How comfortable are you with God’s anger? Likely, not very. Psalms like these are more relatable in times of serious civil unrest, like in the time of David. If our country were being bombed and attacked, under constant threat by enemy powers, we would be more comfortable with God’s anger. In our current situation, God’s anger can seem…superfluous. Immature. Barbaric. Unnecessary. Well, I invite you to join me in worshiping our violent God.
Because the powers God wages war on are violent. The devil sends his tendrils out towards all hearts, hoping to draw them in with sweet seduction to the place of death. Like a siren, he sings sweet melodies that bring men and women to shipwreck themselves and lose themselves. The form that takes is different in 21st century Australia, but it is the same actor at work. It is a secret, cunning violence, yet a violence all the same.
And our God, like a great fire-breathing dragon descended on Satan at the resurrection. Our slavers looked up to see His fury against them, pouring out molten wrath upon them. A consuming fire that filled every cunning hiding place, leaving Satan in desolation, defeated. Plucked with love from the scorched earth is Christ and His Church, leaving Satan and his kin to waste away in a barren wasteland. The forces of evil that so seek our damnation crushed and burned in the fire of God’s wrath.
This is our God, who destroys the destroyer. Who does violence to the author of evil. We do not yet know the weight of sin, when God’s violent hatred for it is not understood. We do not know just how long and vile the devil’s tendrils are, how pure and lovely God’s creation would be without them.
When we abhor God’s anger against sin, we embrace the siren’s song that leads us to the God of our imagination, Satan. The song that calls us to take a measured, reasonable, nuanced, modern Western perspective of sin. To sin is to invite the desolation of God, as this Psalm shows us.
Love the true God, who has saved you by the grace of Christ from His all-consuming fire.
I love you, Lord, my strength.
The Lord is my rock,
my fortress, and my deliverer,
my God, my rock where I seek refuge,
my shield and the horn of my salvation,
I called to the Lord, who is worthy of praise,
and I was saved from my enemies.
The ropes of death were wrapped around
the torrents of destruction terrified me.
The ropes of Sheol entangled me;
the snares of death confronted me.
I called to the Lord in my distress,
and I cried to my God for help.
From his temple he heard my voice,
and my cry to him reached his ears.
Then the earth shook and quaked;
the foundations of the mountains trembled;
they shook because he burned with anger.
Smoke rose from his nostrils,
and consuming fire came from his mouth;
coals were set ablaze by it.
He bent the heavens and came down,
total darkness beneath his feet.
He rode on a cherub and flew,
soaring on the wings of the wind.
He made darkness his hiding place,
dark storm clouds his canopy around him.
From the radiance of his presence,
his clouds swept onward with hail and blazing coals.
The Lord thundered from heaven;
the Most High made his voice heard.
He shot his arrows and scattered them;
he hurled lightning bolts and routed them.
The depths of the sea became visible,
the foundations of the world were exposed,
at your rebuke, Lord,
at the blast of the breath of your nostrils.
He reached down from on high
and took hold of me;
he pulled me out of deep water.
He rescued me from my powerful enemy
and from those who hated me,
for they were too strong for me.
They confronted me in the day of my calamity,
but the Lord was my support.
He brought me out to a spacious place;
he rescued me because he delighted in me.
The Lord rewarded mepsalm xviii:1-24 (csb)
according to my righteousness;
he repaid me
according to the cleanness of my hands.
For I have kept the ways of the Lord
and have not turned from my God to wickedness.
Indeed, I let all his ordinances guide me
and have not disregarded his statutes.
I was blameless toward him
and kept myself from my iniquity.
So the Lord repaid me
according to my righteousness,
according to the cleanness of my hands in his sight.