|Brad and Dougie - Hammer throwing finals 1971 (re-enactment)|
Note: the following parable is a teaser for my forthcoming book, A More Christlike God, to be released May 2015.
The 'wrath of God' is like the hammer-throwing contest my father warned me against as a child. 'Do not,' he said, 'throw hammers in the air.' Apparently he saw this as a good warning in fatherly love. I saw it as a challenge and a rule to be broken. My neighbour Dougie and I (perhaps 7 years old at the time), each took our father's hammers and had a contest to see who could throw his hammer higher. Straight up. Perhaps I won. Certainly Dougie lost. For my hammer soared skyward, then descended directly onto poor Dougie's skull. Blood everywhere. Screaming followed. Then I found myself running home, locking all the doors and hiding in my room. Shortly, the phone rang (Dougie's mom) and we were flying to the hospital where doctors were already stitching up Dougie's head without the possibility of anesthesia. More screaming.
It did not escape me that the wrath intrinsic to my sin caused both Dougie and I a great deal of suffering, even though my father's response was only love and comfort. The wrath did not involve or require any active punishment. I did not imagine that my father had struck Dougie with the hammer for participating in my rebellion. Nor even that when Doug's father held him down while the surgeon applied sutures that this was somehow an act of vengeance. The wrath of our fathers was a self-inflicted experience of rejecting and receiving their loving care.
It seems to me that taking me to the hospital where I could hear the screams was a torment worse than retribution, in that I had to see the pain I had caused and I wasn't allowed to allow me to cower in my room in a sort of self-loathing denial. It was also the most important element in moving forward to owning my rebellion (far more effective than a spank) but also reconciliation with my victim. I wonder if this might be close to the truth of the 'great and terrible day' of the Lord's final judgment.
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P.S. Hammers in the Bible [some not to be taken literally]:
Judges 4:21 - Then Jael, Heber’s wife, took a tent peg and took a hammer in her hand, and went softly to him and drove the peg into his temple, and it went down into the ground; for he was fast asleep and weary. So he died.
Jeremiah 23:29 - "Is not my word like fire," declares the LORD, "and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?"
Jeremiah 50:23 - How the hammer of the whole earth has been cut apart and broken! How Babylon has become a desolation among the nations!
Jeremiah 51:20-23 (MSG) - 20 God says, "You, Babylon, are my hammer, my weapon of war. I'll use you to smash godless nations, use you to knock kingdoms to bits. 21 I'll use you to smash horse and rider, use you to smash chariot and driver. 22 I'll use you to smash man and woman, use you to smash the old man and the boy. I'll use you to smash the young man and young woman, 23 use you to smash shepherd and sheep. I'll use you to smash farmer and yoked oxen, use you to smash governors and senators.