“God’s wrath in the Bible is never the capricious, self-indulgent, irritable, morally ignoble thing that human anger is. It is, instead, a right and necessary reaction to moral evil.” (J I Packer, Knowing God, IVP, 1993)
I remember understanding this, in a limited way, as a father, when I discovered that my son was being bullied at school. He, with his younger siblings, attended a boarding school in the north of Pakistan. Generally, this experience was a positive one, but on one occasion, when I was there with him, he was upset in a way I had not seen before. It took some time to finally get to the cause of his distress, but finally he came out with it – bullying by some of the bigger boys! It was then, as a father who loved his son, I felt “a right and necessary reaction to moral evil.” And, I promptly acted upon it. Thank God, it was resolved.
Psalm 58 is one of those poems that are not “politically correct” in our day, but just as relevant as ever. We are not told of the circumstances, but injustice is rife and the psalmist is expressing his anger at those guilty of this and he is asking God to hand out the justice that is so needed. He writes:
1 Do you rulers indeed speak justly?
Do you judge people with equity?
2 No, in your heart you devise injustice,
and your hands mete out violence on the earth.
3 Even from birth the wicked go astray;
from the womb they are wayward, spreading lies.
4 Their venom is like the venom of a snake,
like that of a cobra that has stopped its ears,
5 that will not heed the tune of the charmer,
however skillful the enchanter may be.
6 Break the teeth in their mouths, O God;
Lord, tear out the fangs of those lions!
7 Let them vanish like water that flows away;
when they draw the bow, let their arrows fall short.
8 May they be like a slug that melts away as it moves along,
like a stillborn child that never sees the sun.
9 Before your pots can feel the heat of the
whether they be green or dry—the wicked will be swept away.
10 The righteous will be glad when they are avenged,
when they dip their feet in the blood of the wicked.
11 Then people will say,
“Surely the righteous still are rewarded;
surely there is a God who judges the earth.”
Whatever these leaders in society were doing, it was bad, the psalmist suggesting that their venom is like the venom of a snake! History proves that there have been just a few too many such snakes among our leaders over the centuries past, and just maybe some present even today!
Comments I read recently are helpful:
“It has become rather unfashionable to speak of God’s wrath and judgement – they are certainly not the most popular aspects of God’s character to focus on in contemporary society. They seem disconcerting, too intolerant for our tastes. Yet scripture is filled with vivid descriptions of God’s anger – in the Old Testament and also in the New Testament.
One key to understanding this is to recognise how different God’s anger is to human anger. God’s anger is always perfectly in line with his justice. It is actually the embodiment of his love, in action against sin and evil. God must act justly to judge sin. His love compels him to holy anger at the damage and destruction which evil cause…A God who is so holy he cannot help but feel anger towards sin and evil which harm his beloved children is a God worthy of worship.” (Daniel McGinnis, SU Notes -Encounter with God, 03.11.2019)
Thank you, Father, that you alone are the righteous judge. We dare not trust in man to always bring “the right and necessary action” to injustice that is so often required in this world, but we can trust you. “Shall not the judge of all the earth do right!” (Abraham’s words in Genesis 18:25) Amen