The title for this post is taken directly from Psalm 76:10, the full text of which says:
“Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee; the remainder of wrath shalt thou restrain.” (K.J.V.)
But what does “Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee…” mean? It means that even when a person or a group of people rages against God, rebels against His will, thwarts His purposes, and becomes a roadblock to His plans, He can take all that bad stuff and recycle it to bring praise to Himself. As the New Revised Standard translation renders the thought:
“Human wrath serves only to praise you…”
There are numerous Bible examples of this promise in action. Here are some I thought of off the top of my head:
- Jacob was a saved believer and had God’s hand upon his life, but his unsaved uncle Laban frustrated Jacob’s life for twenty years. First, he deceitfully tricked Jacob into marrying Leah instead of Rachel (Genesis 29:15-30). Second, he was perfectly willing to set Jacob at what seemed to be a distinct disadvantage in their business partnership (Genesis 30:25-36). Third, he unscrupulously changed Jacob’s wages ten times over the course of Jacob’s years with him (Genesis 31:4-7). But how did God flip all of Laban’s “wrath” around to where He received praise from it? He did it by blessing Jacob incredibly despite Laban’s attempts to keep Jacob low. Even with Laban working as hard as he could against Jacob (and subsequently God), by the time the two men finally parted ways Jacob had been blessed with an exceedingly large family and large flocks of sheep and goats, flocks much larger than Laban’s (Genesis 31:8-10). As Jacob himself said, “God did not allow him (Laban) to hurt me” (Genesis 31:7).
- Joseph was a young man destined for greatness with God, but his jealous brothers did everything they could to keep him from fulfilling that destiny. First, they mocked him for his prophetic dreams that foretold that he would one day rule over them (Genesis 37:1-11). Second, they threw him down into a pit in the wilderness (Genesis 37:12-24). Third, they sold him as a slave to a caravan of Ishmaelite traders who were headed down to Egypt to do business (Genesis 37:25-28). But how did God flip those brothers’ “wrath” around to where He received praise from it? He did it by eventually raising up Joseph to be the second-in-command of all Egypt. In this role, Joseph was able to save his entire family during a time of great famine. As Joseph himself would come to say of his brothers’ treachery toward him, “…you meant it for evil against me; but God meant it for good…” (Genesis 50:20).
- God’s plan was for Moses to lead the people of Israel out of their enslavement in Egypt, but Egypt’s Pharaoh stubbornly tried to prevent that. First, he increased the workload upon the Israelites (Exodus 5:1-9). Second, despite nine plagues that God inflicted upon Egypt, Pharaoh still wouldn’t let the Israelites leave (Exodus chapters 7-10). Third, once Pharaoh had finally released the Israelites following the tenth plague, he soon changed his mind and had his army chase them down and trap them at the Red Sea (Exodus chapters 11-14). But how did God flip Pharaoh’s “wrath” around to where He received praise from it? He did it by using those ten plagues to break Pharaoh’s stubbornness and by drowning Pharaoh’s army (and perhaps even Pharaoh himself) in the Red Sea (Exodus 14:1-31). As God Himself spoke to Pharaoh through Moses, “…for this purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth” (Exodus 9:16, Romans 9:17).
- Hezekiah was God’s anointed King over Judah, but Assyria’s King Sennacherib sent an army to bring Judah under his rule (2 Kings 18:1-37). But how did God flip Sennacherib’s “wrath” around to where He received praise from it? He did it by sending the Angel of the Lord (an Old Testament pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus) to slay 185,000 Assyrian soldiers in one night (2 Kings 19:35). Sennacherib then returned home to Nineveh, where he was assassinated by his two sons (2 Kings 19:36-37).
- Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego proved their loyalty to God by refusing to bow down before the image of gold that Babylon’s King Nebuchadnezzar had erected (Daniel 3:1-18). Nebuchadnezzar responded to their refusal by having them thrown into a fiery furnace for execution (Daniel 3:19-23). But how did God flip Nebuchadnezzar’s “wrath” around to where He received praise from it? He did it by keeping Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego safe in that furnace. They didn’t even have the smell of smoke on them when they were pulled from the furnace (Daniel 3:24-27). This prompted Nebuchadnezzar to praise God himself (Daniel 3:28), decree that anyone in his kingdom who spoke against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego would be put to death (Daniel 3:29), and promote the three young men (Daniel 3:30).
- Daniel proved his loyalty to God by continuing to pray to God three times a day despite King Darius’ decree that no one in his kingdom should make petitions to any man or god besides him for thirty days. Anyone who broke this decree was to be thrown into the lions’ den, a fate which befell Daniel. But how did God flip Darius’ “wrath” around to where He received praise from it? He did it by sending an angel to keep Daniel safe inside the lions’ den (Daniel 6:19-22). Darius then had the men who had talked him into instituting the decree thrown to the lions, and the lions devoured them (Daniel 6:24). Darius also praised Daniel’s God and decreed that everyone in his kingdom must tremble and fear before that God (Daniel 6:25-28).
- Mordecai was God’s servant in the Medo-Persian kingdom ruled by King Ahasuerus, but a man named Haman despised Mordecai and plotted to have him hung (Esther 5:9-14). Even worse than that, Haman also enacted a plan by which all of the Jews in Ahasuerus’ kingdom would be put to death (Esther 3:1-15). But how did God flip Haman’s “wrath” around to where He received praise from it? He did it by orchestrating a series of circumstances which led to Haman, not Mordecai, being hung on the gallows which had been built to hang Mordecai (Esther 7:1-10).
Okay, I’ll stop there to keep this from getting too long, but hopefully this limited list of examples is enough to prove the point. Yes, God really can cause the “wrath” of man to praise Him. For the record, this is all part and parcel to that famous verse from Romans, Romans 8:28, which promises:
And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.
So, keep all this in mind anytime someone does you a wrong turn and seems to get away with it. It might take a while for God to get the job completed, but He will eventually cause that wrong-doing to work out for your good and their bad. Even if the job extends out into eternity, God will get it done. In the end, all human “wrath” will only serve to praise Him. We just have to be patient and trust Him to bring this promise to pass.