October 1, 2021 | By Jay Ashbaucher
We are living in a time when anger and wrath seem to be escalating around us and love is becoming minimal. I had been praying on an almost daily basis that God, according to 2 Thessalonians 3:5, would direct my heart into the love of God. One morning, as I was reading the prophet Hosea, he did that; God directed my heart to see his love in a new and deeper way. Hosea was prophesying about the judgment of Israel. God is on the verge of destroying Israel by bringing another nation to war against them. It is an act of God’s holiness. His love, anger, wrath and justice are being exercised against Israel for their sins and lack of repentance after repeated warnings were ignored. Their idol worship led them to commit ongoing immoral acts and violent crimes, and they refused to come back to God. As I read about all their sins and what God planned to do to punish them, I suddenly felt pity for Israel. I thought to myself, Poor Israel, it’s going to be terribly frightening and extremely painful for them. When I realized how much pain and suffering and death they were going to experience, I felt compassion for them and wanted to pray for them. I did not want to see them have to go through such a terrible time. As I was feeling this way, instead of thinking, you wicked, bad people, you deserve what you get; I was actually sorry for them and concerned for them and my prayerful attitude was reflecting those feelings of love.
I then realized that God loved them too, and did not want to do this, but we can go the wrong way too long, and be so far gone that we will not come back—we refuse. So, what can God do—inflicting painful measures is his last and drastic measure of love to help them return. He loves them so much that although his loving justice must do this, and though judgment may be final for these sinful people, his love never fails and there is a time coming when he promises to restore the nation as his people. God would be displeased with me if I cheered their demise and did not feel love for them, and pray for their well-being. Though they deserve it, and their behavior makes us angry, God warns in the Bible not to feel good about other people’s downfall (Proverbs 24:17-18). Instead, like God, we must love them, even in the midst of their judgment. I then realized that God’s anger, judgment and wrath were not like us humans. It is out of love for them that he does what he does to help them one last time, wishing them not to perish but to repent and have new life by coming back to his love (Ezekiel 33:11). God’s sovereignty allows the wickedness, killing, and lack of mercy by Israel’s enemies to perform God’s judgment and defeat them, but he is not cheering Israel’s defeat and will also punish Israel’s enemies for their sins. God is here using evil-minded people to correct or destroy evil-minded people.
As a result of reading Hosea, I am learning that God’s anger and wrath are not like mine. It is infused with his love, but in some cases, an end comes to those who refuse to change following many loving warnings (Proverbs 29:1). We might wonder how God can be loving and angry and wrathful at the same time. The truth of this is demonstrated in God’s Son, Jesus, who died on a cross for the sins of the world (John 3:16-19, 36). This was an act of God’s love to make possible the forgiveness of everyone who repents, but at the same time, love was an act of God’s anger and wrath in punishing our sins. On the cross, Jesus simultaneously experienced God’s love and anger, wrath, and justice against all evil and sin. There are times in the life of us humans that we also experience both love and anger at the same time. I have seen parents run to their children when they see them in danger and in trouble. For example, a child is about to put his hand on a hot stove in violation of the parent’s repeated warnings. The parent rushes in love to keep the child from doing it, but at the same time, their love is angry and punishes the child in hope that the punishment will serve as a future deterrent.
Sometimes our anger, unlike God’s, gets carried away by the emotions of the events, and is too harshly applied. God is patient in his love, but there comes a time when those he loves continue to refuse his love and warnings so that they must be punished in such a way as not to be destroying innocent people around them. A human example of this is found in parents who love their children who have gotten into drugs and self-destructive behaviors. They have loved them by trying to help them, perhaps giving them money to get them out of trouble they’ve gotten themselves into, or by pleading with them to stop the drugs and turn their lives around. I have seen these same children destroy the lives of their parents by stealing from them, vandalizing their homes in disrespect, and ruining the lives of others as well. There comes a time when the parents realize they are unwilling to change and they allow them to get into trouble without further helping them, hoping the painful and destructive results of their lifestyle will be enough to correct them. The parents have tried all they can to no avail, and now, leaving their children to their own ways, they hope the judgments of society’s governing authority figures can subdue them. We cannot be the judge of anyone’s final destiny. Only God knows when a person is beyond remedy. But we can pray that God will direct our hearts into his love so that we can, with love, do good and pray for those around us who need their Creator and the new life he offers them.