One of the reasons for God’s wrath is to protect His children from their enemies. The Psalmist pleaded, “Pour out Your wrath on the nations that do not know You...For they have devoured Jacob and laid waste his dwelling place” (Psalms 79:6,7,10). David, hunted by Saul, wrote, “Deliver me from my enemies, O my God… for look, they lie in wait for my life…Consume them in wrath, consume them, that they may not be” (Psalms 59:1,2,13). Because only God can get the right mixture of love for both His children and their enemies, He tells His children to let Him defend them—“Do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay’ says the Lord”.
God may be forced to pour out His wrath on His own children who have given Him permission to intervene in their lives. This can happen if their sin threatens their relationship with Him, in which case He sometimes allows trouble to chasten them and bring them to repentance. Hezekiah warned the people of Judah to learn from the mistakes of their forefathers: “Our fathers have trespassed and done evil in the eyes of the Lord our God; they have forsaken Him, have turned their faces away from the dwelling place of the Lord, and turned their backs on Him…therefore the wrath of the Lord fell upon Judah and Jerusalem, and he has given them up to trouble” (2 Chronicles 29:6,8,9). The Babylonian captivity was the ultimate example of redemptive wrath: “Because our fathers provoked the God of heaven to wrath, He gave them into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, who destroyed this temple and carried the people away to Babylon.” (Ezra 5:12).
This does not mean that God will continue to inflict redemptive wrath upon those who determinedly reject his chastening. He always respects our free will, and those who reject Him will ultimately be left to the choices they have made. Elihu expressed this reality to Job: “Man is chastened with pain on his bed, and with strong pain in many of his bones, so that his life abhors bread, and his soul succulent food...his soul draws near the pit, and his life to the executioners…Behold, God works all these things, twice, in fact, three times with a man, to bring back his soul from the pit, that he may be enlightened with the light of life” (Job 33:19-22, 29,30).
At times God must hide Himself from His people for reasons that they do not understand, and although they react to this as an expression of His wrath, it is not true wrath because God is neither trying to destroy them nor is He chastening them. The psalmist expressed the separation from God that Jesus experienced when He took the sins of the world upon Himself and felt the sense of the wrath of God: “My soul is full of troubles and my life draws near to the grave…Your wrath lies heavy upon me and You have afflicted me with all Your waves…I am shut up and I cannot get out…Lord, why do You hide Your face from me? I have been afflicted and ready to die from my youth; I suffer Your terrors; I am distraught. Your fierce wrath has gone over me” (Psalms 88:3,7,8,14-16). David, Jeremiah and other prophets experienced the sense of separation from God as wrath as they faced rejection and persecution in response to their acts of faith.
 See also Job 34:24-28.
 Apparently our taking revenge ourselves may actually interfere with the punishment God planned for our enemy—“Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles; lest the Lord see it and it displease Him, and He turn away His wrath from Him” (Proverbs 24:17,18).
 See also Job 19:29, Isaiah 54:8, 60:10, Jeremiah 32:37, Zechariah 7:12-14.
 See also Psalms 89:38-51, 102, Isaiah 60:10, Lamentations 3.