There are numerous passages of Scripture that speak of God’s emotions. For example, God demonstrates the following:
• Anger – Psalm 7:11; Deuteronomy 9:22; Romans 1:18
• Compassion – Psalm 135:14; Judges 2:18; Deuteronomy 32:36
• Grief – Genesis 6:6; Psalm 78:40
• Love – 1 John 4:8; John 3:16; Jeremiah 31:3
• Hate – Proverbs 6:16; Psalm 5:5; Psalm 11:5
• Jealousy – Exodus 20:5; Exodus 34:14; Joshua 24:19
• Joy – Zephaniah 3:17; Isaiah 62:5; Jeremiah 32:41
However, are God’s emotions the same kind of emotions we humans exhibit? Is it right to think of Him as “emotional” (does He have mood swings)? In theological circles, personhood is often defined as “the state of being an individual with intellect, emotion, and volition.” God, then, is a “person” in that He is a personal God with a mind, emotions, and a will of His own. To deny God’s emotions is to deny that He possesses personality.
Humans respond to things in this world physically, of course, but we also respond spiritually—our souls react, and this is what we call “emotion.” The fact of human emotion is one proof that God has emotions, as well, for He created us in His image (Genesis 1:27). Another proof is the Incarnation. As the Son of God in this world, Jesus was not an emotionless automaton. He felt what we feel, weeping with those who wept (John 11:35), feeling compassion for the multitudes (Mark 6:34), and being overcome with sorrow (Matthew 26:38). Through it all, He revealed the Father to us (John 14:9).
Though God is transcendent, we’ve come to know Him as a personal, living God who engages intimately with His creation. He loves us in ways we cannot fathom (Jeremiah 31:3; Romans 5:8; 8:35, 38–39), and He is immeasurably pained by our sin and rebellion against Him (Psalm 1:5; 5:4–5; Proverbs 6:16–19).
We recognize that the demonstration of emotions does not alter the immutability or permanence of God’s will or His promises. In other words, God does not change (Malachi 3:6; Numbers 23:19; 1 Samuel 15:29); He has no mood swings. God’s feelings and actions toward His creation, His judgment and forgiveness, His justice and grace, are all consistent with who He is (James 1:17). God’s responses to good and evil come from His same immutable will. God wills to judge and punish the sinner in order to bring about justice and, correspondingly, to bring the sinner to repentance because He desires that all men be saved (1 Timothy 2:4). We’ve come to know and relate to God as a feeling Person, one who loves and hates, grieves and laughs, feels anger and compassion. He loves the righteous and hates the wicked (Psalm 11:5–7; 5:4–5; 21:8).
This isn’t to say that our emotions and those of God are exactly the same. We sometimes speak of our emotions “clouding our judgment” because our sinful nature has corrupted our emotions. But God has no sin, and His emotions are incorruptible. For example, there is a vast difference between human anger and divine anger. Human anger is volatile, subjective, and too often out of control (Proverbs 14:29; 15:18; James 1:20). God’s anger is rooted in divine justice. God’s anger is perfectly righteous and predictable, never capricious or malicious. In His anger, He never sins.
All of God’s emotions are rooted in His holy nature and are always expressed sinlessly. God’s compassion, sorrow, and joy are all perfect expressions of the Perfect Being. Jesus’ anger at the synagogue leaders in Mark 3:5 and His love for the rich young ruler in Mark 10:21 were perfectly motivated responses of His divine nature.
God’s ways have been recorded for us in terms that we can understand and relate to. God’s wrath and anger against sin are real (Proverbs 8:13; 15:9). And His compassion for sinners is steadfast and genuine (2 Peter 3:9; Ecclesiastes 8:11; Isaiah 30:18). His works reveal His mercy and unending grace. But most of all, His love for His children is endless (Jeremiah 31:3) and unshakable (Romans 8:35, 38–39). God not only has thoughts and plans; He has feelings and desires, too. In contrast to the unreliability and instability of humans’ sin-tainted emotions, God’s emotions are as completely dependable and immutable as He.
There are two wonderful things concerning God and emotions: first, He understands our emotions (since He created us with the capacity to feel them), and, second, His own emotions continually flow from His perfection. God will never have a bad day; He will never change His feelings toward His redeemed.