God is angry, and his anger is relentless.
If you were trying to persuade someone of the Christian faith, that's probably not the first line you would use. After all, isn't Christianity all about an abundantly gracious God who loves his children? Doesn't your Bible say that we worship a God of forgiveness, mercy, patience, and love?
Both statements are completely true: God is relentlessly angry while at the same time abundantly gracious. This can be a difficult juxtaposition for us to grasp, so in today's devotional, I want to show you how God's anger and grace live together in harmony throughout the first chapter of Jonah.
There are three instances of God's anger: the mighty tempest, the casting of lots, and the great fish. When Jonah flees, the Lord sends a storm that threatens to break up the ship; when the mariners cast lots, we know God controls the result (Proverbs 16:33); and when Jonah is swallowed by the fish, he sits in its belly for three days and three nights.
It's not enough to say that God merely allowed these hardships to enter Jonah's life; no, I think that would be poor theology. Rather, the first chapter of this book makes it clear that God personally delivered these difficulties to Jonah’s doorstep. I would also argue that God did so out of anger.
You see, God won't forsake his throne, nor will he allow rebellious human beings to derail the good plan he has for the universe. He refuses to listen to our "no's" and he gets angry when we run away from his plan. It's not incorrect to say that God is obstinate – he stubbornly refuses to change his chosen course of action, despite our attempts to persuade him otherwise.
But here's where grace comes into play: God sent the storm, determined the lots, and kept the prophet in the belly of the fish, all for the good of Jonah. We know that God wasn't bent on destroying this man; the purpose of the difficulty was to draw him back. The anger God expressed wasn't vengeful, and his obstinacy towards Jonah's flight was the best thing that could happen to Jonah.
There are three things I want to leave you with regarding God's anger and grace. First, if you're in Christ, you don't need to fear the anger of the Lord. On the Cross, Jesus absorbed the full anger of God. He paid the penalty for our sins so that we have the guarantee that the Father will never express destructive, eternal anger against us.
But second, we will feel redemptive anger in this lifetime. God will personally deliver uncomfortable grace to our doorstep, not to harm us, but to help us. Like Jonah, we will experience pain and suffering from the hand of God because it's the only way for our running hearts to be brought near to God again.
And finally, the anger of God is the hope of the universe. In a world where wickedness abounds, we need a God who will stand against that which is wrong. Whether in this world or the judgment that follows, evil will not win. God is angry with the current state of our world, and it will be dealt with justly.
Paul David Tripp
- Where did you experience anger this week?
- Was your anger driven by holiness or selfishness? In other words, would God be angered by the same thing that angered you?
- Why is it so hard to keep our anger holy and pure?
- Where might you be experiencing redemptive anger, or uncomfortable grace, in your life today? Do you feel it's more harmful than helpful?
- How have you experienced redemptive anger, or uncomfortable grace, in the past? How did that help you?