“In a little wrath I hid My face from thee for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the Lord thy Redeemer.”
A strange text.
And a strange context.
In the verse preceding this one the Lord told His people that “For a small moment have I forsaken thee, but with great mercies will I gather thee.”
What is this?
That little wrath is the Babylonian Captivity, and that small moment of forsakenness is seventy years of bondage.
Write this in your little book: God never utterly forsakes His people!
No, this truth is not popular. In fact, this truth is hated throughout history.
What was the painful occasion for this little wrath?
Because of the sin of Israel.
Israel had grievously sinned. If you desire a commentary on that listen to Daniel: “And I prayed unto the Lord my God, and made my confession, and said, O Lord, the great and dreadful God, keeping the covenant and mercy to them that love Him, and to them that keep His commandments; we have sinned, and have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled, even by departing from Thy precepts and from Thy judgments.”
And, remember, this Daniel said that in Babylon, where they were sent because of their sin.
Another thing to remember: this included all, even Daniel included. Listen again to him: “Yea, while I was speaking and praying and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel.”
Moreover, what made this sin so grievous was that it was committed in the midst of the Word of God.
Again listen to Daniel: “Neither have we hearkened unto Thy servants the prophets, which spake in Thy name to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, and to all the people of the land.”
God never leaves Himself without witness. But there is a terrible difference: it is one thing to sin in the hinterlands of China, but it is an entirely different thing to sin in the midst of the Protestant Reformed Church of Hudsonville.
God’s Word is much more beautiful in Hudsonville!
Do you notice how I came from far away Babylon to Michigan by one stroke of the pen?
Of course, I did.
Because the text has wider application than to that poor slave people between the rivers of Babylon.
Our text applies to all the Church of Jesus Christ in every age and in every clime, only more so as you come to the end of the days of the history of the world.
It applies much more to us today than to the Israelites in Babylon.
It applies also to all the generations of God’s people. It applies also to every individual of the Church.
Here we are: God has regenerated and converted us. The Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ is in our inmost heart. And He has placed us in the midst of the Church of Jesus Christ. And His word is preached to us from our infancy.
And then what?
Then we sin, and sin and sin!
And we are cast off! And it grows dark.
And the church of Jesus Christ often complains: “The Lord hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me!” Isa. 49:14.
That, beloved reader, is the experience of every child of God.
It is your sin that makes separation between you and your God. And you are sent to Babylon.
Then you taste the “moment of wrath.”
O, I know, I know, this is denied by many. Even in our own churches. And I may add that it is denied in all the ages.
Listen to them: God loves His people from everlasting to everlasting. God gave Jesus for the sin of His people, and He accepted the price of His blood for a perfect atonement. Moreover, God perfectly justified His people, and that means: 1) their sins are forgiven; 2) they receive a perfect righteousness; 3) they are adopted unto children; 4) they have a right to eternal life; and 5) they have peace with God.
And so, what are you talking about a little wrath and a moment of forsakenness?
And all the time Moses sings his dolorous song: “In Thy wrath our spirits languish, sinful heath Thy searching eye!”
And Jehovah tells you and me: “In a little wrath I hid My face from thee for a moment!”
First of all, we do not deny what we enumerated above under five heads. We even emphasize them every Sunday and week day.
Of course, God loves His people while they were yet sinners. And He loves them from eternity to eternity. Of course, God’s people are perfectly justified. Listen to the Bible: “He hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither hath He seen perverseness in Israel.” Numbers 23:21. Of course, we believe that “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for His seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.” I John 3:9.
But here is the point: Israel is more than born of God!
There is, first, reprobate Israel. Second, there are the unconverted, unregenerated elect; and third, there is the flesh of God’s people. Do not forget the old man of sin which is in everyone of you.
And when the old man of sin has the ascendancy He hides His face from us. He makes us feel in our heart His opinion of us.
Let me put it very plainly: when you drag yourselves through the mire of sin, you will come in contact with a little wrath.
How do you think David felt after he lied, deceived, fornicated and murdered? Do you think he lifted up his voice and sang: Hallelujah, praise Jehovah; O, my soul, Jehovah praise!
I think he felt like singing: “From out of the depths I cry to thee, O God!”
How do you think Peter felt after he swore and cursed, saying: I know not the Man!?
You know it: he wept bitterly.
Because he tasted a little wrath, and the Lord forsook him for a little moment.
Beloved, we had an expression in the old country, and it was this: “Gods volk zondigt duur!” Ask someone to translate it for you.
God’s clock and our clock do not run in unison.
Seventy long years is with God “a small moment.”
And when we are in darkness and great distress, so that we sing: “The pains of hell gat hold upon me!” then God says: That is My little wrath!
And of course, that is correct.
A great big wrath is everlasting wrath of God in hell!
But here is the everlasting Gospel of God: even though we often are in darkness and distress, God never utterly forsakes His people. Even though we deserve everlasting hell because of our sins, God only gives us a little wrath, and even that little wrath is ultimately for our good: It teaches us to hate sin, especially our own. It teaches us not to trust in ourselves, but always to cling to the Rock who is higher than I. It teaches us to flee from sin and to pray against sin. Oh yes, it is all for our good.
No, God never utterly forsakes His people.
And do you know why not?
Because of His kindness.
What is the kindness of God?
It is that virtue of God wherein He delights to bless His people.
Yes, there is a weak shadow of that virtue among the children of men.
When you love a person very much, you delight to plan, and later to execute your plan to buy some expensive gift for your beloved.
And later, when your beloved has the gift all wrapped up in his or her hands, you delight to watch and see the unwrapping, and the final revelation of your gift. But more yet, you delight to see and to hear the manifestations of gladness and rejoicing and thanksgiving of your beloved.
That is God!
And His gift?
First I was going to write: Jesus Christ.
But that is not really the whole truth; that is only partly true.
The real GIFT which God bestows on His people is HIMSELF, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
God is your Redeemer.
And that means that you and I were in prison. And the door was shut.
Moreover, if anyone would come to that door to open it and to deliver us out of the prison of death and damnation, we would fight him and yell at him: Leave me alone! I am perfectly at home here!
In other words: we were willing slaves from the heart!
But God is the Redeemer!
That means He paid the price for our deliverance. And that price is Himself in the Suffering Servant of Jehovah, Jesus Christ our Lord.
And so God purchased us unto Himself and made us prophets, kings and priests of God.
God died the death in Jesus in order to bring us unto Himself.
Hallelujah! If any man feels like boasting, let him boast in God!