Monday, February 22, 2016

The Self-Harmony of the Bible - 5 (Part Seven)

Does God’s Anger Last Long?
            By reading Psalm 30:4,5 (NWT), which says: “[B]eing under [God’s] anger is only for a moment, But being in his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may come in the evening, but in the morning, there is a joyful cry,” we may – but should not – get the impression that under all circumstances God’s anger is short. So, when we read Numbers 32:13 (NWT), which says: “So Jehovah’s anger blazed against Israel and he made them wander about in the wilderness for 40 years, until all the generation that was doing evil in the eyes of Jehovah came to its end,” we might conclude that God’s anger is not short, therefore the Bible is contradictory. In addition, we may find it hard to reconcile what God says in Jeremiah 3:12 (NWT), namely: “I will not stay resentful forever,” with what he says at Jeremiah 17:4 (NWT), namely: “[Y]ou have kindled my anger like a fire. It will burn for all time.”.
            However, we need to consider the context of each scripture in these contradictory sets. Psalm 30:4,5 is a personal song, so we can say that God’s anger with us due to our sins is not everlasting, but momentary – the effects of the anger may linger on, yet we will have our mourning changed into rejoicing. (Psalm 30:11) Numbers 32:13, however is God’s judgement against an entire nation, who throughout the 40 years of their punishment continued to provoke his wrath. It would be impossible for them to have God’s anger subside, for they had no intention of repenting.
            Similarly, God urges those in Jeremiah’s time: “Return, O renegade Israel . . . I will not look angrily on you, for I am loyal . . . I will not stay resentful forever.” (Jeremiah 3:12 NWT) The duration of God’s anger is therefore dependent on the ones with whom he is angry. In the case of Judah, they had a chance to avert God’s wrath, yet by refusing they forced God to punish them with exile. There, they lived among their enemies, for God’s anger was kindled forever.
            However, it is evident, as has been discussed elsewhere, that “forever” is hyperbole. The generation that went into exile (the targets of God’s hostility) ceased to be alive, and God’s anger with Judah subsided. So, even on a larger scale, God’s anger does not last long, it needed not continue for generation after generation, but the continued provoking of a stubborn people necessitated it; the promise of momentary anger is not unconditional. Still, when their sin had been accounted for, God’s anger faded as he promised.

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