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How does God show his anger? - Lamentations 2:1-22

This is a sermon by Lee McMunn from the Riverside Church service on 3rd May 2015.

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How does God show His anger? Lamentations chapter 2

Are you someone who ever gets angry? Do you think it is ever right for someone to get angry? Or do you think at the first signs of any anger a person should be referred to a local anger management course?

 

Should we aim for stoical flatness in our emotional mood? Or should anger spikes be seen as healthy?

 

Of course we do get angry for the wrong reasons. For example, if someone rebukes you for something you believe that is wrong or for a behaviour that is wrong how then it is common for someone to become angry. 

 

However, surely there are occasions when rage is not only acceptable but vital? For example, if someone ever harms one of my children, how should I respond? Would anger be justified? Of course it would! I would leave the justice to be administered first by the secular courts and then by the divine court, but my feelings of personal outrage would be normal. But suppose I never responded like this then what might you conclude? You might conclude that I didn’t care. 

 

Is it right for God to get angry? People are often troubled or embarrassed by any talk of the anger or the wrath of God. But the truth is that we should actually be more disturbed if God never got anger. It would be a sign that he didn’t care. 

 

The theme of my talk this morning is the anger of God. We’ll be answering three related questions.

  • Does God get angry?
  • Why does God get angry?
  • How does God express his anger?

 

First of all, does God get angry?

 

There are many places in the Bible we could turn to but it would certainly be legitimate to focus on what is said here in Lamentations chapter 2

 

Chapter 2 has four main sections. 

 

  • The description of God’s anger (Vs 1-10)
  • The emotions of God’s prophet (Vs 11-12)
  • The speech to God’s people (Vs 12-19)
  • The prayer of God’s people (Vs 20-22)

 

However, the central message that runs throughout this chapter, like the core message on a stick of rock, is the anger of God. 

 

Now you’ll see from verse 1 that the big message of this chapter is signalled in the very first verse. Look at verse 1. Twice the anger of God is mentioned. 

 

And it’s not the last time we hear about this in chapter 2.

 

  • Look at verse 2
  • Look at the start of verse 3
  • Or the end of verse 4
  • Or the end of verse 6
  • Verse 21
  • Verse 22

 

The evidence is overwhelming and the conclusion is unmistakable. At this point in real human history God was furiously angry with the people of Israel. 

 

Notice he was angry not just at the sin but at the sinners.

 

Second, why does God get angry?

 

We humans get angry for all sorts of reasons. What about God?

 

I want to show you two crucial verses.

 

  • Verse 14

 

Sin rouses God’s anger. Why? Because God loves what he has made and God loves his own reputation. 

 

It’s important to see that God’s anger and God’s love are not incompatible. 

 

Let me quote from Tim Keller’s book on Mark’s Gospel, King’s Cross: “If you want a loving God, you have to have an angry God...Loving people can get angry, not in spite of their love but because of it. In fact, the more closely and deeply you love people in your life, the angrier you can get…When you see people who are harmed or abused, you get mad. If you see people abusing themselves, you get mad at them, out of love. Your senses of love and justice are activated together, not in opposition to each other. If you see people destroying themselves or destroying other people and you don’t get mad, it’s because you don’t care…The more loving you are, the more ferociously angry you will be at whatever harms your beloved. And the greater the harm, the more resolute your opposition will be.”

 

Do you see? Because he loves his creatures and because he loves his reputation, God is personally enraged by the evil that he sees in this world. 

 

There is something else in this verse. That is what is said about the failure of the leaders of God’s people to do their job. Did you see that? We’re told, the visions of their prophets were false and worthless; they did not expose your sin to ward off your captivity. The oracles they gave you were false and misleading.”

 

It’s not that they were silence. They continued to speak. They continued to speak in the name of God but they spoke lies. 

 

Why would they do this? What the estate agent said to me when he valued my house. He told me what I wanted to hear even though he knew it wasn’t true. He did this to get my business.

 

In Jeremiah’s day, many false prophets were lying to God’s people about what would happen. They offered them false comfort. Why do this? Out of fear of rejection by people. Because of this the leader’s of God’s people told the people what they wanted to hear. They were told that ultimately their rebellion would have no substantial consequences.

 

Can you imagine your local GP acting like this? Imagine they were so scared to to ruin your day that they flattered your ego at every opportunity and never told the truth when it would hurt. For a time you would think they were fantastic. But when you are lying on the cancer ward and discover that it is now too late for treatment then I suspect your opinion of them would be very different.

 

We need to understand that lies from the mouths of God’s spokesmen was not limited to Jeremiah’s day. Listen to what the apostle Paul says in 2 Timothy 4:1-4: "In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge:  2Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage — with great patience and careful instruction.  3 For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.  4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.”

 

So listen carefully to what you are told. And pray for those who teach the people. You can pray for them to have a greater fear and a greater love. A greater fear of God and a greater love for people. 

 

  • Verse 17, “The LORD has done what he planned; he has fulfilled his word. which he has decreed long ago.”

 

The LORD is the covenant God. The disaster happened as God said it would. He had promised what would happen if the people of God continued to disobey him. What a gracious God. To warn in advance. 

 

God does the same today. He has promised a future judgement that only Jesus can protect us from.

 

Why the delay? Listen to what we read in 2 Peter 3:9-10, "The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. 10   But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare."

 

Third, how does God express his anger?

 

We express our anger in different ways. How do you know if someone is angry with you? They may shout at you. They may throw things at you. They may be completely silent. 

 

If we express our anger in different ways then could it be that God also expresses his anger in different ways? We can’t just assume this is the case. We need to check out the evidence. 

 

Let me start by showing you some of the language used about God’s anger in Lamentations chapter 2. This will give us clarity about how God’s wrath was expressed and experienced in 587BC. 

 

  • Verse 1Covered his people with the cloud of his anger. Hurled down the splendour of Israel. He has not remembered his footstool in the day of his anger. 
  • Verse 2. Without pity the Lord has swallowed up all he dwellings of Jacob. No return when something is swallowed up. 
  • Verse 3. In fierce anger he has cut off every horn of Israel.
  • End of verse 4. He has poured out his wrath like fire on the tent of the Daughter of Zion.
  • Verse 6. He has laid waste his dwelling place like a garden, he has destroyed his place of meeting.

 

How does God express his anger today and how will be do it in the future? Let me show you some of what the the New Testament reveals about how people experience God’s anger today and how they will experience it in the future.

 

First of all, how do people experience God’s anger today?

 

Romans 1:18, "The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness." 

 

Romans 1: 22-28, "Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. 24   Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another.  25 They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator — who is forever praised. Amen. 26   Because of this,God gave them over to shameful lusts...28   Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done."

 

It’s not so much that God intervenes but he withdraws

 

Like a car on the top of a hill when someone releases the hand break. What happens next if someone doesn’t intervene?

 

How might a country know if it is experiencing the anger of God? Don’t look for lighting bolts striking people down. Look for no sign of God’s restraining presence. Look for a society given over to the consequences of its own stupidity.

 

Second, how will people experience God’s anger in the future?

 

Jesus says In hell. A real place where real people will experience the full wrath of God forever. The final and eternal place where unforgiven rebels will experience the anger of God for all eternity. 

 

What will that be like? I think Lamentations chapter 2 gives us a small emotional taste of what hell will be like. All those terms describing how the anger of God was expressed and experienced in 587BC will be magnified substantially in hell.

 

Hell will be...

A real place where real people are constantly under the cloud of God’s anger

A real place where real people are hurled down forever

A real place where real people are swallowed up forever

A real place where real people are permanently ruined

 

Is this supposed to scare us? Yes! Hebrews 10:31, "It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” 

 

How can we be safe? We only escape the wrath of God by turning to the one whose anger we have aroused.

 

Is this a legitimate motivation for becoming a Christian? Normally a person becomes a Christian because of what God can give them rather than simply because it is right to follow Christ even if there was nothing in it for us. Most of us want the gifts but not the Giver. However, the marvellous thing about God is that he is so gracious that he accepts us even when we come with these inferior motivations!

 

This truth about hell should also inform us of the magnitude of our sin. The punishment fits the crime. 

 

Moreover, it should also refresh our gratitude to Jesus Christ for all he has done. 

 

In Conclusion

 

How should we respond in the light of Lamentations chapter 2?

 

  • Something for our heads
  • Something for our hearts
  • Something for our hands

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