Lesson Six – God’s Wrath

God’s Wrath

Lesson Aim.       To show how God maintained His glorious name in His wrath on Israel.


In the fifth century before Christ, Judah was in captivity in Babylon.  They were all that remained of the glorious nation of Israel.  In this lesson we will first analyze why Israel fell and then consider why God held Judah in captivity for seventy years.  Finally, we will see why He brought the Jews back to Jerusalem and rebuilt the temple.


God had instructed Moses to write a prophetic song about Israel’s fall that would happen several hundred years later.  Please read Deuteronomy Chapter 32.  He told Israel of her fate; however, it was Israel who caused her own downfall.  In the following excerpt from Moses’ song, God speaks of a time when He would hide His face because of their faithlessness.

Then He said, ‘I will hide My face from them, I will see what their end shall be; for they are a perverse generation, sons in whom is no faithfulness.’  Deut. 32:20

God analyzed Jerusalem’s problem through Ezekiel, the prophet, who was among the exiles after they were carried away to Babylon (Ezek. 16).  He told the “rags to riches” story of Israel, a story made possible by the grace of God.  When they became glorious they disregarded God and gave their attention to others.  God points out what they did wrong in the following scripture.

And you took some of your clothes, made for yourself high places of various colors, and played the harlot on them, which should never come about nor happened.  …Moreover, you took your sons and daughters whom you had borne to Me, and you sacrificed them to idols to be devoured.  Were your harlotries so small a matter?  You slaughtered My children, and offered them up to idols by causing them to pass through the fire.  Ezek. 16:16, 20, 21

If the Israelites had developed higher traits of character they would have given glory to God.  His purposes would have been fulfilled in Israel (Jer. 9:23-25).  God knew the people could not hope to find satisfaction for their desire to excel while they were hungry and without shelter; therefore, He called Israel out of her Egyptian bondage and fulfilled the Israelites’ basic needs (Isa. 5:1-7).  He also taught them His way of life, but instead of developing higher traits of character they became proud (Jer. 17:5).  They associated with those whom God had forbidden and they accepted their gods.  When God withheld their rations they gave more glory to idols because they trusted the idols to help restore the substance for their basic needs.  Judah became so bad that she made Sodom and Samaria appear righteous (Ezek. 16:46, 51).

Like so many others whom the Lord has blessed, they failed their stewardship.  We often become possessors of the things God lets us use rather than good stewards over them (Luke 16:10-12).  God supplied the basic needs of Israel so they could begin to seek satisfaction for their higher needs.  If they could have found satisfaction for their higher needs they would have been higher beings.  Children of God must attain this level of life because He made us to share in His glory.

When the Israelites failed to seek satisfaction for their unique potential they became evil beings.  At this time God used Isaiah, the prophet, to warn them to develop transpersonal goals, according to the following.

Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from My sight.  Cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, reprove the ruthless; defend the orphan, plead for the widow.  Isa. 1:16, 17

It was Judah’s sin that turned God away and brought the army of Babylon upon them.

But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He does not hear.  Isa. 59:2

Now let us take up our second point.  Why did God carry His people away from their place and into captivity?  Why not wipe all of the wicked out and leave the few faithful?  To pursue the answer to these questions we should remember God dealt with Judah as a nation.  It was His kingdom on earth at that time.  He blessed this nation so they would make His power and glory known to other nations (I Kings 8:60).  When they failed as a nation they had to be punished as a nation.  There was a message for Israel in this, but there was also a message for the other nations.

Moreover, I will make you a desolation and a reproach among the nations which surround you, in the sight of all who pass by.  So it will be a reproach, a reviling, a warning and an object of horror to the nations who surround you, when I execute judgments against you in anger, wrath and raging rebukes.  I, the Lord, have spoken.  Ezek. 5:14, 15

Jerusalem was completely burned to the ground (Jer. 52:12, 13).  Only a few poor people were left as God used Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, to bring down Jerusalem.  She was the final stronghold of the twelve tribes of Israel (Jer. 39:1-10).  After it was all over, Jeremiah lamented over Jerusalem’s utter despair in the beginning of his Lamentations.

How lonely sits the city that was full of people!  She has become like a widow who was once great among the nations!  She who was a princess among the provinces has become a forced laborer!  Lam. 1:1

Although God promised to “correct them properly;” He also promised, “Yet I shall not make a full end of you.”  Jer. 46:28.  A remnant would be left in which God would carry on with the fulfilling of His promises and covenants.  He would fulfil the covenants made to Abraham, Moses, David and all of the rest through His remnant people (Rom. 11:5).  God told Ezekiel this remnant would also “Remember Me among the nations to which they will be carried captive.”  Ezek. 6:8-10.  They were to prepare to stay in captivity seventy years (Jer. 29:10).

God’s wrath toward evil is as much a part of His righteousness as His blessings are for the faithful.  The manifestation of His wrath upon Jerusalem would not be soon forgotten (Jer. 19:3; Hab. 1:5, 6; Ezek. 38:23).  Plagues, famine and the sword were used to show God’s wrath against Judah’s sin.  It was directed toward Jerusalem for all to see (Jer. 5).  God asked the following rhetorical questions.

‘Shall I not punish these people,’ declares the Lord, And on a nation such as this shall I not avenge Myself?’  Jer. 5:9

Now let us consider our last point.  Why did God bring the Israelites back to Jerusalem?  The answer is found in the concept that God wanted a nation to give glory to His name.  We have seen how a nation began by the promises God made to Abraham (Gen. 12:1-3).  God developed it in Egypt and finally moved Israel to the land of milk and honey.  Although Moses persuaded God to turn His wrath away from the idol worshipping Israelites in the wilderness, it finally fell upon them in their captivity.  However, Samuel told the people that God would not “abandon His people on account of His great name.”  I Sam. 12:22.  Ezekiel and Jeremiah proclaimed the same message (Jer. 24:5-7; Ezek. 36:16-39).

Therefore, say to the house of Israel, ‘Thus says the Lord God, It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for My holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you went.’  Ezek. 36:22

If only Israel could have understood, it was not because they were so special that God had blessed them, but because God desired to bless all nations through Israel.  They were blessed because of God’s covenants with Abraham.  At this point in history, God made a drastic move in order to protect those who had faith.  People with faith in God had become an endangered species.  God temporarily gave up the other nations, the Gentiles, in order to nurture this one nation, the Jews.  However, His desire was for all nations to see His presence with Israel.  He did this by pouring out His blessings upon them in order to show His glory, or when necessary, He poured out His wrath upon them to show His justice.  Israel should have understood that they were an evangelistic tool for God’s kingdom for the entire world.  So when God brought the Jews back to Jerusalem He was simply proceeding with His purposes according to His choice (Rom. 9:11).  They would finally produce Jesus Christ for all people in the whole world until the end of time.

God is still blessing the spiritual Israel which is identified as the church of God (Gal. 6:16).  He still wants us to let our lights shine before men in such a way that they may see our good works and glorify our Father who is in heaven (Matt. 5:16).

Questions for Discussion

  1. What was the essence of Moses’ song about Israel?
  2. How did Ezekiel’s “rags to riches” story end?
  3. What is the common problem when God richly blesses His people with material things?
  4. Why did God provide for the basic needs of Israel?
  5. Why does God promise to provide food and shelter for Christians today if we seek His kingdom and righteousness first (Matt. 6:33)?
  6. What does the satisfaction of our higher needs accomplish for God?
  7. Explain the concept we must first perceive in order to understand why God carried Israel into captivity.
  8. Show how God’s wrath is a part of God’s righteousness.
  9. Describe the destruction that came upon Jerusalem.
  10. List some promises that should have encouraged Israel, although they were in captivity.
  11. Why did God bring the Jews back to Jerusalem?
  12. How would it have helped Israel to know why God had blessed them?

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