Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Truth about Wrath

When we were expecting our first child, we had to decide how to decorate the baby’s room.  We didn’t know whether our baby would be a boy or a girl, so we couldn’t get gender-specific; no footballs or kittens.  We decided on a Noah theme.  My brother, who is an artist, drew a great picture of Noah and the animals entering the ark, and other friends gave us books, paintings, mobiles, and assorted Noah paraphernalia.  One of these was a cloth book about Noah.  When Kayleigh was old enough, she wanted us to read books to her, and this is one of the books she often chose.  I remember the first line of the book (I should, since I read it to her at least 10,000 times).  It said,
“Noah was a good man.  He loved the earth and all the animals on it.” 
My wife and I agreed that there was a substantial difference between that and what the Bible actually says.  So when we read the book, we told her, “One day, people made God mad, and so He decided to drown them all like rats.  All except Noah.” 
No, not really.  But we did change that first page to say, “Noah was a good man.  He loved the Lord and all His commands.”

It’s interesting what we’ve done with Noah's story.  We tend to want to emphasize the cute aspects, like Noah building a big boat and filling it with animals.  But God’s anger at humanity was as much a part of the story as Noah and the animals were.  We don’t really know what to do with that, so we just sort of ignore it.  That’s what we tend to do with ALL references to God’s wrath in Scripture.  We’d rather not think about it, so we pretend those references aren’t really there.  We rarely hear sermons about the wrath of God.  In fact, I'd be willing to bet most Christians have never heard such a sermon.  But that’s a problem.  If you read the entire Bible, you’ll find that there are more references in Scripture about God’s wrath than about His love and mercy.  Some people say, “Well, it’s true the Old Testament has a lot of stuff about God’s wrath, but in the New Testament He’s much more kind.” It’s almost as if people think God used to have an anger management issue, but He got over it.  Read the teachings of Jesus from the Gospels, and you’ll see He had much to say about the wrath of God.  Or there's this nugget from 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10: The Lord Jesus (will be) revealed from heaven in blazing fire…He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the Gospel of our Lord Jesus.  They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of His power on the day He comes to be glorified.  Trust me when I say there’s a lot more where that came from.
We get uncomfortable when we hear that stuff.  It makes us think God might be like some primitive pagan deity, who requires the sacrifice of young virgins to satisfy Him, or that He wants us to be like the stereotypical street preachers of long ago, standing on the corners yelling, “Turn or burn!”  But I’m here to tell you today that God’s wrath is one of the most wonderful things about His character.  We should thank God for His wrath.  This Sunday, I will tell you why.

No comments: