“But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’” Matt 9:13
Doing a word search, “anger” and “wrath” of God don’t occur in the Bible until the time of Moses and the Law. They are not in the account of the fall. Sodom was destroyed because her wickedness was “grievous” (Gen. 18:20). The flood came about because of God’s “regret” (Gen. 6:6). And my favorite Cain— who, had he been under the law would have been executed—received mercy from God. Personally (Gen. 4: 15).
Grief, regret and mercy are acts of love, sorrow and loss, not anger. We assume because Adam and Eve were “afraid” (Gen. 3:10), and Abraham apprehensive (Gen. 18: 30) in his bargaining with God over Sodom, that God is predisposed to anger regarding mankind. Not so. If anything, he’s predisposed to compassion.
But apparently, we’re predisposed to judgment.
God’s anger would be revealed with the introduction of the Law. But even then it was misunderstood. And it took his Son to clarify.
Seems by nature, we keep waiting for the other shoe to drop. But if we should open our eyes, we’ll see that it already has. And it was to our benefit.
Jesus made the above Matt. 9 statement to the “teachers of the law.” But he referenced a passage from Hosea that finishes off the thought:
“For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.” Hosea 6:6
Jesus captured people’s attention with often curious words of love and deeds of compassion. “Love your enemies,” he once said to an incredulous crowd (Matt. 5:43-48). Hopeful words reminiscent of (a reluctant) Jonah preaching a message of salvation to his enemies, the Ninevites.
Jesus also said some disconcerting words equally at odds with conventional thinking. “Anyone who comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother… and children… he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26). Reminiscent of Abraham who, at the command of God, took his only begotten son Isaac up a mountain to be sacrificed.
But God held no ill will toward Isaac just as he held no ill will toward Nineveh. There was a ram nearby “caught in a thicket by its horns” when Isaac asked, “…where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” (Gen. 22:1-19) Was the ram intended imagery of a captured man generations later? A man pierced with a tangle of thorns on his head (John 19:2)—the “Lamb of God” (John 1:36).
Jonah certainly was an intended picture, and final preview of the same (Matt. 12:38-40). Jonah preached to the “wicked and adulterous generation” of his day: the hundred-twenty thousand of Nineveh, who in truth, could not “tell their right hand from their left…” (Jonah 4: 10-11).
So after being ridiculed and whipped, Jesus, that captured man with curious words of love and deeds of compassion was crucified. And though he had preached a message of salvation, people turned on him with mockery, dubbing him “king” with a crown woven from the thickets. But he looked at them and said, “Forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)
And while Jesus had already warned, “The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah…” (Matt. 12:41), he who was someone greater than Jonah, would not condemn them.
And all this time we’ve been looking at him with pity.
I’ve been imagining a book. Actually a set of two. (But I think it’s really a trilogy).
On the cover of the first book, in guilded leather embossing are the words, “Law and Justice.” It’s thick with pages carefully explaining all the objectives of fairness, goodness and rightness. It tells everything necessary from proper judgment to reward and penalty down to the smallest point. Closing the book, on its back cover is another word in simple lettering:
Going onto the next book, the apostle Peter ended his second letter with its first words:
“Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.”
That book is still being written.
The third book? Not really sure how to describe it. It’s behind glass.
“Now we see but a dim reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” I Cor. 13:12