Matthew Schlimm is assistant professor of Old Testament at the University of Dubuque Theological Seminary. His newest book is This Strange and Sacred Scripture: Wrestling with the Old Testament and Its Oddities (Baker Academic).
My daughter wants to know. Even as a biblical scholar, I don’t have a good answer.
Nowadays, if we hear the word "holy" outside church, it’s usually in the expression “holier than thou.” The phrase is reserved for pompous religious know-it-alls who think they’re better at Christianity than everyone else. The title fits individuals who desperately need to re-read what the Bible says about humility.
Isaiah 64:5 speaks to God, saying, “You were angry when we sinned; you hid yourself when we did wrong” (Common English Bible). It took me a long time to come to terms with the idea of God’s anger. In my own faith, the most helpful idea here is that God is slow to anger. If we forget that God is slow to anger, then God is reduced to a cruel monster out to get us. If we forget anger altogether, then God is reduced to a puppy dog who wants to lick our face no matter what terrible things we continue to do. Both God-the-monster and God-the-puppy-dog are idols: images of God that don’t match what the Bible says.
No one likes the thought of an angry God. It's hard enough to deal with an angry person.