9 Oh, let the evil of the wicked come to an end,
and may you establish the righteous—
you who test the minds and hearts,
O righteous God!
10 My shield is with God,
who saves the upright in heart.
11 God is a righteous judge,
and a God who feels indignation every day.
12 If a man does not repent, God will whet his sword;
he has bent and readied his bow;
13 he has prepared for him his deadly weapons,
making his arrows fiery shafts.
14 Behold, the wicked man conceives evil
and is pregnant with mischief
and gives birth to lies.
15 He makes a pit, digging it out,
and falls into the hole that he has made.
You believe in the love of God, don’t you? At least you confess that the Lord is “merciful and gracious, slow to anger and filled with loving-kindness.” A deeper, more unfathomable pity than the tender compassion of your heavenly Father is unthinkable. And it’s well that you, who are capable of only stammering your praise, stand amazed at such love and worship him for his compassionate pity.
But, dearly beloved, why are your hearts troubled when the church of Jesus Christ whispers to you—yes, even drums it into your conscience—that this sensitive God becomes angry and even shows his anger daily? When you hear that, why do you turn away, plug your ears, and even beg us to keep quiet about it?
Are you wrong in doing this?
You are deluding yourself if you think God’s wrath diminishes something of his eternal love. Or that it limits to some extent his divine pity! Yes, that it even clashes with his mercy to some extent! But are you seeing this clearly? Is this really the case? Are you right about this?
Suppose that the Lord our God never got angry or didn’t show his wrath on a daily basis. Would that in fact still make his tender love for you tender?
You imagine that God’s anger is a bad thing and a stain on the robes of his sacred compassion. But aren’t you misguided in this? Isn’t it just the opposite? Isn’t the wrath of God one of the most tender features of his loving-kindness? Isn’t it the font and source of many precious realities for you and all his other people? Without God’s anger, what would the world around you actually become?
Now the wrath of God is burning daily as an almost irresistible force in the hard, callous consciences of the children of the present age. It acts like a cauterizing iron on their hearts that sears and shrivels for a time all the boils and abscesses and pustules that are ready to burst and spread their unhealthy filth who knows how far. God’s anger working in the consciences of worldly people is like a bit in the muzzle of wickedness. It restrains evil so that it doesn’t destroy you, sweep you along in its wake, and poison and corrupt the air around you too much.
God’s anger shown every day is the mighty force at work in your own home.
It keeps the unconverted members of your household in check. It restrains them by putting a divine foot on the lids of their hearts. This suppresses the ungodliness that would otherwise come to the surface.
God’s anger is the guardian of your loved ones when you leave them at home alone or send them off a little way into the world. It protects them when you can’t watch over them so closely, set boundaries for them, or discipline them any longer. That’s when God’s anger does this for you. It takes over where you left off. It is a blessing in the lives of your children who would otherwise be lost.
Moreover, even when you’re present with your children, other members of your household, or your friends and when you earnestly admonish them to put an end to some evil or wicked activity, God’s anger is at work. You yourself can’t do anything about it, and your words are ineffective, unless at the same time God’s wrath makes an impact on their hearts and disturbs them spiritually.
To take this a little deeper, suppose that on some occasion or other you became intensely angry over the wicked behavior of your dearest children. You had the satisfying experience of venting your anger in a tender, holy, earnest, and passionate way. Then weren’t you able to thank God that he let you share his anger and use you as his instrument? His anger was expressed in yours and gave it a flaming, penetrating power!
But I ask you to think about yourself for a minute. Aren’t you indebted to God’s anger yourself?
Should you overlook what you’ve been benefiting from for your entire life and what’s been yours because of God’s anger? Simply allow me to lay out that matter a little further for you.
As you look back on it and remember, you really consider it quite a blessing, don’t you, that the part of your life that preceded your conversion was not all that terribly tarnished. You weren’t all that humiliated or stained by your sinfulness. You understand perfectly well that you’re not a hair’s breadth better than someone else who’s fallen deeply. You recognize that nevertheless, you deserved to be lost for eternity. But looking back, you realize that for you it’s been relatively less agonizing or grievous. That’s because you were dealt with charitably.
That in itself is a gift! So how do you explain that charity now? Was it a gift granted because you were so careful about not being corrupted or humiliated? Admit it, my brothers and sisters. Wasn’t it because the wrath of God had made such a sharp impression on your soul and the souls of your caretakers? It was so unrelenting in its opposition to ungodliness that even though you wanted to take a swim in the river of unrighteousness, you didn’t dare to jump in. In fact, you really couldn’t!
That’s the first point I ask you to think about. Here’s the second.
During your conversion, wasn’t God’s anger at work just as strategically as his sacred mercy? Both were instruments he used. In fact, if the Lord had not used his anger in this connection, would you ever have been converted?
I know very well that there are many people who think that it was only the enticing sound of the King’s invitation that attracted them, like the soft and cool evening breezes after a hot day. But isn’t that a delusion and self-deception? Wasn’t the soft, cool breeze preceded by an earthquake and the earthquake by a powerful wind? Would that enticing invitation ever have attracted you if it had not been preceded by restlessness, some disturbance, or a convulsion in your soul?
Would you ever have broken with the world if God had not first raged against the world in your own heart? Didn’t you feel something for God’s law at the time? And does that law ever work without anger? Would you ever have known what divine compassion is, to briefly summarize, if your terrible carelessness had not first been hounded by a sense of God’s wrath?
And now the third point.
The big event has now occurred in your life! Everlasting praise and honor be given to God for this! The Spirit testifies with your spirit that there is now an “Abba, Father” to whom you can appeal. And for the rest of your life your resounding song can be: “I was lost. I was lost. I was lost, but now I’ve been purchased by my Lord!”
But now it might be asked of your soul how you’re going to conduct yourself in that new status.
Are you finished with the world, or are you still in it? Have you gotten rid of your sin, or do you still struggle with it? Is the battle won, or do you wage it every day? Have you grasped this, or do you still strive to do so?
And what does the experience of God’s most precious children teach you in this regard?
It teaches that from the very first days after their conversion they’ve been kept busy with unmasking Satan. It teaches that from the beginning Satan’s henchmen have been deliberately aiming their poisoned arrows at their hearts. It teaches that the world, like an adulterous woman, has been working from the outset to tempt their souls.
You can safely add that God’s children have learned that from the time Christ first laid his hands on them they’ve known that they still carry around an ungodly heart in their chests. They know that their souls are graves filled with dry bones. Be sure of this: when an unconverted person is exposed to Satan’s temptations for as much as one moment, they cave in and their fall is tremendous. It’s not the same for a child of God, who comes through it triumphantly.
If this is how it is, therefore, let me simply ask this. Who is your helper in all this frightening conflict? What power is available to help a child of God get through it triumphantly?
Just admit it! Isn’t it God’s anger?
This is the anger of God that allows you no rest. It’s an anger that visits half-hearted efforts with lashes of reproach and self-criticism. It’s a holy indignation that afflicts you so deep in your loins that you crumple with pain. And when Satan numbs you half asleep, it’s an anger that pierces your heart so intensely that you’re shocked awake. Your head snaps back, and wide-eyed, you immediately see that you’ve reached the point of offending your God with your terrible wickedness.
Do you really want to wish away that kind of anger from God? Do you really prefer love without such anger?
Wipe such unholy language off your lips, brothers and sisters. It’s much better that you pray with all God’s people: “O Lord, my Lord and my God, please let your anger continue to bless me. Show me your anger every day, every day that I still feel afflicted by sin.”
Abraham Kuyper, Ever in Thy Sight: 31 Devotions on the Psalms, (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2020), 7–13.