulance. But it is quite wrong to take these ideas or feelings and impose them on God. God’s wrath is never out of control, never capricious, never self-indulgent, never irritable, and never ignoble. These may be indicative of human anger but never of the divine. God is angry only when anger is called for.
Even among men and women, there is such a thing as righteous indignation, though (in my opinion) it is more rare than we think.
I used to believe the difference between righteous indignation and carnal hostility was this: when someone was angry with me, that was carnal hostility; when I was angry with someone else, that was righteous indignation! I have “grown out” of that opinion now, I hasten to add.
All God’s indignation is righteous. It is grief at what is happening to others, not a grudge because of what is happening to Him. Would a God who took as much pleasure in evil as He did in good be a God we could love? Would a God who did not react adversely to evil be morally perfect? Of course not. It is precisely this adverse reaction to evil that the Bible has in mind when it talks about God’s wrath. God cannot treat good and evil alike. He can look over it—look over it to the Cross where it can be forgiven—but He cannot overlook it.
O God, the more I see the reason behind Your wrath and the more I consider the purity of its motive, the more praise and adoration I want to give. What a great and wonderful God You are. And how glad I am You looked over my sin. Amen.
Isa 13:1-22; Ps 78:40-55; Isa 30:27; Rm 1:18
How does the psalmist describe God’s wrath?
How did Isaiah depict God’s anger toward Babylon?