38 But He, being full of compassion, forgave their iniquity, and did not destroy them. Yes, many a time He turned His anger away, and did not stir up all His wrath; 39 For He remembered that they were but flesh, a breath that passes away and does not come again. (Psalm 78:38–39, NKJV)
God shows repeated kindness and mercy to us. With reoccurring compassion, God did not fully destroy His people when Israel sinned against Him over and over. Psalm 78 rehearses the sad history of Israel’s rebellion against God. He gave Israel great and marvelous blessings by delivering His people from Egyptian slavery and sustaining them through the wilderness on the way to the promised land. Yet, Israel continually rebelled against God and provoked His wrath. He punished them, but He also had compassion on them by not pouring out His full wrath upon them. God shows “mercy to thousands, to those who love (Him) and keep (His) commandments” (Exodus 20:6). While He is “slow to anger and great in power,” He “will not at all acquit the wicked” (Nahum 1:3). God’s forgiveness is abundant. He is ready and able to forgive. But we must not tempt God by refusing His will, thinking His mercy gives us freedom to sin. Like Israel, we must turn away from our sins, love Him and keep His commands (Luke 13:3, 5; 1 John 1:9). God knows our failures and sins. He is full of compassion and forgiveness. Turn to Him for mercy to escape His wrath.
31 Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. 32 And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. (Ephesians 4:31–32, NKJV)
Bitterness is like acid eating through one’s heart. There is no room for compassion, kindness and merciful forgiveness in the bitter heart. The companions of bitterness are angry, resentful responses, evil words and ill will. Christians must put away all these things from their hearts. This can be done by recalling the kindness of God toward us in Christ. God could have been bitter toward us because of our sins against Him. But, His kind love forgives us in Jesus. There can be no room in our hearts for bitter resentment. Be kind. Be merciful. Forgive. That’s how God has treated you in His Son, Jesus Christ.
15 And the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains, 16 and said to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! 17 For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?” (Revelation 6:15–17, NKJV)
Jesus Christ is “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). And, He is also the One whose wrath was poured out upon the persecutors of the early saints, to whom the book of Revelation gave assurance in the midst of tribulation (Revelation 1:1-3, 7). His day of judgment against wickedness is “the great day of His wrath.” Those who fight against God, His purposes and His people prefer the mountains and rocks to fall on them, to hide them from the fierceness of His wrath; yet, there is no relief; there is no escape. The great day of the Lord is coming, and when He returns, the material world will melt with fervent fire (2 Peter 3:10-14). Only those who are saved by the blood of the Lamb will stand in that day (John 5:26-29). When it comes, will it be your day of salvation, or your day of wrath? You decide. Obey the gospel, and be saved by the blood of the Lamb (Revelation 5:6-12).
3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. 4 For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. (Romans 13:3–4, NKJV)
God ordained “governing authorities” (human governments), and He expects “every soul” to respect and yield to such authority (Romans 13:1). Today’s passage explains that God set these authorities in place, to protect the innocent, and to punish evil doers. Lenski comment is worth repeating here: “The world is full of wicked men, and God has placed rulers among them to check and to control this wickedness by means of laws and penalties, all of them being directed, not against good deeds, but against evil deeds” (Commentary on Romans, 789). There is no hesitation in the apostle’s explanation that governing authorities have God’s permission to “execute wrath” on the evil doer. The use of capital punishment is approved, since “the sword” referred to in verse 4 is the actual sword used by the executioner, as he applies the death penalty on criminals. When governments become a terror to good works, God removes them (Daniel 4:25, 34-35; Jeremiah 18:5-11). For our part, let us “do what is good,” and thank God for the protection He provides us by means of governing authorities.
1 Gather yourselves together, yes, gather together, O undesirable nation, 2 Before the decree is issued, or the day passes like chaff, before the Lord’s fierce anger comes upon you, before the day of the Lord’s anger comes upon you! 3 Seek the Lord, all you meek of the earth, who have upheld His justice. Seek righteousness, seek humility. It may be that you will be hidden in the day of the Lord’s anger. (Zephaniah 2:1–3, NKJV)
The great day of the Lord’s judgment was about to descend upon “undesirable” (shameless) Judah. Before it did, God’s prophet Zephaniah called on people to repent and return to humble righteousness. God’s fierce anger would be unleashed against the nation that had turned its back on Him. Babylon executed God’s punishment, but those who would “seek the Lord” found shelter from the storm of divine wrath. God decides when He will bring down a nation for its stubborn sins (Jeremiah 18:7-11). Now is the time for men and women to seek the Lord and find shelter for their souls. Judgment is coming, not merely upon nations, but upon the whole world (2 Peter 3:10-12). The mercy and salvation of God in Christ Jesus protects those who live by faith, doing His will (2 Peter 3:13-15).
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. (Romans 1:18–19, NKJV)
God has shown His power and deity to mankind. This truth, that “may be known of God,” has been revealed by God Himself (v. 19). The very existence of this universe testifies of His creative power and divine nature (Rom. 1:20). The psalmist David recognized this when he wrote, “The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night reveals knowledge. There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard” (Psa. 19:1-3). Since God’s creation speaks of His power and deity, all who reject and oppose this truth are “without excuse” and under divine wrath (Rom. 1:20). God’s wrath is directed against “all ungodliness and unrighteousness” – these sins “suppress” (hold down) the truth that God has made known about Himself. Sins against God and against men display faithlessness that is seen and punished by our Creator. Therefore, God’s wrath against sin is an incentive to know Him and obey His truth, not oppose Him.
10 The days of our lives are seventy years; And if by reason of strength they are eighty years, yet their boast is only labor and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away. 11 Who knows the power of Your anger? For as the fear of You, so is Your wrath. 12 So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. (Psalm 90:10–12, NKJV)
The brevity and uncertainty of life persuades us to measure our conduct by the will of God. Eternity is ahead. Our bodies and our brains are wearing out; We will die. We exercise, we regulate our diet, we rest, we see our doctors, and so it goes. Still, we grow old, and die. What will you have to show for your life at the end of your days? Only “labor and sorrow” if you have not lived with reverence for God and His will in your life. After death comes judgment, and God’s wrath against your sin (Heb. 9:27). But, you do not have to face wrath after life on earth. Salvation in Christ will free you from the fear of death (1 Cor. 15:56-57). Learn from God’s word, and live your days according to divine wisdom. Then, whether your days are many or few, instead of divine wrath after death, you will be carried away to the eternal rest, peace and glory of the righteous (Lk. 16:22). The choice is yours. Your days are short. Today is the day of salvation.