Tag Archives: Wrath

Victim of My Own Poison

So they impaled Haman on the pole he had set up for Mordecai.
Esther 7:10 (NIV)

I once had a person who told me they were angry with me. I had done something to offend, and the person confessed that they knew I had no idea what I had done to hurt them so deeply. I asked what I had done and sought to reconcile, but they chose to not to tell me. Sometime later, I made another appeal and asked the person to share with me what I had done. Again, they chose not to do so.

Two cannot be reconciled if one is unwilling to do so.

Along my life journey, I have encountered many individuals who hold on to their anger, their grudges, their hatred, and their judgments of others. Typically, I find that underneath it all lies a spiritual, relational, and/or emotional wound. The wound often remains carefully hidden beneath all the bitterness and rage. If the wound is not addressed the destructive emotions remain.

I have observed that anger, hatred, grudges, and vengeance are spiritually dangerous things. It has been said that harboring them is like drinking a cup of poison yourself and expecting that it will somehow kill your enemy.

In today’s chapter, the plot twist is downright Shakespearean. Haman’s plot to kill Mordecai and all of the Hebrews is uncovered. Ironically, Haman is impaled on the very pike he had erected for the impaling of his enemy, Mordecai. He allowed himself to drink from the poisonous cup of anger, resentment, bitterness, and rage for so long that he became its victim.

This morning I find myself praying for the person I mentioned at the beginning of this post, as I do whenever that person comes to mind. Perhaps someday the time will be right and they will be ready to talk things out. I hope so. I also find myself taking an internal inventory of my own wounds and examining my own levels of anger, resentment, bitterness and the like. I don’t want to harbor such things lest I find myself the victim of my own internal poison.

Judgement and Grace

source: aclamp via Flickr
source: aclamp via Flickr

The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, set your face against the mountains of Israel; prophesy against them….”
Ezekiel 6:1 (NIV)

At the time of Ezekiel’s prophetic messages (c. 590 B.C.), the nation of Israel had been split for over three centuries by civil war. Like the U.S. civil war, the nation had been divided north and south. Ezekiel came from the southern kingdom, called Judah because it was primarily made up of that particular tribe and Judah was the tribe from which King David had come. The southern kingdom followed the royal line of David and kept the capitol in Jerusalem.

The northern kingdom was called Israel and consisted of 10 of the other 12 Israeli tribes. Because the northern kingdom did not follow a particular royal lineage, the throne of Israel was continually up for grabs. The northern kingdom’s history is marked by political intrigue and bloody power struggles. Cut off from Solomon’s temple in Jerusalem, the northern kingdom had its religious center in the town of Bethel. Israel largely abandoned the religious law of Moses and generally worshipped the popular Canaanite gods of the day whose worship included sexual fertility rituals and, in some instances, child sacrifice.

In the previous chapters, Ezekiel’s prophecy has focused on God’s judgement on the southern kingdom of Judah and its capitol, Jerusalem. In today’s chapter, God’s message through Ezekiel takes an abrupt turn to the north. The earthly kingdoms may have been divided, but in God’s economy all 12 tribes of Israel were still His people. Just because Judah was going to face God’s judgement for their unfaithfulness did not mean Israel was going to escape His wrath.

There was an interesting parallel to the prophetic messages to both kingdoms. Amidst the messages of doom there was a measure of grace. A remnant would escape the judgement and be scattered, leaving hope of the nation’s ultimate survival.

Today, my mind is making parallels between God’s punishment of Israel and Judah, and the judgement I faced many times as a child. Like all children, I dreaded the judgement and wrath of my parents. The sting of corporal punishment and “time out” exile to my room was no joy to endure even when deserved. But amidst the punishment there was always a seed of grace. I was loved. Blessing and restoration would return with my repentance and obedience.

“Wait Until Your Father Gets Home”

father-gets-homeI saw in heaven another great and marvelous sign: seven angels with the seven last plagues—last, because with them God’s wrath is completed. Revelation 15:1 (NIV)

“Wait until your father gets home.”

Perhaps this phrase has lost some of its meaning over the years, but when I was a kid things were relatively simple and traditional. Dad got up early and left for work. You wouldn’t see him until just before supper. Mom was at home with us kids while we were growing up. She got us off to school and she was there when we got home.

Make no mistake, mom could mete out parental authority and necessary punishment with the best of them. She did, however, always carry a trump card which she reserved for those special occasions when a child’s offense crossed this vague, emotional maternal threshold:

“Wait until your father gets home.”

As a child, this was the worst thing you could hear. Sure, it was a stay of execution, but you knew in your gut that there would be no last minute pardon from the Governor. Dad, when he just got home from work, could be tired and grouchy. The last thing he wanted to deal with was unruly kids. His wrath would be swift and sure. A kid soon learned a harsh fact of life: If mom played the “Wait until your father gets home” card, you were screwed.

I have come to realize that there are threads of spiritual truth the permeate our every day lives and experiences in the most subtle of ways. Creation cannot help but echo the Creator. We carry in our hearts the capacity for both grace and wrath. I have come to find that most people consider love, grace and forgiveness as ideas we should fully embrace and celebrate until someone victimizes us or violates some threshold in our personal psyche. When that happens we want the trump card of judgment and wrath in our hip pocket. We want it to be swift and sure.

We often perceive God through the lens of where we find ourselves on the grace/wrath continuum. The further a person’s personal scale tips towards grace the more uncomfortable they tend to be with the concept of God punishing anyone for anything. Those whose personal scale tips towards wrath tend to see God as willing executioner to their own personal judgment and convictions. Folly is found in increasing measure the further we move towards either extreme.

I know that not everyone had the same experience I did, and our human fathers often affect our perceptions of God in negative ways. If that’s true of you, I beg your forgiveness. Please bear with me as I make this analogy. You see, as a child I experienced in my father both grace and wrath. I’ve come to realize that, motivated ultimately by love, both were proper and necessary in their context. There is an echo of eternity here. There is a time for grace, and a time for wrath. This morning I’m struck by the idea that Revelation is the spiritual form of “wait until your father gets home.” It’s not the end in this moment, but you better get yourself prepared. Dad will definitely be here at the end of the day. For disobedient children and their deeds, there’s going to be hell to pay.

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Tragic Misperception

English: The ark of Noah and the cosmic covena...
English: The ark of Noah and the cosmic covenant / L’arche de Noé et l’alliance cosmique / 04 CATACOMBES NOE ET LA COLOMBE SAINTS PIERRE (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Do not harm the land or the sea or the trees until we put a seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God.” Revelation 7:3 (NIV)

I have been watching with interest the trailers for the movie Noah. It will be interesting to see what Hollywood is going to do with the story. If you remember, the story begins with God being fed up with the evil of man and deciding to wash the slate clean with a flood. After this act of divine judgment, God makes a covenant never again to wipeout all living creatures on the earth with a flood.

I have heard many people say that God revealed in the Old Testament and God revealed in the New Testament are different. They describe God in the Old Testament a God of judgment while God in the New Testament as a God of love and grace. After my multiple journeys through the whole of God’s Message, I must respectfully disagree. When I was a child I perceived my parents as largely persons of wrath and judgment, but as I matured I perceived the depths of love and grace that were beneath the wrath. I have come to believe that as God’s story is revealed over time and as civilization has matured, we are able to more fully comprehend the person of God as God revealed Himself through the law, then the prophets, then through the resurrected Jesus and God’s indwelling Holy Spirit.

While God revealed Himself as righteous judge in the Old Testament, He also revealed His grace through the salvation of Noah’s family and through covenants with Noah, Abraham, Israel, and David. Jesus, in His New Testament arrival and ministry, certainly revealed God’s loving heart and desire for all to choose salvation, but He also spoke often of the Day of Judgment, of death, and of hell. We can see in today’s chapter that God near the end of the story is still a God of judgment. Four angels given power to wreak destructive judgment on the earth are present and ready. They are held back, however, by God’s loving desire to seal and protect His servants on Earth.

Both grace and judgment are part of God’s nature. To choose to see one part without the other leads to misperception. Misperception can lead to all sorts of tragic places.

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Of St. Paul, King Solomon and Albus Dumbledore

Dumbledore as portrayed by the late Richard Ha...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Chapter-a-Day 1 Corinthians 4

We work wearily with our own hands to earn our living. We bless those who curse us. We are patient with those who abuse us. We appeal gently when evil things are said about us. 1 Corinthians 4:12-13a (NLT)

I’ve been slowly working on a blog post about the life lessons I’ve taken away from J.K. Rowling‘s series of seven Harry Potter books. One of the lessons on my list comes from the character of Albus Dumbledore. In the books, Dumbledore is well-known as the only person that the evil antagonist, Lord Voldemort, fears. Harry Potter is continually reminded of what a great and powerful wizard Dumbledore is.

What is always fascinating to me with the stories is the way that Dumbledore, despite his legendary power and abilities, is always so meek and gracious even in the most conflictive situations with his enemies. It is well into the fourth book of the seven book series before Harry Potter witnesses even a hint of the potency that lay hidden behind Dumbledore’s perpetual smile and the kind eyes which peer out through half-moon spectacles.

As I’ve once more been making my way through the series of books and encountering the character of Dumbledore as he navigates tricky conflicts, a verse from King Solomon’s proverbs keeps popping into my mind: “A gentle answer turns away wrath.” (Proverbs 15:1)

The proverb popped in my head once more this morning as I read of Paul’s response to the adversity and conflict he continually faced as a follower of Jesus.

  • When people curse us ——> we bless them
  • When others abuse us ——> we are patient with them
  • When others say evil things about us ——> we appeal gently to them

As I watch the news and observe the culture around me, I see so much anger, hatred, and vitriol. We demand our way, belittle those those who disagree with us, and judge others harshly. Lately, God has been quietly reminding me of Solomon’s proverb, of Dumbledore, of Paul, and Jesus most of all. I don’t want to be a person who reacts to insult and injury with wrath and harsh words, but a person who responds in patience, and gentle kindness.

 

Chapter-a-Day Jeremiah 25

The verdict of God-of-the-Angel-Armies on all this: “Because you have refused to listen to what I’ve said, I’m stepping in. Jeremiah 25:8 (MSG)

My experience: Whenever a person of authority has had to “step in” because those under his or her authority has not done what they are supposed to do, it’s not a good thing.

When mom or dad “step in” because their child refused to do what he was told. [not that I would know anything about that]

When a teacher “steps in” because the class willingly refused to follow directions.

When a coach “steps in” because the team did not follow his or her clear instructions.

When a boss “steps in” because the employee(s) refused to do what was expected.

It’s never a pretty picture when the authorities “step in.” All the more reason to take it seriously when it’s God who’s threatening to step in.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and 1uk3

Chapter-a-Day Isaiah 13

Judgement. "Watch now. God's Judgment Day comes. Cruel it is, a day of wrath and anger…." Isaiah 13:9a (MSG)

There are two sides to love. There is the soft side of love with warm-fuzzies, hugs, grace, and random acts of kindness. There is also a hard side of love. The hard side of love stands up for what is right, sets clear and appropriate boundaries, and ensures that justice is appropriately carried out. The hard side of love is hard because it requires tremendous strength of character to wield it, and because it appears harmful to the ignorant, casual observer. A doctor will, lovingly, injure his patient to ensure future health and wholeness. The hard side of love seems terrible, unjust, and unfair in the moment while it is utterly necessary in the context of the whole.

Let's face it. We like the idea of a safe God. Give us a God of stained-glass and angelic choruses. We like a God with babies in his arms or a gentle lamb draped over his shoulders. But the God who gathered the innocent child into his arms is the same God who made a whip and went on a violent rampage through the temple. The shepherd who gently carries the wayward sheep home must also be ruthless in killing the lion and the bear who would prey upon his flock.

A father who cares for his children must dispense both praise and punishment appropriately, and with great wisdom. Our Heavenly Father, a God of love, must also by definition be a God of judgement. Love without justice is not true love.