5 Then he will speak to them in his wrath,
   and terrify them in his fury, saying,

6 ‘I have set my king on Zion, my holy hill.’

If I am going to continue this journey with HP, I am going to have to come to grips at some point with the idea of God’s “wrath.”

It is a tiny Hebrew word which has caused a world of grief. It conjures up images of a mighty potentate sitting on high who is infuriated at the failures of human beings to abide by the almighty will of Divine decree. It has led in Christian theology to the abhorrent concept of a God whose anger can only be appeased by the sacrifice of a pure and innocent victim, a God whose fury needs to be placated by death.

The Hebrew word is “ap”; it means literally “nose or nostril” and  hence, came to signify the whole face, and even occasionally the entire person. Because the word was associated with rapid breathing through the nose, it came to be used as an image for “passion” and thus for “anger” or “wrath.” When I am angry, I tend to hyperventilate.

We are dealing here with an image. Images are not scientific concepts that define, categorize, or formulate doctrine. It is a risky business to take a poetic image and turn it into the basis for a theological construct. An image intends to evoke, to point and to lead the reader to ponder and question. Images are multivalent, inevitably amenable to more than one interpretation.

If we are going to continue this journey with HP, we are going to need to hold some questions without pushing too quickly for precise answers:

What might HP be attempting to evoke in me by using this image of God breathing with passion in the face of my attempts to run my own life without reference to any power beyond myself?

How is the God who “laughs” at my presumption and arrogance, the same God who speaks to me in “wrath” when I refuse to conform my will to the way that this God has designed life to work?

Lord help me to keep my heart open to you and to hold firmly to the vision that you are a God of love and compassion, even when HP seems to suggest a different version.