IS GOD AN ANGRY GOD?
TEASER: “You see, the answer isn’t the absence of anger; the answer is, “anger at the right time expressed in the right way”... and that’s what we’re going to be looking at next.
Pastor Dan Borgelt
Kirkmont Presbyterian Church
Listen to Sermon AUDIO while reading TRANSCRIPTION BELOW:
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Text from VIDEO Pastor Dan used as intro:
“Welcome to the one-minute apologist… if you had one-minute to be able to unpack, to give a defense… Apologetics seeks to give credible answers to curious questions.
IS GOD AN ANGRY GOD?
(Video Narrator) – “We’ve all heard people say, “How can you serve an angry God?” But my question is, “How can we serve a God who fails to get angry?” Imagine a God who is simply a glorified sugar-daddy… a God who reasons within himself, “Rape, what’s the big deal?” “Pedophilia, people just need to lighten up.” “Murder, chill out already!”
But suppose it was your spouse who raped or murdered… do you still feel good about an anger free God? … of course not. Let’s face it, who wants to love a carefree, indifferent moralist God? At the end of the day, surely we want God to be enraged by rape or pedophilia or murder, but those are extreme examples Bobby. But are they?
Now we are falling into the trap of becoming “Designer Gods”… whereby we create the God of our own making; where we determine what He can and cannot be angry at. But that’s where it gets subjective… we do not make the laws, He does. The Bible is not a buffet whereby one picks and chooses what he or she does and does not like. The truth is, we all want justice, EXCEPT when it comes to ourselves… then we want GRACE.
But when it comes to anger, we must understand that there’s RIGHTEOUS ANGER and UNRIGHTEOUS anger… and God always models righteous anger.
“SO WHAT’S HE ANGRY AT?” you ask. He’s angry at a world trying to live apart from Him. Ironically though He loves the same world He feels anger toward, and thankfully, He’s always willing to shower us with GRACE.
“BUT WHAT IS GRACE?” you ask… EXPERIENCING FORGIVENESS from something that once angered Him–our sin.”
(END OF VIDEO)
“Well, our time together this morning, I’m basically going to say what that guy said, only it’s going to take me a lot longer to say it? (LAUGHTER).
We played that video because it introduced our new series… “TAKE TWO: GIVING THE CHARACTER OF GOD A SECOND CHANCE”. And we’re looking at four of the most popular misconceptions about the character of God; and today we’re looking at this idea that “GOD IS AN ANGRY GOD”. How could I possibly want to have a relationship with him because God is ultimately an angry-god.
Let me start by sharing a story with you just yesterday; I got a front row seat at some anger.
Don’t you love when the pastor tells a story that shows you that he didn’t finish his sermon until the day before? … ya know (laughter)… I figured you’d catch on to that so I’d just own it.
So yesterday we were at the park with a family from the church and there we were, we were just talking, it was a beautiful day, the park was packed and everything was going just fine, kids were everywhere playing and all of the sudden out of nowhere, I mean like twice the volume of anything else happening at the park, we hear this one father and he just starts SCREAMING at this kid. And just berating this child that’s in the middle of some sort of playset of some kind. It was just enough that everybody around kinda stopped and heard this man’s demanding voice as he’s screaming at this child.
Within a few seconds this kid comes out of this play area… you could see the child was already starting to tear up and sort of walked away and I just sort of tongue-in-cheek said, “Boy, I hope that guy’s yelling at his own child’.
So as you can imagine that within about a minute this child had gone over to where mom and dad are sitting, tells exactly what happened and this dad comes walking over holding his girl’s hand.
Some of you know just exactly what would be going on in your mind right now.
So this dad walks over and they start going at it. And the guy keeps yelling at the girl. And the dad says, “LOOK, SHE’S CHILD, I’M THE ADULT.. YOU HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY, SAY IT TO ME”. So they start saying it to each other; and they’re going back and forth, back and forth.
Eventually the police got called; and the police showed up and they interviewed the one guy, and they’re interviewing the other guy; and you know, all this type of stuff. And when they were screaming, we were like right next to em.
At one time I walked over and just offered a third-party kind of testimony as to what happened, and they said they didn’t need that, but thanks… and so the event went on it’s way and we eventually left… and…
I share this story because here you have what I would consider two sides of anger: we have this one father who was angry in a way that many people think of when we think of anger; this ill-advised, totally inappropriate anger towards this child. And many of us, when we think of God being an angry God that’s the type of anger we think of.
But then, on the other hand, we see another side of anger don’t we… and that is the anger of loving father walking their child up to this man and saying, “You don’t get to treat my kid that way”. (pause) Aren’t we OK with that kind of anger? I mean, don’t we have a problem if what happened doesn’t anger that father?
And there are two sides of anger.
You see when I was thinking about this sermon series.. all week long this idea of anger, I kept trying to think of the opposite of anger.. because I wanted to try and prove to you that God’s not an angry God and I was gonna show you that He’s the OPPOSITE of whatever angry is… but I couldn’t think of.. what is the opposite of anger?
So I thought, ‘wait a second… I’m not trying to find the opposite of anger, instead what I want you to see is that God is appropriately angry… the FREQUENCY in which He get’s angry; WHAT he gets angry at; and the way He ACTS in the midst of His anger is appropriate and righteous and good. And we don’t really want a God that doesn’t have that.
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So we’re going to look at our passage together this morning; and I’m going to invite with you to turn with me to the Book of Jonah. Some of you may be familiar with where the Book of Jonah is… it’s in the Old Testament. Jonah was a prophet of God so his job was to speak on behalf of God to God’s people.
And we’re going to do something a little bit different than we normally do… we’re gonna look at the whole Book of Jonah [this morning] at some point in time in a way… or at least the first few chapters. So I hope you didn’t make any lunch plans (laughter)… I’m kidding; I don’t think it’s going to take any more time than normal. We’re going to be doing more reading with probably less talking from me… and the first couple points we’re going to pull from this story is we’re going to have to concede that…
… GOD IS A GOD THAT GETS ANGRY.
The first two points are going to do just that… but the last and final point at the beginning of Chapter Four of the Book of Jonah will tell us that perhaps His anger is much different than we often have thought of it.
So the first two points will concede that God does indeed get angry… and the last one will help us to see that perhaps His anger is much different than we have often thought of it.
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Alright… the first point we’re going to make is from Jonah Chapter One… just the first few verses, here’s what the Scripture says.
The Scripture says, “The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.”
But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord.”
And so we see God is angry… and he’s not angry at a person as we often think of it, He’s angry at an entire city… the City of Nineveh. And so we have to concede that God is a God that get’s angry at times. And the first way that we see God get angry here in the Scripture is that sometimes His anger is directed towards an entire group of people… large numbers of people. In this instance it’s a city, but back then their cities were more probably like our States today… where our States have the ability to make certain moral laws and decisions.
But often times when God decides to get angry at an entire group of people it’s usually a COUNTRY or a NATION. So why would God get angry at such a large number of people?
Sometimes friends, cities and States and countries, they fail to make and enforce laws that protect their people from harm; or provide them justice when they have been harmed. And Nineveh had become an immoral and an unjust city.
So what’s the big deal… one might ask. Why don’t we just let places like Nineveh just go.. why does God have to get angry about them… why doesn’t He just leave them alone and let them be their immoral and unjust selves.
Church… more often than not, when there is an ACT of immorality there is a VICTIM of immorality; and when there’s an act of injustice there is a victim of injustice… AND DO WE NOT WANT A GOD who get’s angry when that happens….
Ya know, usually when we see God coming against an entire group of people it’s because there’s been a breakdown in the justice system. You see that all throughout the Old Testament. God accuses His people of having “faulty scales”… like they were economically unfair, they had a poor justice system that favored the rich versus the poor… there are all kinds of different examples, but usually it comes down to a breakdown of the justice system.
And in America we’ve had the privilege for a long time of having one of the best justice systems in the whole world… if not THE best. Therefore I think we’ve been the least inclined to embrace the Anger of God, because we have our own JUSTICE system. When people do wrong they’re punished, if we’re wrong there’s justice that happens and so we don’t need God to step in to be His angry self in the face of immorality or injustice.
But many people in this room would concede to the fact that as America is searching and struggling and floundering as far as it’s morality is concerned.. it’s justice system is beginning to struggle as well.
Ya know, just a couple of weeks ago there was a story in the news that highlights what we’re talking about perfectly. It happened in the State of Colorado. Colorado is just making all kinds of wonderful laws recently (chuckles)… and a 27 year old woman in Colorado who was 7 months pregnant got on Craig’s list one day, she was looking for some clothing to buy, and she saw an ad that she could go to someone’s home and purchase baby clothes for her child that was going to be born in a couple of months.
And she went there a 32 year old nurse attacked her with a knife, cut her open and stole her child from her. The child passed away. The woman somehow miraculously was able call 911 and they were somehow able to save her, and she’s physically now doing OK.
But because in the State of Colorado a child is not a child until they’re deemed able to survive on their own, there will be no murder charges brought against this woman… for cutting open this other woman and stealing her child from her.
Do you really want a God who is unable to get angry with that?
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Well, we see God continue to get angry here in the next section of the Scripture… verse 4 tells us; this is a long section of Scripture, verses 4 through 16.
The Scripture says this,
“Then the Lord sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up. All the sailors were afraid and each cried out to his own god. And they threw the cargo into the sea to lighten the ship.
But Jonah had gone below deck, where he lay down and fell into a deep sleep. The captain went to him and said, “How can you sleep? Get up and call on your god! Maybe he will take notice of us so that we will not perish.”
Then the sailors said to each other, “Come, let us cast lots to find out who is responsible for this calamity.” They cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah. So they asked him, “Tell us, who is responsible for making all this trouble for us? What kind of work do you do? Where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?”
He answered, “I am a Hebrew and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land.”
This terrified them and they asked, “What have you done?” (They knew he was running away from the Lord, because he had already told them so.)
The sea was getting rougher and rougher. So they asked him, “What should we do to you to make the sea calm down for us?”
“Pick me up and throw me into the sea,” he replied, “and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.”
Instead, the men did their best to row back to land. But they could not, for the sea grew even wilder than before. Then they cried out to the Lord, “Please, Lord, do not let us die for taking this man’s life. Do not hold us accountable for killing an innocent man, for you, Lord, have done as you pleased.” Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm. At this the men greatly feared the Lord, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows to him.
Well here’s God, he’s angry again. But this time he’s not angry at an entire group of people, but he’s angry at one person–Jonah. Why is he angry at Jonah? Because Jonah does the exact opposite of what God wants him to do… God says, “I want you to go to Nineveh and to preach”, and Jonah says, “I’d like to buy a ticket to the ship that’s going in the opposite direction of Nineveh”.
Now at this point in time we don’t know from the Scripture why Jonah wants to go the opposite way. I’d always thought that when I read this part of the book, I always just assumed that the reason Jonah doesn’t want to go to Nineveh is because he knows that if he goes to Nineveh and he preaches against the city that the people are going to persecute him and not like him and not receive his message well. But that’s not why he doesn’t want to go… we’ll see later in the Scripture why he doesn’t want to go to Nineveh.
But what we DO know at this point in time is that Jonah going the exact opposite direction of where God wanted him to go was not an accident. It was an intentional decision.
Now I want to ask you, ARE YOU OK WITH A GOD THAT GETS ANGRY AT PEOPLE WHEN THEY INTENTIONALLY DO AND LIVE THE EXACT OPPOSITE OF HOW THEY’RE SUPPOSED TO? Are you OK with that type of a God–with a God who gets angry, when people INTENTIONALLY live the exact opposite of how they’re supposed to?
And I would suggest, that if you’re not, then your problem isn’t with the character of God, your problem is with this idea GOD AT ALL. If there is a God by definition, He’s self-sufficient, he’s self-sustaining, the Creator of the Heavens and the earth the one who made each and every one of us… DOES HE NOT HAVE THE RIGHT TO ASK US TO LIVE THE WAY HE THINKS WE OUGHT TO LIVE… and then get angry if we don’t.
And if you have a problem with a God who get’s angry when people live the exact opposite of how He would want them to live then your problem is not with the character of God; your problem is the idea of having a God in this world AT ALL.
Anyone who’s ever parented or matured enough to appreciate their parent’s parenting… realizes the value and the necessity of getting angry with their children at times.
But why do parents get angry? Hopefully.. right?… it’s not out of raw emotion; instead it’s supposed to be a calculated anger that designed to enforce the rules that you put in place for your children’s benefit. You see the problem with us not living the way that God wants us to live is not that GOD is threatened in His well-being in any way at all… the problem is that OUR well-being is threatened when we live the way we ought not to live. And we have a God who cares and LOVES us.
Ya know, the book of Romans Chapter 6, verse 23 says, “The wages of sin is death…” The effect of sin on our life is ultimately death… sin robs and steals and destroys. Try to do your marriage apart from God’s wisdom and guidance and direction and see how that turns out. Try to raise your children apart from God’s wisdom and guidance and direction and see how that turns out. Try to create future plans for yourself apart from God’s wisdom and guidance and direction… you will see the effect of sin on your life as it quenches away all JOY and all PEACE and all LOVE of any kind in your life… and God knows the effect of sin upon us and so He get’s angry when we sin and when others sin against us and it is an ACT OF LOVE.
Some of you have heard the phrase, “God hates the sin, but loves the sinner”. And I want to take that phrase just a step further and say that I believe that “God hates the sin BECAUSE He loves the sinner”. That God hates sin because He loves the sinner… that GOD GETS ANGRY at sin because He loves the sinner that sin is destroying.
Ya know, every once in a while I say something that I think’s worth repeating (laughter). Usually when I repeat myself it’s because I don’t remember what I’m going to say next (laughter) and I have to keep repeating so I can think of what I’m going to say (laughter).
[Transcriber Note: that is a joke and certainly a statistical outlier if it does happen 🙂 ]
But this is the time where it’s intentional: GOD GETS ANGRY AT SIN BECAUSE HE LOVES THE SINNER THAT SIN DESTROYS.
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Some of you grew up with parents… I don’t know we could possibly preach a sermon on The God of Anger without addressing some of your homes that you grew up in. And how much they have shaped your opinion of the character of God?
Some of you grew up with parents who’s anger was completely out of control… and we’re going to talk more about that in a minute. For now it might just suffice to say that, there was a whole generation of parents, many of whom were treated poorly in their home and so they tried to do the EXACT OPPOSITE model with their kids… a generation of parents who thought it was cool to be their kids’ best friend… smoke weed with them, buy them alcohol, ya know, just be their best friend. And HOW’D THAT WORK OUT.
You see, the answer isn’t the absence of anger; the answer is, “anger at the right time expressed in the right way”... and that’s what we’re going to be looking at next.
Before we get to our final point we have to read this Chapter 2 here and see how it bridges the rest of the story.
We get to the end of Chapter 1 (verse 17) the Scripture tells us,
Now the Lord provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.
I wish we had time to go into the scientific evidence supporting that this miracle could very well, reasonably have happened, but that’s not the point of the message today… but anyway, this happens… moving on to Jonah’s Prayer in Chapter 2
From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the Lord his God. He said:
“In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me.
This is a long prayer… I’m going to read it.
“From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help,
and you listened to my cry.
You hurled me into the depths,
into the very heart of the seas,
and the currents swirled about me;
all your waves and breakers
swept over me.
I said, ‘I have been banished
from your sight;
yet I will look again
toward your holy temple.’
The engulfing waters threatened me,
the deep surrounded me;
seaweed was wrapped around my head.
To the roots of the mountains I sank down;
the earth beneath barred me in forever.
But you, Lord my God,
brought my life up from the pit.
“When my life was ebbing away,
I remembered you, Lord,
and my prayer rose to you,
to your holy temple.
“Those who cling to worthless idols
turn away from God’s love for them.
But I, with shouts of grateful praise,
will sacrifice to you.
What I have vowed I will make good.
I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the Lord.’”
Now just to be clear before we move on… the FISH SWALLOWING UP JONAH WAS NOT AN ACT OF ANGER… it was an answer to prayer… it saved Jonah’s life.
“And the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.”
Now I don’t know about you but I’ve been pretty stubborn with God at times in my life; sometimes I feel like He had to ask me five times to do something before I was obedient. This is one of those time where I think the second time would’ve worked… alright? (laughter)… God swallows you up with a fish then spits you out I think it’s time to obey.
Then the word of the Lord came (Chapter 3) to Jonah a second time: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.”
Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very large city; it took three days to go through it. Jonah began by going a day’s journey into the city, proclaiming, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.”
So here’s this message of anger and judgment… and here the Ninevites response is SO KEY to our understanding of the character of God and the character of Jonah.
The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth.
When Jonah’s warning reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust. This is the proclamation he issued in Nineveh:
“By the decree of the king and his nobles:
Do not let people or animals, herds or flocks, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink. But let people and animals be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.”
So, at this point in time Nineveh responds with complete fasting, with complete repentance, with complete acceptance for the sins that they’ve committed but some of you have been taught SO MUCH by your parents or maybe your church upbringing… you’ve been given such a skewed impression of the character of God you are still expecting God to smite them at this moment.
But when God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he had compassion and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened.
But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry. He prayed to the Lord, “Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now, Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.”
But the Lord replied, “Is it right for you to be angry?”
So now we see why Jonah didn’t want to go to Tarshish… it wasn’t because he was afraid that if he showed up there he’d preach a message and they wouldn’t like him. He was afraid of the gracious character of God… of the fact that God is a God who is slow to anger.
He was angry at Nineveh for their sins, he wanted them to be punished… and he knew that there was a strong possibility that if he went and preached they would repent and God would forgive them. So he accuses God of being “slow to anger”… and he’s right.
Friends, I don’t know what you think about God and his character as it relates to anger, or you… you might consider yourself to be one of the most gentle, and kind, and humble–the least angry person you know, but you have a greater problem with anger than God does.
I can say with full confidence that all of you… alright, I’ll include myself.. all of us, we have a greater problem with anger than God does.
God’s anger is slow, and calculated, and purposeful.
I want to ask you 3 questions to be thinking about as we close our time together this morning:
- How often do you get angry? Maybe think about how often did your parents get angry? Have they skewed your understanding of the character of God? How often to you get angry? Have you skewed your children’s understanding of the character of God?
- What makes you angry? Did you grow up in one of those households where… I was at a cousin’s house once, and he stole a glass of milk; and I’m confident, by the look of his father and the tension in the room, that had I not been there his son would’ve been hit. Is that the kind of house you grew up in… everything that someone did wrong resulted in anger? Is that the kind of household that you’re creating?` And finally…
- How do you act in your anger? Did you grow up in the kind of home where not only did your parents get angry, but in their anger they acted in a way that is so contrary to the heart and the desire of God. Is that the kind of home you were raised in?
You know, if you spend time around a child or dog that’s mistreated by their parents or their owner long enough you’ll realize that they’re being mistreated… you’ll just see it, all over them.
As a pastor I meet people who clearly have been beaten by the church in the name of the anger of God. You can see it in their relationship with God.
There’s a professor named R.C. Sproul… some of you know the name of R.C. Sproul; he’s now a famous author, and pastor and theologian. In 1969 he was a professor at a school where he was walking along campus and a student came up to him and with good intentions the student wanted to evangelize R.C. Sproul. The student went up to R.C. Sproul and said, “Sir, may I ask you, are you saved?
- Sproul thought to himself and said, “Saved from what?” And the student had absolutely no idea how to respond to that. He was going around asking people a question that he didn’t really know the answer to. “Are you saved” is a common evangelistic question to talk about does someone have a relationship with Jesus… but he had never thought about what does it mean to be saved… saved from what? What do we mean by that…
… are you saved from the anger and the wrath of God that will come upon sin at the final day of judgment?
Now if you only hear one side of that you think, “there it is.. God is an angry, wrathful God. But if you hear the other side of it, you realize that that question… it’s framed in the idea that there is SALVATION from that anger… from God and His gracious and loving character is the one who provided the means to be saved from His own anger through His Son Jesus Christ.
That’s the reason why on Good Friday we have a whole service focused on the Cross… because we understand that on the Cross Jesus bore the full wrath of God that you and I might not have to.
ARE YOU SAVED?
Father, we thank you for this passage; we thank you for where it reveals to us not only the character of God, but it also reveals to us a character in Jonah that many of us can relate to. And we thank you for your gracious character, revealed not only in our lives, but in the lives of others. Thank you that you are indeed slow to anger.
We’ve come here this morning in the Name of Jesus and we think of Him bearing the full wrath of our sin from the Cross. We thank you for this Word and pray that you might help us to more accurately reflect your character and the way that we act towards others. And if there’s someone here this morning who you want to speak to, and convict them of the reality that they have skewed the character of God to someone in their life by misreading their spouse or their children or someone else… then I pray that you would convict us of that and help us to repent of that and go to that person and repent of that and make things right.
We ask these things in Jesus’ Name… Amen.
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