If you have young kids and PBS, you might be familiar with the show Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. If your little ones are now big, you may remember Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood. Daniel Tiger is the modern cartoon of Mr. Roger, trolley and all. The show attempts to teach kids how to handle different situations by putting a catch phrase to music and teaching it to the viewers. It apparently works, because every now and then, Kemper will bust out the songs in the appropriate situation. The other day Camden got mad at Kemper and smacked him. Camden and I had yet another discussion about he cannot just hit or kick the closest thing or person when he gets mad. Then as I was comforting Kemper, between dramatic sobs, he said, “Cam didn’t take a deep breath and count to four.” For the next hour, I couldn’t help singing the catchy little song from Daniel Tiger, “When you feel so mad that you wanna roar, take a deep breath and count to four.” Here’s a link to the song just in case you want to be haunted by it for the rest of the day. (You’re welcome.)
Once I stopped singing the song, I started thinking about what had happened with my boys. Camden shouldn’t have hit, but his anger was building up and it had to be released; Kemper was the unfortunate recipient. Learning to control anger is hard. When kids get mad, the anger has to be transferred to something. Some kids throw the nearest toy, others lash out and hit, kick, or bite, and others yell. (I think we’ve experienced all of the above at our house.) It happens to us as adults, too; that volcano on the verge of eruption feeling. We’re just a little better about pushing the hot lava back down, but sometimes it spills over onto the nearest innocent victim (for me, it’s usually my kids). If you try really hard, I bet you can remember the last time you had that feeling, maybe it’s still fresh and the lava is starting to bubble up again. Well, I started to think about that anger from God’s point of view.
Several places in the Bible, God’s wrath and anger toward sin is mentioned. In the old testament, Ezekiel is called by God to warn Israel and other nations about the Lord’s anger and judgement. In Ezekiel 7:8-9, his prophecy reads, “I (the Lord) am about to pour out my wrath on you and spend my anger against you. I will judge you according to your conduct and repay you for all your detestable practices. I will not look on you with pity; I will not spare you. I will repay you for your conduct and for the detestable practices among you.” God sounds a little ticked off there. Based on this passage, it’s safe to say that God knows anger. I think he can relate to the verge of eruption feeling, but his is a righteous anger; he should be angry at our sin. We are all sinners, guilty of detestable practices. We cannot live up to the expectations of a holy and righteous God. “Indeed, there is no one on earth who is righteous, no one who does what is right and never sins,” (Ecclesiastes 7:20). So here is our holy and perfect God, on the verge of eruption because of his anger about our sins. His power is so great that he could destroy the entire earth and all of the sinners on it – including you and me – in an instant. Instead though, God took his anger out on an innocent man — his son. Jesus Christ was not simply a victim of God’s wrath, though; he was a willing recipient of the punishment. In the garden of Gethsemane before his crucifixion, Jesus prayed to his Father, “Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will’” (Matthew 26:39). Though Jesus asked God for relief from the punishment, he was willing to do what his Father needed him to do. He was willing to be the innocent victim taking the wrath intended for us. God’s extreme anger toward our sins has to go somewhere, he cannot hold it in. His anger isn’t transferred into throwing, hitting, kicking, biting, or yelling, but we as deserving sinners must be punished. Jesus Christ willingly took that punishment. I can’t imagine the mixture of pain and anger that God must have experienced as his son hung on the cross. My anger eruptions don’t even compare. I do know that the next time I’m on the verge of an anger explosion, or I try to teach my kids to stay calm when the anger bubbles inside of them, I will remember the punishment that I deserve as a sinner and thank Jesus for his sacrifice in enduring a punishment intended for me.
Father, please forgive me for my sin. You have every right to punish me and release your wrath, but instead you punished your own son so that I may be forgiven. Thank you, Father, for the amazing gift of forgiveness and the grace and mercy you show to me though I don’t deserve it. Jesus thank you for bearing the brunt of your Father’s wrath so that I may have the chance to spend eternity in your glory.