2 Kings 13:3-5   So the LORD’s anger burned against Israel, and for a long time he kept them under the power of Hazael king of Aram and Ben-Hadad his son.  Then Jehoahaz sought the LORD’s favour, and the LORD listened to him, for he saw how severely the king of Aram was oppressing Israel.  The LORD provided a deliverer for Israel, and they escaped from the power of Aram.  So the Israelites lived in their own homes as they had before.

It is sad when people read (or rather DON’T READ) the Old Testament and accuse it of presenting God as too harsh and unloving, as if the New Testament introduces us to an entirely new view of God as a loving Saviour.  Quite contrary to this wrong assessment, the Old Testament reveals a God whose reflex action is mecy, and whose considered response is anger, instead of the other way around.

Continually throughout the sad Old Testament story we see God dealing with his rebellious, disobedient, ungrateful Chosen People, Israel, by listening to their pleadings for mercy, and forgiving them and providing them with a deliverer.  All this, of course, is leading up to his ultimate act of LOVE/MERCY in sending his One-and-Only Son as our True Deliverer, whose deliverance was achieved by bearing in himself the full impact of God’s anger against our sin on the Cross.

Let us never forget, or take for granted, the blessings we enjoy of God’s ongoing care and favour in our lives – or the cost it was to him at Calvary.  As we come to the season of celebrating the Birth of Jesus, let us remember to give him thanks for all that he has done for us.  Let us remember that Christmas is only part of the big picture, and cannot be valued truly for what it is, apart from Easter.  And let us pray that we will continue to experience his very patient mercy and forgiveness as he reshapes us to be more like Jesus, so that our reflex action is always mercy and forgiveness as we interact with one another.

As the Apostle Paul says, “… put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.  Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbour, for we are all members of one body.  ‘In your anger do not sin’: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. … … Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.  Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:24-27, 31-32).
– Bruce Christian