Jeremiah 23:19-20 “Behold, the storm of the Lord! Wrath has gone forth, a whirling tempest; it will burst upon the head of the wicked. The anger of the Lord will not turn back until he has accomplished the intents of his heart.”
What is it like for God to at last pour out His wrath on a life poorly lived? How does He feel about this? There was a time when I imagined that God did this with great reluctance, tears in His eyes, and looking away. It was almost as if the situation was out of His control as He pronounced final judgement.
One night, at a time in my life when I had little exposure to teaching about the wrath of God, I read Jonathon Edward’s Sinners in the Hands of An Angry God. I remember having a deep sense of its truth, as awe came over me mingled with a sickening feeling of uneasiness. In issues of judgement this God seemed frightfully different from the god I had envisioned. Edwards described that it’s as easy for God to cast sinners to Hell as it is for a man to crush a worm underfoot. I was helped to see that throughout men’s lives God’s mercy restrains impending judgement, the axe being held up only by His kindness until at last their day of repentance has passed.
In vivid, unreserved language Edwards made clear that God is obligated to give nothing to men but justice. The night I read this the Holy Spirit tore down idolatry in my heart. I ached, mourned, and fought within as God stripped me of my sentimentalized version of Himself! But of course dear friends, any time God reveals Himself more truly to your heart, you will experience deeper reverence and greater satisfaction in Him than when you held on to falsehood.
But now, let us seek to think about this as biblically as we can. At first, I was in danger of imagining God to be less powerful, capable, and wrathful. I thought that He was reluctantly just. I imagined man to be too worthy, wonderful, attractive to God, and capable of attaining salvation by some effort of his own. After reading Sinners In The Hands of An Angry God I could choose to view God as cruel, heartless, and compassionless- but I would be sorely wrong.
God is as loving and He is just. He is “keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but… will by no means clear the guilty (Exodus 34:7).” He must punish sin, and it will be punished, either in the perpetrator or in the broken body of Jesus Christ, in which case all sins will be forgiven. Both situations are within His control, including unrepentant sinners and their necessary punishment. God always does what is right, just, and perfect. He makes no mistakes; Therefore He will have no regrets.