The Anger of God
Monday, August 10th
“But you, LORD, are feared by all. No one can stand in your presence when you are angry. You made your judgment known from heaven; the world was afraid and kept silent.” Psalm 76:7-8.
How do we deal with the anger, wrath and judgment of God? When we read some of the Old Testament and the psalms, God seems so different from the image we have of Jesus. Is this a throwback to the Middle Ages and a time of ignorance when everyone was afraid of God? Is this picture of God who will condemn those who reject Jesus to the fires of hell? Or is this the picture of a harsh God wo is like the policemen just waiting to catch you doing something wrong?
This psalm was written after a victory in battle. The southern kingdom of Judah had been attacked and the enemy armies were defeated near Jerusalem (Salem). The psalmist is praising the power of God to judge those peoples and nations that would oppose and oppress the people of God—”when you rose up to pronounce judgment, to save all the oppressed on the earth.” Psalm 76:9.
This happened in an era when each nation and people group had their own god. And the Almighty, Creator God made himself known through his people, Israel. And the wars answered the question of which was true and most powerful God. And Israel was to represent the wisdom and truth of God; she was to be a light to the nations. So, wars raged, and the battles represented the spiritual battle between good and evil.
Jesus came in a time when national boundaries were blurred during the time of the Roman Empire. Faith in the true God did not have to be tied to a nation but could cut across all cultures and people groups. But the psalm reminds us that God is a just and moral God and no power that opposes God will ever triumph because God is in control.
Jesus came and took the wrath of God on the cross as he paid the penalty for all the evil caused by those who opposed the truth of God. God never wants people to experience his wrath but wants them to see and know his love. And in Jesus “mercy triumphs over judgement.” James 2:13. But make no mistake God will never let evil triumph over what is right, moral and true. We all want to see justice because we are created in the image of God, but we also want to be loved and valued. And for that we should praise God. In God we find the perfect balance of love and righteousness.
When Our World Falls Apart
Friday, August 7th
The Psalmist is writing in the midst of a national disaster. The temple of God, the center of Israel’s worship, has been sacked and burned to the ground. “Walk through the awful ruins of the city; see how the enemy has destroyed your sanctuary . . . They burned your sanctuary to the ground. They defiled the place that bears your name.” Psalm 74:7. The people of God have been scattered and left to live in confusion, darkness and fear. See verses 19-21. Such a disaster is seen as God’s anger and punishment. “O God, why have you rejected us so long? Why is your anger so intense against the sheep of your own pasture?” Psalm 74:1.
Israel was God’s chosen people—people he blessed, led to the Promised Land, caused them to prosper and called them to be a light to the nations around them. But it didn’t work out the way Israel expected. There is this constant battle between the will of God and the will of human beings (and obviously Satan). Israel had lost her way and was now experiencing God’s judgment. There is a sense of despair in the psalm.
Do we not think in someway that we as a country have lost our way? Did we not start with a firm belief in God? Did not people more seriously respect God and Jesus Christ at one time? Is there not a part of us that thinks maybe we are experiencing these difficulties because we have abandoned God? People have stopped going to church and worshipping and serving God? As a country we are not God’s chosen people as Israel was. The community of Christ followers are God’s chosen people since the time of Jesus. But we see churches closing, attendance declining and churches facing more and more difficulties. It is easy to lose hope. So, what do we do?
We do what the psalmist does in light of the difficult circumstances, when it seems like everything is falling apart. We pray with a new earnestness. “You, O God, are my king from ages past, bringing salvation to the earth . . . Both day and night belong to you; you made the starlight and the sun. You set the boundaries of the earth, and you made both summer and winter . . . . . Arise, O God, and defend your cause. Remember how these fools insult you all day long. Don’t overlook what your enemies have said or their growing uproar.” Psalm 74:12, 16-17, 22-23. God has always been the one to seek to bring life to people and Jesus is the one who brings life. God created the world and all it contains, and his purposes will prevail. We enter into this battle now seeking God’s help and intervention. We choose to depend on God in a way that we never have before. Hope is not lost. God is still in charge.
The Reality of Life
Thursday, August 6th
Psalm 72 spoke about the promise of Jesus’ return and the restoration and fulfillment of all of God’s purposes for His followers and for this world. Psalm 73 brings us back to the reality of life as we know it now. The psalmist declares, “But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped. For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.” Psalm 73:2-3. In his heart the psalmist knows God is good, but the life he sees all around him at times can be so overwhelming that he questions the goodness of God. Doesn’t that same thing happen to us often as we look at the world around us?
People are proud and arrogant doing whatever they want. “They wear pride like a jeweled necklace and clothe themselves with cruelty.” Psalm 73:6. So many people in the world are cynical and cruel and mock any thought of a God who created and rules this world. “They scoff and speak only evil; in their pride they seek to crush others. They boast against the very heavens, and their words strut throughout the earth.” Psalm 73:8-9. The world seems out of control and there appears to be no real hope for anything better. Does that not describe the world we see around us today?
And it becomes discouraging to those folks who seek to live a simple and honest life that honors God. It feels like we have lived vain. “Did I keep my heart pure for nothing? Did I keep myself innocent for no reason? I get nothing but trouble all day long; every morning brings me pain.” Psalm 73:13-14. Have you ever felt like that?
So how do we keep our perspective? How do we maintain hopeful? The psalmist tells us that we draw near to God. “But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task, until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end.” Psalm 73:16-17. When we draw near to God and wait on him, we realize that He is just, and he will make things right. There is a real future hope.
We need to draw near to God because we need his perspective that helps to see correctly and not succumb to the realities of life. “Then I realized that my heart was bitter, and I was all torn up inside. I was so foolish and ignorant— I must have seemed like a senseless animal to you. Yet I still belong to you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, leading me to a glorious destiny.” “Psalm 73:21-24. Do you have that hope that is greater than anything that the world may throw at you?
Jesus Will Reign
Wednesday, August 5th
Everything in the Old Testament points forward to what Jesus began when he came the first time and to what will be fulfilled at the time of his Second Coming. In the first eleven chapters of Genesis we see the corruption of sin and the full manifestation of evil during the time of Noah. In Genesis 12 God announces a new hope that all the nations of the world will be blessed by Abraham’s descendant, Jesus. This psalm clearly points to Jesus as the royal son and fulfillment of all God began with Abraham.
“Endow the king with your justice, O God, the royal son with your righteousness. He will judge your people in righteousness, your afflicted ones with justice. The mountains will bring prosperity to the people.” Psalm 72:1-3a. Jesus will act and judge with truth and justice.; he will restore a broken world and bring “shalom” back to the peoples and the world. He will restore a sense of wholeness and well-being.
Everyone will be in awe of him and he will rule the entire world from the place where life all began at the River Euphrates to the end of the world for the rest of time. “He will endure as long as the sun, as long as the moon, through all generations . . . He will rule from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth.” Psalm 72:5, 8.
He will restore the poor and bring release to the captives as Isaiah would prophesize. “For he will deliver the needy who cry out, the afflicted who have no one to help. He will take pity on the weak and the needy and save the needy from death.” Psalm 72:12-13.
Jesus’ name will become the most famous of all names forever and all peoples and nations will be blessed by his rule. “May his name endure forever; may it continue as long as the sun. All nations will be blessed through him, and they will call him blessed. Praise be to the LORD God, the God of Israel, who alone does marvelous deeds. Praise be to his glorious name forever; may the whole earth be filled with his glory. Amen and Amen.” Psalm 72:17-19.
Do you understand what a glorious day it will be when Jesus returns to earth? Do you have that hope? Do you know in your heart of hearts that God is going to set everything right? And Jesus will be king! We should all be praying even as Revelation ends, “Come Lord Jesus.” Revelation 22:22.