Specific Reasons for God’s Anger and Wrath Part One
Previously we saw that the ultimate reason for God’s anger and wrath is mankind’s arrogant rejection of Him as the Creator, sovereign Ruler, and Owner of the universe. Fallen humanity wants to be its own god, with total freedom from accountability to its sovereign Creator. As a result, God’s administrations of wrath solemnly remind people of ultimate reality; namely, that He, not they, is the ultimate Sovereign who determines their destiny now and in the future.
Now we will examine how the ultimate reason for God’s anger and wrath is expressed.
Specific Reasons for God’s Wrath Against Israel
The Bible reveals that Israel, the nation God chose for a unique, permanent relationship with Him (Dt. 7:6; 2 Sam. 7:23–24), gave Him many reasons to administer His wrath. As Moses exhorted the Israelites, “Remember! Do not forget how you provoked the LORD your God to wrath in the wilderness. From the day that you departed from the land of Egypt until you came to this place, you have been rebellious against the LORD” (Dt. 9:7).
Making and worshiping the golden calf at Horeb, while Moses received the Law of God.
They have made themselves a molded calf, and worshiped it and sacrificed to it, and said, “This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!” And the Lᴏʀᴅ said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and indeed it is a stiff-necked people! Now therefore, let Me alone, that My wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them. And I will make of you a great nation” (Ex. 32:8–10).
Moses pleaded with God not to destroy the people, “So the Lᴏʀᴅ relented from the harm which He said He would do to His people” (v. 14).
Complaining at Taberah because of adversity. “Now when the people complained, it displeased the Lᴏʀᴅ; for the Lᴏʀᴅ heard it, and His anger was aroused. So the fire of the Lᴏʀᴅ burned among them, and consumed some in the outskirts of the camp. Then the people cried out to Moses, and when Moses prayed to the Lᴏʀᴅ, the fire was quenched. So he called the name of the place Taberah, because the fire of the Lᴏʀᴅ had burned among them” (Num. 11:1–3).
Weeping for lack of meat, not satisfied with the manna God miraculously provided for them every day. Some yielded to intense craving for meat, greatly arousing God’s anger. So He provided meat. “But while the meat was still between their teeth, before it was chewed, the wrath of the Lᴏʀᴅ was aroused against the people, and the Lᴏʀᴅ struck the people with a very great plague. So he called the name of that place Kibroth Hattaavah, because there they buried the people who had yielded to craving” (vv. 33–34; cf. Ps. 78:30–31).
Testing God. Ten of the 12 men sent to spy out the Promised Land brought back a negative report:
“The land through which we have gone as spies is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people whom we saw in it are men of great stature. There we saw the giants (the descendants of Anak came from the giants); and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.” So all the congregation lifted up their voices and cried, and the people wept that night. And all the children of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron, and the whole congregation said to them, “If only we had died in the land of Egypt! Or if only we had died in this wilderness! Why has the Lᴏʀᴅ brought us to this land to fall by the sword, that our wives and children should become victims? Would it not be better for us to return to Egypt?” So they said to one another, “Let us select a leader and return to Egypt” (Num. 13:32—14:4).
God asked Moses, “How long will these people reject Me? And how long will they not believe Me, with all the signs which I have performed among them?” (v. 11). As a result of their testing Him, God made them return to the wilderness for 40 years until everyone 20 and older who had murmured against Him died. Those people never entered the Promised Land (vv. 27–35).
As a result of that tragic experience, years later God gave the following exhortation to later generations of Israel:
Do not harden your hearts, as in the rebellion, as in the day of trial in the wilderness, when your fathers tested Me; they tried [tested] Me, though they saw My work. For forty years I was grieved with that generation, and said, “It is a people who go astray in their hearts, and they do not know My ways.” So I swore in My wrath, “They shall not enter My rest” (Ps. 95:8–11).
Grumbling against Moses and Aaron because of the deaths of Korah and his followers who challenged the leadership of Moses and Aaron. God sent a plague that killed 14,700 grumblers (Num. 16).
Afflicting widows and orphans. God declared, “You shall not afflict any widow or fatherless child. If you afflict them in any way, and they cry at all to Me, I will surely hear their cry; and My wrath will become hot, and I will kill you with the sword; your wives shall be widows, and your children fatherless” (Ex. 22:22–24).
Committing harlotry with the pagan women of Moab and worshiping their pagan god, Baal of Peor. God’s wrath inflicted a plague on Israel that killed 24,000 Israelites (Num. 25:1–11).
Disobeying God’s command not to take any accursed items from Jericho. Because one man, Achan, disobeyed, God’s wrath fell on the nation. Thirty-six of Israel’s fighting men lost their lives in battle (Josh. 7). Later the question was asked, “Did not Achan the son of Zerah commit a trespass in the accursed thing, and wrath fell on all the congregation of Israel? And that man did not perish alone in his iniquity” (22:20).
Taking a census of Israel’s fighting men, as commanded by King David. God’s wrath came on the nation because of this census (1 Chr. 27:24). “So the Lᴏʀᴅ sent a plague upon Israel, and seventy thousand men of Israel fell” (21:14).
Neglecting God’s Word. After Rehoboam became king of Israel, he and the nation forsook God’s Law. Consequently, King Shishak of Egypt and a large Egyptian army came against Israel, captured Judah’s fortified cities, and came to Jerusalem. In light of this threat, Rehoboam and the leaders of Israel humbled themselves before God. As a result, God said, “They have humbled themselves; therefore I will not destroy them, but I will grant them some deliverance. My wrath shall not be poured out on Jerusalem by the hand of Shishak” (2 Chr. 12:7).
Years later, after someone found the copy of God’s Law that had been ignored for many years, King Josiah said, “Go, inquire of the Lᴏʀᴅ for me, for the people and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that has been found; for great is the wrath of the Lᴏʀᴅ that is aroused against us, because our fathers have not obeyed the words of this book, to do according to all that is written concerning us” (2 Ki. 22:13).
Forsaking the covenant God established with the nation at Mt. Sinai.
They have forsaken the covenant of the Lᴏʀᴅ God of their fathers, which He made with them when He brought them out of the land of Egypt; for they went and served other gods and worshiped them, gods that they did not know and that He had not given to them. Then the anger of the Lᴏʀᴅ was aroused against this land, to bring on it every curse that is written in this book. And the Lᴏʀᴅ uprooted them from their land in anger, in wrath, and in great indignation, and cast them into another land (Dt. 29:25–28).
Forsaking God and burning incense to other gods. When the people of Israel were about to enter the Promised Land of Canaan, God warned, “Take heed to yourselves, lest your heart be deceived, and you turn aside and serve other gods and worship them, lest the Lᴏʀᴅ’s anger be aroused against you, and He shut up the heavens so that there be no rain, and the land yield no produce, and you perish quickly from the good land which the Lᴏʀᴅ is giving you” (11:16–17).
Many years later, as a result of their not heeding that warning, God said, “Because they have forsaken Me and burned incense to other gods, that they might provoke Me to anger with all the works of their hands. Therefore My wrath shall be aroused against this place and shall not be quenched” (2 Ki. 22:17).
Helping the wicked and loving those who hate God. Good King Jehoshaphat of Judah was told God’s wrath was on him because he allied himself with wicked King Ahab of Israel in a war against Syria (2 Chr. 18:28—19:2).
Forsaking and shutting down the Temple, God’s dwelling place. Wrath came on Judah and Jerusalem because Judah’s leaders forsook the Temple and worshiped images and idols. A Syrian army came to Judah and Jerusalem, destroyed all the leaders, left King Joash severely wounded, and sent all the spoil to the king of Damascus. Later King Joash’s own servants killed him (24:17–25; 29:6–10).
Capturing and enslaving God’s people. Soldiers of the northern kingdom of Israel carried away 200,000 “women, sons, and daughters” of the southern Kingdom of Judah and Jerusalem, intending to make them slaves (28:8). A prophet of God warned them, “Return the captives, whom you have taken captive from your brethren, for the fierce wrath of the Lᴏʀᴅ is upon you” (v. 11).
Having a proud heart that gave nothing to God in return for His favor. God’s wrath loomed over King Hezekiah, Judah, and Jerusalem because of Hezekiah’s proud heart. Later it turned away when the king and people humbled themselves before God (32:25–26).
Contracting marriages forbidden by God.
Then Ezra the priest stood up and said to them, “You have transgressed and have taken pagan wives, adding to the guilt of Israel. Now therefore, make confession to the Lᴏʀᴅ God of your fathers, and do His will; separate yourselves from the peoples of the land, and from the pagan wives.” Then all the assembly answered and said with a loud voice, “Yes! As you have said, so we must do. Let all those in our cities who have taken pagan wives come at appointed times, together with the elders and judges of their cities, until the fierce wrath of our God is turned away from us in this matter” (Ezra 10:10–12, 14).