At our Wednesday bible study this past week, I read out the Jonathan Edwards sermon Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. Edwards preached it over 270 years ago, and seems to have gotten quite a reaction to it. It is worth the read sometime, you can easily find it on various websites. As I thought about the sermon, it amazed me that Edwards based it on a portion of one bible verse, Deuteronomy 32:35 –Their foot shall slip in due time . He didn’t even reference the verse, just that part. And then gave a sermon, building on that. The Word of God is powerful in the hands of one that He gifts to preach. A call to non-believers to come to Christ before it is too late, a call to Christians to recognize the grace of an almighty God who could have easily chosen to send every one of us to a death we all so truly deserved.
As I thought about Edwards’s sermon, I focused a bit on the beginning of the verse in Deuteronomy; Vengeance is Mine, and recompense. It is not fashionable today to teach and preach of an angry, vengeance seeking God. Most prefer Him to be happy, happy, happy. God in His holiness is just in being angry at the sinful defiance of the world, of every one of us in particular. He will not abide sin, will not have it in His presence, and will not bear to look upon it in anything but anger. But He is also a merciful and gracious God that gave us a gift to avoid being in the hands of an angry God; His Son, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Faith and trust in Him alone will keep us from the eternal damnation that Edwards hammers home time and again in his Sinners sermon.
As I look and think about the world, I often get angry at what I see going on around us. I read and listen to others, and many of them are pretty angry too. God’s anger is righteous, my righteousness comes from the justification I receive from accepting Jesus as Savior. It is imputed to me (very much a gift that comes along with the gift of salvation), I didn’t earn it nor do I deserve on my own to be called righteous. As a result, I do not think I do righteous anger very well. I do not think many, if any does it well. It is probably why no one is talking 270 years after the fact about a sermon entitled Sinners in the Hands of an Angry Preacher. No power in that sermon (no truth of the Word in it either). The Apostle Paul tells us our citizenship is in heaven in Philippians 3:20. As such, our interests, our minds and our desires should be there not here. Yes, we can and should work to make this world a better place; we should work and strive to share Christ with others and to show His love to each other by living as much as possible as He did. But getting angry all the time? No, I think we are going to wind up doing it without getting the righteousness part down a whole lot of the time.
Thinking about all of that brings me to the opening of Deuteronomy 32:35. The anger, the vengeance, the payback for sinful defiance is God’s to deal with and settle. And He will. As Edwards mentions, it is only the mere pleasure and will of an angry God that keeps every sinner from plunging to eternal damnation now. It is only the love and grace of God that keeps those of us who are now His children from plunging right along with the rest. For make no mistake about it, every Christian would have deserved the same fate if not for the blood of Christ shed upon the Cross.
So we should spend less time being angry and more time in prayer. We should pray for the world, pray for the unlovable ones that may surround us (as we were once unlovable, and even in the grace of God’s gift, some of us might still be), pray for the soon return of our Lord Jesus Christ. Leave the anger and vengeance to God. Tell people about Jesus and how He is coming soon, and possibly for the one you are speaking to, sooner than anyone can imagine.
So we are to rest in His promise, secure in His strength. Be ready, be watchful, and going about your duties as a good and faithful servant, because…
Jesus is coming soon!