Isaiah 34:2, 8 (ESV)
For the LORD is enraged against all the nations,
and furious against all their host;
he has devoted them to destruction, has given them over for slaughter.
For the LORD has a day of vengeance,
a year of recompense for the cause of Zion.
Those who say that the God of the Old Testament is a mean, angry God often refer to verses like these. In doing so, they fail to take two additional truths into consideration. First, they fail to understand the depth of mankind’s sin that brought God to this point. The judgment of God is a natural and appropriate recompense for the violence, bloodshed, and depravity of those he is judging. The nations have devoted their own children to destruction in false worship. They have violently invaded other lands. They have raped, murdered, and destroyed. The language of this chapter indicates that God is pouring back upon their heads the very thing they have done to others. It is just recompense.
There the owl nests and lays
and hatches and gathers her young in her shadow;
indeed, there the hawks are gathered,
each one with her mate.
Seek and read from the book of the LORD:
Not one of these shall be missing;
none shall be without her mate.
For the mouth of the LORD has commanded,
and his Spirit has gathered them.
Notice the gentleness and care of this “angry” God. It reminds me of Jesus’ words, “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (Mt 6:26). This “angry” God of the Old Testament is also a gentle God who guards, protects, and provides for the owls and the hawks. He is angry at the sin and destruction of the nations, but he is gentle and caring concerning his creation.
We must be careful not to paint a one-dimensional portrait of God. Throughout the Bible God is always a God of both gentleness and justice, judgment and mercy. He takes sin seriously. He loves and cares deeply. Both are true from Genesis to Revelation. How should we respond to a God like that? Submission and faith, repentance and trust, brokenness and healing. He is a God to take seriously, and to love deeply. Therefore, we take sin in our own lives and communities seriously, yet we live not in fear, but in faith. He is the loving disciplinarian. He is the gentle judge. He is God.