I mentioned once before, months ago really, that I was reading a book called, “A Great and Terrible Love, A Spiritual Journey into the Attributes of God” by Mark Galli. The author discusses all the familiar attributes: God’s eternality, His omnipotence, His omnipresence, His righteousness and the like. He also discusses a few I haven’t heard of before, attributes that aren’t so familiar and that we probably wouldn’t willingly acknowledge or discuss. Attributes like God’s wrath, His jealousy, His mystery and His suffering. I mean, who wants to acknowledge that their God is a wrathful God, a jealous God or a God who suffers? Who wants to admit that their God is so mysterious that He can’t be figured out? I believe there is much to be learned about God and the relationship He desires to have with us by examining these “less than desirable” attributes of His. I want to address wrath and jealousy today.
One side of God that many Christians of today decline to talk about or even acknowledge about is the wrathful God of the Old Testament. A lot of people have a difficult time relating to the fire and brimstone found in the Old Testament, especially the parts where God tells the Israelites to wipe out entire people groups. I know people who even struggle with God’s punishment of those who disobey Him. They find His wrath inconsistent with His goodness. They resent it, find it an embarrassment or blemish on His character. They would like to hide it or pretend it does not exist. God’s wrath is not an embarrassment. God’s wrath is not a delusion or a mistake. God’s wrath is real and necessary. Personally, I like the wrathful God of the Old Testament. Now, don’t go all wonky on me here, there a perfectly good reason for my affection towards Him. Shall I explain?
God is holy. Because God is holy He is both good and wrathful. The thing is, this wrath is not directed at us, it is not directed at the people He loves so deeply and unconditionally. The Lord’s wrath is directed at our sins. He just cannot abide sin in any way, shape or form. Please understand, I am not saying God is wrathful towards sinners. I am saying God is wrathful towards sin. Just because a person is caught up in sin does not mean God does not love that person. On the contrary, it means that God loves that person so much that He cannot stand sin and the consequences that sin is having in that person’s life. Many, many people, myself included, have misunderstood that one little fact for far too long. So God’s wiping out of entire people groups? They are groups who have proved themselves committed to sin and not a loving, merciful God. God’s discipline? His way of telling us that sin is not acceptable in our lives and showing us the correct path to follow. His wrath is very consistent with His love and mercy if you look at it in that light. If He didn’t love us He wouldn’t be so wrathful. Kinda like our parents telling us the spanking would hurt them more than us.
Well, you might be saying, okay, maybe wrath is a good thing after all. Maybe it is a sign of a loving God. But jealousy? How can jealousy be a good thing? Again I believe it’s a sin thing. What is the first commandment? You know, the one right at the very top of the list. Here’s the passage in Exodus that lists them. The very first one, the one at the very top of the list is this: “You shall have no other gods before me.” God wants to be number one on our priority lists. He wants nothing to come between Himself and us. Think of all the things we tend to worship: food, money, television, sex, power and celebrities, just to name a few. Which of those things actually loves us in return? Which of those things has our best interests at heart? None of them. I know food can be good for us, in moderation, but too much is not a good thing. Actually, the same can be said for almost everything on that list and all the other idols we erect in out lives. God desires to be number one in our lives because He knows how desperately we need Him. He has given us the freedom to choose our master, but He knows He is the best one for us and only wants the best for us.
God’s wrath and His jealousy both spring from His love for us. If He didn’t love us so deeply and unconditionally He would have no reason for either of those attributes. I, for one, am glad He is that way. I exist for the embrace of His everlasting love.