I just have to laugh at the audacity of babies. They think they rule the universe. Recently I took my 12-month-old on an airplane. I held him up to the window, expecting him to be spellbound by the massive size of the airplane, the speed, the height…but he wasn’t. He slapped the window, gave a brazen squeal, and tried desperately to reach out and touch the wing. He would have lunged out of the window if he could have.
He has no idea of the dangers from which I deliver him daily. That’s because babies fixate on what’s right in front of their faces. They fuss when we remove dangerous objects from their hands or rescue them from a painful plunge down a flight of stairs.
I am often guilty of the same short-sightedness. Just like my son who wanted to lunge out of the airplane, I take deliverance for granted when I don’t stop to ponder what I’ve been delivered from. Deliverance means rescue. It means being removed from a path of destruction and placed on a path of safety. What path was I on? Why did I need rescuing? What dangers awaited me before God reached down and swooped me out of harm’s way? The answer is in 1 Thessalonians 1:10: “And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.”
“Wrath” is not a word we like to think about – especially at Christmas time. But the most vivid display of God’s wrath is also the most vivid display of his love, and it began in a dusty manger. When the world looks into the manger they get a warm fuzzy feeling and a vague notion of world peace. But upon a closer look we see something totally different. We see the dreadful, holy wrath of God that required nothing less than the blood of his own Son to satisfy it. The purpose behind the birth of this baby shows us the gravity of what our sins deserve. He came to absorb every drop of the wrath of a Holy God so there would be no wrath left for those who place their faith in him.
But what is wrath?
From a human standpoint I might think of wrath as the feeling I get when I see my pile of clean laundry strewn across the backyard and used as a fort. But God’s wrath is not simply an angry reaction. It is an inseparable part of His character. It goes hand in hand with his holiness, love, and justice. We can’t give wrath a backseat simply because it is unpleasant. God’s attributes are so intertwined that we can’t diminish one without diminishing them all. Unlike my sinful human anger, God’s wrath is evidence of his holiness. Perfect holiness cannot tolerate sin. All sin must experience the wrath of God.
The most horrific thing any human being could experience is to stand before a holy God on the day of judgment and receive the full fury of his wrath for all of eternity. Our sin, even the smallest sinful thought, deserves nothing less. But the manger that reveals to us the necessity of God’s wrath also holds within it deliverance from that wrath. For those who put their trust in Jesus, their pardon on that day of judgment has been secured. God’s wrath came. It demanded justice and that’s exactly what it got. Jesus took it all. In Jesus I could no more face the wrath of God than Jesus could face it again for me. It’s over. Not because God got sentimental and decided to give me a free pass, but because the wrath I deserved was poured out on another.
I have to ask myself: What is there left to be afraid of?
Suddenly earthly cares loosen their ties on my heart. My messy house, my teething baby, and my quarreling toddlers are overshadowed by the peace of deliverance. I’ve been delivered from the wrath God by faith in the child he provided at Christmas, who lived the perfect life I could not, and was separated from his Father that I might be united to him. What else could possibly touch me? “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-29)
What is weighing your heart down this holiday season? Don’t settle for the warm fuzzy peace that lasts for a moment and then is gone. Eternal peace comes from knowing that we are right with God. God’s plan of redemption began in the manger, but its climax is at the cross, where Christ absorbed every bit of the wrath that we deserved. But there’s more! The sacrifice of Christ that accomplished our eternal deliverance from God’s wrath, is now also our daily deliverance from fear, doubt, and despair. For the Christian, this peace lasts long after the Christmas decorations come down. This peace lasts forever.
Questions for Reflection/Application:
1. What distracts or keeps you from considering God’s wrath? How might failing to acknowledge it diminish the significance of Christmas?
2. If Jesus absorbed “every last drop” of the wrath of God, then there is none left for those of us who believe in Him. How does this change the way we relate to God, and the posture with which we live our lives before him?
3. Sara sets us up in that final paragraph for the rest of the devotions in this Advent series as she points out that although salvation is the ultimate way that Christ “delivers” us, it is not the only way. What earthly cares are you longing to be delivered from? Spend some time asking God to reveal how the coming of Christ meets those longings.
Sara Wallace lives in northern Idaho with her husband and five little boys. She homeschools, blogs, and leads ladies' Bible study at her church. She is the author of "The Gospel-Centered Mom" Bible study and "For the Love of Discipline: When the Gospel Meets Tantrums and Time-Outs" (release date: spring 2018, P&R Publishing).
Note: If you have never placed your faith in Jesus as your Savior, or if any of this language is confusing to you, please reach out to Abbey (email@example.com), Sara (firstname.lastname@example.org ), the staff of a local church, or a friend of yours who you know believes in Jesus for clarification. Or simply stay tuned for more good news. We’re glad you’re participating in this devo.