“For his anger is but for a moment / his favour is for a lifetime.” (verse 5a)
In many ways God is a mystery. There are some things we know about God and many things we don’t. This verse fragment begs several questions. What is anger for something on the scale of God? What is the ‘scale' of God? What is ‘a moment’ for the creator of all moments? How does God experience time? How does God experience emotion? What makes God angry?
It’s fascinating and scary, but also reassuring. It may be that this verse gives us a clearer idea of what God is not rather than what God is.
God is not static.
God is not unfeeling.
God is not passive.
In Jesus - the incarnation of God in human form - we see a man who is not without anger, but is only angry rarely and doesn’t let it define him - his friends often encourage him to violently overthrow the regime and he always refuses. When he is angry he channels those feelings into a passion to do good. Jesus and God are not too big to be angry, but they are bigger than their anger.
This Psalm acts as jolt to our complacent view of a detached, distant and abstract God. It instead reminds us of God’s passion, agency, and emotion. How do we know God loves us? Because we make God mad! However that works, whatever that means. And we know also that God doesn’t stay mad.
Thank you for loving us
for forgiving us
for holding open the door
for holding the line when we slam down the phone,
for leaving the light on for us.
1 I will extol you, O Lord, for you have drawn me up,
and did not let my foes rejoice over me.
2 O Lord my God, I cried to you for help,
and you have healed me.
3 O Lord, you brought up my soul from Sheol,
restored me to life from among those gone down to the Pit.
4 Sing praises to the Lord, O you his faithful ones,
and give thanks to his holy name.
5 For his anger is but for a moment;
his favour is for a lifetime.
Weeping may linger for the night,
but joy comes with the morning.