In your anger – March 29, 2020
Arise, O LORD, in your anger; rise up against the rage of my enemies. Awake, my God; decree justice.
The season of Lent is all about justice. If that is not understood, the suffering and death of Jesus of Nazareth remain a mystery.
The images of Lent show us people consumed with rage. One would think the object of that burning anger must have done something despicable. Why else would they accuse him of capital crimes? Why would they delight to see him tortured? Why demand he die?
The Roman governor clearly stated: “I find no fault with him.” That only increased their rage.
In blinding hate, they chose to have a murderer released into their midst instead of the one who broke no laws and harmed no person.
They claimed they wanted justice. In truth, they wanted revenge.
He had insulted them. He had exposed their hypocrisy. He had told them: “You belong to your father, the devil” (John 8:44).
Their rage boiled over because the finger of truth was pointing at their hearts. Their fierce denial only revealed the verity of his words.
Their wrath was not just against the man, Jesus, but against the almighty God in heaven who dared to judge them.
Earlier in this psalm, King David begged the Lord to save him from his enemies lest, “They will tear me like a lion and rip me to pieces with no one to rescue me.”
Those words remind us of the ones the Son of God used to describe his upcoming ordeal: “Roaring lions tearing their prey open their mouths wide against me.” Then he added, “I am poured out like water, all my bones are out of joint” (Psalm 22:13,14).
We might expect to hear of the anger of the God the Father breaking out against those who dared to lay hands on his beloved Son. We might expect to see fire from heaven strike down those who dared defy his demand for holiness.
Not this time.
This time, the thunderbolt of divine justice spared the guilty and struck the innocent.
Was it a mistake? Was it a miscarriage of justice? Did the Lord God strike out in blind rage and hit the wrong person?
Of course not.
This was part of a perfect plan that had been spoken of since the Garden of Eden. This was the way he would crush the serpent’s head. Justice demanded that the guilty die.
And the Son of God stepped in to take the blame.
The last breath of the Crucified One smashed the head of the Evil One. Satan’s death-grip on humanity was broken. The condemned prisoners could go free.
Justice had been served. Punishment had been meted out. The cry of despair had ascended on high: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” The dead silence relayed the answer.
The anger of the Holy One had struck down the Beloved One because he was now the Guilty One.
The prophet wrote: “But the LORD is the true God; he is the living God, the eternal King. When he is angry, the earth trembles; the nations cannot endure his wrath” (Jeremiah 10:10).
We breathe a sigh of relief.
He is not angry with us.
Prayer: “Not in anger, mighty God, not in anger smite us.” We know what our sins deserve. We know how quickly we forget the price you paid to rescue us. We know how easily the “old evil foe” can lead us astray. But we also know of your abiding love and your just verdict that sets us free. Keep us close to you. Keep us free. Amen.
Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Belle Plaine, Minnesota.
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