Twenty-Third Sunday After Pentecost
November 7-8, 2020
“Is God Angry?”
Rev. John R. Larson
Ascension Lutheran Church Littleton, Colorado
Is God angry? Is that what all this is about? Pandemic, unrest, uncertainty, second wave, third wave, or whatever it is now? Is everything that we struggle with right now all the result of God being angry?
Maybe we need to answer an important question here – “Does God get angry?” Absolutely. You ever heard of Noah and the world-wide flood? From Genesis 6 we are told, “The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that he had man upon the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the Lord God said, ‘I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.’” (Genesis 6:5-7) God – angry, sad, mad. Man had wandered a long way from the Garden of Eden by this time. God had a right to be angry. He had made them perfect – in His very image. But they wanted a new pattern that didn’t look like God at all.
Our reading is from Amos. I was listening to a sermon on this text from a Missouri-Synod pastor and his opening line was, “I hate the book of Amos.” Too harsh. Too much law. Too much anger. Our reading is this, “I hate, I despise your religious feasts; I cannot stand your assemblies. Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them. Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps.” (Amos 5:21-23)
I can understand why a preacher wouldn’t like Amos. This is what we glory in. We like the festive services, the great music, the thought of gathering together. Preachers actually like church. But God was fed up with it. He was angry about them coming to worship with filthy hands and unclean hearts. They had the right words on the Sabbath, but the wrong life all the other days. They abused people, took advantage of them, cheated them, and showed up in the Temple as if nothing had even happened.
God got angry. God cringed when they walked into His house. In the New Testament, Jesus speaks of God’s anger, “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.” (Matthew 15:8-9) Here’s a tough word – “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Hebrews 10:31)
So, what do you think? Is the state of the present world the actions of an angry God? You know, He has every right to be angry. When we divorce our faith from our living that can’t please God. When we say one thing on Sunday and we do a whole different thing on Monday that cannot please God. When we can treat people so kindly when we come into the doors of God’s house but we treat them with disrespect and meanness when we leave here, it doesn’t please Him. When a trust in Jesus doesn’t lead to an obedience to God’s will, we hurt the heart of God. When we are quick to hear how much God treasures and loves us but we have no desire to treasure and love others, it grieves God.
God has a better way for us. Another of the Old Testament prophets, Micah, says, “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8) In our Amos section we read, “But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream.” (Amos 5:24)
And God has a better way for Himself. Psalm 103 says of God, “The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever.” (Verses 8-9) The Scriptures also say, “Who is a God like you, who pardons sins and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.” (Micah 7:18-19)
Is God angry? He has every right to be, but anger is not His last word. Forgiveness and restoration and the bringing of the fullness of life through Jesus is His last word. Another Old Testament prophet, who shared much about God’s anger, spoke of God’s appeal, “Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent and live.” (Ezekiel 18:31-32) After God spoke of His anger with His creation and brought the flood, He spoke of His next step, “But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.” (Genesis 6:8)
One Sunday one of the members of a family went to church and the other didn’t. When the one who went got home the other asked, “How was church?” “Ok.” “What did the preacher preach about? “Sin.” “What did he say?” “He was against it.”
Why does God get angry over sin? He was furious in Genesis over hearts that were inclined to evil continually. He is angered in Amos over faithless worship. Jesus was a mad man when He started turning over tables in the Temple.
Pastor David Langewisch, pastor at Bethlehem in Lakewood, recently wrote a pamphlet where he addresses this question of sin. He writes, “Why does God call something a sin? What is it about sin that would lead God to say it is wrong? To oversimplify the situation and say that God has the right to call some things right and some things wrong does a disservice to God and does not provide the proper footing for Christians dealing with sin, either in their lives or in the lives of those around them. Sin is sin because it damages. It damages people. It damages relationships. It damages creation. Sin is sin because it hurts us, and a loving God is trying to protect His dear children by warning them about it in His Law.” (A Biblical Response to Transgenderism, Pg. 27, Concordia Publishing House) (Emphasis mine)
God is angry over sin because of the horror it creates for everyone. God then works to solve a problem that He didn’t create. We call this redemption and salvation. We call this love. In Amos, they looked forward to “The Day of the Lord.” Some used that term to talk about God’s strong victory. “God’s Day.” But God said that day would be a day of darkness and not light. (See Amos 5:18-20) The Day of the Lord would be a day of judgment. As the New Testament says, “The Day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.” (I Thessalonians 5:2)
God’s anger over sin came on a day that was filled with darkness, not light. It happened just about 2,000 years ago. The day of darkness was on Good Friday. For three hours the sky went dark, though it should have had light. That was the day of the Lord. The day of judgment. Jesus became judged for sin. He received God’s anger. Jesus spoke, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Then, after death, came brilliant light on that Sunday morning. The appearance of the angels who made the proclamation that God’s new day had come, were as bright as lightning. God’s anger over a fallen world was answered by Jesus. Good Friday was completed by Easter.
One more thought today. Do not look at the problems in your life or the problems in the world, and simplistically say that God is angry over something. You get a flat tire, you get an illness, you have a “Murphy’s Law” day – everything that could go wrong goes wrong at the worst time. Darn Murphy and his law!! You determine that God is getting even. That’s not it. Don’t even look at the pandemic and everything related to it and determine that God is angry. In John 9 we run into an important word that speaks directly to our question. “As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ Jesus answered, ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.’” (John 9:1-3) Jesus then spit on the ground, made some mud, and stuck it in the man’s eyes. The blind man went to the Pool of Siloam, washed off the mud, and left with sight.
Who sinned? Nobody. His blindness came so that the work of God would be shown in him, and it was. And God is still working His work in the deep needs of people – including us.
Live this day, not in the fear that God is angry, but in the confidence that you are loved and sought and found by Jesus. Amen!!