What makes us angry? When someone does something to diminish our reputation? Naturally. When someone hurts a loved one? Instinctively. When a great injustice is perpetrated? Always. As we can see anger is not a bad thing at all, but a reasonable response. In fact failing to get angry when it is merited is a sign that something isn’t right. If someone cuts off your arm off and you don’t notice, something is wrong. Pain is our friend, it tells us something is wrong. If we don’t get angry when an injustice is committed, it only serves to tell us that something is dead within us. Gangrene has fatally set in.
Modern man struggles with a God of love and a God of anger. But what modern man fails to grasp is that God is angry at injustice and evil. God hates those who afflict the weak, the pitiful, the oppressed. God is actually more loving than we are and therefore far more angry. Actually, we don’t love the weak, the pitiful, the oppressed, our love for them doesn’t come anywhere near to how God feels. While we are powerless to affect change, God however has the power to do something about it. God looked upon the demise of mankind and did something about it.
God set his love upon the weak, the pitiful, the oppressed. The object of God’s love in the first five books of the Bible is Israel. They were slaves and God rescued them. God chose them. God chooses the weak, the pitiful, the oppressed. That was Israel. God loved them and rescued them. This tells us an enormous amount about the God who is all too often maligned. On the contrary, he is full of love, compassion, and is it us who are not. He brought his people out of Egypt, rescued them from the furnace, and brought them into relationship with him:
It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the LORD loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. (Dvarim/Deuteronomy 7:7-8)
But Israel didn’t respond to God with gratitude and transformed hearts, but rather with bitterness and resentment, and above all unfaithfulness. They turned to a Golden Calf on the eve they were to make their vows at Sinai. The book of Deuteronomy taken as a whole is a speech written by a man who knows he will soon depart. He knows he will soon die as has been decreed by the Lord. Moses was God’s chosen man on the ground and he pronounced these tragic words to Israel before he departed this world:
For I know what they are inclined to do even today, before I have brought them into the land that I swore to give. For I know how rebellious and stubborn you are. Behold, even today while I am yet alive with you, you have been rebellious against the LORD. How much more after my death! For I know that after my death you will surely act corruptly and turn aside from the way that I have commanded you. And in the days to come evil will befall you, because you will do what is evil in the sight of the LORD, provoking him to anger through the work of your hands. (Deuteronomy 31.21, 27, 29)
Israel is rebellious, she will continue to be rebellious, and will indeed forsake God. God tells Israel she is no better than other nations:
Know, therefore, that the LORD your God is not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness, for you are a stubborn people. (Dvarim/Deuteronomy 9:6)
God told Israel she is not innocent, far from it:
Remember and do not forget how you provoked the LORD your God to wrath in the wilderness. From the day you came out of the land of Egypt until you came to this place, you have been rebellious against the LORD. (Dvarim/Deuteronomy 9:7)
God states how He feels about Israel:
Even at Horeb you provoked the LORD to wrath, and the LORD was so angry with you that he was ready to destroy you. You have been rebellious against the LORD from the day that I knew you. (Dvarim/Deuteronomy 9.8 & 9.24)
But God also states what he wants, a relationship, he is asking his bride to love him and obey him:
And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes of the LORD, which I am commanding you today for your good? (Dvarim/Deuteronomy 10:12-13)
What is God’s heart?
Yet the LORD set his heart in love on your fathers and chose their offspring after them, you above all peoples, as you are this day. Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn. For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe. He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing. Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt. (Dvarim/Deuteronomy 10:15-19)
God truly loved Israel, even if she is rebellious. But God knows Israel cannot change. She is utterly incapable of change. But a day will come when the Lord promises he will change her:
And the LORD your God will bring you into the land that your fathers possessed, that you may possess it. And he will make you more prosperous and numerous than your fathers. And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live. (Dvarim/Deuteronomy 30.5-6)
In light of Israel’s tragic demise from King Solomon to the Babylonian exile, the circumcised heart, this new heart was a far off future prophecy. What is evidence is that God loves his rebellious bride and this is evident, not only in words, but also in actions too. He is looking out for her, seeking her good, protecting her, and warning her:
The carved images of their gods you shall burn with fire. You shall not covet the silver or the gold that is on them or take it for yourselves, lest you be ensnared by it, for it is an abomination to the LORD your God. You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way, for every abominable thing that the LORD hates they have done for their gods, for they even burn their sons and their daughters in the fire to their gods. (Dvarim/Deuteronomy 7.25 & 12.31)
Abomination is an often repeated word in Deuteronomy. God wants his people to flee such abominations, they are totally abhorrent to him, he wants to spare Israel this terrible fate. God also warns Israel in 8.11-20 not to forget Him:
Take care lest you forget the LORD your God by not keeping his commandments and his rules and his statutes, which I command you today. (Dvarim/Deuteronomy 8:11)
God gave Israel the law. It was their marriage contract. The Torah was their birthright. Israel was entitled to a relationship with God, but that didn’t mean God wouldn’t demand obedience. God is perfect in character and would naturally demand obedience to his standards of justice. A correct response from Israel was to cry out to God to help them overcome their inability to keep his commandments, and seek the faith of Abraham through trials. But what happened is that either Israel forgot the required commandments of God altogether, or Israel mistakenly believed she could keep the law. The law was imposed to help them see their sin, and their need for a new heart. Saul of Tarsus, also known as the apostle Paul, had much to say about the purpose of the law:
Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith. For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.”
Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” Messiah redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us-for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”- so that in Messiah Yeshua the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.
To give a human example, brothers: even with a man-made covenant, no one annuls it or adds to it once it has been ratified. Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ. This is what I mean: the law, which came 430 years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void. For if the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise. Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary. Now an intermediary implies more than one, but God is one. Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law. But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Messiah Yeshua might be given to those who believe. Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed.
So then, the law was our guardian until Messiah came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian for in Messiah Yeshua you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Messiah have put on Messiah. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Messiah Yeshua. And if you are Messiah’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise. (Galatians 3:7-29)
God has a deep love for a world in deep rebellion against him. It is his love that compels Him to act and save us from His righteous anger. And that is why God sent his Messiah into the world. Messiah Yeshua suffered and died for our sins to bring us into a right relationship with God as he bore the punishment we deserved. When Yeshua died God sent his Spirit so we can receive our new hearts, just as God had promised. It means that today we can receive a new heart so that we can love God and obey him.
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The voice of the suffering servant is heard so clearly in this week’s Haftarah:
The Lord GOD has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious; I turned not backward. I gave my back to those who strike, and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard; I hid not my face from disgrace and spitting. But the Lord GOD helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame. (Yeshayahu/Isaiah 50:5-7)
This is the voice of Yeshua who obediently went to die on the cross for the sins of the world. He resolutely went to the cross, because Israel would never and could never change and desperately needed a new heart.
Either we receive the new heart or face God in his righteous and eternal anger. What will you do?
Anger Because of Love