43. Hebrew Worship: The God of the Grudge

The story of the battle with the Amalekites in Exodus 17 intrigues me because of the lack of clarity at the end.  This is the third of the compound names of Jehovah, so it carries huge significance to all of us.  Yet, the Hebrew is so ambiguous that as you scroll through the sundry American translations, you see a multitude of different conclusions, as very well educated people have wrestled with the word pictures – and disagreed enormously.

While much of the record in Exodus is vague, Moses’ recap in Deuteronomy 25:17ff is completely unambiguous.

“Remember what the Amalekites did to you along the way when you came out of Egypt.  When you were weary and worn out, they met you on your journey and cut off all who were lagging behind; they had no fear of God.  When the LORD your God gives you rest from all the enemies around you in the land he is giving you to possess as an inheritance, you shall blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.  Do not forget!”  NIV

Simply put, God was nursing a grudge, and He demanded that the Israelites join Him in that grudge and in getting even in the end.

This is yet another example of our pop theology creating a smoke screen that obliterates the reality of the God we serve.  Our culture likes simplistic solutions.  So, we have a massively well developed theology of forgiveness that demands that everyone forgive everyone unilaterally and if possible to reconcile.

Now, I am as aware as anyone of the dangers of bitterness.  The consequences to spirit, soul and body, not to mention community, your economy and your possessions of nursing unforgiveness are immense.   The pastime of nursing and rehearsing the injustice done to you has devastating consequences.

So, simple theology says, “Forgive everyone, immediately.”  And it is easy to point to Jesus on the cross forgiving his four Roman executioners as the basis for saying we should do likewise.

However, when you move beyond simplistic theology to the real deal, it causes brain bleed.

For example, when Jesus sent out the twelve on their first itinerant ministry, He not only gave them permission to be unforgiving, He required them to determine at the end of each campaign whether to bless or curse the city.  No middle ground was allowed.  They had no freedom to forgive basic rudeness or apathy.  They were to judge.  And Jesus committed to endorsing their judgments sight unseen.  Those cities were to be treated more harshly than Sodom and Gomorrah.  Mark 6:11.

And Christ unleashed a savage condemnation of Capernaum which carried no shred of invitation for reconciliation in it.  Matthew 11:23

So there you have a picture that is consistent throughout the Old and New Testaments.  God displays staggering levels of emotional engagement with some people.  And God displays staggering levels of enduring fury against others.

I have not found a way to develop a nice, neat, three point theological grid to determine when I should unilaterally forgive and when I should declare immediate or enduring judgment.

I tend to camp in Matthew 23 which is the most concentrated passage of Christian cursing to be found anywhere in the New Testament.  But after that vitriolic assault which resulted in the Diaspora, Christ’s tone changed in a heartbeat, and He closed with this:  “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.  Look, your house is left to you desolate.”  Matthew 23:37-38  NIV

The God of the Grudge is terrifying, but beneath the most savage grudge, He still feels immense compassion.

And THAT is where I worship.  When I am burning white hot with anger, compassion is far from me.  When I am overwhelmed with compassion, I simply am not offended by anything about the person.

Only my Great King could speak and LIVE Matthew 23 – all in a single breath.

And for THAT, I worship Him today.

43. Hebrew Worship: The God of the Grudge  Blessing Intensity SLG Coaching blog

Copyright January 2016 by Arthur Burk

From the Hub



  1. frieda says

    great how God is so enormous different than we as humans think He is …it makes it much more difficult but also interesting to know how He is and reacts in several situations …


  2. says

    Very timely. I was just reflecting on Jesus words on the cross “Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do.” and was wondering if they were directed only to the Roman soldiers in his immediate presence on Golgotha. They I read this post and see your comment about Jesus forgiving his 4 executioners. So encouraging to know I’m not alone in this pondering.

    After all, if Jesus forgiveness statement was intended for a wider application, why did he not utter something similar in front of Pilate or the Sanhedrin during his trial? Perhaps was that because they did know what they were doing?

    The implications of this are profound in light of the current emphasis on the mercy and forgiveness of God, especially in the western Church.


  3. Michelle Neely says

    Thank you for the “Blessing Intensity” treats. Just when I thought nobody understood me,,you do,,and God does, and you save the day once again, just like your Father! Yahoo! Intensity is a good thing!…I do try to tone it down for the general public but its nice to know its there for a good reason.


    • Jerri Langlais says

      Oh boy, I love God’s perfect timing,too. I’m just in Deuteronomy and for the very first time I am seeing it from eyes of Love. Thank God He sent Jesus !!! I love it that many of us are seeking to know Him better and I am getting some real surprises myself. And spending more time meditating, and right in the middle of this lovely fast with Him, too 🙂


      On Sat, Jan 30, 2016 at 4:54 AM, SLG Coaching wrote:

      > Michelle Neely commented: “Thank you for the “Blessing Intensity” treats. > Just when I thought nobody understood me,,you do,,and God does, and you > save the day once again, just like your Father! Yahoo! Intensity is a good > thing!…I do try to tone it down for the general public b” >


  4. Michelle Neely says

    Just when I thought I knew something for sure, I find I did not know our God as much as I thought I did. Its very fun getting to know God from your perspective Arthur, and it scrambles my brain to try and keep up with you. A good thing, I think!…I agree with you to worship God for His vastness and for Justice making HIs Way., I like that, not my job, His job, what a relief….


  5. says

    I just read the Deut. passage yesterday and was arrested by that statement-blot them out. I put it on my ‘to think about’ shelf. But I wondered. Then you write about it today. In fact, i had just had a conversation with BJ that I certainly DO NOT understand the ways of God, but I want to. This portion, plus a lot of others, just doesn’t fit my theology. So now the Lord is taking it, and other portions, off that shelf. Maybe he is answering my prayer to know Him deeper.


  6. Jerri Langlais says

    This is right on time, because I have been meditating and asking Holy Spirit to help me understand God’s anger and not sinning, and the same thing with jealousy. I get these 2 emotions here on earth, but I am trying to understand how our perfect God can have both these emotions without sin being involved. And what does that look like for me and my walk with Him? I looked up the words in the dictionary, and it says: “thoughts and feelings of insecurity, fear, concern and anxiety over anticipated loss of something of great personal value — often consists of emotions such as anger, resentment, inadequacy, helplessness and disgust.” I’m wanting to know the nature of God, but also desiring to respect Him for who he is, and my brain is getting stretched! My spirit is having a great time, though 🙂 I continue to be impressed and thankful for the wisdom you share, Arthur. It’s changing my life.