God claims to be compassionate, forgiving, and slow to anger. And that’s what other people always say about him in the Bible, too. David repeatedly said God was compassionate and slow to anger. The prophets Joel and Jonah said the same thing, and that he relents from sending calamity. Nahum, too, said God was slow to anger, and Jeremiah described him as long-suffering. And the New Testament says that God is love, and that love is not easily angered.
Here are all the stories in the Bible where God demonstrates how slow he is to anger:
- God wasn’t too hard on Sarah for laughing at his message. (Though he must have done something to make her so afraid to admit she’d done it.)
- God didn’t get angry when Abraham repeatedly challenged God’s plan to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. He didn’t seem to mind him asking what God would do if there were increasingly small numbers of good people there. (Though Abraham wasn’t confident enough to go all the way down to one good person. And he seemed awfully timid about the whole thing.)
- God cooperated with Gideon when he repeatedly tested God by asking for signs that it was really him. (Though Gideon sure seemed to expect God to be angry.)
- When Job spent most of his story talking about how cruel and unjust God was, God waited a long time before reacting at all. And then he didn’t do anything worse in response than making fun of Job. (Because he had done way more than enough to him already. And God was still intimidating enough that Job ended up declaring himself to be in the wrong, for no logical reason at all.)
That’s about it. If God is really so slow to anger, how can there be so few accounts of him acting that way? And why do the people even in those stories expect him not to be so? Because most of the time, God is not actually slow to anger at all.
Some people said “Does the Lord become impatient?”, apparently implying that they think that’s not the kind of thing he would do. But the prophet Micah didn’t seem to think people should say that, because God does become impatient, very easily.
In the Bible, God is always getting ridiculously angry over the most insignificant things, and killing people before they have a chance to do anything good to redeem themselves. (And often before they even have a chance to actually do anything bad to deserve it.)
Getting angry is not a rare thing for God. He displays his stormy wrath every day. It terrifies and consumes people. He is a jealous and avenging God, who is filled with wrath and vents it against his enemies. His surges of anger may not always last very long, but he gets so angry that the mountains shake and the whole earth trembles. No one can stand before him and endure his wrath.
God pursues people with anger and slays them without pity. His anger reduces people to nothing. It drives him to kill and kill and kill, and then he’s still just as angry. Sometimes the Bible says God will stay angry at his people forever. Even when he sets aside all his wrath, he’s still angry!
(Keep in mind that God is being “patient” and “merciful” and restraining his anger throughout all of this. So he’s really even angrier than he seems. If he let his true anger show, he would have just killed everybody a long time ago. And the only reason he holds back his wrath at all is that he figures he can get more people to praise him that way, not because he cares about anyone other than himself.)
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