I studied out Lamentations recently, prompted first by Henry Kriete's book Worship the King, in which he wrote about the 'Rivers of Fire' and the searing wrath of God. It made me question how I view anger and why I rarely show it. I was brought up to believe that anger was wrong and that the 'stiff upper lip' was in general a virtue, even if not appropriate in every situation. God is described as slow to anger in Exodus 34:6, as well as compassionate and gracious, and this is what I tried to imitate. What I did not admit was that it does not say God is never angry, and that in v. 7 he 'does not leave the guilty unpunished.' In the New Testament, not only did Jesus show righteous anger for his Father's house when he cleared the temple, but Paul wrote, 'In your anger do not sin.' This shows that anger itself is not necessarily sin, although it can lead to sin.
I then read Deuteronomy chapter 28: 15ff, the curses for disobedience, and it left me shuddering. God would bring on Israel every one of their worst nightmares if they fell away from him. He threatened failure of their crops and livestock through climatic changes, biological catastrophes and war. Things would get so bad that the gentlest of mothers would eat her child's placenta in secret so she would not have to share it with her other children. What would today's equivalent be? 'You will have five children who will all be heroine addicts, rob you, kill your spouse and all die of overdoses before your eyes. An epidemic of Foot and Mouth disease will mean all your cattle, pigs and sheep have to be slaughtered. Your pension fund, bank and every investment will collapse and you will lose all your life's savings. Flooding does irreparable damage to your house which you just finished paying for -- and insurance will not cover you for 'acts of God'. You lose many jobs through no fault of yours. You have to file for bankruptcy. A new car is stolen before you use it. You are framed by an enemy and are under police surveillance. You pay protection money. Your spouse commits adultery with your best friend in church. Your trust is decimated. You move house and all your possessions are stolen by the removal company.