Anger and wrath

The book of Proverbs contains so many proverbs that we clearly won’t be able to look at them all, but rather topic by topic pick out a few that give right direction.

Remember as we said yesterday they are proverbs not promises. They direct how, if we are wise, we will look at this world, life and relationships, how we will control ourselves and so move through life in a God honouring way.

Proverbs fall into the section of the Bible known as Wisdom Literature (that includes Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon) and they are for the most written in Hebrew Poetic form. Hence in the Proverbs they often consist of two lines where the second either contrasts or complements the first, and it is often worthwhile contemplating how line 2 relates to line 1

So if we start with proverbs that are about ourselves – human beings, and within that, those that speak to our emotions. And for this morning the topic of anger or wrath and I will pick two from the many proverbs that are concerned with it.

Pro 11:23 The desire of the righteous ends only in good; the expectation of the wicked in wrath.

Here we are clearly looking at the underlying cause of anger or wrath. And specifically wrong anger, and not surprisingly the writer attributes it to the state of a person’s heart. He contrasts how the state of the heart will work out in the way we react emotionally to others and to God.

So who is the person whose heart is righteous, since the Bible states that there is none righteous, no not one? Well, the answer is, of course, the one who is reckoned righteous by God, the one who has had his sins forgiven, who has submitted to God, who is now indwelt by Holy Spirit and whose desire in all things is to honour God. Then for that person his desire is to do that which ends only in good. He may not always get it right, but at least his desire is to always do what God’s Word says, to think as God things, to view others as God views others, to relate to this world as God would have us relate to this world, and so his desire is always to do that which in the end will be good, or right by God.

In contrast, the one who is not in this relationship with God (the wicked) has a totally different agenda. For himself, he wants to amass all that he can, he has no real concern for others except for those he naturally loves, and as far as God is concerned – he hates His Law, hates His goals, and hates His Son. And the end result of all of this is clear. The expectation of living without God is God’s judgment, condemnation, and wrath (in hell). So wrath rightly describes both how he relates to those who displease him in this lifetime, and in how God will in time relate to him.

The second proverb is:

Pro 22:24 Make no friendship with a man given to anger, nor go with a wrathful man,
Pro 22:25 lest you learn his ways and entangle yourself in a snare.

Whereas the first is concerned with identifying the cause of the problem, this second is concerned with warning against associating with one who demonstrates wrong anger. Now clearly most people get angry on occasion, but here the warning is against making a friend of someone who is given to anger – one who is often angry, who is constantly getting angry and wrathful. And the warning is clear, anger comes from a wrong heart, but then even when saved, we still have that old heart within us, and therefore we can easily revert to type. We can easily pick up bad practises from others! And anger is one of them. You can (v25) learn his ways. You can end up thinking and therefore reacting like he does!

And indeed many of the proverbs are concerned with this very practical idea of us either being affected by others, or of affecting others.

So friend, are you one who is quick to anger (remember what we looked at in James 1)? Or do you have family or friends who are always angry? Some we can avoid and thereby avoid the problem, others we can’t and there we need to be very careful to avoid learning their ways.

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