Read Micah 7:18-20
18 Where is another God like you,
who pardons the guilt of the remnant,
overlooking the sins of his special people?
You will not stay angry with your people forever,
because you delight in showing unfailing love.
19 Once again you will have compassion on us.
You will trample our sins under your feet
and throw them into the depths of the ocean!
20 You will show us your faithfulness and unfailing love
as you promised to our ancestors Abraham and Jacob long ago. (NLT)
Sadly, our view of God can be shaped as much by our temperaments or our upbringing as by reflection on the Bible. ‘God’ for some is a projection of their worst fears or fondest hopes. However, just telling one and all to get their views about God from the Bible may yet lead to distortion. Different bits of the Bible tell us different bits about God. This prophet Micah is just one example. Like other prophets, Micah pulls no punches in his attacks on the godlessness of people who claim to belong to God. He writes of God’s anger at such conduct and of impending judgement. So we might conclude God is having a hissy fit at human wrongdoing and heaven resounds to his angry outbursts.
And then we come to this passage which concludes the book of Micah. Has God ‘calmed down’? Is he showing his nicer side? Which God is the real God? The God who condemns or the God who forgives. The rather uncomfortable answer is that each is the real God. But rather daringly we might say that one is more basic than the other.
God is love. God is rich in mercy. This doesn’t negate his hatred of wrongdoing and his just action against it, but the ultimate essence of God is not hatred of sin but love of sinners. He hates sin because he loves sinners. He speaks and acts against wrongdoing not because he is bad-tempered but because he hates to see what it does to those he treasures. God is not 50% love or 50% wrath. Not even 90% love and 10% wrath. He is love, but his anger is love expressing itself against all that dehumanises those he loves. Much like a father who physically strikes someone who seeks to abduct his daughter. We can’t fairly accuse such a man of being destructively angry. Rather we recognise his reaction as appropriate given the circumstances.
Ultimately, God’s wrath and love meet at one place: the cross. Human rebellion was dealt with; humans were offered freedom from its penalty. God is truly love, but to grasp that, we need to grasp just what that overused and elusive word might truly mean.