The Lord was angry with me [as spoken by Moses] because of you, and he solemnly swore that I would not cross the Jordan and enter the good land the Lord your God is giving you as your inheritance. I will die in this land; I will not cross the Jordan; but you are about to cross over and take possession of that good land. Be careful not to forget the covenant of the Lord your God that he made with you; do not make for yourselves an idol in the form of anything the Lord your God has forbidden. For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.
- Deuteronomy 4:21-24
You have rejected us, God, and burst upon us;
you have been angry—now restore us!
You have shaken the land and torn it open;
mend its fractures, for it is quaking.
You have shown your people desperate times;
you have given us wine that makes us stagger.
But for those who fear you, you have raised a banner
to be unfurled against the bow.
Save us and help us with your right hand,
that those you love may be delivered.
God has spoken from his sanctuary:
“In triumph I will parcel out Shechem
and measure off the Valley of Sukkoth.
Gilead is mine, and Manasseh is mine;
Ephraim is my helmet,
Judah is my scepter.
Moab is my washbasin,
on Edom I toss my sandal;
over Philistia I shout in triumph.”
Who will bring me to the fortified city?
Who will lead me to Edom?
Is it not you, God, you who have now rejected us
and no longer go out with our armies?
Give us aid against the enemy,
for human help is worthless.
With God we will gain the victory,
and he will trample down our enemies.
- Psalm 60
We must be very careful with our tempers, seeing all the hard times we shall have to go through together. Won’t do to quarrel, you know. At least, don’t begin it too soon. I know these expeditions usually end that way: Knifing one another, I shouldn’t wonder, before all’s done.
– C. S. Lewis, Puddleglum the Marshwiggle, from The Silver Chair
The words ‘God’ and ‘Angry’ are mentioned in the same verse 19 times in the Old Testament (NIV). Most of those 19 references were for people who were angry at God or not wanting God to be angry, not God being angry. Yet, so many do not like ‘the God of the Old Testament’ for He is an ‘Angry God.’
This has been a burden on my soul for some time, and I have mentioned it before. I’d like to put that anger into context. First of all, when God gets angry, it is a holy anger, something that we’d like to say that we do, but we are delusional if we think that.
But let’s look at the Father-Son relationship. When my Father returned from long business trips (any timeframe from one week to three months), he would remove his belt and whip me something fierce, but usually near the bottom. I would ask why. He would say that I knew, but I never did. My mother would not state at any time, “Wait until your father gets home.” She would give no physical cue or hint that I had ever done anything wrong. She simply wrote down my ‘sin’ in a notebook, when I wasn’t looking. She was an accomplished bookkeeper.
I swore that my form of punishment would be different. The boys always knew why they were being punished. We discussed what had happened, what hurt that their transgression had caused, and how to improve in the future. I did spank, but I never used a paddle, belt, etc. If my hand hurt afterwards, I had gone too far.
I used other means of punishment as well. We had two sons. Our oldest son had an aversion to physical punishment. He preferred a time out in his room with nothing but a pad of paper and a pencil. Of course, he preferred that ‘punishment.’ Within two hours his ‘punishment’ would be over, and he could introduce the new boardgame that he had just invented. It was called “Fool Dad into thinking this is punishment when I am really being rewarded for my misbehavior.”
His younger brother insisted that I could never spank him hard enough for it to hurt, but put him in a room by himself with nothing to do and he would consider it the worst of punishments.
In other words, you had to know who you were dealing with.
On the score of our younger son and spanking not hurting, he tried to place a book in his underpants once, but I was not that stupid. But when he turned to me at about seven years old and told me that I was incapable of hitting him hard enough for it to hurt, I broke my cardinal rule, spanking when angry. I sprained my thumb with the first swat, but he never shed a tear. At least he didn’t laugh. His older brother rolled on the floor laughing while I went to the kitchen for an icepack.
But bringing up corporal punishment, as in spanking – not beating, I use that to illustrate my point.
In the Old Testament, God establishes the rules, the Law, and thus the punishment for violating the Law. I only once spanked a child when angry as mentioned above. I talked to them beforehand, but the boys never knew why they had to wait for their punishment. If their mother said, “Wait until Dad gets home” then yes, they knew about that wait. But after I found out what happened, they waited longer. In part, they waited for me to have a clear mind when discussing the infraction of the rules, no anger. But also, to pray. I wanted the boys to learn acceptable behavior. After my time alone with God, then it was easier to calmly discuss what had happened. By the time the punishment really started, everyone was calm – no anger at all, but everyone knew something else would follow – a just end for the matter according to preestablished rules.
God showed His anger. Even Jesus showed His anger on occasion, but God’s punishment was righteous. It was foretold. God would not be holy if He violated His rules.
If we can punish without anger, can God not punish without anger? God will one day be a righteous Judge of each of us on Judgment Day. For those who are in the Book of Life, our sins have been forgiven and forgotten, but to the rest of humanity, God will be left with only one choice, the punishment that has been foretold.
God loves us so much that He gave His only Son to die for us so that we might live. We must only trust in Him without reservation.
To think of another emotion when my boys willfully disobeyed one of the rules…
I love them, and it hurt deeply with each step down the wrong path that they took, then and even now. It is more sadness, grief, frustration, and disappointment. Does God not feel those as much or even more than the anger?
In the Old Testament, I see a loving God. He has rules. He sets boundaries. He is fair and just. He is even patient, giving His chosen people a chance to self-correct the direction in which they are headed. But in the end, God is holy, and cannot condone the sin of His chosen people.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.