When David counted his fighting men, he brought terrible judgment on the nation. An interesting aspect of the incident is the way that David was incited to do evil. Samuel and Chronicles describe the event in different ways that are actually the same.
Again the wrath of the Lord burned against Israel, and he incited David against them, saying, "Go and take a census of Israel and Judah" (2 Sam 24:1)
Satan rose up against Israel and incited David to take a census of Israel (1 Chron 21:1).
Samuel says that God's wrath burned against evil. The Chronicler says that Satan incited David. The difference is more important than we realise. This is not a contradiction, but an insight into the structure of the spiritual world.
Satan is one of the spiritual powers of evil. These powers are controlled by a powerful hierarchy of evil spirits, but they do not like each other. Throughout history, they have jockeyed for control of their hierarchies of power. A spirit called Satan controlled this empire after Adam and Eve sinned. During the Millenium of Darkness prior to the flood a spirit called Destruction was top dog, but for much of history it has been controlled by a spirit called Death. Once of the more powerful spirits in this evil hierarchy is called Wrath.
The devil often has Wrath with him when he attacks the earth.
The devil has come down to you having great Wrath (Rev 12:12).
This understanding of Wrath is confirmed in Psalm 78:49.
He unleashed against them his hot anger,
Wrath, indignation and hostility-
a band of destroying angels.
Wrath is the leader of a band of destroying angels.
Wrath is not a manifestation of God's character, but an evil spiritual being.
Wrath and God
Like all the spiritual powers of evil, the spirit called wrath was created by God, but rebelled against God at the beginning of human history. Because God created him, he is called God's wrath. I guess that God knew when he created the angels and gave them freedom that they could go wrong, but he decided to do create them anyway. God does not disown his creation. He does not avoid responsibility for what he has done. They are still his, although they have rebelled against him
Despite their rebellion, God still uses the spiritual powers of evil, despite themselves, to accomplish his purposes. He has frequently incited the spirit called Wrath to do things that he needs done, particularly when restraining political powers that are doing harm to the earth. That is why the scriptures often describe him as God's Wrath.
Reading the scriptures with an understanding that Wrath is not an aspect of God's character, but an wicked spirit controlling an army of spiritual powers gives a very different perspective. I will just give a few examples.
Wrath and Law
Paul explained to the Romans the relationship between wrath and law.
The law brings about wrath; for where there is no law there is no transgression (Rom 4:15).
Prior to the giving of the law through Moses, transgression was undefined. The law specified the behaviour that God required from the people that he called. The law also spelt out in detail the curse consequences for transgression.
Once the law of the covenant was in place, the spiritual powers of evil demanded the right to enforce the curses of the law against the children of Israel whenever they transgressed the law. Wrath was often the leader of this activity. This is why Paul said that law brings about Wrath. The giving of the law with curses specified for disobedience increased the power of Wrath and the destroying angels working with him.
The gracious hand of our God is on everyone who looks to him, but his powerful Wrath is against all who forsake him (Ezra 8:22).
You intend to add to our sins and to our guilt; for our guilt is great, and fierce Wrath is against Israel (2 Chron 28:13).
My Wrath will be aroused (Ex 22:24).
Rejection of God is a bitter poison that releases Wrath (Deut 29:18).
Make sure there is no root among you that produces such bitter poison (Deut 19:18).
Rejecting God's law releases Wrath.
Great is the wrath of the Lord that is aroused against us,
because our fathers have not obeyed the words of this book
Therefore my wrath shall be aroused against this place
and shall not be quenched. (2 Kings 22:13).
Nevertheless the Lord did not turn from the fierceness of His great wrath, with which His anger was aroused against Judah, because of all the provocations with which Manasseh had provoked Him (2 Kings 23:26).
Wrath and the Tabernacle
The spirit called Wrath made the tabernacle of God a dangerous place to be.
The Levites shall camp around the tabernacle of the testimony, so that there will be no wrath on the Israelite community. So the Levites shall keep charge of the tabernacle of the testimony (Num 1:53).
God dwelt in the Holy of Holies, because the Covenant with Moses gave him the right to be there. The spiritual powers of evil hated this intrusion, because they thought the earth belonged to them. They didn't want the children of Israel being close to God, so they gathered there and did their best to harm those who went near. God had put spiritual protection in place for the Priests and Levites, by specific sacrifices and keeping them away from activities that could open them up to spiritual attack. They camped around the tabernacle, because they were only ones who were safe in this dangerous place. They put up their standards to mark the safe place (Num 1:52).
When the tabernacle was being packed up was a dangerous time, because the boundaries and safe places were less clear.
Whenever the tabernacle is to move, the Levites are to take it down, and whenever the tabernacle is to be set up, the Levites shall do it. Anyone else who approaches it is put to death (Num 1:51).
It is usually assume that God would put them to death, but that is wrong. Wrath and his evil angels would put people to death, if they got caught in the wrong place.
When Samuel was a boy, the Philistines captured the covenant box, but they experienced terrible sickness. People in the vicinity came out with awful tumours (1 Sam 5:1-10). They had been attacked by Wrath, so the sent the covenant box back to Israel. At Beth Shemesh some men looked into the covenant box, but many were killed.
Then he struck the men of Beth Shemesh, because they had looked into the covenant box of the Lord (1 Sam 6:19).
They thought it was God, but they were most likely struck down by the spirit called Wrath.
When David was taking the covenant box back to Jerusalem, he forgot to involve the Levites. Uzzah touched the covenant box, when the oxen stumbled, and he died beside the covenant box. Most English translations imply that God struck him down, but that is misleading. The Hebrew text says that Wrath of God struck him, because he was careless with the things of God. David had failed to follow the instructions that God had given Moses, so the powers of evil got at one of his men.
The spiritual power of evil hated the covenant box, because it was the place where God dealt with the sin of the people and provided them with spiritual protection. They wanted to make the people fear it, and be unwilling to take it back and restore their spiritual protection.
Holy of Holies
The Holy of Holies was the place were God dwelt. The main furniture was the golden box containing a copy of the covenant between God and the Israelites. Just outside, but still within the tabernacle of this was the golden altar. Incense was placed on this altar as a pleasant aroma. There was not much blood in the Holy of Holies. A little was dabbed on the horns of the altar, once a year on the day of Atonement (Exodus 30:1-10). God is easy to please and a pleasant aroma was all he required.
The burnt offerings were offered on the bronze altar outside the tabernacle. The altar was bronze, because it was not directed towards God, but towards the spiritual forces of evil. The blood was for them too. The primary purpose of these offerings was to appease the spiritual powers of evil, who demanded blood for every sin. They love blood and gore, because they love killing and doing evil. They demanded the right to impose the curses of the covenant on the children of evil. The sacrifices were offered to keep them at bay. They were not entirely happy, but they had no choice but to accept them, because God said they must be satisfied with the blood of animals, because the animals belonged to humans.
The tabernacle court was a dangerous place to be, because the spiritual powers of evil hung round there, enjoying the death and gore. They would attack anyone who was not authorised by God to be there.
The tabernacle was not the centre of ceremonial religion, or a type to teach us mysteries. It was the site of an intense spiritual battle, in which God won and enforced a strategic victory that foreshadowed a much greater victory of Jesus cross and resurrection.
The Israelites had very little spiritual discernment, so they needed strict rules to keep safe in this situation. Following the cross, and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, spiritual protection comes from the gift of discernment and walking in the Spirit.
In his letter to the Romans, Paul explains that the political powers are "Agents of Wrath (Rom 13:4). This should change the way that we think about them. God might use them from time to time, but the principalities and powers that control the political powers are intent on evil. This is why the proverb warns,
A king's wrath is a messenger of death (Prov 16:14).
We need the gospel and local judges applying God's law, so that the agents of wrath do not get hold in our society (Rom 13:5).
Shisak the ruler of Egypt was controlled by Wrath.
My wrath will not be poured out on Jerusalem through Shishak (2 Chron 12:7).
It is terrible to live in an empire whose ruler is controlled by wrath.
Daniel described an evil political leader who will emerge during a time of distress on earth. He will do terrible evil on earth, because he is controlled by Wrath. When he is disturbed:
He will go forth with great Wrath to destroy and annihilate many (Dan 11:44).
Wrath and Sickness
When the people of reject God's words and the message of his prophet, Wrath releases sickness.
They mocked God's messengers, despised his words and scoffed at his prophets until the Wrath of the Lord was aroused against his people and there was no healing (rapha) (2 Chron 36:16).
Wrath has come out from the Lord; the plague has started (Num 16:46).
Wrath loves to inflict pain and sickness.
Wrath and the Earth
The spirit called Wrath caused the earth to shake.
The heavens tremble and the earth will shake from its place at the wrath of the Lord Almighty (Is 13:13).
The earth trembled and quaked,
the foundations of the heavens shook;
they trembled because he was wrath (2 Sam 22:8).
Many earthquakes are caused by Wrath and his destructive angels.
Wrath and terror travel together.
Your wrath has swept over me;
your terrors have destroyed me (Psalm 88:16).
Wrath produces terror.
By your wrath we are terrified (Psalm 90:7)
Mercy and Wrath
The prophet prayed that Wrath would be turned away from the people.
I stood before God and spoke in their behalf to turn your wrath away from them (Jer 18:20).
God restrained wrath in answer to the prophets prayer.
Yet he was merciful; he forgave their iniquities
and did not destroy them.
Time after time.. he did not stir up his full wrath (Ps 78:38).
God restrained wrath from doing his worst on earth.
The people of faith are saved from wrath through Jesus blood.
Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from Wrath through him (Rom 5:9).
Jesus destroyed the power of Wrath when he died on the cross.
God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross (Col 2:13-15).
The evil spirit called Wrath gained power by demanding to inflict the curse of the law. Jesus became a curse and experienced the worst that Wrath and his mates could do, and then rose from the dead. Wrath has no power over those who trust Jesus and walk in the Spirit
The spirit called Wrath can have a go at those who reject Jesus.
Whoever rejects the Son God's wrath remains on them (John 3:36).
Jesus warned his listeners that their rejection of him would release Wrath in their land.
There shall be great distress on the land, and wrath on this people (Luke 21:23).
The spirit of Wrath would bring great distress on the land.
Those who fill up sin will experience terrible Wrath.
They always fill up the measure of their sins. But Wrath has come upon them to the utmost (1 This 2:16).
Wrath attacks those who push into the depths of sin.
When the politicians get angry, they release the spirit of Wrath.
The nations were angry and your wrath has come (Rev 11:18).
When the Bible refers to the wrath of God, it is not describing God as an immature father who flies into a rage because his children ignore his instructions. It is mostly describing an evil angel who leads an evil army of demonic powers who are seeing opportunities to punish and hurt people who have moved away from God and lost their protection.