It’s not popular to talk about the wrath of God. Even in Christian circles, we want a God who is like us and who makes us feel good about ourselves. However, if God is holy and just––as Scripture teaches––then it is only reasonable that He would punish sin and judge those who rebel against Him. In this sermon from Psalm 78, David Platt reminds us that God’s wrath is one of His many perfections. The good news of the gospel is that God has sent His own Son to take the wrath that we deserve by dying on the cross.
If you have a Bible—and I hope you do—open with me to Psalm 76. I had a whole introduction written out for this sermon, but yesterday in my quiet time I was in Hosea 10, a book that talks a lot about God’s judgment upon sin and sinners. I read verse 12, where Hosea says to God’s people, “Break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the Lord, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you.” As soon as I read that verse, I was immediately reminded of revivals I’ve read about in church history, where that particular verse was prominent, when God broke up the hearts of His people in fresh, unexpected ways. In the middle of worship, people would fall on their faces, convicted of sin, confessing their sin, crying out for God’s mercy. The monotonous routine of religion was totally broken. People whose hearts were hard and calloused were suddenly softened and God rained down His power and presence in supernatural ways.
I was provoked to pray for us in our gathering today, “God, I don’t want to be part of the monotonous routine of religion. I want to see Your power and Your presence raining down on Your people in fresh ways. I want us to hate sin like You hate sin. I want us to love and worship You in a way that’s not routine. I want our hearts to be softened toward You.”
It’s time to seek the Lord. Look at our country and our culture. Look at the church in our country and our culture. Does anyone doubt that it is time to seek the Lord? It’s time to humble ourselves before Him and cry out for His mercy. Do we see this?
So here’s what I want to do. This text we happen to be in today leads us to cry out for the mercy of God. I will read it and try to explain it, then I want it to lead us into our time of prayer. I just pray that even in the next few minutes God would break up any hard ground in our hearts and in a fresh way convict us of the seriousness of sin and our need for His mercy.
Psalm 76—this is the Word of God:
In Judah God is known;
his name is great in Israel.
His abode has been established in Salem,
his dwelling place in Zion.
There he broke the flashing arrows,
the shield, the sword, and the weapons of war. Selah
Glorious are you, more majestic
than the mountains full of prey.
The stouthearted were stripped of their spoil;
they sank into sleep;
all the men of war
were unable to use their hands.
At your rebuke, O God of Jacob,
both rider and horse lay stunned.
But you, you are to be feared!
Who can stand before you
when once your anger is roused?
From the heavens you uttered judgment;
the earth feared and was still,
when God arose to establish judgment,
to save all the humble of the earth. Selah
Surely the wrath of man shall praise you;
the remnant of wrath you will put on like a belt.
Make your vows to the Lord your God and perform them;
let all around him bring gifts
to him who is to be feared,
who cuts off the spirit of princes,
who is to be feared by the kings of the earth.
O God, please help me to explain the truths that are here. I pray that Your Spirit would convict my heart and our hearts of sin. Soften our hearts and cause us to see, in a fresh way, our need for Your mercy. We don’t want this to be routine. In Your mercy, would You rain down Your presence and Your power through Your Word right now? We pray for this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
So what is God saying to us? Psalm 76 is divided into two halves. The first half of the psalm depicts a historical event when God poured out His wrath on a specific nation that had opposed Him and His people. The second half of the psalm takes that historical event and raises it to another level, showing that ultimately one day God’s wrath will be poured out upon all people who oppose Him.
We don’t know with certainty the specific historical event referenced in the first half, but the Greek translation of the Old Testament actually includes a note from the translators that this psalm is referencing the Assyrians who at one point were attacking Jerusalem. So turn for a minute to 2 Kings 18. I want to show you the historical event that is likely to have been behind Psalm 76. And even if the psalm isn’t referring to this particular event, it’s definitely referring to one like this.
Back in 2 Kings 18, the Assyrian army was in the process of assaulting God’s people. They were taking over city after city in Judah, eventually reaching and surrounding Jerusalem with 185,000 troops ready to pummel the city. The people were scared. Imagine a foreign army taking over major city after major city in the U.S., then finally surrounding Washington with hundreds of thousands of troops on all sides. They were scared. Still, the Israelite king Hezekiah said, “We need to trust God.”
Meanwhile the Assyrian commander was threatening the Israelites. Listen to what he yells to the people, beginning in 2 Kings 18:32:
Do not listen to Hezekiah when he misleads you by saying, The Lord will deliver us. Has any of the gods of the nations ever delivered his land out of the hand of the king of Assyria? Where are the gods of Hamath and Arpad? Where are the gods of Seph-arvaim, Hena, and Ivvah? Have they delivered Samaria out of my hand? Who among all the gods of the lands have delivered their lands out of my hand, that the Lord should deliver Jerusalem out of my hand?
Oh, you don’t say that. He should not have said that. Basically he had just said, “What god can stop us? We’re the Assyrians. No god can stop us.” Well, let us see. Turn over to 2 Kings 19, and listen to what God says in response. Beginning in verse 22, God says to the Assyrians:
Whom have you mocked and reviled? Against whom have you raised your voice and lifted your eyes to the heights? Against the Holy One of Israel! By your messengers you have mocked the Lord, and you have said, ‘With my many chariots I have gone up the heights of the mountains, to the far recesses of Lebanon; I felled its tallest cedars, its choicest cypresses; I entered its farthest lodging place, its most fruitful forest. I dug wells and drank foreign waters, and I dried up with the sole of my foot all the streams of Egypt.
Have you not heard that I determined it long ago? I planned from days of old what now I bring to pass, that you should turn fortified cities into heaps of ruins, while their inhabitants, shorn of strength, are dismayed and confounded, and have become like plants of the field and like tender grass, like grass on the housetops, blighted before it is grown.
But I know your sitting down and your going out and coming in, and your raging against me. Because you have raged against me and your complacency has come into my ears, I will put my hook in your nose and my bit in your mouth, and I will turn you back on the way by which you came.
Them are fighting words. Then listen to what happened. Here’s what happened as a result, beginning in verse 32:
Therefore thus says the Lord concerning the king of Assyria: He shall not come into this city or shoot an arrow there, or come before it with a shield or cast up a siege mound against it. By the way that he came, by the same he shall return, and he shall not come into this city, declares the Lord. For I will defend this city to save it, for my own sake and for the sake of my servant David.
And that night the angel of the Lord went out and struck down 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians. And when people arose early in the morning, behold, these were all dead bodies.
Did you catch that? In an instant—overnight—185,000 were struck down dead. “Then Sennacherib king of Assyria departed and went home and lived at Nineveh. And as he was worshiping in the house of Nisroch his god, Adrammelech and Sharezer, his sons, struck him down with the sword and escaped into the land of Ararat.” The king was killed by his own sons as he knelt before a false god.
Psalm 78 teaches us that God is infinitely worthy of our worship.
With that background we come back to Psalm 76, and it’s clear: there is only one God Who is infinitely worthy of all worship. Psalm 76, verse one—now it makes sense. “In Judah,” where Jerusalem is, “God is known; His name is great.” Verse two, “His abode has been established in Salem.” Salem is shorthand for Jerusalem. “His dwelling place in Zion.” What’s interesting about those words —“abode” and “dwelling place”—is that those same terms are used in other parts of the Old Testament to refer to a lion’s den. The language is awesome and it makes sense in light of 2 Kings. In Jerusalem, God is like a lion in his lair, and He’s ready to pounce on anybody who attacks His glory and His people.
Psalm 78 teaches us that God is glorious above all.
God is worthy of infinite worship because He is glorious above all. There’s no nation, including the mighty Assyria, that can stand against Him. Verse three: He breaks their arrows, their shields, their swords, and their weapons of war. Verse four: “Glorious are you,” O God, “more majestic than the mountains of prey.” Verse six: “At your rebuke, O God of Jacob, both rider and horse lay stunned.” Then verse ten is interesting and baffling. The psalmist says, “Surely the wrath of man shall praise you; the remnant of wrath you will put on like a belt.” In other words, even man’s wrath against God will ultimately bring Him glory, because God has the final word. As we survey the silent battlefield filled with slain Assyrian soldiers, we must stand in awe of the God Whom they had defied.
Psalm 78 teaches us that God is sovereign over all.
God is infinitely worthy of worship because He is glorious above all, He is sovereign over all. Sovereign is a word we often apply to God. It means He has all power and all authority over all things, which is exactly the point of 2 Kings 18-19. God said, “Assyria, you’re in My hands. Israel, you’re in My hands.” We need to see our world today in light of that reality. North Korea is not sovereign. Russia is not sovereign. Syria is not sovereign. Israel is not sovereign. The United States ultimately is not a sovereign nation. The United States, Israel, Syria, Russia, North Korea—God is sovereign over all of them. God is governing the world today with His power and His authority.
Psalm 78 teaches us that God is to be feared by all.
As such, God is to be feared by all. Verse seven: “But you, you are to be feared! Who can stand before you when once your anger is roused?” This is repeated three more times. Verse eight: “The earth feared and was still.” Verse 11: “Bring gifts to him who is to be feared.” Verse 12: the One “who is to be feared by the kings of the earth.” Who of us can stand before this God in all of His holiness, glory, sovereignty and wrath? No one can. Every mouth is silenced before Him.
Psalm 78 teaches us that God is the just Judge of all.
Why? Because God is the just judge of all. Verse eight: “From the heavens you uttered judgment; the earth feared and was still, when God arose to establish judgment.” This is the point where Psalm 76 takes things to another level. Now this is not just about Assyria centuries ago. This is about every single one of us. Psalm 76 is teaching that one day every single person on the planet will stand before God as our Judge and He will be just. When we think about God’s wrath, we need to realize that His wrath is just a demonstration of His judgment. The wrath of God doesn’t just come out of nowhere. It’s not some mere emotional outburst, like we might think of wrath in people. No, divine wrath is the inevitable expression of divine justice. Which is a good thing.
In every one of our hearts we have a longing for justice, don’t we? When we see a gunman shoot and kill people across Las Vegas or terrorists ride through crowded streets murdering men, women and children, we long for justice to be served. When we see Nazi Germany systematically exterminating millions of Jewish men and women, we long for justice to be served. When we see slavery in our history or injustice in our country today, we long for justice to reign. When we see the effects of sin in our lives—adulterous spouses, abandoned children, so much hurt from sin all across our lives—something in us cries out, “Surely this is not all there is. Surely evil and injustice won’t have the last word.” We long for goodness and justice to have the last word. The Bible makes it clear that God, Who is the good and just Judge of the universe, will have the last word. This is a good thing—but it’s also a terrifying thing, when you realize who we are and you realize how we have responded to this God.
We are infinitely deserving of God’s wrath.
Whereas God is infinitely worthy of our worship, we are infinitely deserving of His wrath. This is where the amen’s are likely to stop for a time, because this is where we’re confronted by the reality of sin in each one of our lives.
I think we’re okay with pictures of God’s justice and wrath—when that justice and wrath are expressed toward people who have done particularly heinous things. When we think about crimes in the Holocaust or horrible crimes done to children, we believe justice and wrath are right. But when it comes to our own lives, our own sin, all of a sudden so many people believe justice and wrath are wrong. We’re okay with seeing God’s wrath in 2 Kings 18-19 on the Assyrian army, because they were opposing God to His face. But this is where we come to the startling reality that in every one of our hearts, including my own, we are Assyria. Each of us has opposed God to His face and if you think otherwise, we have an overly high and biblically unfaithful view of youself
We have denied the glory of God.
Scripture teaches that God is glorious above all, but it also clearly teaches that we have denied His glory. Romans 3:23 says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” All of us have turned aside to so many other gods. We’ve turned to gods of money, possessions, pleasures, sex, pornography, success. We’ve turned to all kinds of worldly pursuits and pleasures. We’ve centered our lives on ourselves. We have denied the glory of God.
We have denounced the sovereignty of God.
We have also denounced the sovereignty of God. We have looked into the face of the God Who is sovereign over all. Just like Assyria, we have denounced the rule and reign of God over our lives. This is the God Who beckons the storm clouds and they come. He’s the God Who says to the wind and rain, “You blow there, you fall here,” and they do it. This is the God Who says to everything in all creation, “Do this,” and all creation obeys His bidding—until you get to you and me. You and I actually have the nerve to look in the face of God and say, “No. You don’t know what’s right. I know better than You what is best for my life.” We say that every time we sin.
We have failed to fear God.
We have denounced His sovereignty and in this we have failed to fear God. We have not feared the God Who is to be feared. We fear so many other things instead. Fear is such a prevailing problem in so many of our lives. We fear failure, ridicule, embarrassment. We fear the unknown. We fear sickness, dying, death. I could go on and on. Could the reason why we fear so many things be because we do not fear God? If we don’t fear sin against God, we’re so prone to treat it so lightly, as if it’s no big deal. And we’re even stunned or offended by how seriously sin is treated in Scripture.
Let’s be honest for a minute. Take off the masks. Don’t we sometimes think Scripture is a little over the top? Remember in Genesis 19 when Lot and his wife are fleeing Sodom and Gomorrah and God says, “Don’t look back.” What does Lot’s wife do? She looks back and what happens? All of a sudden she turns into a pillar of salt. Gone. For a glance back. All she did was glance and she’s gone.
Look in Numbers 15. There’s a man who’s caught picking up sticks on the Sabbath. They bring him before God and ask, “What shall we do?” What does God say? “Stone him. Stone him for picking up sticks.”
Second Samuel 6, Uzzah reaches out just to grab the ark to keep it from falling. As soon as he touches the ark, what happens? He falls over dead on the spot. Just because he touched the ark, trying to keep it from falling.
Stories after stories in the Old Testament are like that. Some people think, “That’s just Old Testament; God doesn’t do that in the New Testament.” Well, on the contrary, in Acts 5, Ananias and Sapphira are giving their offering in the church. They lie and what happens? Both fall over dead. That will hurt your attendance the next Sunday. Can you imagine? People falling over dead during the offering. That’s not a recipe for church growth.
So let’s just be honest. We read these stories and don’t we think, “Isn’t God overdoing this here? Isn’t this overly severe? I mean, yeah, they sinned. I get that, but is that the punishment they deserve?”
That question is key to understanding how we view sin, because when we think this kind of punishment is severe—even unjust—we think that because we have a man-centered perspective on sin. If people lie to us or disobey us, we wouldn’t say they’re worthy of death. Of course not. But this is the key. The key is not how severe the sin is. The key is the One Who has been sinned against. If you sin against a rock, you’re not very guilty. If you sin against a man, you’re guilty. But if you sin against an infinitely holy God, you are infinitely guilty. Even one sin.
Remember Romans 5? It was one sin that led to condemnation for all men. All the effects of sin and evil we see in the world today are the result of one sin. In Genesis 3, Adam and Eve ate a piece of fruit. From that one sin came centuries of wars and terrorism and murder—all the things you can think of. Evil, injustice, trafficking, natural disasters, hurricanes, tsunamis, tornados, cancer, disease, death—all of it came from one sin. You and I have committed thousands of sins against this God. We have no clue about the seriousness of our sin.
We have dared to judge God.
In fact, despite our sin against God, we have actually dared to judge God. We as sinners have actually had the audacity to point a finger in God’s face and say, “How can You judge us? How can a good God condemn sinners?” As if we’re the ones who are good and God is the One Who is bad. As if we’re the ones in the right and God is in the wrong. We actually say things like this: “Well, I could never worship a God Who….” Who what? Whose holiness is so much higher than you can even begin to comprehend? Whose greatness and righteousness are far beyond what you can ever fathom?
We live in a day when we don’t talk about these things. We don’t talk about God’s wrath in the church. Even if we do, it’s almost like we’re apologetic about it; like we’re ashamed in some way of Who God is. We say, “Ah, we shouldn’t have to talk about these texts, but they’re there. So, okay.”
I think about my friend Francis Chan, whom I was with earlier this week. In his book on hell, he basically wrote a personal confession. “Like the nervous kid who tries to keep his friends from seeing his drunken father, I’ve tried to hide God at times.” Then he writes, “Who do I think I am? The truth is, God is perfect and right in all that He does. I’m a fool for thinking otherwise. God does not need nor want me to cover for Him. There’s nothing to be covered. Everything about Him and all He does is perfect.”
God, help us to realize that You are infinitely worthy of worship and we are infinitely worthy of wrath.
We need God to save us from God.
This is the testimony of Scripture: we are sinners against a holy God. We are all sinners against an infinitely holy God and we infinitely deserve wrath. What that means is we need God to save us from God.
If you put all this together, it’s a very different way to think about it. We’re not centered on man anymore. Rather, we’re centered on God. One day each one of us is going to stand before this God as Judge. It could be today for any one of us. And every single one of us is going to stand guilty of sinning against Him on that day, which means every one of us will stand before Him, deserving His just judgment and His eternal wrath.
Which leads to the question, “What can we do?” And the answer is, “There’s nothing we can do.” All kinds of people all over the world are trying all kinds of ways to appease God. They practice this or that religion. In our country, it’s go to church and be a good person. But none of these things can eliminate the stain of sin and guilt on all of our hearts before a holy God. People say, “Well, isn’t God loving? Can’t He just forgive our sins?”
This is where John Stott said, “Forgiveness is for God the profoundest of problems.” Why? “Because God’s forgiveness of sinners is a threat to His holy character.” If God simply forgives sin and acquits sinners, then is He a just Judge? No. If there was a courtroom judge today who knowingly acquitted guilty criminals, we would have that judge off the bench in a heartbeat. Why? Because he’s not just. We decry unjust systems in our society, as we should, because we expect justice. And so with God. If God is just and we are guilty, then the question is not why it’s difficult for God to forgive us. The question is, “How is it possible for Him to forgive us?”
This means we need God to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. And this is the great news of the Bible, because God has done it! Now the amens can start again, because God—this God—has so loved a sinful world that He has sent His Son, Jesus, to save us from the wrath we deserve.
People say, “Why are we talking about God’s wrath?” And the answer is, first, because it’s real, and second, because seeing God’s wrath opens our eyes to the wonders of God’s love. We have no clue in the church today how, by ignoring God’s wrath we are minimizing our understanding of God’s love.
At the cross, God expressed His wrath toward sin.
It’s like you and I as sinners are standing in the courtroom, guilty before a holy God, warranting His holy wrath. But God comes down off the bench to us and says, “I will personally pay the price for your sin against Me.” This is what the cross is all about. At the cross, God expressed His wrath toward sin. So God is a just Judge. He does not pass over sin. No, God pours out the penalty of sin, which is death, and He pours it out on His Son.
At the cross, God endured His wrath toward sin.
In this way, God not only expresses His wrath toward sin, but at the same time God endures His wrath against sin. This is what Jesus was doing at the cross. He was enduring the wrath of God that you and I deserve.
We can miss this if we focus just on the physical picture of what was happening at the cross. Yes, the cross was physical. But we are not ultimately saved from our sins because of what a bunch of Romans soldiers decided they were going to physically do to Jesus. We are saved from our sins because of what God did and what Jesus chose to do on that cross. Remember in the Garden of Gethsemane how Jesus was sweating blood? Why? Is it because He was afraid of what some Roman soldiers were about to do to Him? No.
Think about it. There are countless people who have died martyrs deaths in the name of Christ since that day and many of them went to their death singing. One man was being skinned alive in India and he says to his tormenter, “Take off my outer garment. Today I put on a new garment of righteousness.” Christopher Love is about to head to the gallows. He gets a note from his wife in the prison that says, “Today they will sever you from your physical head, but they cannot sever you from your spiritual Head, Christ.” And he goes to the gallows singing with his wife applauding.
Did they have more courage than Christ Himself? Absolutely not. When Jesus is sweating blood in the Garden, He is not a coward about to face some Roman soldiers. He is a Savior choosing to endure divine wrath. Hear His prayer: “Father, if it possible, let this cup pass from Me.” What’s the cup? Psalm 75 says it’s a cup filled with the fury of God’s judgment due to sin. Isaiah 51. Jeremiah 25. Revelation 14. A cup filled with the winepress of God’s wrath due sinners. The reality is Jesus was sweating blood because He was about to endure all that we deserve in our sin.
One preacher said it’s like you and I were standing in front of a dam 10,000 miles high and 10,000 miles wide, filled to the brim with water. And in an instant that dam was let loose and that water came rushing like a torrent toward you and me. And right before it was about to overtake us, the ground in front of our feet opened up and swallowed every drop. So in a much, much, much greater way, at the cross Jesus took the full torrent of God’s holy wrath, due to you and me in our sin. He drank down every last drop of that cup. He turned it over and cried out, “It is finished.”
At the cross, God has enabled salvation for sinners.
On the cross God expressed His wrath and endured His wrath, and in the process He enabled salvation for sinners. Jesus died for our sins and on the third day He rose from the dead in victory over sin and in this way God has made the only way for sinners to be saved from His wrath. Do you see this relationship?
I was reading Hosea 11 this morning, where I saw a picture of this relationship between God’s wrath and God’s love. Becky Pippert said, “God’s wrath is not a cranky explosion, but His settled opposition to the cancer of sin which is eating out the insides of the human race He loves with His whole being.” God loves us so much. He loves you so much. He hates the sin that harms us so much that He sent His Son to free us from it.
Turn today from your sin and yourself.
“God arose to establish judgment…” (Psalm 76:9). Why? “To save all the humble of the earth.” This God desires to save anyone and everyone who humbles themselves before Him.
So I urge you today, humble yourself before Him and turn from your sin and yourself. In the words of Psalm 76:11, “Make your vows to the Lord your God and perform them; let all around him bring gifts to him who is to be feared.” In the words of Hosea 10:12, “Break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the Lord, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you.” Break up the hard ground of your heart. Turn from your sin and yourself. Turn to the God Who’s glorious above all, sovereign over all, to be feared by all, the Judge of all.
Trust in Jesus as your Savior and Lord.
If you have never repented of your sin before God, I urge you to do that today. Right now, repent and receive the mercy of God before it is too late. It so grieves my heart when people die in our culture with no evidence of turning from sin and self in their life and following after Christ.
Attend a funeral in a church and it’s like everybody is assuming, “Surely this person is with God in heaven,” but it’s not always true. We desperately need to realize, it’s not true. A.W. Tozer said, “The vague and continuous hope that God is too kind to punish the ungodly has become a deadly opiate for the consciences of millions. It hushes their fears and allows them to practice all pleasant forms of iniquity, while death draws every day nearer, and the command to repent goes unheeded.”
I urge you—don’t let the command to repent go unheeded in your life. Right where you’re sitting, right now. This is not a game. There’s coming a day when you will stand before God as Judge, and it will not matter on that day how many people on earth knew your name, how many people called you great. It won’t matter if buildings or schools or hospitals were named after you, whether your estate was large or small, whether your funeral had ten thousand people or nobody. It won’t matter what newspapers or history books say or don’t say. The only thing that matters on that day is what God will say. So turn from your sin and yourself today,
And then, Christian brother and sister, stop toying with sin in your life today. So many of you have grown casual with sin that warrants the wrath of God. Hate sin like God hates sin. It’s killing you, destroying you. Sin has one aim—to damn you. That’s what it aims for. Turn from it. Cry out to God to give you grace. Jesus paid the price for that sin. He’s paid the price not only to free you from its penalty, but also to free you from its power in your life. So turn from it and trust in Him. For some of you, it will be the first time to trust in Jesus as Savior and Lord.
Humble your heart in holy awe before God.
For each of you who have trusted Him, today and every day, as the only One Who can save you from your sin and Who is the Lord of your life, I urge you in light of Psalm 76, humble your heart in holy awe before this God. He is infinitely worthy of our worship. We are infinitely worthy of His wrath, yet He’s made a way for you and me to be saved from Himself and for Himself. So humble your heart now.
Mark it down. There’s coming a day when every single one of us—every single person in Washington, from the lowest to the highest office of this land—every single person is going to bow before God. The only question that remains is will we bow and worship before Him now and receive His mercy, or will we bow before Him when it is too late and receive His wrath?
I want to lead us in a time of real prayer before Him. I’m saying real prayer—not monotonous, routine prayer. This is the God we’re meeting with right now. He is with us and He’s speaking to us through His Word. I don’t know what’s going on in the lives of the thousands of people who are listening right now, but you know what’s going on in your life. If you have never turned from your sin and trusted in Jesus as Savior and Lord, I invite you: let this be the moment. In the next few minutes, cry out for God to save you from your sin. Trust in Jesus as Savior and Lord. His mercy is available to you right now. In this moment, you can be saved and forgiven of all your sin by turning and trusting in Jesus.
Then for all who have done this, I praise God that Jesus has paid the price for our sin. But God, help us not to live casually with sin which makes no sense. Help us to hate sin like You hate sin. Spend time confessing your sin before God.
I think about my kids. When they do something wrong toward me and they come to ask for forgiveness, it’s not them saying, “Can I still be your child?” Praise God. They’re still my children and we are still children of God. But when you realize you’ve done something wrong against someone you love, you say, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry. Help me not to do that again.” God is honored by that. He’s not honored by vain religious repetition, just going through the motions. So be real before Him. Tell Him what’s going on in your life and confess your sin to Him. Ask for His mercy in humility before Him. “God, help me. Help me. Help me!” You can pray sitting where you are. You can kneel where you are. You can come to the front. I want to invite you to go before the Lord.
After we’ve spent some time in prayer, then I’ll lead us in prayer. I don’t know how God is specifically speaking to your heart through this Word, but I want to invite you—it’s time to seek the Lord and let His mercy rain down on you as you do. Go to Him in prayer for the next few minutes.
All around this room, I invite you to continue in your confession and repentance as long as you need to. We’re not going to end here, because the whole beauty of this picture is that Christ has made a way for us to receive that mercy. He has paid the price for all of our sins, so that indeed the righteousness of God might rain down on us. When you are finished with your time of confession and repentance, then I’m going to invite you to sing the gospel together.
If you’re a follower of Christ and have trusted in Jesus as Savior and Lord of your life, I want to invite you to come to one of these tables where the elements of the Lord’s Supper are. This is a physical reminder of how Jesus has made the way for us to be forgiven before a holy God with His body and His blood. So when you’re ready, come to the table and take the bread and dip it in the cup. In taking these elements, do this remembering the body and the blood of Christ that covers over all your sins.
We’re going to worship God for His wrath and love, and how they come together in what Christ did at the cross. Romans 8:1-2 makes it possible to end a worship gathering talking about God’s wrath by saying, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.”
God, we praise You. We glorify You for Your mercy. We praise You for Your grace, for Your love, for Your justice, for Your wrath, for Your righteousness, for Your goodness. We praise You Lord Jesus for how all those come together in what You did for us on the cross. All glory be to Your name. We sing Your praises. We exalt Your name. And God, we want to honor You. Jesus, we want to honor and glorify You. So help us, we pray, to turn from the sin that You’ve delivered us from. Lord, help us, help us, help us, we pray. Make us holy. Help us not to treat sin lightly, but to hate it and to run from it. Help us to help one another run from it. Help us to do it all by Your grace in us. We need Your grace to do that.
Then, God, we pray in light of the city around us, where so many right now stand under Your wrath, help us proclaim this good news——proclaim this grace and mercy this week—so that others might know Your love and Your forgiveness and Your salvation. God, please, bless this church to display Your glory. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
How can we apply this passage to our lives?
List some topics that you commonly hear addressed in sermons. Why do you think sermons on God’s wrath are so rare?
Why, in light of man’s sin, should God’s holiness lead us to consider His wrath?
Respond to the following statements:
- “I could never believe in a God who is wrathful.”
- “God was wrathful in the Old Testament, but that changed in the New Testament.”
God is always perfect in all His attributes, and we should not pit them against one another. How is the cross a demonstration of God’s wrath and God’s love?
How should the reality of God’s wrath affect the way we treat our own sin? How should it affect our personal evangelism?
Behold His Wrath
Behold His Glory, part 5 | Psalm 76
Psalm 76:1 – 12, “In Judah God is known; his name is great in Israel. His abode has been established in Salem, his dwelling place in Zion. There he broke the flashing arrows, the shield, the sword, and the weapons of war. Selah. Glorious are you, more majestic than the mountains full of prey. The stouthearted were stripped of their spoil; they sank into sleep; all the men of war were unable to use their hands. At your rebuke, O God of Jacob, both rider and horse lay stunned. But you, you are to be feared! Who can stand before you when once your anger is roused? From the heavens, you uttered judgment; the earth feared and was still, when God arose to establish judgment, to save all the humble of the earth. Surely the wrath of man shall praise you; the remnant of wrath you will put on like a belt. Make your vows to the Lord your God and perform them; let all around him bring gifts to him who is to be feared, who cuts off the spirit of princes, who is to be feared by the kings of the earth.”
2 Kings 18:32b – 35, “. . . And do not listen to Hezekiah when he misleads you by saying, ‘The Lord will deliver us.’ Has any of the gods of the nations ever delivered his land out of the hand of the king of Assyria? Where are the gods of Hamath and Arpad? Where are the gods of Sepharvaim, Hena, and Ivvah? Have they delivered Samaria out of my hand? Who among all the gods of the lands have delivered their lands out of my hand, that the Lord should deliver Jerusalem out of my hand?”
2 Kings 19:22 – 28, “Whom have you mocked and reviled? Against whom have you raised your voice and lifted your eyes to the heights? Against the Holy One of Israel! By your messengers you have mocked the Lord, and you have said, ‘With my many chariots I have gone up the heights of the mountains, to the far recesses of Lebanon; I felled its tallest cedars, its choicest cypresses; I entered its farthest lodging place, its most fruitful forest. I dug wells and drank foreign waters, and I dried up with the sole of my foot all the streams of Egypt.’ Have you not heard that I determined it long ago? I planned from days of old what now I bring to pass, that you should turn fortified cities into heaps of ruins, while their inhabitants, shorn of strength, are dismayed and confounded, and have become like plants of the field and like tender grass, like grass on the housetops, blighted before it is grown. But I know your sitting down and your going out and coming in, and your raging against me. Because you have raged against me and your complacency has come into my ears, I will put my hook in your nose and my bit in your mouth, and I will turn you back on the way by which you came.”
2 Kings 19:32 – 37, “‘Therefore thus says the Lord concerning the king of Assyria: He shall not come into this city or shoot an arrow there, or come before it with a shield or cast up a siege mound against it. By the way that he came, by the same he shall return, and he shall not come into this city, declares the Lord. For I will defend this city to save it, for my own sake and for the sake of my servant David.’ And that night the angel of the Lord went out and struck down 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians. And when people arose early in the morning, behold, these were all dead bodies. Then Sennacherib king of Assyria departed and went home and lived at Nineveh. And as he was worshiping in the house of Nisroch his god, Adrammelech and Sharezer, his sons, struck him down with the sword and escaped into the land of Ararat. And Esarhaddon his son reigned in his place.”
God is infinitely worthy of our worship.
Psalm 76:1 – 2, “In Judah God is known; his name is great in Israel. His abode has been established in Salem, his dwelling place in Zion.”
God is glorious above all.
Psalm 76:3 – 6, “There he broke the flashing arrows, the shield, the sword, and the weapons of war. Selah. Glorious are you, [O God,] more majestic than the mountains full of prey . . . At your rebuke, O God of Jacob, both rider and horse lay stunned.”
Psalm 76:10, “Surely the wrath of man shall praise you; the remnant of wrath you will put on like a belt.”
God is sovereign over all.
God is to be feared over all.
Psalm 76:7 – 8, “But you, you are to be feared! Who can stand before you when once your anger is roused? From the heavens you uttered judgment; the earth feared and was still.”
Psalm 76:11 – 12, “. . . bring gifts to him who is to be feared . . . who is to be feared by the kings of the earth.”
God is the just judge over all.
Psalm 76:8, “From the heavens you uttered judgment; the earth feared and was still, when God arose to establish judgment.”
We are infinitely deserving of God’s wrath.
We have denied the glory of God.
Romans 3:23, “All of us have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
We have denounced the sovereignty of God.
We have failed to fear God.
2 Samuel 6
Acts 5:1 – 10
We have dared to judge God.
We need God to save us from God.
At the cross, God expressed his wrath toward sin.
At the cross, God endured his wrath against sin.
At the cross, God has enabled salvation for sinners.
Psalm 76:9, “. . . God arose to establish judgment, to save all the humble of the earth.”
Turn today from your sin and yourself.
Psalm 76:11, “Make your vows to the LORD your God and perform them; let all around him bring gifts to him who is to be feared.”
Hosea 10:12, “Break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the Lord, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you.”