Wrath, Grace, and Justice

I get why a lot of people referring to themselves as “Christ-followers” don’t particularly like the Hebrew Scriptures. I have changed my term to disciple of Jesus. Not that I am particularly disciplined, or not as much as I should be. I choose it because it is more subordinate in my mind. I need something more intentional and committed, because I don’t particularly like what I find in the Hebrew Scriptures either. Yet it’s still true about my Creator and Savior.

For instance, when David sins by counting the people, Yahweh is very displeased. After David repents (at least in the order things are recorded), Yahweh gives David a choice of three punishments: 1) Three years of famine, 2) Three months of battle loss, or 3) Three days of pestilence. Pestilence doesn’t sound so bad, but here’s how Yahweh describes it to Gad, David’s seer:

So Gad came to David and said to him, “Thus says the LORD, ‘Take for yourself either three years of famine, or three months to be swept away before your foes, while the sword of your enemies overtakes you, or else three days of the sword of the LORD, even pestilence in the land, and the angel of the LORD destroying throughout all the territory of Israel.’ Now, therefore, consider what answer I shall return to Him who sent me.”
(1 Chronicles 21:11-12 NASB)

David’s response is that he would rather fall into the hands of Yahweh than the hands of men, so he chooses three days. The angel of Yahweh goes through the land and 70,000 die from north to south in the land. And then there’s this dramatic scene:

And God sent an angel to Jerusalem to destroy it; but as he was about to destroy it, the LORD saw and was sorry over the calamity, and said to the destroying angel, “It is enough; now relax your hand.” And the angel of the LORD was standing by the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite. Then David lifted up his eyes and saw the angel of the LORD standing between earth and heaven, with his drawn sword in his hand stretched out over Jerusalem. Then David and the elders, covered with sackcloth, fell on their faces. David said to God, “Is it not I who commanded to count the people? Indeed, I am the one who has sinned and done very wickedly, but these sheep, what have they done? O LORD my God, please let Your hand be against me and my father’s household, but not against Your people that they should be plagued.”

(1 Chronicles 21:15-17 NASB)

This is a difficult account of our Savior punishing sin among His people. It’s a window into His relationship with David, with Israel, with His human creatures, and, potentially, with us. We don’t like it when our Savior get’s angry, we’re uncomfortable, and squirm in our seats. This is how He dealt with His people, not gentiles, not pagans worshipping other gods, His chosen ones. How, then, will we escape when our Father in Heaven seems so severe?

Our hope is in His grace. Our Savior is just. And, because of His just nature, there is wrath. Yet, there is also grace. Yahweh saw what His angel was about to do to Jerusalem, and “relented” or “was sorry”. Our Creator changed His mind. Isn’t that what we want from a just God? Do we really want justice? Wouldn’t that wipe us out, utterly destroy us? Isn’t that a global flood, thorough destruction, maybe with only a single family left?

I want grace. I want my Savior to change His mind about me. I want something to appease my Creator. Eventually, my Creator provided Himself as my Savior. He took away the wrath by taking it on Himself. He appeased Himself, His just nature was settled through Jesus on a cross. And so, grace reigned over my sin, my failure, as David experienced. David saw the angel of Yahweh standing over Jerusalem with sword drawn, ready to destroy there too. And David saw it all stop, in grace. Yahweh changed His mind, relented of the evil about to happen, was sorry for the people of Jerusalem, and stopped it. 

Read the Hebrew Scriptures and discover the grace of our Creator in fresh ways. The accounts of our Creator demonstrating grace among these accounts helps us better appreciate Jesus, and ourselves before His presence. On the threshing floor of Ornan (Arunah in 2 Samuel 24), David makes an altar, and offers an offering to Yahweh. According to tradition, eventually, on that site, David’s son, Solomon will build the temple. And, eventually, the Savior will teach in the courts there, teach of the grace of Yahweh.

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