His Voice, His Wrath, and His Punishment (#575)

Lately Brad and Wayne have been caught up in numerous conversations about their ideas about discerning God's voice, his wrath as it defines his character, and his punishment as it relates to our struggle with sin. Many feel God has only left us with the Scriptures to guide us will not make his voice and will known to us as we live our lives. Is that even what the Scriptures teach? Is God a God of wrath that sometimes loves, or a God of love who sometimes has to act in that love in severe ways? Until we know God as a loving presence in the universe, we won't understand those times he acts to restrain sin and preserve humanity's redemption.

Podcast Notes:
Whose Afraid of the Big, Bad Shack, by Wayne
The article from John Piper's Desiring God Website about God not talking today: What Does ‘The Shack’ Say About Your Pain?
You can find our latest update on our work in Kenya here.
Add your voice to our question/comment line via Skype at "TheGodJourney"

16 Comments

  1. Another good and helpful conversation gentlemen and Brothers. My own “take” on all this is to focus on the Ultimate Reality, the Truth that God is indeed LOVE. From that I am able to view Scripture and everything else with Christ in me, trusting the Holy Spirit as that indwelling Presence of Divine LOVE Themselves.

    So, I have come to see “wrath” as the state that arises when evil comes up against LOVE; rather than some aspect of God’s character. Evil has its consequences when it opposes LOVE, I believe wrath is that state of tension in the Universe. I could say much more about Salvation, etc, but it would be a much too lengthy treatise here.

    Suffice to say with the “disciple whom Jesus loved”, “God is LOVE.”

  2. I love love love this podcast! When Brad brought up Ananias and Sapphira my jaw just about hit the floor! I’ve been hoping to hear someone explain what, for so many, has meant that Father is “still” a vengeful wrathful God and you walked us through it so well. I would never have considered that their death was not an act of vengeance directed at their sin but rather Father’s motivation to protect the foundation He was laying for the early church. Again and again and again I am brought back to see how love is Father’s entire motivation in all He’s done and continues to do. Maybe it’ll sink in one day that I am completely and absolutely loved and anything and everything Father is inclined to towards me is based in that love. Amazing stuff guys!! Thanks! Bob

  3. That was a very helpful/informative conversation. Thank you.

    I spent an uncomfortable period of my life in “reformed” circles” and the sovereignty of God was very prominent in preaching and discussions. The gymnastics required to explain free will in ways that ended up not being free will could border on amusing if it wasn’t so far from passing the “smell test”.

    I am open to clarification or change if persuaded otherwise (convinced by the Holy Spirit to hold a different conviction) but I believe God, in his sovereignty, sovereignly chose to give us, created in his image, free will. However, he did not give up his free will. When “sovereigntists” conclude that we can control or limit God in our exercise of our free will, it requires an unwarranted conclusion in their stating of the case.

    Many of the questions that essentially express “why does God do what he does? ” (at least apparently as we see it), are often observed and interpreted through the lens of our understanding of the words of God and some thought process that in essence is saying “What would I do if I was God?”. The main problem is that I don’t know everything and the interrelationship between different people and varying events.

    I liked the discussion and perspective speculated on as regards Annais and Saphira. It was somewhat compelling and will be considered. I’m certainly not criticizing it, but with many matters/mystery’s that are difficult to understand, I try to hold them loosely preferring to trust God. More often than not, they are not totally critical to the essence of the “christian life” and often simply trusting God with something I’m not dogmatic about (or am dogmatic about) is the preferable alternative. I will confess I am not immune to the temptation of wanting to be right and wanting to argue with others to “help them” to think rightly like I do…..smile.

    As regards hearing from God, I would think our conversations are informed by the words of God (bible) but to say their is no interaction specific to my life as he speaks to me and leads me would be a belief I do not hold. If we only think that God speaks through actual scripture reading or listening, then why do reachers keep talking after they’ve read the words? And how much fear would it induce in me to have to have confidence that my understanding of what all the verses mean is correct? I know I have periodically changed my understanding and beliefs, so when could I be sure I now know it all rightly?

    I love that God loves me passionately and that he exercises his wrath passionately in protecting us from sin and evil!

  4. You guys rock! I love what you two have to say about God’s wrath! I no longer see God as an angry God, but as pure love and pure goodness! I remember one time asking Him if I could know Him better. His reply to me was…”Shannon, you already do know Me! You know that I am Good and you know that I am Love. Everything else needs to be filtered through those two foundational truths.”

    Brad, I also loved your analogy about communication between Sarah & Wayne!! That is such a great picture! I could not get through a day without talking to Papa and hearing his voice!

  5. Morning, thanks for this discussion. I have some thoughts to share.

    Possibility. This leaves open the chance (and oh, how big it is) that I am wrong. That I see God wrongly, that I hear what I only wish to hear, that I’m looking for my answer to my “desperate” question.
    If I have learned anything from the “fall” of Adam, it is that man is trying to answer all questions and not let God.

    God does talk to everyone that will listen, and I am sure to everyone else but they do not hear. For me, I prefer that he talks clearly and easily understandable, but I know that I don’t let him, often. Free will gives me the possibility of discovery. I am not a robot to be programmed, but I am the loved son of my Father. Love does not force. We would see that as efficient, but efficiency is not the goal, but that I discover that I am loved and in a relationship with the 3.

    I have spent most of my 50 years teaching myself through experience wrong ideas about myself and my relationships with others and with God. He is patient and has been undoing the lies that I have been taught, nudging me towards the truth and towards a true relationship with him. But sometimes he speaks clearly, at those moments when I am ready to make great growth.

    One such time: 16 years ago, for over a year I was a struggling with a decision, to move my family and seek employment elsewhere for health reasons. During all of that time, he was silent, as I became frustrated with a lack of an answer to my cries and prayers. One day in solitude I angrily cried out, “Why are you not talking to me anymore!” Before the last word left my mind, he replied, “Why are you not listening?” He was right; I was not. I waiting for my chosen answer. That started me down a path of trust. For 6 months I learned to trust him more, until I cried out again in pain, “I don’t know what to do?” His reply was “You know that I’ll take care of you and your family.” Trust and listen.

    15 years later I am still learning that I am not the author of my own script, but that his script for me is better than anything that I could have ever created for myself. I am free to chose and I chose to trust and listen.

    • Love that story, William. How often we’ve all done that. Learning to follow him and not follow our own thoughts thinking they are his is the challenge…

  6. I have readthe book and seen the movie. If I understood the comment from Piper, God only speaks to believers through the Bible and not directly to individual through thoughts and ” nudges.” If Piper is correct, then that might imply or beg the guestion why listen to sermons, “Christian radio teaching” and completely silent all those who say, “God told me to….”. Just thoughts. About the movie, usually after attending a “church ” service or some other such place of teaching, my wife and I walk out saying, thinking, it was okay but….. Walking out of the movie, there were no buts, just well said and done. Thank you Wayne and Brad

  7. As I started listening, I thought about Psalm 19–His voice has gone out to all the earth. As for the “wrath of God,” Baxter Kruger has an interesting notion on that:–God’s wrath is directed towards evil, towards non-being.

  8. I fell in love with Jesus and Scripture when I was a preteen. Now a I am 60. My parents were very secular people so I did not have much direction in my walk with the Lord. I had to learn to seek God for solutions to problems. God has always spoken to my heart. Many times it has been through reading His word. But also there are times that is has come through that still small voice or gentle nudges as Wayne described. It is very sad that there are followers of Christ that miss this precious interaction with the Lord. Where would we be without it. In a podcast sometime ago Wayne made a statement along this line. God is a Spirit. It is reasonable that He would speak to our hearts to guide us. Thanks again for your podcast.

  9. Thanks for the podcast guys!

    I’m on your page totally when it comes to Fathers wrath and all that! Reading the Bible through the lens of a loving Father changes everything!

    I would love your thoughts on Job. Piper used Job as a proof that God is sovereign and can do whatever he likes and we have to suck it up, ( I May have paraphrased that slightly ).

    I’ve read Job heaps of times, and Piper is correct in that Father didn’t explain himself at all, simply pointed out that Job wasn’t there when he made all of creation!

    I have heard this used quite often to say that Father
    1. Causes pain in our life if he likes
    2. Is totally sovereign and will do as he pleases.

    My thoughts on this I am holding quite loosely, but I am of the view that, yes, Father did cause all his woes, but like a Father who knows that a growing teenage son needs some hardship and trial to bring out the maturity of manhood in him, he knew that this would actually be more loving for Job, and he would gain more life and a deeper relationship with him.

    If relationship is the primary and main focus of all that Father does in this world, then pain very often does cause us to focus on what really matters in life.

    As far as not telling Job why he caused all this, rather than proving that God can do as he likes, I see it as the best answer for Job right then, in that context, for Job to overcome his still self righteous attiatude. This was obviously the best way for Father to draw Job in closer.

    Any thoughts on this would be great, I’ve been bothered by this book for years, and only recently has my thinking been changing on it….

    • Hi David,

      I’ve thought about Job a lot as well. Is it not true that God didn’t do the “bad stuff” to Job, it was Satan. However, God’s involvement raises the question I find more difficult to deal with, namely why didn’t God prevent the pain and suffering. Of course why not for Job, but why not for me and/or everyone else? Why do we continue in a fallen world when Jesus already defeated sin? It can seem like an arbitrary time that pain and suffering is going to continue until the second coming (or our individual rescue called death if it precedes the second coming).

      I find it interesting that Job never was told why everything that happened to him, happened. It may be most difficult for me in this life when I don’t understand the “why’s” of life, and more specifically, the why’s of God’s apparent actions or seeming inactions. Of course, in many if not most instances, I trust God. That trust grows mostly as I consider and grow in the knowing of who it is that I trust (in contrast to trying to figure the why’s out). Trusting him in “good times” may be even more “difficult” because it may seem I don’t know how to, or what it actually looks like (beyond things like trusting him for the future or the unknown thing/things I’m just not aware of, or things I don’t have a seeming connection to). It boils down to learning inside of relationship what “in all my ways” means and looks like)

      In the end it is mostly about who I trust and the dynamic that he is working in the midst of all things for good as relates to me because I love him and believe I have been called according to his purposes, the main purpose being the knowing of him – eternal life! I like to call it living inside the big soul, as opposed to the confines of my small soul.

      Truly I grow in times of pain and suffering, but I believe I have come to understand that God does not bring the pain and suffering, deals with it and me according to his wisdom, and that I am content trusting him in and through much of what quite frankly, I don’t understand. It helps me to remind myself of the reality that I don’t know everything, but trust the one that does.

      • Sorry, just one more thing. I used to read God’s response to Job in the tone of the angry, impatient, hard to please “tough guy” that was “kicking butt and taking names”.

        When I read it now with the tone of an all powerful loving friend who has my back and is telling me what he is capable of when I can’t do things in my limitedness (ie. “where were you when I……..”), and letting me know I can trust him because of what he is capable of, then I am encouraged rather than offended by someone pulling rank. Before, my pride would take a hit as in having been “put in my place”. Now it is recognizing who’s son I am and that he need not be feared (in the debilitating way).

        Instead I can trust him and enjoy him (including all the riches in Christ Jesus because the trinity is a “package deal”, so to speak)

  10. The question of Job is an interesting one. I am reminded of Ephesians 6:12. “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”

    I wonder if we have forgotten that there is more going on than what meets the eye – the physical eye, or our own singular spiritual eye.

    Why are we on this earth in the very same place where Satan was cast down? Why was Satan even allowed to be on the earth with God’s creation? It begs the question: What is our purpose in light of this cosmic conflict?

    Perhaps our faith in the goodness of God in spite of impossible odds is more about something happening in the heavenly places than simply the pain we find ourselves in. The challenge placed in Job’s life was Satan’s attempt to discredit God and that if Job experienced pain the bet was that he would curse God. He didn’t. And even though he did not get everything right and did not understand it, in the end Job continued to believe God and refused to turn away. The ramifications of that not turning away seems to me to have spiritual consequences in the heavenly places – against Satan.

    At the end of Job, I think God simply reveals to Job that our human understanding it very limited. That there are things going on that we are not completely aware of. That we do not see clearly the unseen spiritual conflict that is going on. Perhaps learning to trust completely in God in spite of pain does something in the spiritual world that soundly defeats the enemy.

    I am not talking about “spiritual warfare” as described by some Christians which has gotten sort of weird as far as I am concerned, but having some recognition of the fact that there is greater story going on outside of our immediate realm of awareness, may help put some perspective on those things we are not understanding.

  11. Hello…just wanting to let you know that your e comversation re pain and our response is so appreciated. So much to sort through John and Tom. Thinking of how Jesus is patient rather than hurried and frantic. Bless yu both.

  12. Thanks for your thoughts guys, definitely pain is a very relevant topic for most of us!

    How we see Father either makes the pain a way to grow us as people, or holds us back. If we see Father as anything other than a loving and wise Father who loves his child/teenager/adult child (whatever we resonate with), then we will feel abandoned or betrayed or manipulated or punished.

    If we see Father as a loving and healthy parent, then pain makes sense.

    I was just chatting about this with my wife, and we were discussing our 13 year old son who has issues with things he has looked at in the past and now finding it hard with his imagination. We discussed how that, while we will protect him as much as we can, as he grows, it is his journey, and his desiscions and actions will be his struggle. He will either continue to work with us, communicating and seeking advice ( very open with us at this stage) which will help him to mature and grow until his maturity outweighs his impulses, or he will go it alone and may make some terrible desiscions which will cause a lot of pain for both him and his wife later on.

    We respect his journey, and know that by him working through the consequences of his desiscions he will grow and learn and become a better man. We would love him to always be open and honest with us, but will not push our views into him in a controlling way. If he invites our input, then we will give advice and tools and perspective.

    Hopefully he walks a path of relationship and openness, where he can mature without all so much pain and suffering, only time will tell.

    It wasn’t till after we discussed all this that we realized that this is exactly how Father is for us!

    Gave us a huge sense of love and respect for Father in letting us walk our own journey, as hellish as it has been at times, always there with advice if we listened! We would never wish our story away now, seeing how close it has brought us to Father.
    5 years ago I would never have dreamt so much pain was possible, and still come out a functioning human being! I was extremely blessed that Father saved me and I saw his love, right before all the horrible stuff began, and blind trust got us through for years. Then as we saw the fruit of Fathers spirit working in our hearts, as we followed the nudges, we began to trust more actively, and our trust in his goodness grows more and more as we follow his nudges.

    Perhaps believing he is good only really sinks in when we follow him despite all evedive and logic, and we see the fruit….

  13. Brad and Wayne: I want to thank you both for resisting the urge to discuss specifics of doctrine, morals, principles or theology in your podcasts. I can truthfully say I have been edified by every one I have listened to. Each one has contained a phrase or comment that gave me a ‘nudge’ or ‘inkling’ that set me on an adventure of discovery into the depths of Papa’s heart, and an awakening into His true nature. Sometimes I’ll listen again and get another one. Usually I’m inspired to write a paragraph or two, because it’s all so new to me, and the Spirit always expands it. Needless to say, I have scraps of paper with notes on them dating back 10 years or so, totally unorganized. So far, there have been no repeats, only expansions of what’s already there.

    While listening, however, there have been times when my old fundamentalist mindset caused me to wince. I had to learn to be able to tell the difference, by asking the big questions the same way the two of you do. God always answers the, ‘Is this who you really are?’ question. But the answer is always tailor-made, just for me. And so, though our journeys are similar, they are personal, so they are not alike. I appreciate the flavor of your podcasts: ‘This is what I got this week, what did you get?’ and on into the conversation…..

    The similarity of our journeys is that God has made this real to us: “You have received a spirit of adoption as sons that makes you cry out, ‘Abba, Father!’ The Holy Spirit testifies with our spirit, that we are children of God.” For me, this reality has ripped the lid off of every possible box or distinction. Besides enjoying a genuine, personal relationship with Papa – the likes of which I have never before known – I’ve discovered a new personal relationship with Scripture also.

    Jesus said that His sheep would recognize his voice, and that His Spirit would lead us into all truth, would teach us all things, and bring to our memory everything that Jesus said! So I’m learning to trust the voice, to trust the ‘inklings.’ What excites me is finding these concepts in scripture after I hear them, (new concepts to me) in a totally new light. Like you, Wayne, I have been steeped in Bible hearing, reading, memorizing and study since before I can remember, but, after 55+ years of this, how did I miss so much of it? Apparently God is much more, much bigger than I can imagine. (and so is scripture)

    I’ve kind of lost faith in doctrine, morals, principles and theology. I’m not saying that these do not have value, because they do. But in today’s world, I’ve witnessed these used to define what God cannot or will not do. Thankfully, God will not be limited by any of our musings, no matter how detailed. I’m learning to give up on arguments before they start. After all, I only know what I know, and I don’t know what I don’t know. I’m really dependent on the Holy Spirit to teach me, and I’m happy with that.

    All we really have then, is ‘Abba, Father!’ and we just start from there. Everything we could ever want, or ever need is right there, ‘in Him.’ What a great place to start! What a great place to stay!

    NOTE: I wrote these comments before listening to this podcast. I was looking for a place to post it, and I stumbled across ‘His Voice,’ and decided to drop it here.
    Comments after listening: If God doesn’t speak to people, how do they think Jesus lived his life? Read John’s gospel and you get the impression that Jesus and Father had an ongoing conversation every hour of every day. Father is entrusting himself to Jesus, the same way God entrusts Himself to us today. But for us, this Father-child conversation has to start somewhere.
    For me, learning to hear, then recognizing His voice came first. Somehow, Abba, Father melted through my defensive resistance. Then, that wash of love over me reassured me Abba is trustworthy. Abba begins to entrust Himself to me. I respond, because I can’t help it. I’m drawn by that irresistible force, into the safest place in the universe. I surrender to that force and begin to trust it, my Abba! Beneath this process is a new, unfamiliar conversation. I begin to entrust myself to Abba.
    I KNOW, in the depths of my being, that Abba has planted a seed of trust in my heart. I can’t continue walking in trust without hearing His voice. His voice is my lifeline, every day.

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