And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every slave…
The first thing which strikes us about the expression is its extreme dramatism. There is nothing so dramatic, in my opinion, as the sight of an emotion contrary to the nature. When a man who has always hid his griefs bursts into tears, when a man, like Arnold, who has always veiled his anger, gives way for once to passion, we are impressed with something like a sense of tragedy; it is a bitter day in summer; it is a storm upon a lake. How can we think of the love of God as interrupted even for a moment by a thing called wrath? Can we any more conceive a limit to the love of God than we can conceive a limit to the power of God? The state of mind he is describing is the wrath of a lamb — a particular kind of wrath. He is considering a mode of anger which is not an interruption of love, but itself a phase of love. The wrath of the Lamb is the wrath of love itself. It is no more an interruption to Divine love than the haze is an interruption to the heat of the morning. The wrath clouds the love; the haze clouds the morning; but both the one and the other have grown out of the very thing they obscure. There is an anger which is incompatible with the absence of love, which could not exist unless love existed before it. Here, then, is the subject which rises before us — the difference between the wrath of the Lamb and the wrath of the lion, between the anger of love and the anger of nature. Now, it seems to me that there are three distinct points of difference between them.
1. And first, I would observe that the wrath of the Lamb, or sacrificial spirit, differs from the wrath of the lion in being purely impersonal. The wrath of the lion says, "I, king of the forest, have received an affront; some one has presumed to do an unkindness to me." The wrath of the Lamb says, "An unkind thing has been done." It keeps the "me" out of the question altogether. It looks at the deed in itself. It refuses to consider the sense of personal injury as a main feature of the case. You have a son who has defied your authority, spent his substance in riotous living. You are incensed at this act of individual disrespect. You resolve to bring him to his senses; you say, "We shall see whether he or I shall be master here." Now, that is quite a legitimate mode of anger, and quits a legitimate ground for it; but it is not the wrath of the Lamb. It is neither good nor bad. It is simply an appetite of nature like any other appetite — like hunger. But it is possible for a father in these circumstances to be filled with indignation on a different ground altogether. It is possible for him to see in his son's delinquency, not an act, but a principle. It is possible for him to feel, not that an insult has been offered to his pride, but that an injury had been done to the universe. It is possible for him to experience, not the sense of a wounded self-love, but an anger from the fact that love itself has been violated. This is the wrath of the Lamb. The Son of Man has reached a splendid impersonality in His judgment of the world. Though Himself at once the greatest and the most wronged of all, He refuses to measure the wrong by His own feeling of pain. He throws Himself into the position of the meanest, the lowliest. I pass to a second point of difference between the wrath of love and the wrath of mere nature.
2. And it is this: The wrath of nature must begin by tearing out pity; the wrath of love is a wrath created by pity. In the former case our indignation is stimulated by hiding the prospective photograph — by shutting our eyes to the possible goodness which the bad man may yet attain. In the latter case the indignation is stimulated by exactly the opposite process — by bringing out the prospective photograph, and considering what the man might be made to become. This brings me to a third point of difference between the two kinds of wrath.
3. They express their feeling in a different formula. The wrath of the lion says, "I must have satisfaction"; the wrath of the Lamb says, "Justice must be satisfied." There is all the difference in the world between giving me satisfaction in a quarrel and satisfying my justice in a wrong. The wrath of the Lamb is always a redemptive wrath. Its first impulse is to buy back what has been enslaved, to restore what has been wrongfully taken, to set at liberty what has been bruised. The wrath of the lion will be satisfied if the delinquent is dead; the wrath of the Lamb pauses not until it learns that the delinquency itself has been wiped away. And this renders powerfully suggestive that theological epigram which represents Christ as paying the debts of humanity. Nothing in a short compass could more completely describe the facts of the case.
(G. Matheson, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains;