In my last article, “The Troubling Reality of God’s Wrath and Why it’s Misunderstood“, I wrote about the trouble we have processing the wrath of God, and how there is nuance in how God expressed His wrath in the Scriptures and still today. There are two ways that He expresses His wrath—subtly and explicitly. I wrote about His subtle wrath in the last article and this time I’d like to discuss the explicit.
This is the kind of wrath that everyone imagines is like the Hulk and sees a God Who comes to smash and completely loses His mind because of His uncontrollable anger! If you ask an artist to paint a picture that expresses the wrath of God, you’re likely to get a bunch of red and orange in the portrait with an angry old white man in the sky. Using an old white man is another issue, but nevertheless we move on.
However, when God expresses His wrath, it is not from a knee-jerk reaction or just a random outburst where He enjoys killing people. But it is a righteous judgement that is enacted after years, decades, and even centuries after warnings and encouragement towards righteousness. The way that God chooses to express His wrath against someone or a nation is that He’ll use other people to do it.
Babylon was an instrument of the wrath of God against Israel after many years of apostasy and many social injustices committed in the nation of Israel. Sin has a dual component of spiritual rebellion and abuse with societal breakdown and abuse. For example, you had rampant idolatry, false prophets, and religious prostitution. Alongside that you had extortion of the poor, greed, murder, sexual immorality, and a lot of perversions of justice.
As valid as these judgments are, it’s still troubling when you read about how they were enacted. As humans, we are all sinful and to use another human being as an instrument of God’s justice will oftentimes seem unfair. Yet God has never been inconsistent and as He said in Romans 2:11, “God is no respecter of persons.”
When God used Babylon in judging Israel, He used another nation to judge Babylon for their sin. When God used Israel to enact judgement on the nations in Canaan, He stated specifically to them that He wasn’t using them because of their righteousness, but the wickedness of the nations. Check out what He says in Deuteronomy 9:4.
Do not think in your heart, after the Lord your God has cast them out before you, saying, ‘Because of my righteousness the Lord has brought me in to possess this land’; but it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the Lord is driving them out from before you. Deuteronomy 9:4
See how even though God used sinful humans to judge others at an appointed time, that it wasn’t meant to make some humans more righteous than others? In fact, Israel was incredibly stubborn throughout its history, and God passed down judgements on His own chosen people because of it.
I’ve only touched the surface of a hard yet necessary conversation that we all must have when we learn about the Lord. As in the last article, I pray this encourages greater study and builds a greater assurance concerning the character of the God you serve. No matter how much humanity manipulates the faith, God wants you to know Him and be a servant of His that rightly divides the word of truth.