Posted by: pmarkrobb | April 10, 2017

His anger

We love to summarize and simplify.  Interestingly, in researching that thought, my mind went to the illustration of CliffNotes.  How many of my classmates, back in the day, far preferred reading the CliffNotes for a book rather than the book itself?  A funny thing happened as i Googled the question, “When were CliffNotes first published?”  i was looking to confirm whether they were of my era, but discovered something far more interesting.  i discovered that i had actually been summarizing and simplifying them!  Wikipedia notes the following in the very first line:

CliffsNotes (formerly Cliffs Notes, originally Cliff’s Notes and often, erroneously, CliffNotes)

“… and often, erroneously,” … It appears that i (along with many others) even summarized and simplified the name!  How perfectly ironic is that?!

We do this with the Bible, too.  In trying to say too much too simply (give someone the 30,000 foot-view, as if that is how far up we’d need to go to show someone the full expanse of God’s love story) we say things like, the Bible is made up of two parts — the Old Testament and New Testament.  True enough, yet we don’t stop there.  We think or say the Old Testament is really more about God, while the New is more about Jesus.  The Old Testament is The Law, and the New Testament is grace.  The Old Testament God is about God’s judgement and anger (that’s how He deals with the mistakes of His people), and the New Testament is about redemption and the love of Jesus.  We think or say that the Old Testament is probably not the place to start reading if you’re curious about God or new to faith.  No, you should definitely start with the soft and squishy Jesus part.

But it’s not that simple, right?  Those kinds of summaries might help reduce the Bible, our thoughts about God, and our journey of following Jesus into manageable, bite-sized pieces that can be communicated or consumed a bit “easier” or fit “better” into our busy lives, but they are nowhere close to the true and full story.  And they are nowhere close to what the broken and lost need to see in us and hear from us.  Those kinds of summaries separate God’s anger from His love, as though they are conflicting emotions or mutually exclusive characteristics that live and act in perpetual conflict.  They are not.  And in the events of Monday, we see a clear illustration of God’s anger as an expression of His love.

There are two significant events which define this day.  The first happens early in the morning as Jesus and His disciples begin their journey from Bethany back to Jerusalem.  Jesus is hungry and spots a fig tree off in the distance which is in full leaf.  A fig tree in leaf is a fig tree with fruit — well, all except this particular one.  When Jesus inspects the tree and finds no fruit, He curses it.  The exclamation mark which punctuates the curse suggests severe agitation or anger.

Then Jesus said to the tree, “May no one ever eat your fruit again!”
Mark 11:14a (NLT)

This, no doubt, caught His disciples by surprise and made them take notice.  It must have seemed like a terribly disproportionate response to what they likely saw as unsatisfied hunger.  The disciples would have to wait a day, but they would soon learn why Jesus’ anger was right and proportionate.  It was just their first lesson that day about the evils in things that give the appearance of.

We all know the next story well … the overturned temple tables.  Jesus’ fit of righteous rage in “discovering” the corruption that had infected His house of prayer.  But we also now know well that Monday was not a violent reaction to something He just saw.  Mark 11:11 clearly indicates Monday’s trip was His second, not His first.  He carefully observed on day one, then returned on Monday to display His love in ripping out the cancerous root of corruption from His house.  How do we expect love to act?  If you love your child and see them running out into the street to retrieve a ball, do you stand idly by or whisper words of encouragement?  No!  In my experience as a parent, love is not always soft and squishy.  Sometimes it is hard and painful.  Whether you’re a parent or not, you’ve experienced this to be true as well.  Sometimes God’s love is hard and painful.  Sometimes His anger is the only loving response.

But here is one truth that must be understood in regards to God’s anger … it is ALWAYS directed at sin.  God’s anger is never aimed at us.  It is always laser-focused at sin and what sin does in separating us from Him.  In cursing the fig tree and driving the vendors from the temple, Jesus directs his anger at the sins of dishonesty, greed, cheating and concealing.  In His condemnation of the fig tree, He attacks the eternal consequences of one who proclaims His name to others, when their heart and life are far from Him.  And in the Court of the Gentiles, He drives out the wolves who wait near the gate to steal His sheep.  What better way to stop the work of His Church than by corrupting the churches?

May we see Jesus’ anger clearly today.  May we not skip over it or put an asterisk next to it as something other than an expression of His deep love for us.  May we see that it is ALWAYS directed at sin, and that sometimes His anger is the only loving response.


Responses

  1. Thanks for reminding me that anger is to be directed at sin. It’s easy to forget that!

  2. Thanks for being an available conduit of God’s reach to our minds and hearts. 🙂 My thoughts with Him as a result of reading this Monday post:

    God, I think You love and enjoy who You are. Is that true? Is that good? This is very often an awkward consideration for us. It is very difficult for us as fallen, yet prideful, men to have some Godly understanding, let alone daily application, of our Creator loving and enjoying Himself. Apart from Your provision we will not. Rather than prove that You do……..or even should, my thoughts today go to what if You do and should? To presume that Your love and enjoyment of self are true for the purpose of considering, is it good?

    What if a being is absolutely, altogether, totally and unconditionally…….pure and without defect or flaw……holy and perfect in goodness and righteousness? And has always been. Does this context allow for a “lab setting” where we can interact with just these variables somewhat apart from the normal baggage we bring to this otherwise undefined experiment? Though so unlike our thought and experience, can we observe, test and evaluate this supposed being without the influence of other factors? My thought is not to try to scientifically or absolutely prove anything, but to rather strip away the things that make it so hard to consider the possibilities.

    So, back to the original consideration; could it be true and good that a being love and enjoy itself? In applying the above variables alone – “without defect and flaw”; “perfect in goodness and righteousness” – I am drawn to the answer of yes. How could it not? If it loves goodness and righteousness and is perfect in those ways, how could it not love itself? AND, if it did not, would it be without defect and flaw, and perfect in goodness and righteousness?

    To take a step further, as Christ and our provided “journey onWord” encouragement has…………in the lab setting of above, what would be the “consequence” of adding sin to those two absolute and unflawed variables? How would they interact? How must they interact?

    Father, by Your great grace and mercy might you direct us through and to the truths that only You can reveal and settle within us. You alone have the words of eternal life!

    Thanks for another enjoyable time of thought and observation! 🙂


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