Restrained Psalm 7:6, Psalm 56:7, Psalm 74:1, Psalm 80:4
God restrains His righteous anger toward man. God sees man’s sin and He cannot ignore it, because He is just. Yet, we remain here, unincinerated. Why? In Psalm 7:6, we see that the God of justice does respond to people. In Psalm 56:7, we read that God’s response is due to the wickedness of people. In Psalm 74:1 and Psalm 80:4, the Psalmist asks: Why and how long will God’s anger smolder against His people? God has restrained His anger.
Why do you think that God restrains His righteous anger?
Read Psalm 103:8-10. What do you learn about God from these verses?
In Psalm 103:8, we read; “The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.” The Old Testament uses a particular word to describe the compassion of God-racham. It means compassion as in cherishing the fetus in the womb. A mother’s heart for her unborn child is how Jesus feels toward us. Nearly every time it is used, the word is connected with God extending love and mercy toward us when we deserved anger and punishment. Jesus came as the flesh-and-blood demonstration of the amazing compassion of God.
How would you describe God’s compassion, especially as it relates to sending His only Son to earth?
Again and again, the Jewish people provoked God’s anger as they chose idolatry over following God. I Kings 16:13 “…so that they aroused the anger of the Lord, the God of Israel, by their worthless idols.” Genesis 6:5-8 recalls the great wickedness that filled the earth. Genesis 6: 5 “…that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time.” God saw the evil hearts of man and He destroyed His very creation, saving only Noah and his family and the animals on the ark. God’s just anger is fierce and consuming. Yet,God has restrained His anger.
Read Psalm 86:15, Psalm 78:38 and Nahum 1:3. What can you learn about God as you read these verses?
God’s righteous anger emerges in the Old Testament. God’s people rebelled and expected no consequences. God does not desire to turn His back on our rebellion either. He called the Jewish people back, just as He calls us to Himself. He woos us. He has compassion on us and shows us great mercy.
How often have we demanded our rights? How many times have we told God that we deserved something better than we had received? What is it that I truly deserve in light of my idols and sinful heart? Does God give me what I deserve or has God restrained His anger on my behalf?
What if God isn’t mad at you? What if He is, instead, pretty crazy about you and in love with the idea of helping you look more and more like His own dear Son? How would knowing that God is gracious and restrains His anger on your behalf influence your response to Your Heavenly Father?
Romans 8:32 “He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all-how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things.” The Lord is compassionate and gracious. He loves you enough to sacrifice His very best to restore you into relationship with Him. God has restrained His anger.
Exodus 34:5-7; Deuteronomy 9:7; Joshua 23:16; Judges 2:12, 2 Chronicles 4:26-27
Three Big Questions
Question One: What makes you mad…or should I say angry?
Is there a difference? There seems to be a different ‘boiling point’ for each of us. Things that send one person into a rage don’t even faze someone else. Perhaps you don’t get mad, you get even, and maybe that’s worse! Whatever your level of intolerance for others’ insensitivity, mistakes, or just plain stupidity, let’s face it: the source of most of our anger is our pride and selfishness (i.e., sin). And unresolved anger is a foothold for the devil (see Eph. 4:26-27).
When someone invades your space, whether intentionally or not, how much does it take to get your ire up? You could no doubt list any number of examples from the day’s headlines. Our world (America) is full of rage. It seems to fill everyone’s heart and gush from our mouths like water from a fire hose. Furthermore, we try to legitimize our angry words by hiding behind the First Amendment.
Question Two: Are there legitimate reasons to be angry?
As much as we would like to believe that it’s okay for us to be angry with someone or something, most often we would be hard pressed to rightly defend ourselves. If the terrible injustices that fill the world truly anger us, they should bring profound sadness to our hearts and an urgency to right the wrongs. When he saw the cruel, unjust treatment in Somalia, Kip Ripkin, author of The Insanity of God, moved his family to the heart of Africa in order to feed the starving families who were suffering at the hands of terrorists. Would we go that far, following his example, to right the wrongs which give us legitimate reasons to be angry?
It’s perfectly legitimate to be angry over the injustices that others suffer at the hands of evildoers, whether individually or nationally. But there is an even more important question.
Question Three: What makes God angry?
Today’s Scripture readings teach us a lot about what angers God. We learn that he does not leave the guilty unpunished (Exodus 24:7). If you violate God’s covenant and serve other gods, his anger will burn against you (Joshua 23:16). When his people follow other gods, it arouses the Lord’s anger (Judges 2:12). On the other hand, he’s slow to anger, abounding in love, and forgiving (Ex. 24:6, 7).
Do you remember Abraham’s dispute with God in Genesis 18? God was ready to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah for the great sin in those cities. But Abraham pleaded with God to spare the city if he could find even a limited number of faithful believers. And God responded to Abraham’s prayer. A perfect demonstration of the righteous indignation of God tempered by his gracious mercy.
Recall a similar event in Exodus 32. When Moses came down from the mountain where God had given him the Ten Commandments, he found the people making sacrifices to a golden calf. That angered God so much that he said, “Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them” (v. 10). But, as Abraham before him, Moses pleaded with God, seeking his favor. “Then the Lord relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened (v. 14).
Is it possible to be angry without sinning? If so, how?
Are there situations when anger might be justified for the Christian? List some.
When we respond to the injustice we see near at hand, how can we react in our anger without sinning?
How should we react to injustices we see around us? jbd & gmd 11/11/19
Fire! Evacuate! Proverbs 15:1, 18; 14:17, 29; 16:32; 18:6; 19:19; 22:24-25; 26:20-21; 27:3-4; 29:8
Thursday, November 8, 2018, 6:30 am, was the beginning of the end for many people in northern California. A small fire was reported under an electrical transmission line, probably the result of an insulator separating from a tower due to high winds. Unfortunately, lots of dry brush and tinder contributed to the quickly raging fire.
Within 30 minutes, the firestorm overtook its first neighborhood, wiping it out completely. By 8:00 am, the fire entered the densely populated town of Paradise. For many, the announcement Fire! Evacuate! arrived too late. In minutes, “paradise” was ablaze like the fire of hell.
To fight the catastrophic flames, which were soon consuming tens of thousands of acres and hundreds of homes per day, a total of 5,596 firefighters, 622 engines, 103 bulldozers, and 24 helicopters were dispatched to the scene from all over the Western United States. But there was little they could do to suppress the high-flying inferno.
In the end, 153,336 acres (240 sq. miles) were obliterated, including 18,804 structures destroyed, $16.5 billion in losses, with one-quarter of the damage uninsured. Worst of all, 85 people perished; others suffered severe injuries. The “Camp Fire” was the deadliest and most
destructive wildfire in California history.
It’s another kind of fire, however, that is the focus of the verses in Proverbs for today. Things that contribute to this firestorm are self-centeredness, self-importance, selfishness, impatience, greed, jealousy, entitlement, pride, lack of self-control. With all that for tinder, no wonder this fire can be destructive.
The book of James gets right to the point: Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark (James 3:5). When someone gets miffed or hacked off at another person—maybe upset with someone in leadership, maybe even with a friend, worst of all, with a family member—the resulting harsh words, angry ranting, tirades can be as destructive as fire.
James continues: The tongue is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell (James 3:6). Perhaps the imagery used by James was inspired by the book of Proverbs: As charcoal to embers and as wood to fire, so is a quarrelsome person for kindling strife (Prov 26:21).
Life Application Questions
Fights & Quarrels James 4:1-10
One portion of this week’s sermon and today’s passage comes from the Book of James (James is the author). This New Testament letter is addressed to “the twelve tribes scattered among the nations” (James 1:1 NIV). Like Paul and most early disciples, their religious heritage was Jewish. In Jesus they found the fulfillment of the Hebrew Bible and became Christ’s followers. We seek to restore their wisdom for following Messiah
Seeking to restore the church as it was in the first decades sounds like a well-intentioned plan. Disciples may perceive those churches as special jewel-adorned places, with an abundance of spiritual maturity, filling God’s people who are devoted disciples. Someone said, “Yes, they must have achieved excellence in their spiritual journey!”
Not so fast my friend. There are insights needed before you rush into a restoration project. You might be traveling to a non-existent era of church history.
First concern: what was actually being said to those disciples in the letters, like the Book of James?
Second concern: what do the letters of the New Testament tell us about the spiritual condition of the first disciples whose congregations ranged around the Mediterranean basin?
Answers for those two concerns may startle you. But how bad can it be? Well, thanks for asking.
Prepare to have any concept of a golden age lost in the oblivion of never-never-land. The Apostle James asked those first disciples, “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill” (James 4:1 NIV).
This does not sound like spiritually maturing disciples. These words make the church sound more like a bar room brawl than a place of following Jesus.
Fights? Quarrels? Internal strife between individuals? Misplaced desire which results in…did James say killing?
Suddenly, I do not want to restore the first century church. James charges these disciples with living in spiritual adultery. There is more. He reminds the church they could wind up as an “enemy of God” (James 4:4).
Take a deep, long and intense spiritual breath. Spend some moments examining your life, your behavior, your relationships with other believers. This will not be a foolish investment.
Simply going to church, simply being a member of a church has never, make that never, been the goal of God. “Do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us?” James comes back with a clarifying reminder of grace and peace. “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble” (James 4:6).
Defusing the Outrage Bomb James 1:19-21
Anger is a subtle beast. If we limit anger simply to outbursts of passion or malevolent glances, we are in for a surprise. Anger manifests itself in countless ways for endless reasons. A sinful anger can take on the form of “silent treatment,” harsh words, cold formalities, reckless decisions, hurtful assumptions, etc… These expressions of anger are often influenced by our contexts, experiences, our pasts, and perspectives which over time create a mind bent towards anger. We become a ticking Outrage Bomb.
Anger is rarely ever righteous, yet God does seem to suggest a time and place for anger if, indeed, our hearts are properly handling our contexts. In v19, James indicates that every person 1) be a listener, 2) display restraint in speech and 3) be slow to become angry. The order of listening and speech is carefully chosen. Listening lends itself to wisdom, offering both perspective and intentional interest for others. Restraint of speech, dictates clearer communication and thoughtful expressions of our thoughts and feelings. When a person actively listens and intentionally speaks, many of our “danger” moments or outrage can be alleviated or avoided altogether.
Defusing the Outrage Bomb starts with the heart. Filthiness, wickedness, and sin are the materials for Outrage Bombs. If our hearts are motivated by hateful thoughts about government, on judging the heathen coworkers, avoiding the annoying children, our dissatisfaction in marriage we will ultimately give way to harmful outrage. The Bible is one way to reorient our hearts towards God’s understanding of life and purpose. He invites us to dwell in truth, not in fretful agitation.
Defusing the outrage bomb is not a task we may complete on our own; we are dependent on the transformational work of the Spirit in our lives. We must actively walk in step with Him to identify 1) how we express anger 2) what triggers our anger and 3) how God might want me to reshape my angry thinking. Anger is a legitimate emotion given by God but like many things in fallen creation, needs the renewing of the Spirit to bring back into correct relationship.
Inside Always Comes Out Matthew 15: 1-20
What’s inside will always come out. You could put a football team of elementary students in NFL uniforms and pads. They might look good on the outside, albeit a little short; but put them in against a professional football team and it wouldn’t take anyone long to recognize that what was inside the uniforms couldn’t complete on an NFL level. What is inside always comes out.
The Pharisees thought the spiritual life was a set of rules. They held everyone including the disciples to an unbending standard. In Matthew 15:2, the Pharisees ask Jesus; “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders. They don’t wash their hands before they eat.”
What “rules” or traditions do people hold others to?
The Pharisees attempted to make themselves more acceptable to God by keeping an outward, performance based, litany of rules. Unfortunately, their outward appearance did not match their hearts. Much like the children dressed to look like NFL players, the true nature of what was on the inside was quickly revealed.
Read Isaiah 29:13-16. What does God say about people whose hearts are far from Him?
In Isaiah 29: 16, the Lord says; “You turn things upside down as if the potter were thought to be like the clay.” It is easy to question God’s methods and plans when they don’t align with ours. Like the Pharisees, we attempt to regulate our lives with mere human rules that give us a false sense of control and, Perhaps, even an outward appearance of righteousness. Matthew 15:18 “But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart and these defile them.”
What are some ways that people’s sinful hearts are revealed?
Choose to live inside out. Leave the righteous uniforms of perfection and rule keeping, that cloak the outside, behind. I Peter 5:6-7 “So be content with who you are, and don’t put on airs. God’s strong hand is on you…” (The Message).
Why Is Everyone So Angry? Matthew 5:21-216
How long has it been . . .
. . .since you cleaned your refrigerator? If you’re like me, you open the ‘frig, grab what you need, and close the door as quickly as possible to avoid inhaling the odor that’s becoming stronger each day. Is it the asparagus stalks you bought a month ago, a dish of leftover escalloped potatoes that are covered with something mossy and green, or the milk? You can’t quite put your finger on it—nor do you really want to! And you say to yourself, “I have to clean this refrigerator . . . first thing tomorrow!”
How long has it been . . .
. . .since you cleaned up your heart (mind)? Or, are you avoiding it, too? Is it the argument you had with your best friend; the (way too many) times you’ve lost your temper and screamed at a family member; or the simmering rage that’s building up since you were passed over for a promotion? Or maybe—just maybe—it’s God you’re angry with! Whatever the target, the longer it’s left to rot, the uglier it will become and the worse it will smell to anyone who comes near.
In today’s text, Jesus didn’t leave any doubt about the cost when it comes to anger. “If you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell” (v. 22, NLT). He also tells us what to do about it. “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift. Settle matters quickly.” (vs. 24-25).
It’s time to clean up those things you’ve been holding in your heart. After all, it’s what in our hearts that is most important. Jesus told us elsewhere that what defiles us is what comes out of our hearts, no doubt, referring to our inner self, the real us, not a blood-pumping organ. “But the words you speak come from the heart—that’s what defiles you. For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander. These are what defile you” (Matthew 15:18-20).
Stop to think about the last week; what kind of thoughts and anger have gone through your mind about your spouse, co-workers, class members, others?
What are some thoughts or emotions you need to confess to God? Be specific.
Whom have you offended by an angry word or action that you should apologize to? Again, be specific.
How do we clean up our hearts and minds? The answer is crystal clear. Paul writes, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Romans 12:2).
Again, think about last week. How much time have you spent listening to or hearing, maybe even thinking after “the pattern of this world”?
Make a list of things that make you angry; take them to the Lord for forgiveness and enabling to overcome those things.
What specific activities will you pursue this week to renew your mind?
And after you’ve cared for your anger, take some time and clean out the ‘frig.
Who Could Have Predicted This? Esther 10:1-3
Jamal Malik, a penniless orphan, was an uneducated 18 year-old living in the slums of Mumbai, India. Survival required extreme measures: foraging in landfills, bartering for food, stealing shoes, facing off with local gangs. It seemed impossible that Jamal would ever escape the captivity of poverty.
Who could have predicted the shocking turn of events? Jamal became a contestant on India television’s “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” and he repeatedly rattled off answers to almost impossible questions. With only one question to go—and a correct answer would mean winning a staggering amount of money—police suddenly rushed in and arrested Jamal on suspicion of cheating. “How could a street kid know so much? There must be fraud somewhere.” (To find out more about the inspiring, life-changing story, see the movie, “Slumdog Millionaire.”)
Rags to riches stories are popular across many cultures. There are some in the Bible: Joseph, Ruth, Esther, Mordecai. But the book of Esther throws alert readers some curves. Unexpectedly God is never mentioned in the book (the only book in the Bible not to mention him), and there’s nothing to indicate that God gets the credit for the amazing things that happen in the story. Even more to the point, not everything is actually amazing. Some things are troubling.
What should we make of such actions? It’s a puzzle. Martin Luther was so frustrated with the book he wished it was not in the Bible. John Calvin refused to preach from it. Remarkably, neither Esther nor Mordecai are cited anywhere else in Scripture; there’s no indication that they “did what was right in the eyes of the Lord” (cf. 1 Kings 15:11; 22:43; 2 Kings 18:3; 22:2). On the other hand, some Christians prefer to think of the story as an amazing example of how God silently arranged things behind the scenes, his providence accomplishing his purposes through the course of human life. Maybe so, but the Bible doesn’t say that was happening or that was the point of the story.
At the very least, the book reveals what it was like for Jews in captivity, living in a world not their home. It required extreme measures to survive. Surprisingly it all worked out. Who could have predicted that in the end, Haman, the archenemy of the Jews would be dead, and Mordecai, previously under sentence of death, would be promoted to second in rank to the Persian king?
The story may also be seen as parallel to our redemption. When we were penniless in the captivity of sin, under sentence of death, who could have predicted our rescue—based on someone willing to die for us—and our becoming millionaires of God’s grace? Now that is an inspiring, amazing, life-changing story!
Judgement Esther Chapter Nine
Violent plots and angry words leading to a deadly hanging may not be what you had in mind when reading today’s Scripture. The Book of Esther is not a pat-on-the-head Divine promissory recitation. The same is true for the words of Psalm 2. The sermon series this week includes an emphasis on the insights afforded us in both the Book of Esther and Psalm 2. We begin with Esther’s story.
There is no laughter when in God’s view, humanity fouls us with fear and evil. The final chapters of the Book of Esther record horrendous harsh judgments. You should know Esther 9 does not make for nice reading as intrigue, and the seizing of political power by Haman, are meant to murder all God’s people. Genocide is the promise. Ethnic cleansing is a moniker for mass murder.
Throughout the kingdom possessed by Xerxes, God’s people are to be killed from the youngest to the oldest. Yet first, Haman intends to hang faithful Mordecai from a seventy-five-foot-high gallows, subjecting the entire nation to a public display of the upcoming slaughter. Suddenly, the story moves with a climactic change, which results in the gallows being used on the builder.
Please be aware that Esther and Mordecai’s story should be taught with care and with mindfulness of the age group to whom a teacher speaks, for within the account a father is killed, as are ten of his children. Though the record does not tell us directly, disciples have long suspected God was acting behind the scenes to prepare and alter Haman’s plans. However, God’s immanence, the presence and work of the Almighty is directly reported throughout Psalm 2.
Strong language and angry words are found in the opening of the Psalm. God’s anger as the aggrieved Maker of Heaven and Earth, the Lord Almighty is being proclaimed. The Psalmist wrote of those who plot mayhem, “The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them” (2:4).
Like the second Psalm there are additional sections of Scripture in which God’s presence resounds with thundering judgment. The Bible also contains stories similar to Esther’s.
While readers may focus on a story’s detailed plot, including sub-plots within those machinations, schemes within riddles and behind the scenes glimpses of political intrigue, significant insights are being provided. While Esther’s story appears to be focused on political power, discerning disciples will recall there are very unfunny truths being taught.
Life Application Questions:
Turned Tables Esther Chapter Eight
A head-spinning and richly ironic reversal of fortunes rocks the last chapters of Esther.
Throughout the story Haman positions himself to become the Emperor’s right-hand man, plots to murder Mordecai, and plans on plundering the Jews.
Instead, in the end, the Jew Mordecai is given a place of honor and authority (he even wields the Emperor’s signet ring!), Esther’s Jewish family inherits all of Haman’s wealth, and Haman is impaled on the pole on which he had intended to kill Mordecai (poetic justice at its best).
The story begins with a sinister plot to kill and disenfranchise the Jews. The story ends with an edict that protects and elevates the Jews.
Through most of the story the pagan forces of oppression cast a dark shadow of fear across the community of God’s people. But, in the end, a Jew is wearing a crown and royal robes. God’s people are happy, joyful, and glad.
Tables can be turned…Fortunes can be reversed…Poetic justice can take place in history. Why is this important?
It’s important because we live in a world where everything is upside-down and wrong-side up. Good is called evil, and evil is called good. Sinister forces are plotting the demise of Christianity…and appear to be winning. In places like Somalia, Sudan, and Syria Christians are systematically killed. In the halls of western governments, universities, and courts Christians are derided and marginalized. In other words, our reality is beginning to look more-and-more like Esther’s.
We long for the great reversal. We look for the true King to return (dressed in royal robes and wearing a crown), to set things right, and to establish an eternal kingdom of peace, righteousness, and justice.
The story of Esther foreshadows this future hope—this great reversal. It sparks in us the courage to hang on until the tables are turned, once again and forever.
Life Application Questions: