Thursday, September 8, 2011

"Contradictions in the Word of God": #1 - How Long Does Yahweh's Anger Last?

This may be the first of several posts on the subject of supposed Biblical contradictions.  I have been challenged by a younger man who, it appears, doubts the Scripture as well as questions God although I am not certain how deep that questioning goes.   Is he an athiest?  I don't know. 

The alleged contradictions presented to me are ones that have been hurled at the Bible for centuries to no avail.  I doubt if I present anything new to the debate in these matters and am certain anyone with internet access (i.e., you if you are reading this post!) can find others who articulate responses to these contradictions much better than I can.  Nevertheless, I will respond to at least a few of them over the coming days as time permits.  Also, I will try to be as brief as possible. 

"How long does Yahweh's anger last?"  "Forever or not forever."  The references given for this "contradiction" are Micah 7:18 and Jeremiah 17:4.  The Scripture contains similar verses for each of these so I will simply stick with these two in my response.

First, the anger (or wrath) of God is a very real attribute just like His love. His wrath is the nature of God which intensely hates any and all sin. God responds to sin with His wrath.

Jeremiah 17:4 states "... for in my anger a fire is kindled that shall burn forever". The Hebrew word translated "forever" comes from the word "what is hidden", especially "hidden time" or "long time". It is used to describe eternity (or forever) but the basic understanding of the word is "for a long time."  But there is nothing wrong with translating the word as "forever".

The context of Jeremiah 17 reveals the Lord is responding to the sin of Judah. They have sinned and God announces the loss of their heritage and their servitude to enemies. God's wrath, as a result of their sin, is upon them forever.

But the context of Micah 7 is entirely different. In verse 18 of that chapter we read, "Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love."

Now we see the love and mercy of God in contrast to His wrath. He pardons sin and restrains His wrath because of His love. But this is not the same audience. These individuals are the remnant, not the rebellious we see in Jeremiah 17. These have turned from the sin and are now trusting their Savior. For them, God's wrath does not last forever.

There is no contradiction between these two verses (or similar verses in the Scripture).  God's wrath will remain FOREVER upon those who refuse to repent of their sins and trust in Christ. Jeremiah 17 is absolutely correct for those individuals. They will experience the wrath of God forever in the abode of Hell.

But for those who have trusted Christ, God's wrath has been appeased by the death of Christ (Romans 3:23-25). For this "remnant", we longer live under His wrath and will never experience. Praise God "he does not retain his anger forever!"

So, the question is not one of contradiction. Rather, the question is in which group are you? Based on your skepticism of God's Word, I fear you are in the same position as those in Jeremiah 17. I fear, young man, for your soul. Even now, the wrath of God is upon you (John 3:36) and it will remain upon you forever.

But there is hope and His name is Jesus! I encourage you to consider Him, ask for God to forgive you of your sins, and throw yourself on His mercy. He will save you from the wrath of God! 

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