How God Satisfies His Wrath: A Deeper Look at Propitiation, Part Two

Friday, May 27, 2005

I encourage everyone always to be a “Berean” Christian, according to Acts 17:11, and search these things out to see whether or not they are true. Discussion and debate are the two platforms on which we will grow more than we would otherwise in our pursuit of the knowledge of Christ and Him crucified.

Yesterday I introduced one OT concept of propitiation, by pointing to Genesis 6. If the flood shows us anything, it shows us that God hates sin and that He will only tolerate it for so long. Eventually, when He can tolerate it no longer, He will pour out all of his wrath and anger and judgment against sin and sinner alike, until He is satisfied. In this OT passage, the Hebraistic understanding of propitiation is understood in terms of God consoling/comforting His holy nature by pouring out His wrath and judgment against that which offended His nature.

(As a sidenote to this discussion, as I implied yesterday, all we have with which to communicate about God are the words and vocabulary He has given us. But whatever we do, we must not pack all that we feel and experience by one of our words into that same word when we use it to describe something about God.)
Now for the additional exegetical evidence. There are other passages which clearly support this Hebraistic understanding of propitiation. The following passages are those in which the same form of the same word, (for 'sorry' as in Genesis 6) are used again with reference to God.
  • From Exodus 32:12-14, we see that only God can console His own anger. That’s why Moses was praying to Him about the anger He said He would show to the Israelites because of their rebellion. It seems clear that there were two ways God could have dealt with His anger: by destroying men or by exercising His mercy and grace by withholding destruction from those deserving it. He did the latter.
  • In 1 Samuel 15:11 (see also vv. 29 and 35), God was sorry that He had made Saul king over Israel. So what did He do (to comfort Himself)? He took the kingship away from Saul and gave to another person – David.
  • Isaiah 1:24 is even more picturesque in proving my point. I’ll just let Isaiah speak for himself on this one. “Therefore saith the Lord, the LORD of hosts, the mighty One of Israel, Ah, I will ease me of mine adversaries, and avenge me of mine enemies…” Got eases His sorrow by taking revenge on His enemies.
  • Finally, from two passages in Ezekiel, as well as one in Lamentations, we see that God expends His anger and causes His fury to rest on them and thereby comforts Himself.
    - "Thus shall my anger spend itself, and I will vent my fury upon them and satisfy myself" (Ezekiel 5:13, ESV).
    - "Thus will I spend my wrath upon the wall and upon those who have smeared it with whitewash..." (Ezekiel 13:15, ESV).
    - "But now the anger of the LORD is satisfied. His fiercest anger has now been poured out. He started a fire in Jerusalem that burned the city to its foundations." (Lamentations 4:11, NLT).

(In light of the above prophetic passages, the foreground for God's anger being poured out is Israel's unrelenting unrepentance. But God will pour out His wrath on them and He will not stop until He is satisfied - cf. Isa. 5:25; 9:12, 17, 21; 10:4).

It is not hard to see then that when sin and sinful humanity are the cause of God’s sorrow, God will, in a sense, comfort His offended holiness by taking revenge in judgment and wrath and punishment. And in swinging this all the way back around to the flood, this is just what happened.

Tomorrow, in the Part Three of this blog series, I will wrap all of this up by pointing to the climax of God's anger, the focal point of propitiation in the history of God's anger.

Read Part Three.

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