God doesn’t use his to judge us:
Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.”
Cain said to the LORD, “My punishment is more than I can bear. Today you are driving me from the land, and I will be hidden from your presence; I will be a restless wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.”
But the LORD said to him, “Not so; if anyone kills Cain, he will suffer vengeance seven times over.” Then the LORD put a mark on Cain so that no-one who found him would kill him. – Genesis 4:11-15
Cain was severely punished for this murder. God judges all sins and punishes appropriately, but not simply out of anger or vengeance. Rather, God’s punishment is meant to correct us and restore our fellowship with him. When you’re corrected, don’t resent it. Instead, renew your fellowship with God.
We have heard about only four people so far – Adam, Eve, Cain, and Abel. Two questions arise: Why was Cain worried about being killed by others, and where did he get his wife (see 4:17)?
Adam and Eve had numerous children; they had been told to “fill the earth” (1:28). Cain’s guilt and fear over killing his brother were heavy, and he probably feared repercussions from his family. If he was capable of killing, so were they. The wife Cain chose may have been one of his sisters or a niece. The human race was still genetically pure, and there was no fear of side effects from marring relatives.
The expression, “will suffer vengeance seven times over” means that the person’s punishment would be complete, thorough, and much worse than that received by Cain for his sin.
(So Cain went out from the LORD’s presence and lived in the land of Nod, east of Eden. – Genesis 4:16).
Cain’s was misdirected, Cain’s PROFILE
Sarah used hers wrongly against Hagar:
“Your servant is in your hands,” Abram said, “Do with her whatever you think best.” Then Sarai ill-treated Hagar; so she fled from her. – Genesis 16:6
Sarai took out her anger against Abram and herself on Hagar, and her treatment was harsh enough to cause Hagar to run away. Anger, especially when it arises from our own shortcomings, can be dangerous. [Especially = polis]
God’s anger versus God’s patience:
Then the LORD rained down burning sulphur on Sodom and Gomorrah – from the LORD out of the heavens. – Genesis 19:24
In the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, we see two facets of God’s character: his great patience (agreeing to spare a wicked city for ten good people) and his fierce anger (destroying both cities). As we grow spiritually, we should find ourselves developing a deeper respect for God because of his anger towards sin, and also a deeper love for God because of his patience when we sin.
Blinds us to our wrongdoing:
Esau held a grudge against Jacob because of the blessing his father had given him. He said to himself, “The days of mourning for my father are near; then I will kill my brother Jacob.” . – Genesis 27:41
Esau was so angry at Jacob that he failed to see his own wrong in giving away the birthright in the first place. Jealous anger blinds us to the benefits we have and makes us dwell on what we don’t have.
Esau held a grudge against Jacob because of the blessing his father had given him. He said to himself, “The days of mourning for my father are near; then I will kill my brother Jacob.” – Genesis 27:41
When Esau lost the valuable family blessing, his future suddenly changed. Reacting in anger, he decided to kill Jacob. When you lose something of great value, or if others conspire against you and succeed, anger is the first and most natural reaction. But you can control your feelings by (1) recognising your reaction for what it is, (2) praying for strength, and (3) asking God for help to see the opportunities that even your bad situation may provide.
God’s anger at Balaam’s greedy attitude:
That night God came to Balaam and said, “Since these men have come to summon you, go with them, but do only what I tell you.”
Balaam got up in the morning, saddled his donkey and went with the princes of Moab. But God was very angry when he went, and the angel of the LORD stood in the road to oppose him. Balaam was riding on his donkey, and his two servants were with him. When the donkey saw the angel of the LORD standing in the road with a drawn sword in his hand, she turned off the road into a field. Balaam beat her to get her back on the road. – Numbers 22:20-23
God let Balaam go with Balak’s messengers, but he was angry about Balaam’s greedy attitude. Balaam claimed that he would not go against God just for money, but his resolve was beginning to slip. His greed for the wealth offered by the king blinded him so that he could not see how God was trying to stop him. Though we may know what God wants us to do, we can become blinded by the desire for money, possessions, or prestige. We can avoid Balaam’s mistake by looking past the allure of fame or fortune to the long-range benefits of following God.
Resulting from wounded pride:
Balaam answered the donkey, “You have made a fool of me! If I had a sword in my hand, I would kill you right now.” – Numbers 22:29
The donkey saved Balaam’s life but made him look foolish in the process, so Balaam lashed out at the donkey. We sometimes strike out at blameless people who get in our way because we are embarrassed or our pride is hurt. Lashing out at others can be a sign that something is wrong with us. Don’t allow your own hurt pride to lead you to hurt others.
(When the donkey saw the angel of the LORD, she lay down under Balaam, and he was angry and beat her with his staff. – Numbers 22:27. Donkeys were all-purpose vehicles used for transportation, carrying loads, grinding grain, and ploughing fields. They were usually highly dependable, which explains why Balaam because so angry when his donkey refused to move.)
Using it constructively:
When Saul heard their words, the Spirit of God came upon him in power, and he burned with anger. – 1 Samuel 11:6
Anger is a powerful emotion. Often it may drive people to hurt others with words or physical violence. But anger directed at sin and the mistreatment of others is not wrong. Saul was angered by the Ammonites’ threat to humiliate and mistreat his fellow Israelites. The Holy Spirit used Saul’s anger to bring justice and freedom. When injustice or sin makes you angry, ask God how you can channel that anger in constructive ways to help bring about a positive change.
He looked round at them in anger and deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored. – Mark 3:5
Jesus was angry about the Pharisees’ uncaring attitudes. Anger itself is not wrong. It depends on what makes us angry and what we do with our anger. Too often we express our anger in selfish and harmful ways. By contrast, Jesus expressed his anger by correcting a problem – healing the man’s hand. Use your anger to find constructive solutions rather than to tear people down.
“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. – Ephesians 4:26-27
The Bible doesn’t tell us that we shouldn’t feel angry, but it points out that it is important to handle our anger properly. If vented thoughtlessly, anger can hurt others and destroy relationships. If bottled up inside, it can cause us to become bitter and destroy us from within. Paul tells us to deal with our anger immediately in a way that builds relationships rather than destroy them. If we nurse our anger, we will give Satan an opportunity to divide us. Are you angry with someone right now? What can you do to resolve your differences? Don’t let the day end before you begin to work on mending your relationship.
(Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbour, for we are all members of one body. – Ephesians 4:25. Lying to each other disrupts unity by creating conflicts and destroying trust. It tears down relationships and leads to open war-fare in a church. [“Neighbours” is St. Peter’s])
Why God was angry at Uzzah for touching the ark:
When they came to the threshing-floor of Nacon, Uzzah reached out and took hold of the ark of God, because the oxen stumbled. The LORD’s anger burned against Uzzah because of his irreverent act; therefore God struck him down and he died there beside the ark of God. – 2 Samuel 6:6-7
Uzzah was only trying to protect the ark, so was God’s anger against Uzzah just? According to Numbers 4:5-15, the ark was to be moved only by the Levites, who were to carry it using the carrying poles – they were never to touch the ark itself. To touch it was a capital offence under Hebrew law (Numbers 4:15). God’s actions was directed against both David and Uzzah. David placed the ark on a cart, following the Philistines’ example (1 Samuel 6:7, 8) rather than God’s commands. Uzzah, though sincere in his desire to protect the ark, had to face the consequences of the sin of touching it. Also, Uzzah may not have been a Levite. As David sought to bring Israel back into a relationship with God, God had to remind the nation dramatically that enthusiasm must be accompanied by obedience to his laws. The next time David tried to bring the ark to Jerusalem, he was careful to handle it correctly (1 Chronicles 15:1-15).
Can lead to hatred and murder:
So Ahab went home, sullen and angry because Naboth the Jezreelite had said, “I will not give you the inheritance of my fathers.” He lay on his bed sulking and refused to eat. – 1 Kings 21:4
After hearing God’s judgment (20:42), Ahab went home to pout. Driven by anger and rebellion against God, he had a fit of rage when Naboth refused to sell his vineyard. The same feelings that led him to a career of power grabbing drove him to present Naboth. Rage turned to hatred and led to murder. Naboth, however, wanted to uphold God’s laws; it was considered a duty to keep ancestral land in the family. This incident shows the cruel interplay between Ahab and Jezebel, two of the most wicked leaders in Israel’s history.
Why Haman was angry with Mordecai:
When Haman saw that Mordecai would not kneel down or pay him honour, he was enraged. Yet having learned who Mordecai’s people were, he scorned the idea of killing only Mordecai. Instead Haman looked for a way to destroy all Mordecai’s people, the Jews, throughout the whole kingdom of Xerxes. – Esther 3:5-6
Why did Haman want to destroy all Jews just because of one man’s action? (1) Haman was an Agagite (3:1), a descendant of Agag, king of the Amalekites (1 Samuel 15:20). The Amalekites were ancient enemies of the Israelites (see Exodus 17:16; Deuteronomy 25:17-19). Haman’s hatred was directed not just at Mordecai, but at all the Jews. (2) As second-in-command in the Persian empire (3:1), Haman loved his power and authority and the reverence shown him. The Jews, however, looked to God as their final authority, not to any man. Haman realised that the only way to fulfil his self-centred desires was to kill all those who disregarded his authority. His quest for personal power and his hatred of the Jewish race consumed him.
Haman enjoyed the power and prestige of his position, and he was enraged when Mordecai did not respond with the expected reverential bow. Haman’s anger was not directed just toward Mordecai, but towards what Mordecai stood for – the Jews’ dedication to God as the only authority worthy of reverence. Haman’s attitude was prejudiced: he hated a group of people because of a difference in belief or culture. Prejudice grows out of personal pride – considering oneself better than others. In the end, Haman was punished for his arrogant attitude (7:9, 10). God will harshly judge those who are prejudiced or whose pride causes them to look down on others.
Learning from God’s:
For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favour lasts a lifetime; weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning. – Psalm 30:5
Like a shot given by a doctor, the discomfort of God’s anger lasts only a moment, but the good effects go on for a long time. Let God’s anger be a sharp [“nose”] pain that warns you to turn from sin.
Takes our focus off God:
Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret – it leads only to evil.
For evil men will be cut off, but those who hope in the LORD will inherit the land. – Psalm 37:8-9
Anger and worry (fretting) are two very destructive emotions. They reveal a lack of faith that God loves us and is in control. We should not worry; instead, we should trust in God, giving ourselves to him for his use and safekeeping. When you dwell on your problems, you will become anxious and angry. But if you concentrate on God and his goodness, you will find peace. Where do you focus your attention?
Why Jonah was angry when God spared Nineveh:
But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry. – Jonah 4:1
Why did Jonah become angry when God spared Ninevah? The Jews did not want to share God’s message with Gentile nations in Jonah’s day, just as they resisted that role in Paul’s day (1 Thessalonians 2:14-16). They had forgotten their original purpose as a nation – to be a blessing to the rest of the world by sharing God’s message with other nations (Genesis 22:18). Jonah thought that God should not freely give his salvation to a wicked pagan nation. Yet this is exactly what God does for all who come to him today in faith.
Jonah revealed the reason for his reluctance to go to Nineveh (1:3). He didn’t want the Ninevites forgiven; he wanted them destroyed. Jonah did not understand that the God of Israel was also the God of the whole world. Are you surprised when some unlikely person turns to God? Is it possible that your view is as narrow as Jonah’s? We must not forget that, in reality, we do not deserve to be forgiven by God.
(When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened. – Jonah 3:10. God responded in mercy by cancelling his threatened punishment. God had said that any nation on which he had pronounced judgment would be saved if they repented (Jeremiah 18:7, 8). God forgave Nineveh, just as he had forgiven Jonah. The purpose of God’s judgment is correction, not revenge. He is always ready to show compassion to anyone willing to seek him.
“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the Sandhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell. – Matthew 5:21-22
Killing is a terrible sin, but anger is a great sin too because it violates God’s command to love. Anger in this case refers to a seething brooding bitterness against someone. It is a dangerous emotion that always threatens to leap out of control, leading to violence, emotional hurt, increased mental stress, and spiritual damage. Anger keeps us from developing a spirit pleasing to God. Have you ever been proud that you didn’t strike out and say what was really on your mind? Self-control is good, but Christ wants us to practise thought-control as well. Jesus said that we will be held accountable even for our attitudes.
When Jesus said, “But I tell you,” he was not doing away with the law or adding his own beliefs. Rather, he was giving a fuller understanding of why God made that law in the first place. For example, Moses said, “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13); Jesus taught that we should not even become angry enough to murder, for then we have already committed murder in our heart. The Pharisees read this law and, not having literally murdered anyone, felt righteous. Yet they were angry enough with Jesus that they would soon plot his death, though they would not do the dirty work themselves. We miss the intent of God’s word when we read his rules for living without trying to understand why he made them. When do you keep God’s rules but close your eyes to his intent?
Jesus’ anger towards money changers:
Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money-changers and the benches of those selling doves. – Matthew 21:12
This is the second time Jesus cleared the temple (see John 2:13-17). Merchants and money changers set up their booths in the court of the Gentiles in the temple, crowding out the Gentiles who had come from all over the civilised world to worship God. The merchants sold sacrificial animals at high prices, taking advantage of those who had come long distances. The money changers exchanged all international currency for the special temple coins – the only money the merchants would accept. They often deceived foreigners who didn’t know the exchange rates. Their commercialism in God’s house frustrated people’s attempts to worship. This, of course, greatly angered Jesus. Any practice that interferes with worshipping God should be stopped.
(A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. – Matthew 21:8. This verse is one of the few places where the Gospels record that Jesus’ glory is recognised on earth. Jesus boldly declared himself King, and the crowd gladly joined him. But these same people would bow to political pressure and desert him in just a few days. Today we celebrate this event on Palm Sunday. That day should remind us to guard against superficial acclaim for Christ.)
When it is appropriate:
The LORD said to Moses, “Phinehas son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, the priest, has turned my anger away from the Israelites; for he was as zealous as I am for my honour among them, so that in my zeal I did not put an end to them. – Numbers 25:10-11
It is clear from the Phinehas’s story that some anger is proper and justified. Phinehas was angry because of his zeal for the Lord. But how can we know when our anger is appropriate and when it should be restrained? Ask these questions when you become angry: (1) Why am I angry? (2) Whose rights are being violated (mine or another’s)? (3) Is the truth (a principle of God) being violated? If only your rights are at stake, it may be wiser to keep angry feelings under control. But if the truth is at stake, anger is often justified, although violence and retaliation are usually the wrong way to express it (Phinehas’s case was unique). If we are becoming more and more like God, we should be angered by sin.
So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!” – John 2:15-16
Jesus was obviously angry at the merchants who exploited those who had come to God’s house to worship. There is a difference between controlled rage and righteous indignation – yet both are called anger. We must be very careful how we use the powerful emotion of anger. It is right to be angry about injustice and sin; it is wrong to be angry over trivial personal offences.
Jesus made a whip and chased out the money changers. Does his example permit us to use violence against wrongdoers? Certain authority is granted to some, but not to all. For example, the authority to use weapons and restrain people is granted to police officers, but not to the general public. The authority to imprison people is granted to judges, but not to individual citizens. Jesus had God’s authority, something we cannot have. While we want to live like Christ, we should never try to claim his authority where it has not been given to us.
God’s temple was being misused by people who had turned it into a marketplace. They had forgotten, or didn’t care, that God’s house is a place of worship, not a place for making a profit. Out attitude towards the church is wrong if we see it as a place for personal contacts or business advantage. Make sure you attend church to worship God.
Why God is angry with sinful people:
The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness. – Romans 1:18
Why is God angry at sinful people? Because they have substituted the truth about him with a fantasy of their own imagination (1:25). They have stifled the truth God naturally reveals to all people in order to believe anything that supports their own self-centred lifestyles. God cannot tolerate sin because his nature is morally perfect. He cannot ignore or condone such wilful rebellion. God wants to remove the sin and restore the sinner – and he is able to, as long as the sinner does not stubbornly distort or reject the truth. But his anger erupts against those who persist in sinning. Make sure you are not pursuing a fantasy rather than the true God. Don’t suppress the truth about him merely to protect your own life-style.
Romans 1:18-3:20 develops Paul’s argument that no-one can claim by their own efforts or merit to be good in God’s sight – not the masses, not the Romans, not even the Jews. All people everywhere deserve God’s condemnation for their sin.
Does anyone have an excuse for not believing in God? The Bible answers an empathetic no. God has revealed what he is like in and through his creation. Every person, therefore, either accepts or rejects God. Don’t be fooled. When the day comes for God to judge your response to him, no excuses will be accepted. Begin today to give your devotion and worship to him.
In verses 1:18-20 Paul answers a common objection: How could a loving God send anyone to hell, especially someone who has never heard about Christ? In fact, says Paul, God has revealed himself plainly in the creation to all people. And yet people reject even this basic knowledge of God. Also, everyone has an inner sense of what God requires, but they choose not to live up to it. Put another way, people’s moral standards are always better than their behaviour. If people suppress God’s truth in order to live their own way, they have no excuse. They know the truth, and they will have to endure the consequences of ignoring it.
Some people wonder why we need missionaries if people can know about God through nature (the creation). The answer: (1) Although people know that God exists, they suppress that truth by their wickedness and thus refuse a relationship with him. Missionaries sensitively expose their error and point them to a new beginning. (2) Although people may believe there is a God, they refuse to commit themselves to him. Missionaries help persuade them, both through loving words and caring actions. (3) Missionaries convince people who reject God of the dangerous consequences of their actions. (4) Missionaries help the church obey the Great Commission of our Lord (Matthew 28:19, 20). (5) Most important, though nature reveals God, people need to be told about Jesus and how, through him, they can have a personal relationship with God.
Knowing that God exists is not enough. People must learn that God is loving. They must understand what he did to demonstrate his love for us (5:8). They must be shown how to accept God’s forgiveness for their sins. (See also 10:14, 15.)
Determine why you are angry with others’ sins:
You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. – Romans 2:1
Whenever we find ourselves feeling justifiably angry about someone’s sin, we should be careful. We need to speak out against sin, but we must do so in a spirit of humility. Often the sins we notice most clearly in others are the ones that have taken root in us. If we look closely at ourselves, we may find that we are committing the same sins in more socially acceptable forms. For example, a person who gossips may be very critical of others who gossip about him or her.
When Paul’s letter was read in the Roman church, no doubt many heads nodded as he condemned idol worshippers, homosexual practices, and violent people. But what surprise his listeners must have felt when he turned on them and said in effect, “You have no excuse. You are just as bad!” Paul was empathetically stressing that nobody is good enough to save himself or herself. If we want to avoid punishment and live eternally with Christ, all of us, whether we have been murderers and molesters or whether we have been honest, hardworking, solid citizens, must depend totally on God’s grace. Paul is not discussing whether some sins are worse than others. Any sin is enough to lead us to depend on Jesus Christ for salvation and eternal life. We have all sinned repeatedly, and there is no way apart from Christ to be saved from sin’s consequences.
Venting it under guise of discipline:
…in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes. – 2 Corinthians 2:11
We use church discipline to help keep the church pure and to help wayward people repent. But Satan tries to harm the church by tempting it to use discipline in an unforgiving way. This causes those exercising discipline to become proud of their purity, and it causes the person who is being disciplined to become bitter and perhaps leave the church entirely. We must remember that our purpose in discipline is to restore a person to the fellowship [use our team], not to destroy him or her. We must be cautious that personal anger is not vented under the guise of church discipline.
Paul explained that it was time to forgive the man who had been punished by the church, and had subsequently repented. He needed forgiveness, acceptance, and comfort. Satan would gain an advantage if they permanently separated this man from the congregation rather than forgiving and restoring him. This may have been the man who had required the disciplinary action described in 1 Corinthians 5, or he may have been the chief opponent of Paul who had caused Paul the anguish described in 2:1-11. The sorrowful letter had finally brought about the repentance of the Corinthians (7:8-14), and their discipline of the man had led to his repentance. Church discipline should seek restoration. Two mistakes in church discipline should be avoided – being too lenient and not correcting mistakes, or being too harsh and not forgiving the sinner. There is a time to confront and a time to comfort.
Do you get angry when confronted?
Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth? – Galatians 4:16
Paul did not gain great popularity when he rebuked the Galatians for turning away from their first faith in Christ. Human nature hasn’t changed much – we still get angry when we’re scolded. But don’t write off someone who challenges you. There may be truth in what he or she says. Receive his or her words with humility; carefully think them over. If you discover that you need to change an attitude or action, take steps to do it.
Don’t discipline out of:
Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. – Ephesians 6:4
The purpose of parental disciple is to help children grow, not to exasperate and provoke them to anger or discouragement (see also Colossians 3:21). Parenting is not easy – it takes lots of patience to raise children in a loving, Christ-honouring manner. But frustration and anger should not be causes for discipline. Instead, parents should act in love, treating their children as Jesus treats the people he loves. This is vital to children’s development and to their understanding of what Christ is like.
If our faith in Christ is real, it will usually prove itself at home, in our relationships with those who know us best. Children and parents have a responsibility to each other. Children should honour their parents even if the parents are demanding and unfair. Parents should care gently for their children, even if the children are disobedient and unpleasant. Ideally, of course, Christian parents and Christian children will relate to each other with thoughtfulness and love. This will happen if both parents and children put the others’ interest above their own – that is, if they submit to one another.
Danger of words spoken in:
When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal – James 3:6
James compares the damage the tongue can do to a raging fire – the tongue’s wickedness has its source in hell itself. The uncontrolled tongue can do terrible damage. Satan uses the tongue to divide people and pit them against one another. Idle and hateful words are damaging because they spread destruction quickly, and no-one can stop the results once they are spoken. We dare not be careless with what we say, thinking we can apologise later, because even if we do, the scars remain. A few words spoken in anger can destroy a relationship that took years to build. Before you speak, remember that words are like fire – you can neither control nor reverse the damage they can do.
What you say and what you don’t say are both important. Proper speech is not only saying the right words at the right time, but it is also controlling your desire to say what you shouldn’t. Examples of an untamed tongue include gossiping, putting others down, bragging, manipulating, false teaching, exaggerating, complaining, flattering, and lying. Before you speak, ask, “Is what I want to say true? Is it necessary? Is it kind?
(With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers, can a fig-tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water. – James 3:9-12. Our contradictory speech often puzzles [hungers] us. At times our words are right and pleasing to God, but at other times they are violent and destructive. Which of these speech patterns reflects our true identity? The tongue gives us a picture of our basic human nature. We were made in God’s image, but we have also fallen into sin. God works to change us from the inside out. When the Holy Spirit purifies a heart, he gives self-control so that the person will speak words that please God.)
(c)Andrea Dodgson, Kingsway, 1971.