Many people are very uncomfortable when they read about God’s wrath and the violence that accompanies it. In Isaiah 59:16 and again in 63:5 I found two very similar statements that shed some critical light on this. Both verses indicate that no one was able to accomplish the work of salvation so God did by himself. Then as the sentence continues, in 59 it says that his righteousness sustained him, but in 63 is says his wrath sustained him. This tells us that God’s anger and wrath are part of, and flow out of his righteousness, his virtue and morality.
It is difficult to find an illustration that helps us understand this because God remains perfect holy and pure in his wrath (in fact if he did not act on it he would abandon his holiness) while we decidedly do not. In spite of that, I will forge ahead and risk the folly.
While working at Rafter Six Guest Ranch I was leading a horse through a confined area of the corral system past another loose horse. The second horse didn’t like that the horse I was leading had crowded into his personal space and tried to let my horse know it with a swift kick. Unfortunately he missed and ended up nailing me full on my right buttocks.
Horse herd culture works on a well defined pecking order. A dominant horse needs to ensure all lower horses are kept in their place or he will fall to a lower place on the pecking order. Most of the time this is done with intimidation though sometimes a bite or a kick is necessary. For people to safely work around a herd all the horses must know that all humans top this pecking order.
My response to being kicked was based on this hierarchy. I turned on the offending horse and began to whip the lead shank around and around, slapping it on the ground in front of the horse and pushing him into a corner. I never touched him with it because even though he was afraid, he never turned his butt to me but instead indicated submission. I stopped and lowered my head and the horse turned and approached me whereupon I petted his nose to let him know I accepted his apology.
Admittedly this analogy falls short on so many levels, but my wrathful response was righteous and necessary. God’s wrathful response to my sinfulness fell fully on Jesus, for which I am and will be eternally grateful and surrendered to his righteousness.