God’s Wrath Revealed
(7) Surely we have been consumed by your anger, and by your wrath we are terrified. (8) You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence, (9) for all our days pass away under your fury. We finish our years like a sigh. (10) The days of our years are seventy or, if by reason of strength, eighty years. Yet, their pride (span) is only labor and sorrow, for they pass away quickly, and we fly away. (11) Who knows the strength of your anger, for your fury is as (great as) the fear due you?
The emphasis of these verses is made evident by three synonyms: “anger” (vss. 7 & 11), “wrath” (vs. 7), and “fury” (vss. 9 & 11). All three terms vividly describe the response of a holy God to human sinfulness. Again, Moses used numerical references to make his point. In the previous section, he likened a thousand years in human reckoning to a day in God’s sight to emphasize God’s eternality as opposed to our temporality. In today’s segment, he used “seventy or...eighty years,” or the well known “threescore years and ten (and) fourscore years” (KJV), to describe the brevity of the average human’s lifespan (vs. 10).
In the final verse, we find an expression that should shape our response to God’s anger with our sin: “for your fury is as (great as) the fear due you.” In other words, our awe and reverence for God should stand in direct proportion to the amount of wrath our sins have provoked in him.
I. God’s wrath against us is due to our sinfulness. (7 & 8)
II. This results in the brevity and bitterness of our lives. (9 & 10)
III. Our response should be reverential worship. (11)
The more we understand God’s wrath and how our sin offends his holiness, the more likely we are to worship him appropriately.
The wrath of God is not something we like to think about. It is one subject rarely mentioned in today’s world. We naturally do everything we can to avoid considering how offensive our sins are to a holy God. Most people would much rather dwell on God’s love and forgiveness.
Moses during his forty years as Israel’s leader had many opportunities to witness the wrath of God against Israel’s sin. In writing the first five books of the Bible, Moses was required numerous times to recount how Israel’s complaining, resisting, rebelling, and yearning for a return to Egypt had offended the one who had redeemed them from slavery, formed them into a nation, and miraculously provided for them on their way to the land he had promised to give them. Consider the following three statements recorded in Numbers 14 that spell out Yahweh’s response to Israel’s sin: “Not one of the men who saw my glory and the miraculous signs I performed in Egypt and in the desert but who disobeyed me and tested me ten times…will ever see the land I promised on oath to their forefathers” (vss. 22 & 23). “In this desert your bodies will fall – every one of you twenty years old or more who was counted in the census and who has grumbled against me” (vs. 29). “For forty years – one year for each of the forty days you explored the land – you will suffer for your sins and know what it is like to have me against you” (vs. 34).
Moses exhorted the nation regarding how they should respond to God’s wrath, counseling them that their fear of the Lord, the reverential awe that motivates worshipful obedience, should be in direct proportion to the fury that their sins had evoked in him (vs. 11). While we can never hope to match that standard, we have an advocate who did, one who bore the full brunt of God’s wrath when he died on the cross. He stood in our place not only to keep us from being subjected to God’s wrath against sin but also to enable us to respond with the kind of reverential fear and obedience that honors and pleases the Father.
Wrath is never easy to talk about. However, when we begin to understand how Christ’s death and God’s wrath are related, we no longer feel compelled to avoid the subject. Instead, we can rejoice in knowing how our standing in Christ enables us to fear and love God in proportion to the wrath we know we fully deserve but will never be forced to experience because Jesus took our place and bore it for us.