READ: Psalm 38, Jeremiah 7-9, Matthew 10, Acts 17
Because wrath and mercy meet in Jesus, we do not have an accurate understanding of Him if we make no place for wrath. To remove wrath from God is to reduce God’s nature and that is horrific blasphemy. Jeremiah was probably stunned to hear God tell him: “Do not pray for this people, nor lift up a cry for them, nor make intercession to Me; for I will not hear you” (Jer. 7:16). There is a point where mercy must be justified by wrath, a point where brothers must be handed over to Satan for the saving of their souls (1 Cor. 5:5), a point where we stop trying (practically or spiritually) to help–for our help is getting in the way of what God is trying to teach.
In Jeremiah’s context this red line was crossed for three primary reasons:
Ongoing disobedience. Blatant hypocrisy. Child sacrifice. When those in covenant with God make a habit of disobeying Him, singing His praise in church and serving their flesh everywhere else, and sacrificing their children to advance themselves, God’s fury is poured out (Jer. 7:20). The sins of 6th century Israel are eerily similar to the sins of God’s people today. We are no better than our fathers, we will not escape a similar fate. Mercy triumphs through judgment. There can be no mercy without wrath, and some maladies are so severe that the only way to cure them is to expose them to fury. One of the most difficult and needed responses of love is to step back from helping, stop praying people out of trouble, and allow their utter end to force a new beginning.
Non-prayer is not only a rough Old Testament method. Jesus interestingly reminds us: “Do not think I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword” (Matt. 10:34). Jesus is referring to contention within familial relationships. Some relationships cannot be reconciled until truth and justice are embraced by both parties. When we pray we are seeking resolution to a problem. We only pray about problems; we praise about victories. Jesus reminds us that some problems should not be resolved–for the cost of their resolution can only be accomplished by some injury to the character and truth of God. Who God is must remain more important than the resolution of conflict. Followers of Jesus must learn to be trust Jesus to work through wrath. He knows that war and wrath are a last resort but a needed one. Peace and resolution of conflict are not the primary aim of the follower of Jesus, our primary aim is the defense and advance of His holy name. We must have the spiritual fortitude to allow others to suffer (and live with the tension it causes in us) that they might be redeemed and that God’s character be not sullied. Sometimes our obedience is in not praying, in not seeking peace.