God’s Wrath and Love are Asymmetric

I’m currently preaching through the book of Lamentations for the season of Lent. One of the more difficult parts of Lamentations is the violent and destructive nature of God that it often presents. Many commentators find Lamentations 3:33 [“God does not afflict from his heart, or bring grief to the sons of man”], in the context of Lamentations 3:21-24, as a telling theological statement amidst the honest expressions of pain that permeate the book.

Robin A. Parry, in his commentary on Lamentations, offers this beautiful reflection:

“Here is a central theological insight of the book. The man situates the terrible rejection he has suffered within the context of the being of God. Yes, God does reject but he does not do so forever. Rejection will be followed by overflowing mercy according to his vast loving kindness. Yes, God does afflict, but it is not something that flows from his heart. There is an asymmetry between wrath and loving kindness. Loving kindness emerges from the very heart of God, but wrath does not. Love is a permanent disposition of YHWH, but anger is a temporary reaction to sin. In the end mercy will always triumph over judgement because of the nature of God revealed in Israel’s story. This vision of God underlies Lamentations.”

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