Sometimes I think if a stranger came into our church he might wonder why in the world are we singing songs about a Roman instrument of death, spikes, whips, and a crown made out of a thorn bush. Why are we singing about some poor guy hanging alone in darkness, bleeding, and thirsting while crowds mock him and spit on him?
And it might really seem strange that so many of our songs mention wrath. This stranger might wonder if we’re fixated on death. He might say, “I thought I would come here and sing about God’s love.” We do. We definitely do. But God’s love for us involves….wrath. We can’t sing songs about God’s love without mentioning his wrath, and a cross, and a bloody sacrifice.
The common contemporary view of this is that we are estranged from God, but He is not estranged from us. The enmity is all one sided. The picture we get is that God goes on loving us with an unconditional love while we remain hateful toward Him. The cross belies this picture. Yes, the cross occurred because God loves us. His love stands behind His plan of salvation. However, Christ was not sacrificed on the cross to placate us or to serve as a propitiation to us. His sacrifice was not designed to satisfy our unjust enmity toward God but to satisfy God’s just wrath toward us. The Father was the object of the Son’s act of propitiation. The effect of the cross was to remove the divine estrangement from us, not our estrangement from Him. If we deny God’s estrangement from us, the cross is reduced to a pathetic and anemic moral influence with no substitutionary satisfaction of God. — RC Sproul
God’s wrath makes his love that much more amazing and sweet.
If there were no wrath, if God somehow just loved us and didn’t deal with our sins – if he somehow just put up with them – “Oh boys will be boys. You just have to love them anyway” – we wouldn’t appreciate his love and mercy. Most likely we wouldn’t love him, but go on loving our sins. But God’s wrath that once hung over our heads like a very real sword, waiting to overwhelm us with unspeakable and unending horror and unimaginable, infinite agony is gone! Gone forever! And where did it go? It fell on the one human being who didn’t deserve any wrath. It fell on the innocent, spotless Lamb. It fell on Jesus.
And why? Because of God’s love for us. Because of God’s tender mercy and compassion. Oh yes, we will sing of wrath. Wrath well deserved. Wrath stored up from day one. Heaps and mounds and oceans of wrath barrelling down on us like a juggernaut, then suddenly diverted. Suddenly turned aside. And heaped on Jesus. Jesus, like some kind of heavenly lightning rod, absorbing billions of volts of retribution that was due us. Jesus, on the cross, going to hell.
Yes we will sing about wrath. And meditate on it. And marvel at what we deserved but didn’t receive. We will celebrate and sing our strange songs about wounds and blood and darkness of soul and a cry of abandonment. Because God’s wrath makes his love for us so much sweeter.
O Father, thank you for your deep, deep love. Jesus thank you for the height, width, breadth and depth of your love. Thank you Father for sparing us the terrifying wrath we so well deserved and pouring it out on your Son. Jesus, thank you for taking our place on the cross and drinking this unimaginable cup to the dregs for us. Holy Spirit, thank you for showing us the wrath of God and the love of God.