Clean Thursday – He Rises to Terrify the Earth

Why does the Bible say that God is angry? Especially when you read me write that we can’t make God angry. And even more, if we can change God’s mood, we claim to have power over God. And that idea, dear friends, is ludicrous on its face!

So, what does the Bible mean when we read that God gets angry?

Let’s look at our lesson today in Isaiah 2:11-21:

The haughty looks of man shall be brought low, and the pride of men shall be humbled; and the Lord alone will be exalted in that day.

For the Lord of hosts has a day against all that is proud and lofty, against all that is lifted up and high; against all the cedars of Lebanon, lofty and lifted up; and against all the oaks of Bashan; against all the high mountains, and against all the lofty hills; against every high tower, and against every fortified wall; against all the ships of Tarshish, and against all the beautiful craft. And the haughtiness of man shall be humbled, and the pride of men shall be brought low; and the Lord alone will be exalted in that day. And the idols shall utterly pass away. And men shall enter the caves of the rocks and the holes of the ground, from before the terror of the Lord, and from the glory of his majesty, when he rises to terrify the earth.

In that day men will cast forth their idols of silver and their idols of gold, which they made for themselves to worship, to the moles and to the bats, to enter the caverns of the rocks and the clefts of the cliffs, from before the terror of the Lord, and from the glory of his majesty, when he rises to terrify the earth.

The Prophet Isaiah served the nation of Israel in the 8th century B.C. and deals with Israel after the Babylonian captivity and King Cyrus allowing the Israelites to go back to Jerusalem to restore the nation there. The Israelites were “shell shocked” by their experience of being carried away into captivity and the work they had to accomplish to reestablish the people in the city of Jerusalem and the rest of the nation. Rebuilding was going to take time and faith and effort!

So, it’s no wonder that Isaiah talks like he does, and it’s no wonder the Church gives us these passages during Great Lent to shape our own spiritual spring cleaning time. We have to do what these Israelites had to do – confront what brought us down in the first place!

And what brought the Israelites to fall into captivity to Babylon? Pride. Forgetfulness. Unfaithfulness. The consequences of rebellion against wisdom produced the bitter fruit of slavery and loss.

The same thing happens to us when we find our lives gripped by selfish inattentiveness and arrogant pride!

What does this have to do with God’s anger? Everything. You see, the Israelites were fully chastised by their experience of captivity in Babylon. They were force, through the consequences of their actions, to confront the reality of their rejection of God’s wisdom for living. God allowed these foolish people to experience what life is like when we live as if there is no God; as if there is no wisdom that preserves our lives and societies and cultures. No wonder Isaiah calls this when God arises “to terrify the earth.” From the Israelites perspective God was angry with them because of their unfaithfulness. God was angered by their selfishness. God was furious with their foolish choices. From their perspective, God was angry!

But what if their perspective was too small? What if from God’s perspective it was His love that allowed these immature people to experience the consequences of their deadly choices? What if that’s true for you and me today? “God, why did this happen to me? Why are you angry with me” becomes “God, in Your love for me, you have granted me freedom, even the freedom to live asleep to Your wisdom. And, in Your love for me, You refuse to allow me to live in this inattentive way immune from the consequences of my foolish choices. You grant me even painful consequences in Your love for me to wake me up to my desperate need for You.”

This perspective change is at the heart of practicing Great Lent well. God is not angry with me as much as He uses even my tears and pain and my honest confrontation with myself to wake me up.

Today, are you awake to how much God loves you? Can you see, even in your darkest moments, His love in allowing you to face the consequences of bad choices? Practice the Lenten disciplines of Prayer, Fasting, and Generosity and become Orthodox on Purpose!

One comment:

  1. The parable of the prodigal son comes to mind. The father out of love for his wayward son let him go to suffer the consequences of his pride and rebellion. But most of all, he let him suffer in order to be healed from his sins, his flesh, his waywardness, his selfishness. God does that for us all and let us come to our senses and choose to go back home.

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