Anger (Matthew 2:16)

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God is always kind and always gracious. But Scripture reveals that there are also times   when God gets angry.  Numbers 22:22 speaks of how God was angry at Balaam for pursuing Balak’s promise of wealth. 1Kings 11:9 notes that God was angry at Solomon for disobeying the Lord’s command to avoid idolatry. Psalm 78:56-64 talks about how the Lord was angry at Israel for rejecting Him after He brought them into the promised land. Jeremiah 10:10 says, “When he is angry, the earth trembles; the nations cannot endure his wrath.” Notice that it does not say if God gets angry, but when He gets angry. From these passages and more, we can know that anger can be a holy emotion. For God gets angry and yet is holy – so much so that the four living creatures closest to Him constantly watch Him with eyes all over their bodies and, “Day and night they never stop saying: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.”” Holiness is so much part of His character that even in His most severe anger He cannot sin. 

But for fallen humankind to be angry and at at the same time avoid sin is quite unnatural. To this end, His Word specifically counsels us not to sin in our anger, “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” The wise and the godly heed that, and give space for their anger to subside before making key decisions. The foolish and the unwise do not heed God’s counsel. In their anger, they immediately take regretful action. Matthew tells us of one such case after the Magi leave Mary and Joseph:

Herod had told the Magi to return to him when they found the King of the Jews. But God warned them in a dream not to return, so they went another route home after worshipping the Christ-child. “When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi.” There is no doubt Herod had ordered the Magi to return so he could destroy the Christ-child where He lay. Frustrated and angry that his evil order was disobeyed, he unleashes the full perversion of his sin in a vengeful and horrific edict. In so doing he causes irreparable harm to the very people he is charged with governing.  

It is a very sad outcome. Over his lifetime and in spite of his anger issues, Herod had actually done much. He had rebuilt the Jewish temple, he had commissioned many large projects and provided employment for many. If there is any metric by which we judge our leaders, surely this is it – a leader must benefit the population they are governing. If they do so, the population grows and is enriched.  This ultimately benefits the leader too, as a larger and better off population is more able to bring blessing to the king (in the form of taxes and labor) and better able to defend the land – to the betterment of both king and population. Herod’s hasty decision does the opposite, to his people’s great anguish. It might even be said that this single foolish act undoes all his accomplishments, for this pivotal and obviously evil command is not just noted in the government records, but forever marked in Scripture. King Herod will forever be known as a failure – the king who exterminated infants. 

It is said that every decision is an emotional decision. The decisions we take either move us closer to God (wise decisions) or further away (poor decisions). But nothing moves us further away from Him than a poor decision fueled by unchecked anger.

Anger is simply passion in search of an appropriate focus.

Mike Murdock

APPLICATION: Intentionality

Look back at the last major life decision you made. Was it made in love?

What decision are you facing today?  How will that decision differ if you make it in love and compassion instead of anger or bitterness?

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