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Allow Me To Explain (29 of 439) – How Long Does God’s Anger Last?

August 10, 2011

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29. How long does God’s anger last? Ps 30:5, Jer 3:12, Mic 7:18 vs. Num 32:13, Jer 17:4, Mal 1:4, Matt 25:41, 46

Lots of scripture. Lots of scripture taken out of context.

Psalm 30:5
For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for life; Weeping may endure for a night, But joy comes in the morning.

Jeremiah 3:12
Go and proclaim these words toward the north, and say: ‘Return, backsliding Israel,’ says the Lord; ‘I will not cause My anger to fall on you. For I am merciful,’ says the Lord; ‘I will not remain angry forever.’

Micah 7:18
Who is a God like You, Pardoning iniquity And passing over the transgression of the remnant of His heritage? He does not retain His anger forever, Because He delights in mercy.

Numbers 32:13
So the Lord’s anger was aroused against Israel, and He made them wander in the wilderness forty years, until all the generation that had done evil in the sight of the Lord was gone.

Jeremiah 17:4
And you, even yourself, Shall let go of your heritage which I gave you; And I will cause you to serve your enemies In the land which you do not know; For you have kindled a fire in My anger which shall burn forever.

Malachi 1:4
Even though Edom has said, “We have been impoverished, But we will return and build the desolate places,” Thus says the Lord of hosts: “They may build, but I will throw down; They shall be called the Territory of Wickedness, And the people against whom the Lord will have indignation forever.

Matthew 25:41
Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels:

Matthew 25:46
And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.

The last time we brought up the poster, we discussed the reality that when our behavior changes, God’s behavior toward us also changes. Sin makes God angry. However, the whole of scripture, and creation, tells the story of a God who is eager to forgive, eager to show mercy, to give second chances, to restore and renew and rebuild. He won’t do it automatically. He waits for our confession, repentance, and permission, but He is the God who loves mercy.

That repentance is the other common thread in those first three scripture references.

  • Three times in Psalm 30, David references crying out to the Lord (v. 2, 8, 10).
  • Jeremiah 3:12 includes the condition, “‘Return, backsliding Israel.”
  • Micah turns his hope to the Lord in 7:7, and then proclaims God’s goodness in forgiveness in verse 18.

So what’s going on in the other set of scriptures? Let’s see. 

In Numbers 32, Moses is reminding some of the Israelites about what happened when their fathers’ generation went up to inherit the land God promised them. God took Israel to the front door, promised to give them the land, and they refused to go because they were afraid. God was angry because the people whom He so miraculously delivered from captivity in Egypt didn’t trust Him, and He sentenced them to 40 years in the desert, where they would all die (except the two men who did trust Him), so their children could move into the land.

But God wasn’t angry with them for 40 years. It doesn’t say they wandered in the desert until God’s wrath was appeased, or that He is somehow still angry with them post-mortem. He provided food and water and miraculous clothing for an entire nation for 40 years. He delivered them from their enemies as they wandered, and healed their diseases. Not the treatment of an angry god.

What we learn from the generation that did inherit the land is that there was a big battle ahead of them, and their faith in God’s ability was the only thing that carried them through it. A generation of people who don’t believe that God can do a miracle won’t see God do a miracle. If that first generation had been sent in to take the promised land in their state of unbelief and fear, they would have been slaughtered. God was angry at their rebelliousness, but His mercy sustained their people.

Micah’s prophecy is a similar story. He is speaking the “burden” of the Lord against the Edomites, who were an unrepentant and stubborn people. God was against them, but they decided to continue in their path and rebuild what had been lost, instead of humbling themselves before God and seeking His blessing and help. God declares He will “have indignation against them forever,” not as an irrevocable sentence, but as prophecy. If the Edomites had ever repented, He would have gladly forgiven them, but He knows they won’t.

Jeremiah 17 and Matthew 25 talk about fires and punishments that last forever (not, really, God’s anger lasting forever). As unpopular a topic as it is, hell is real. And as uncommon an idea as it is, we all deserve it. We’ve all chosen other gods over our Creator at some point; we’ve all broken the Law; we all have stains that would separate us from the Holy of Holies. While our God is eager to forgive, He is also irrevocably just and, really, we wouldn’t want Him any other way.

However, Jeremiah’s prophecy, in chapter 17, goes on to call the man who trusts in the Lord, “blessed.” Matthew 25 contrasts eternal fire with “everlasting life” for the “righteous.” And we know from the rest of the New Testament, that the only way to be righteous is to trade our sin for Jesus’ righteousness, through faith in His cross.

That fire, that judgment, will burn forever because God’s Law goes on forever because we go on forever. But God’s anger is not eternal, evidenced in the ministry and intercession of Jesus. If God’s anger was eternal, the New Testament never would have happened.

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