Anger - God, Jesus and Man? (last update to this study was made on 11/24/2004)
Anger was God's idea and can play a constructive part in our lives. Let's look at this difficult subject with an open mind and see what we can discover.
The first time we find the word "anger" in scripture is Genesis 2:7 when the LORD GOD formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed INTO HIS NOSTRILS the breath of life; and man became a living soul. In Strong's concordance, it says that ANGER (#639) in the Hebrew (O.T) means a rapid breathing in passion. It is translated as anger, wrath, face, nose or nostril and countenance, as well as other words. To note a few other scriptures using this Hebrew word of "aph" we find the verses below. When reading these verses, consider the meaning of a "rapid breathing in passion."
Gen 3:19 In the sweat of THY FACE shalt thy thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it was thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return
Gen 27:45 Until thy brother's ANGER turn away from thee, and he forget that which thou hast done unto him.... (referring to Jacob & Esau)
Ex 4:14 And the ANGER OF the LORD was kindled against Moses...
Ex 15:8 And with the blast of THY NOSTRILS the waters were gathered together, the floods stood upright as an heap, and the depths were congealed in the heart of the sea
Ex 22:24 And MY WRATH shall wax hot, and I will kill you with the sword.....
Nbrs 11:10 THE ANGER OF the Lord was kindled
Nbrs 11:33 THE WRATH OF the Lord was kindled
Judges 10:7 THE ANGER OF the Lord was hot
Ezra 8:22 ........The hand of our God is upon all them for good that seek him: but his power and HIS WRATH is against all them that forsake him
Ezra 10:22 ........until the fierce WRATH of our God for this matter be turned from us
Nehemiah 9:17 ......but thou art a God ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to ANGER, and of great kindness, and forsookest them not
Job 4:8-9 (words of Eliphaz) ..Even as I have seen, they that plow iniquity, and sow wickedness, reap the same. By the blast of God they perish, and by the breath of HIS NOSTRILS are they consumed
Job 9:12-13 (words of Job)... Behold, he taketh away, who can hinder him? who will say unto him, What doest thou? If God will not withdraw HIS ANGER, the proud helpers do stoop under him
Job 14:13 ..........that thou wouldest keep me secret, until THY WRATH be past.....
Job 19:6 Know now that God hath overthrown me, and hath compassed me with his net....... He hath also kindled HIS WRATH against me
Job 21:17 .........God distributeth sorrows in HIS ANGER
Job 42:7 ..........(God) MY WRATH is kindled against thee, and against thy two friends
Ps 6:1 O LORD, rebuke me not in THINE ANGER, neither chasten me in thy hot displeasure
Ps 30:5 For HIS ANGER endureth but a moment; in his favour is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning
Ps 37:8-9 Cease from anger, and forsake wrath: fret not thyself in any wise to do evil. For evildoers shall be cut off: but those that wait upon the LORD, they shall inherit the earth.
Ps 103:8 The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to ANGER, and plenteous in mercy
Ps 110:5 The Lord at thy right hand shall strike through kings in the day of HIS WRATH
And of course, I would be remiss to not list from that wonderful book of Proverbs.....
Prov 14:17 He that is soon ANGRY dealeth foolishly......
Prov 14:29 He that is slow to WRATH is of great understanding: but he that is hasty of spirit exalteth folly
Prov 15:1 A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up ANGER
Prov 19:11 The discretion of a man deferreth HIS ANGER; and it is his glory to pass over a transgression
Prov 22:24 Make no friendship with an ANGRY man
Prov 24:17-18 Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth, and let not thine heart be glad when he stumbleth: Lest the LORD see it, and it displease him, and he turn away HIS WRATH from him
In fact, we find this characteristic of anger attributed to God many times as we read of the anger of the Lord and the wrath of the Lord throughout the Bible. In the book of Joel, we find that the LORD your God is "gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness" (Joel 2:13). Though he is slow to anger, he may still opt to use anger if required. Micah tells of the LORD to "execute vengeance in anger and fury upon the heathen" (Micah 5:15).
The first time we find the word "angry" in scripture is when Cain was angry with the LORD for not respecting his offering of the fruit of the ground while accepting the firstlings of his flock offered by his brother Abel (see Genesis 4:5). Scripture states that Cain was very wroth and his countenance fell. In Strong's concordance, it says that the word WROTH (#2734) in the Hebrew means to glow or grow warm, to blaze up, of anger, zeal, jealousy, burn, be displeased, grieve, be (wax) hot, be incensed, kindle, be wroth. Cain's anger led to his rising up against Abel and killing him. His adamic nature clearly manifested itself. When I read the story about Cain, I have wondered, is this the very first time anger was experienced by Cain? or even by man? Scripture does not provide us with that answer. I am sure Adam and Eve had demonstrated emotions of anger. However, up to this point in time, no other person had ever demonstrated anger to the extent that Cain had displayed here. Scripture tells that his anger destroyed. His anger was clearly ungodly anger, it was unrighteous anger, it was motivated by hatred and jealousy.
How about the story of Dinah, the daughter of Jacob and Leah? She had been defiled by Shechem as he had a strong passion towards her and had laid with her. She was considered 'defiled' as a result of him having had laid with her. One reason is that he was uncircumcised and of another people. I may be wrong, but I do not find any indication of a type of "forced relationship or rape" in this story, contrary to the suggestion by some. In fact, it is not clear what Dinah thought of Shecham though she was later found in his house. Nonetheless, the brothers of Dinah and sons of Jacob were very angry (Gen 34:7). After having Shecham and his men agree to circumcism, two of Jacob's sons, Simeon and Levi, took their swords and killed all of the men in the city, including Shecham and his father. The story tells that Jacob was quite upset with them. Did they have reason to be angry? You bet. However, their anger went too far. We know this by the reaction of Jacob when he called his sons to tell them what would be their blessing. Jacob says that Simeon and Levi were instruments of cruelty (see chp 49). He says "cursed be their anger, for it was fierce; and their wrath, for it was cruel." Please note that Jacob does not say, cursed for they had anger. No. He says cursed that their anger was fierce and their wrath cruel. Their anger went too far, it destroyed. There are numerous stories in the Bible where anger went too far and began to control the person rather than the person controlling the anger.
Many Christian's misunderstand the concept of anger, and I
can understand why. We quickly attribute "anger" as something negative,
something ungodly, something more in line with the "works of the flesh".
But is this true?
Anger - God?
Let's first consider the anger of God. Many look to a God of grace, mercy and love and can not reconcile it with anger. How can such a God be given to anger? When it comes to God, the "far-left" or liberal theologians do away with wrath and anger altogether. They will say, there is absolutely no such thing (e.g., as God's anger), there is no judgment, there are no corrective purposes by the hand of God, and there certainly is not anger or wrath. They deny the wrath of God as a thing of the past. For them, though they would not admit it, God has changed! They have this strange idea there is a new and improved God. In computer software terms, I suppose they saw him as release 1.0 in the Old Testament and now a release 2.0 or an upgrade in the New Testament. They think there was one God of the Old Testament and now he is a softer and more gentle God in the New Testament. Perhaps he has grown in his old age? Maybe he has progressed in his development? Maybe he has changed? Or if not changed, then maybe he evolved or adjusted himself with the times? It would seem to me that some have trouble reconciling the concepts of justice and mercy, not knowing that both work hand in hand and are not at odds with one another (I wrote an article on God's Duty - Justice and Mercy).
And then there is the popular idea that the cross and atonement of Christ was a sacrifice to satisfy God's justice and His wrath or anger. They suggest that God was angry, I mean really angry. It is almost as if they would say 'He had about as much as He could take'. So, we are supposedly to find his son as the "middle man", that Jesus was finally able to calm the Father down, cool him off some and perhaps talk some sense into him. But wait, it gets worse. Permit me to chase this rabbit for a few minutes. Many even think and teach that Jesus became sin. That he became what we were in order to redeem us. To become sin itself. But was Jesus really made sin for us? Some may say, that is easy, the Bible states in II Corth 5:21 that Jesus was made sin for us. I would first ask, so you would also say he was made a curse since the same Bible states "being made a curse for us" (Gal 3:13). Yet, Paul qualifies his statement in the same sentence and continues on "for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree". So, as you can see, Paul was not saying that Jesus actually became a curse in the literal sense. So let's look at Jesus being made sin. A common translation states "For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him" (II Corth 5:21 KJV). In fact, there are other translations which state basically the same idea. Young's Literal states "make sin"; Moffatt reads "to be sin"; the Living Bible states "took sinless Christ and poured into him our sins"; and the Jerusalem states "made sinless one into sin". From these, many have come to the conclusion that Jesus BECAME sin. But is this really so? Does scripture teach such a doctrine? First, let us state that there are other translations that would have us read the verse differently. The Williams quotes "He made Him who personally knew nothing of sin to be a sin-offering for us...". The Diaglott states "For Him who knew no Sin, he made a Sin-offering on our behalf...". Again, the Literal Concordant has "For the One not knowing sin, He makes to be a sin offering for our sakes...". Secondly, many are familiar with the words of the Old Testament prophet Hosea "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge". However, only two verses later it states "They eat up the sin of my people, and they set their heart on their iniquity" (Hosea 4:8 KJV). It is a story of the priests eating the sin offering, yet the King James Version uses the word "sin" rather than "sin-offering". I have read that in Hebrew, the phrase "sin offering" is often called "sin". In other words, if we were speaking in that language and referring to the animal offering, we would refer to it as "sin" and all would know what was meant. Regarding the words of Hosea, it should be easy to understand that the priests did not eat up the SIN of the people but rather the sin-offering. So, as with this old testament verse, the same idea applies to II Corinthians 5:21 as Jesus was made a sin-offering and not made sin! Thirdly, there are several other verses that bear witness to the fact that Jesus was without sin. Peter describes Jesus as a "lamb without blemish and without spot" (I Peter 1:19). The writer of Hebrews states "how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?" (Heb 9:14). A lamb without blemish? Without spot? Notice that neither apostle qualifies their statement that Jesus was without blemish or sin "except while hanging on the cross". Why? Because they said what they meant and meant what they said! He was without blemish, spot or sin, period. Without, never, not even once!! Last, how can sin make atonement for sin? Can you do away with sin by offering up a sacrifice of sin? No beloved, the entire unregenerate race of mankind has been slave to sin and by nature was born into sin and shapen in iniquity. In accordance with Old Testament teachings, only a blameless sacrifice could atone for the sins of the people. You see, Jesus never became sin at any point in time and never in the eternal realm of spirit. OK, I think we caught the rabbit. So, back to our idea of God's anger.
To be fair about it, I think we mistakenly apply our own understanding, experience and definition of anger and therefore dismiss the notion of God's wrath or anger altogether. Yet, in the New Testament, the words of anger and wrath are used more than love and mercy when it comes to God. If we want to dismiss the idea of his anger, I am afraid we will have to do away with a great portion of the Bible!.
For example, in one of Paul's longest letters, the letter to those in Rome (it has 16 chapters and 433 verses in total while I Corinthians has 16 chapters and 437 verses though I was not compelled to count the number of words and syllables), he writes that the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness. (Rm 1:18). The word translated "wrath" is 'orge', where we get our word 'orgy'. While we may immediately think of it as a sexual activity among several people, the ancient customs connected it with a religious experience of ecstasy, often while in excess of wine and such to dull the senses. Paul does not suggest that God's wrath has some sort of uncontrollable passion but rather is implying that the attention of God is intense, it is a strong passion, it is a focused fury. Paul tells us that the anger of God is revealed against not a part, but ALL ungodliness and unrighteousness or wickedness of men. Ungodliness is sin against God while wickedness is sin against men. Yet this wrath is not towards all men, but only in those who hold the truth and suppress it by their own wickedness. This is not a wrath against those that are ignorant but to those who hold the truth in an un rational way. It is an action of God to real wickedness. The chapter speaks of those do such things as they claim to be wise, etc. And yet while Paul uses strong language as WRATH, we should not find ourselves comparing it to human emotions and projecting our ungodly emotions of anger and modes of behavior. This is Paul expressing God's very own divine displeasure against ungodliness and wickedness and he uses strong words and images so help us better understand. This verse, and many others in the New Testament, show us the wrath of God. It also shows us that the God of the Old Testament is the God of the New Testament and may I add, the God of the New Testament is the God of the Old Testament.
If you stop and think about it, injustice actually angers God because he is so perfect, so just, so holy and all together right. Psalms 7:11 states "God judgeth the righteous, and God is angry with the wicked every day". If he were incapable of anger towards evil, he could not be good. If he didn't love us enough to deliver us, he would not be a God of love, for when we were yet sinners, he loved us enough to save us by his grace. So as you can see, anger can be justified when it stems from a right motive as is the case with God. Scripture says "God is not a man" and that also applies to anger. His very thoughts, his intent or motive and his action of anger is always perfect. It is never out of control and provoked to revenge as with the anger often experienced by man.
Anger - Jesus?
We discussed the anger of God. What about the Son's anger? We see in scripture where Jesus became angry. Yet we must remember that where he expresses anger is not a vice or demonstration of the flesh, not a wickedness, but rather a virtue, a righteous indignation. We all know the story when he was in the temple and had seen the money changers. Why do we see money changers in the temple? We know that Jews would come to the temple from outer districts, etc. But rather than driving their animals across their long journey, they would buy, nearby animals for the sacrifice, from the temple. So, due to the need for currency exchange, money changers were places in the temple. The problem however was that people were begin exploited with high rates. So, Jesus fashioned a whip out of a cord and in ANGER he drives them out of the temple. He was running through the temple and knocking over their tables, saying that they were making his Father's house and den of thieves and robbers. This is a perfect example of a holy Christ, his wrath or anger was kindled and he displays righteous indignation. We find other places in scripture where he spoke sharply to Pharisees, etc. So, we have to ask, is all anger wrong? Obviously not if Jesus demonstrated anger. In fact, anger can not be inherently bad or evil else it would be a characteristic that God and Jesus could not have. In other words, anger can not be sin.
On this subject is is worth noting that some who believe in the anger of God suggest that every knee will bow before him (universal bowing) and that knees are bowed for different reasons. They say that those who love him do it quickly while enemies will also bow down because their knees will be broken with his rod of iron because of God's anger. I can tell you that this is a gross distortion of the character of God and violates sound biblical teaching. When it says the every tongue will CONFESS that Jesus is Lord, it is the same Greek word that is used when Jesus said that I THANK thee Father for hiding these things from the wise and prudent. You see, the heart is in a state of thankfulness that Jesus is Lord!
Probably the big question is when is human anger righteous? Our anger can be justifiable or it can be of destructive. Unfortunately, though Christ never misused anger, that can not be said for us.
Anger - Man?
Let's look at anger as man often experiences it. Often it is negative and unhealthy and not positive or healthy. Anger is not a primary feeling but rather a secondary emotion. In other words, it stems from something else. You are angry because of something behind or driving the anger. One cause of anger is frustration. You may be frustrated because you do not get what you want or desire so it causes anger. How intense will the anger be? It depends on how strong the desire and how weak the control of self. Obstacles could be social such as acceptance by others; they could be physical; or they can come from conflicting demands or unrealistic expectations (including placing unrealistic expectations on ourselves as well as others). We put so much on other people! We say things like -- if they love me, they would be this way or that way towards me. Why isn't my spouse always sensitive, respectful and always embrace all of my needs? Why aren't my children always perfect? I am so angry with myself that I got upset at the long red light, etc., etc., etc. You see, we set ourselves up for rejection! I find a particular verse that often helps without imposing unrealistic expectations on others. In Acts, Peter responded when asked for money, "Silver and gold have I none, but such as I have give I thee" (Acts 3:6). I am learning not to put unrealistic expectations on others because they are only capable of giving what they have! It may very well be that they do not not have the ability and grace or divine enablement to provide you with what you require or expect of them. You can avoid frustration and anger if you look at it from this perspective. Another obstacle of frustration may be one that is personal. For example, you may experience personal rejection if others do not conform to your thoughts and ideas. This could stem from a personal identity problem. You need to feel good about yourself and if rejected, there is a lack of validation which in turn is frustrating and manifests into anger. I have a whole new way of looking at things these past several of years. I use to be highly motivated and goal oriented. The goal was this or that and I set out to achieve it. The problem with that is, it either succeeds or fails. I think it is much better to focus on the process and relate to how everything is functioning rather than the goal. This is far more relational in its approach. Good process words are appreciation and respect (rather than agreement); principles like repent, confess, patience, wait, grace, esteem, forgiving, loving, etc. are all process oriented. You see, flexibility is key and quite liberating while rigidness is really the result of insecurity.
Another cause of anger is hurt. This, along with frustration are probably the two primary causes of human anger. Hurt can be psychological. Hurt often has roots in the need of validation, a need to feel significant. What value am I to you? Another cause is fear, which is really anticipatory frustration or hurt. This is when past experiences project the future. Another cause of anger is instinctive protection. This is defensiveness or when we put up barriers. Then of course we have conditioned responses such as using anger to manipulate or be passive aggressive. The list goes on and on.
We all have experience many or all of these emotions of anger to one degree or another. This is why we are so quick to dismiss the anger of God. We have used anger in an unhealthy way as it has so often been a result of a wrong motive. Therefore, while not really understanding what is meant by anger, some may say, I am not angry, just concerned. They will not acknowledge anger and yet do not realize they are in denial. Christians are so often taught repression, that they are not angry. This is extremely unhealthy and not biblical. The other extreme is to be always emotional and wear your feelings on your sleeves so to speak. You know, knee jerk reactions. This is a "if you feel it, express it" sort of thing. Ventilation. Speak your mind in truth they say! Well, I for one have no interest in hearing the clutter in your mind or even my own mind for the fact. In the long run, it will always end in destruction. Listen, anger seeks revenge and the motivation of anger is often destructive when it comes to man. So what do we do in such cases? We don't want to translate anger into hostile behavior, to give into the impulse of it. But we do need to acknowledge or recognize the anger as an emotion. We have the liberty to be angry, but not let it turn into unrighteous behavior. "Be ye angry, but sin not, let not the sun go down upon your wrath" (Eph 4:26). This is a warning not to misuse anger. Paul starts with an imperative - BE ANGRY. The word of God tells us to be angry! When anger is stirred, it can be self controlled anger. If it stems from frustration, hurt, fear, instinctive protection or conditioned responses, then it becomes personal and we should immediately identify with what is going on in side of us. He that rules his spirit is greater than he that taketh a city. In those instances, we need be in touch with our own make-up and why we think and do the things we do. We ought to feel around the event or situation while staying in touch with our own make-up before acting. We then interpret the situation or event, think through it and after we have done all of this, we can act in a healthy manner. We need let the Holy Spirit guide us into all truth and watch the wonderful transformation, the renewing of the mind, the beautiful change. Of course, we do not want to be viewed as angry people. We are members of the body of Christ, bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh. We are part of a perfect standard, which is motivated by love! There are times when God is angry, times when Christ is angry and times when we are too. Righteous anger. This anger must be like the anger of Christ or God in that it is righteous indignation and not explosive eruptions. There are times when we are to be angry and it is not a sinful occasion. There are things that take place that ought to make us angry. The hundrends of school children in Russia recently killed, that makes me angry! Neglected and abused children, that makes me angry! Outsourcing America's jobs to foreign lands, that makes me angry! False accusations, lies, cheating and stealing, those all make me angry! Distorted images of God, confusing mumbo jumbo doctrines and robbing God's people, these all make me angry! But I am to be angry and sin not! At times I am to react to most people with a calm, gentle, sensitive, forgiving and tender spirit as Jesus did with the woman caught in adultery. He didn't condemn her but he rebuked her (go and sin no more) with a calm and tender spirit. She was humble, broken, and Jesus had no reason to be angry with her. Ye that are spiritual, restore such a one in the spirit of meekness! There are times I am to react with an anger that is convicted with passion and righteous all together, yet always self controlled. It takes great wisdom to deal with people differently. But with the religious, Jesus expresses his anger. The anger of Jesus was reserved for those of the religious and of authority but his motive was one that was corrective, never vengeful, destructive and hateful.
You know, it is no different with the idea of grieving or mourning and I think many miss the virtue of mourning. There is a time to laugh and a time to weep. It is not a sin to grieve (sense of weeping), in fact it is healthy and is a godly attribute or emotion. Jesus wept over Jerusalem and over Lazarus. Christ was a man of sorrows acquainted with grief. I know that blessings are to those that mourn. These emotions are fine. Of course, if we do not find comfort in God, it can turn into self pity and bitterness. Watch out for anger and bitterness for it is a fine line. Such has eaten the souls of people as they they became hostile and bitter. Anger is not bitterness, Paul tells us to put away all bitterness. We should not confuse anger with bitterness.
So we are to be angry and sin not and not to let sun go down on our anger. This was an expression among the Jews. In other words, don't harbor it, hold on to it. It does not mean that you can be angry all day, get away with it for most of the day and then be not angry before you go to sleep. Anger is not sin. We have seen from the scripture that there is a legitimate place for anger. It has its place and it is unwise to suppress it, deny it or suggest it is not a godly emotion. However, we must focus on the Spirit and know what motivates us, always practicing self control.. We need to remind ourselves to be flexible and tender and exercise anger as led by the Spirit. If we are to experience righteous or godly anger, it will come and stir us into action, cause a rapid breathing in passion, but always motivated by and under the control of love.