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Is God Angry?

[Extract from the book Elijah Men Eat Meat]

'Ahab did more to provoke the Lord God of Israel to anger than all the Kings of Israel that were before him.' -1Kg 16

Does God get angry? Elijah’s epic makes no sense if we cannot answer this question correctly. And not just in regards to these few canonical chapters; the whole Biblical narrative makes no sense if we are uncertain on this point. Our narrator describes God’s anger as laying upon Israel like a dark fog when Elijah steps onto the scene. But it is this concept of divine wrath that our generation doesn’t do particularly well with.

It shouldn’t be surprising that a generation finds certain elements of God’s character challenging to comprehend. After all, He is wide, expansive, and whole. We are products of cultures that are small, narrow, and broken. We may struggle to see how seemingly contradictory attributes can exist within one integrated being. But our difficulty reconciling certain passages has more to do with us and our lack of imagination than it does with Him. 

When the gospel first came to these British Isles, it wasn’t the revelation of God’s retributive anger that troubled our ancestors. Rather, the Angles and Saxons stumbled over the concept of God’s forgiveness. In their honour oriented society, forgiveness just didn’t make any sense. Ironically, it is precisely that same forgiveness that our generation gravitates towards as a concept. Paul writes that we should ‘consider the kindness and severity of God.’ He instructs us to do so because he knows our tendency is to focus on just his kindness or just his severity―depending on our personality or culture.

God is pissed at sin. All sin committed is primarily against our Creator who designed us to live for Him. As the medieval rabbi Rashi wrote, ‘As long as idolatry exists in the world, God’s fierce anger will exist in the world.’ But as a people, who have had the light of Scripture, turn from the truth and increase their idolatry, so does that anger likewise increase. And few generations have rejected God’s purposes like Ahab’s. His vengeance now rightly reaches the boiling point. One can almost imagine the stench of sin bruising the nostrils of holy angels who veer too close above the nation.

We’ll never understand God’s patience and mercy if we don’t first understand His wrath. It is not difficult to show patience to a person who doesn’t anger us. It is those who stir us to anger that we must exercise self-control with. In the same way, it is because sin angers God so much, that we can be amazed at his patience in holding back the judgement we deserve. A god who never gets angry can never be said to be patient.

What does it cost a God who doesn’t hate evil to show mercy? Nothing. It’s only when we see the enormity of God’s righteous judgement against us, that his mercy becomes truly merciful. This is what gives the message of Jesus’s blood its power. This is what causes a contrite man to leap up and sing, ‘Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me!’ 

Even in our agnostic generation, the default thought of many is that, if there is a God, He is love. It is revealing that we presume this love. We do this to such a degree that it is unclear if we mean ‘God is love’ or if we mean ‘Love is God’―which is quite different. In presuming His love and kindness, we rob it of its power to transform. Can anyone logically explain why, if there is a God, He would have any inclination to love something as royally screwed up as the human race? No, it makes no sense. Yet here we are presuming that if God doesn’t lovingly affirm every aspect of our lives, He has somehow done something terribly wrong. 'Shame on Him.'

Difficult as it is for us to grasp, this doctrine is revealed from Genesis to Revelation. It has been a key part of church teaching for 2,000 years. Many whimsically quip that ‘all roads lead to God.’ That may be. But many of those roads lead to Him as Judge. Only through Jesus can we meet God as Father. Through Jesus, we know God's goodness and peaceful embrace.

God’s judgement is especially clear in our reading of Ahab and Elijah. God’s violence against Israel has been building like water against a dam wall for over 50 years. This wall is God’s patience. Ahab then does more to add to that anger than all previous Kings combined. It is now ready to burst. Israel has become a spiritual stench―and justice demands that God wipe it out. It is approaching its Sodom moment.

Into this condemned culture, Elijah ventures on a mission of mercy. He aches to see his nation turn back to the Holy One of Israel. His prayers―along with the cries of other prophets and righteous people―have been building up another dam. But this dam is not holding back a reserve of righteous retribution. This one is storing up a flood of repentance, revival, and reformation. Only time will tell which wall breaks first.
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Extract from Elijah Men Eat MeatReadings to slaughter your inner Ahab and pursue Revival and Reform (Get Here) 

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