In a Selwyn Hughes devotion I read some time ago the topic was the character of God, and one collection of readings was on the wrath of God, and how this is a crucial part of what makes God God. All too often we are happy overlook or ignore God’s wrath, because to consider it makes us feel...what? Uncomfortable? Accountable? Awkward? Afraid of a grace giving, merciful, compassionate God??? The devotion looked at God’s perfect holiness and His intolerance of unholiness in His people. On the surface that seems cruel and uncaring – especially from a supposedly loving God. But in actual fact it is this truth about God which affords Him the reverence and awe He deserves.
First of all, the intense and full wrath of God belongs upon those who purposely and willingly disobey God and His will. There are many accounts of God’s wrath upon such people, that we can read about in the old Testament. So, in that thinking, it is good to remember that there is a difference between wrath and discipline. Those of us who follow God, trying (and often failing in that trying) to follow God’s will still at times (some more than others) need to be disciplined, and also need to be shown that with our actions come consequences...sometimes harsh consequences.
Unholiness is an imperfection. How could we even begin to serve a God who was fallible? Or, how could we serve a God who is perfect, yet tolerated or overlooked our imperfection? Wouldn’t our view of Him be altered...tainted? Wouldn’t we then try to push the limits and expect to get away with it? Wouldn’t we lose respect and reverence if we knew we could sweet talk our way out of the discipline we deserve, and need? Wouldn’t we also cease to grow and, more so, cease to try to be more like He Who created us? Wouldn’t He be just like any other earthly leader, or created god or idol, we have now, who either demands perfection from his or her subjects and fails to adhere to them themselves, or is (near) perfect but too wishy-washy to follow up with those who neglect their edicts or flat out rebel against their authority.
If God was that kind of God what purpose would there have been in Jesus’ death in the first place?
What we need to look at now is the immense love that is birthed from the fact that God is intolerant of imperfection, and deals with it justly. So that we may still be freely given the opportunity to commune with God, and have a relationship with Him, God made a way for that when under our own strength and unholiness it simply could not be. He went over and above...He went the extra mile...He did the humanly impossible...God repaired the damage...He rebuilt the bridge...He closed the gap...and how? By sending His Son to die on our behalf - to wear it all; all our sins, all our imperfections; all our shortfalls, all our unholiness...so that we can now walk freely back where God always intended us to be – in His presence, in His company, in His arms...safe and secure in His everlasting love.