To me, one of the most amazing verses in the Bible is Psalm 76:10, where Asaph wrote: “For the wrath of man shall praise Thee…” As you look down throughout history, both in Bible times and in recent days, you see how man at his worst is no match for the Sovereign God, who, in fact, uses the evil of man to accomplish His purposes.
I’m reminded of stories like that of the hatred Joseph’s brothers had toward him, and how they plotted to kill him but ended up selling him as a slave. In spite of their evil actions, Joseph ended up as second in command to the Pharaoh of Egypt. As a result, he was able to save his family from starvation during a severe famine. When reunited with his brothers, and given an opportunity to “get even” with them for how terribly they treated him, “Joseph said to them, ‘Do not be afraid, for am I in God’s place? And as for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive'” (Gen. 50:19,20). God’s plan is larger than any one person or groups of people. In an amazing way, He weaves together the lives of many different people–even those opposed to Him–to accomplish His will. “For the wrath of man shall praise thee…” (Psa. 76:10).
The Psalmist wrote: “Why are the nations in an uproar, and the people devising a vain thing? The kings of the earth take their stand, and the rulers take counsel together against the LORD and His Anointed: ‘Let us tear their fetters apart, and cast away their cords from us!’ He who sits in the heavens laughs. The Lord scoffs at them” (Psa. 2:1-4). The Psalmist also said: “The counsel of the LORD stands forever, the plans of His heart from generation to generation” (Psa. 33:11), and “Whatever the LORD pleases, He does, in heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all the deeps” (135:6). In speaking to Isaiah, God said: “…My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure…Truly I have spoken; truly I will bring it to pass. I have planned it, surely I will do it” (Isa. 46:10,11).
Most of the prophets of the Old Testament faced severe persecution (Acts 7:52), yet through it, God’s plans and purposes were carried out, just as with Joseph. We also see Satan’s attempts to destroy the royal line and stop the “Seed of the Woman” from being born, but God always had the final word and “In the fullness of time, God sent forth His son, born of a woman…” (Gal. 4:4). In the New Testament, we see Satan’s attempts, through man’s evil nature, to kill Jesus once He came. Jesus, however, made it very clear that no one could take His life from Him, but that He would offer it up at the appropriate time (Jn. 10:17,18). God even used the hatred of the religious leaders toward Jesus to carry out the divine plan and timing for the sacrifice of “The Lamb of God” (Jn. 1:29). The mob in Jerusalem cried out, “Away with Him, crucify Him!” (Jn. 19:15). And it would appear that Satan and the evil of men had won, for “They took Jesus therefore, and He went out, bearing His own cross to the place called the Place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha. There they crucified Him…” (vv. 16-18). But this was all in God’s plan. Isaiah had prophesied, “But the LORD was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief; If He would render Himself as a guilt offering, He will see His offspring, He will prolong His days, and the good pleasure of the LORD will prosper in His hand. As a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see it and be satisfied; by His knowledge the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, as He will bear their iniquities” (Isa. 53:10,11). “For the wrath of man shall praise Thee…” (Psa. 76:10)!
The Apostle Paul also knew what it was to face an angry crowd, but saw too, how God used it to carry out His purpose. In the aftermath of Paul’s conversion, as he began preaching in Damascus, the Jews who lived there “plotted to do away with him…but his disciples took him by night, and let him down through an opening in the wall, lowering him in a large basket” (Acts 9:18). He ended up in Jerusalem where God put him together with Barnabas, preparing them for the missionary journeys on which God would send them. Later, when Paul and Barnabas split up over a debate about taking John Mark with them a second time, Paul took Silas with him and traveled through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches” (Acts 15:41). Then, after God closed the door to continue on in Asia, Paul and Silas ended up in Europe where Paul asked God to deliver a slave girl from the demon that was enabling her to make a profit for her master through divination (Acts 16:16-18). This incited a riot and they were beaten and thrown into prison where God had yet another divine appointment for them. God sent an earthquake to shake the foundations of the prison house, opening all the doors and releasing everyone’s chains. The jailer, thinking the prisoners had all escaped, was going to take his own life, “But Paul cried out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Do yourself no harm, for we are all here!’ ” (Acts 16:28). The jailer responded by asking Paul and Silas, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved and your household’ ” (vv. 30,31). Not only did God use the rioting crowd to bring the Philippian jailer and his family to Christ (and who knows how many others?), but also to give us a key verse on the doctrine of salvation. “The wrath of man shall praise Thee…” (Psa. 76:10).
In 1989 China’s government drove tanks into Tiananmen Square where a group of several thousand young people were protesting in hope of reforming communism. An estimated 2,600 were brutally killed (something China continues to deny). One of the protestors who survived was Chai Ling, a top leader in the Tiananmen Square democracy movement. Twenty-two years ago she escaped from China to the United States where she attempted to put together all the puzzle pieces of her life. She discovered something that had been hidden from her, the answer to perhaps her most difficult question: Where was God during the 1989 massacre at Tiananmen? She lived with that question until she heard from a colleague from Hong Kong who was also at Tiananmen, but was a Christian at the time. She too had questioned how God could allow such a terrible thing to happen. But, God had shown her how He really was there. Her testimony helped Chai Ling trust Christ as her personal Savior. She was Baptized Easter Sunday 2010 at Park Street Church in Boston. She said, “God used the massacre to pronounce the death of communism. We thought we were a political movement. What was happening was a spiritual movement” (from “Saving China’s Daughters” in the Oct. 2011 issue of Christianity Today). A third of the survivors of Tiananmen have turned to Christ and the others are still searching. God is using the Tiananmen massacre to bring salvation to China. And today, Chai Ling is spearheading a movement called “All Girls Allowed” to try to stem the tide of abortion in China, where, with their “one-child policy,” each day 35,000 baby girls are aborted and 500 women commit suicide! But, “The wrath of man shall praise Thee…” (Psa. 76:10).
We see all around us today evil and moral decay and injustice and a mocking of our God, but, rest assured, none of this will stop the plans of God. In fact He will use it to carry out His purpose. What a comfort to know that even “The wrath of man shall praise Thee!”