The author asks whom God was so angry against. Really, the answer is the same people as in verse 16. It was the people whom Moses led out of Egypt. But here the author uses different words for his answer. In the previous verse, he told us how God had saved these people. But in this verse, he tells us how God punished them.
Really, these people caused their own punishment. They did not want any part of Godís promises. So they did not even enter the country that God had promised. They did not want to live by means of his word, that is, his promise. So they died by his word, that is, his judgement. They did not want to know his love. So instead, they knew his anger.
And Godís anger against them was severe. Elsewhere, the Bible tells us that Godís anger lasts for a moment (Psalm 30:5). But Godís anger against them lasted for 40 years. It lasted for the rest of their lives. It continued until they had all died in the desert. So, they all died outside the country that God had promised to their nation. It was their children who, afterwards, received the benefit of Godís promises.
God is not a God who wants to be angry with people. He forgives every kind of wrong thing that his people do (Exodus 34:6-7). But he cannot forgive people who do not want him to forgive them. He cannot forgive people who are proud of their evil deeds. He cannot forgive people who constantly refuse to accept his love.
Against such people, God is a strict judge. He always does what is right. They are guilty, so they will certainly know his punishment.
Next part: Why people must obey God (Hebrews 3:18-19)
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© 2014, Keith Simons.