This text is like superglue (if needed). But it isn’t like the covert superglue project of a son glueing two things together that shouldn’t be, say a forehead and a flashlight. No, this is the mature parental glueing together of something the clumsy child has broken.
It doesn’t take superglue to hold the end of chapter 23 with the beginning of chapter 24. It just takes clumsy foolishness to break them apart. Jesus’ lament is snuggled nicely in the midst of judgment speak; it’s cozily at home. Curse and lament, “woe,” and “o,” tenderness and wrath, these two do go together.
How? Theologians have long spoken of two wills (some even mention three) in God using a variety of labels. You may hear them mention God’s secret and revealed will, or His will of command and will of decree. They might speak of his sovereign will and moral will, or his efficient and permissive will. Still others prefer the terms decretive and preceptive will. That there are so many terms says both that there is something there, and that that something is complex.
Let’s simplify by analogy. Can you have two wills? Have you ever had to go to the dentist? Have you ever wanted ice cream and to exercise? Better, have you ever wanted ice cream and to lose weight? As far as I am concerned, both exercise and ice cream are good desires. The trick is to will them in the right proportion.
Can God have two wills? Look no further than the cross. When sinful men crucified our Lord they were violating the will of God, and yet, they were carrying it out. We mustn’t think of God’s will(s) like our going to the dentist, “I guess I have to. I want to, but I don’t want to.” The ice cream illustration is better. Ice cream is so good, illustrations become superior to other illustrations by the mention of it. A person might desire ice cream, and desire to exercise; and these desires can harmonize perfectly. Perhaps the exercise is so intense, a high number of calories must be consumed.
In God, mercy and wrath meet perfectly. It takes no superglue for these to go together. They meet in this goal, the glory of God. Jesus wills to save and He wills to damn and He does neither with a grimace. “Our God is in the heavens, he does all that he pleases (Psalm 115:3).” The will of God is always done with pleasure, because the Father delights to make much of the Son and the Son of the Father and the Spirit of them both. And this is what everything that God wills in every way is ultimately about. If you make God supremely about you, you will hollow out words like election, and sovereignty to put these two together. If you realize the cross (John 17:1, 4-5), and all creation (Romans 11:33-36) is ultimately about the glory of God, you will see that these harmonize perfectly.
If you can’t bear this, remember this, Jesus deals out nothing that He hasn’t borne. He deals out wrath, for His glory in the damnation of sinners, and He bears that wrath for His glory in the salvation of sinners.