Prov.24:1-22 — MY ENEMY
This sermon was preached at Peace Hill Christian Fellowship on October 10th, 2010. To listen to the audio of this sermon, just click on this link – Prov 24A.
We are finishing up a section of Proverbs known as the Thirty Wise Sayings. We will be looking at sayings #20-#30. While these sayings are expressed as separate statements, all of the ideas in this chapter trend towards one theme – namely, how the followers of God are called to be wise by looking on and treating enemies and responding to evil men. /
Passages like this one seem to be the source of Jesus’ teachings (Matt. 5:11-12, 43-47), and Paul’s (Rom.12:14-21). Consequently, we cannot look at this teaching in Proverbs from an exclusively OT point of view, but we need to see it also from the point of view of the NT.
Wisdom is Refusing to Retaliate.
Don’t Get Caught Up in the Desire for Revenge: “Do not envy wicked men, do not desire their company; for their hearts plot violence, and their lips talk about making trouble.” The first and most natural response to my enemy is to repay him – to do and say to him what he has done and said to me. It is difficult not to envy those who feel the freedom to do evil – to plot violence – to make trouble. In fact, when I don’t respond to my enemy by paying him back, I feel weak – I look weak – my choice not to pay back looks like I am unable to pay back. My enemy seems to win.
Believe that Wisdom is a More Stable Response: “By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures.A wise man has great power, and a man of knowledge increases strength; for waging war you need guidance, and for victory many advisers.”
Vs.3-6 draw a contrast between the satisfaction of the wicked trouble maker and the wise man. The wicked man who plots violence and makes trouble, has the satisfaction of having injured my reputation, or of having taken something from me wrongfully, (land or wealth). This is why it is so hard not to retaliate, because the evil man seems to be building his reputation and his wealth and his life – and injuring mine.
But when we are wise – when we do not retaliate – when we respond graciously, we gain another kind of satisfaction, because wisdom has great value, it is rare and powerful and is pleasing to God.
Consequently, the evil man may attack the reputation of the wise man – but those who know the wise man and see his peaceful response know his character. Over time, the evil man comes to be known as a hostile and evil person – but the wise man builds a life that is honorable, peaceful and wise – before men and God. Vs.3-4 compare this reputation to a great house full of rare and beautiful treasures. Wisdom in the face of hostility builds a life that is stable, honorable and lasting.
The one who does harm and takes away something of value may appear strong, but what he gains does not bless his life, and is only temporary. He must stand before God the judge, one day having done harm, while the one who does not retaliate and lives by wisdom has great confidence before God.
This really comes down to what we believe about life. If there is nothing but this life and grasping for all we can get – then the evil man is right to do so – but if we believe that God will judge the hearts and actions of men – then wisdom is stronger than evil.
Wisdom is too High for a Fool: “Wisdom is too high for a fool; in the assembly at the gate he has nothing to say. He who plots evil will be known as a schemer. The schemes of folly are sin, and men detest a mocker.”
The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God’” – so wisdom, the willingness not to retaliate, is too much. He must scheme and plot to do evil and retaliate. His schemes are foolish and sinful, but he is unwilling to see this. He comes to be detested by those who are affected by his schemes. His actions mock or scorn God – who would be his provider – who would bless him – because he provides for himself by doing harm.
Wisdom is Rescuing Your Enemy.
“If you falter in times of trouble, how small is your strength! Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter. If you say, “But we knew nothing about this,” does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who guards your life know it? Will he not repay each person according to what he has done?”
Right at the middle of this passage are these verses about rescuing those led away to death – who are staggering towards slaughter. At first glance these verses seem to be more about the enemy’s victims than about the enemy. But in the larger context of the passage, it is the wicked themselves who are perishing, (vs.16, 20, 22). By wisdom we recognize that the one who is plotting evil, who is making trouble and doing harm is actually staggering towards slaughter – the judgment of God.
And here the passage becomes gracious. God does not want the death of a sinner – but he desires rescue for his enemies. Jesus fulfilled this OT passage by dying for those who followed him and those who rejected him. Those who are wise are being called to take up the desire of God here – to become a display of the love of God by not returning evil for evil – by blessing those who curse us (see Matt.5).
Wisdom is Joining God’s Plan.
Let Wisdom Be Sweet to Your Soul: “Eat honey, my son, for it is good; honey from the comb is sweet to your taste. Know also that wisdom is sweet to your soul; if you find it, there is a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off.”
Embrace wisdom then, and believe that there is a hope and a future for those who are wise. There is probably no greater test of what we believe than the willingness not to retaliate against our enemy. But if we believe that God is good – that he cares for us – that choosing not to retaliate has a redemptive effect not only on our enemy’s life, but also on our own lives, then choosing to love our enemy is a life-giving act that brings health to our souls, sweetens our own experience of God’s love – who loved us while we were still his enemies – it brings to life our understanding of God’s grace towards us.
Let Retaliation Become Unthinkable Rebellion: “ Do not lie in wait like an outlaw against a righteous man’s house, do not raid his dwelling place; for though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again, but the wicked are brought down by calamity… Fear the LORD and the king, my son, and do not join with the rebellious…”
The warning in vs.15-16 doesn’t seem to fit in this passage. The whole passage is addressed to those who are being called to be wise and not to retaliate – but verse 15 is a warning not to lie in wait like an outlaw against the righteous. In the same way, verse 21 is a verse not to rebel against God and his anointed king.
These verses seem too obvious to be here. Why did the writer put them there? Because they expose the true nature of retaliation. Retaliation against men is a rebellion against God. To retaliate is to set aside God’s law and to rebel against his authority. God is the judge – vengeance belongs to him. When we retaliate we set ourselves in his place.
Neither Rejoice, nor Fret Over Your Enemy: “Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when he stumbles, do not let your heart rejoice, or the LORD will see and disapprove and turn his wrath away from him. Do not fret because of evil men or be envious of the wicked, for the evil man has no future hope, and the lamp of the wicked will be snuffed out.” Our response to our enemy should be neither to fret over what he is doing, nor to rejoice when he falls, but to have compassion – to believe that God wants to redeem him and us together -to believe that God will take care of both of us.
This is the burden of this passage. We are being called to believe that God is good to us – and that he wants to do good to our enemies. Christ is the greatest evidence – the proof – that this is the character and nature of God. He became the bodily example of God’s love for enemies. Where we have failed to love our enemies – Christ has done it on our behalf through his sacrifice on the cross. Where we have opportunity to love our enemy – Christ calls us to do so by his power, to follow his example and to believe that he is at work in us and our enemy.
Prov.24:23-26 & Prov.24:30-34 — TURNING TO JESUS IN EVERYDAY LIFE
(Part 1: Turning to Jesus in Our Conversation)
This sermon was preached at Peace Hill Christian Fellowship on January 9th, 2011. To listen to the audio of this sermon, just click on this link – Prov 24B.
These also are the sayings of the wise: This morning we come to these verses at the end of Proverbs 24 which seem to be added on at the end – after the thirty sayings of the wise. They are verses that deal with everyday matters – our conversation with those who are guilty – the way we hand work and rest – and our response to be ing wronged. The writer of Proverbs calls us to be wise in light of these everyday matters, and, in fact, warns us against the dangers of neglecting wisdom in these mundane matters.
We want to be wise – to live thoughtful and careful godly lives in regard to these everyday matters. We want to recognize this morning that truly wise living only happens as we turn to Jesus – the one who is with us – and ask him for his help and grace to be wise.
Speak Truth to the Guilty.
Reject the Pressure to say, “That wasn’t your fault,” to the guilty: To show partiality in judging is not good: Whoever says to the guilty, “You are innocent” peoples will curse him and nations denounce him. But it will go well with those who convict the guilty, and rich blessing will come upon them.
Vs.24 calls to mind a courtroom scene in which a judge says to a notorious criminal – “You are innocent”, and lets him go. Even the nations – says the Jewish writer – would denounce that kind of behavior. But the proverb is not just about a court case… Whoever says to the guilty that they are innocent – whoever shows partiality to evil has not done what is good. But what can this have to do with everyday people? How often are we in a position to show partiality to someone who is doing evil? Quite often!
We regularly find ourselves in situations where friends and acquaintances speak in a justifying way about their bad behavior. People throw out rotten little pieces of information to see how we will react. What they want is our confirmation that they were justified in doing or saying what they said or did – and we show partiality to those we like or respect.
So a friend tells us indignantly, how they cursed someone at work – or about the bitterness in their heart towards a sibling or a parent – or they tell us in a conspiratorial tone that they cheated on their taxes. In essence they are asking us to tell them that they are innocent of any wrongdoing – or that their wrongdoing is understandable. We are being asked for justification, however unconsciously it is being asked.
Turn to Jesus in Conversation: What is wisdom in this situation? What ought we to do? Should we become more confrontational? Probably. Should we be honest? Obviously. But suppose I tell you this morning to be more confrontational toward those who want your approval – would you do that? Could you simply decide to be upright and honest in all your conversation? Could you be wise?
What we need is more than human resolution to be wise and to do the right thing. What we need is the support and help and wisdom of God. We need the power of Jesus Christ at work in our lives. We need to confess that we want to either accuse or excuse people – that we seldom want to do them good – to confront the guilty in love. We seldom see how the guilty need Christ to set them free – but the Spirit of God sees.
Turning to Jesus in our conversation means that we prayerfully ask for the words to say in response to the guilty. We need to be in a conversation with Jesus where we are asking him – “What does this person need?” “What should I say?” “How should I respond?” Jesus wants to take a person who is trying to justify their guilt and deal with what is going on in their heart. Asking for the grace of Jesus in the moment of our conversation changes what we would say – makes us dependent on the wisdom of God – and causes us to think about what God wants to do through our conversation.
Speak the Truth About Yourself.
We are Always Making a Case for Ourselves: An honest answer is like a kiss on the lips. We also tend to be less than honest when we talk about situations in our lives. We usually state things in such a way as to put ourselves in the best light. We present situations in a way that makes us appear blameless. We have ways of describing our behavior that justifies us. If you hear me yelling at my kids, I may tell you that my kids pushed me over the limit today and so I chewed them out. I have told you at least three things here…
- I have a limit that no one should expect me to have to go past.
- My kids pushed me past that emotional limit and my only option was to scream.
- Therefore, all of the blame for the screaming you heard must be on my kids.
Wisdom Calls Us to Honor Others with Honesty: But an honest answer is like a complement. When I tell you the truth – that I responded sinfully to sinful behavior, I am showing you respect by refusing to lie to you. I am inviting you to know who I truly am – a person in need of grace and forgiveness. I am refusing to set myself above the need for grace or other people.
Turn to Jesus to Speak the Truth: We need Jesus to show us how to give an honest answer – how to be people who can honestly and graciously talk about our failings and our needs. The ability to be open with one another about who we really are in our weakness and need is the result of supernatural grace. In our own strength we will always return to putting ourselves in a good light – embellishing our character – making excuses for our behavior and words.
Beware the Consequences of False Words.
I went past the field of a sluggard, past the vineyard of someone who has no sense; thorns had come up everywhere, the ground was covered with weeds, and the stone wall was in ruins.
Thorns – The Consequences of Declaring Another Innocent Entangles Us: God alone can declare a person innocent – when we try to declare someone who is guilty innocent we become entangled in their lie. Those who are unrepentant always characterize their sin as understandable and themselves as misunderstood or victims.
The person who wants to be justified in their bitterness and grievances against a father or brother or enemy will, as their own guilt in the grievance becomes clear, demand more justification and be less willing to repent or hear truth.
Weeds – When We Declare Ourselves Innocent, Falsehood Spreads: The weeds of our self-justification tend to spread further and further into our understanding as we repeat them. The phrases: “No one understands me”, “I can’t help what I do”, “That wasn’t really me”, and “‘X’ was too much”, only serve to blind us to the sinful destructiveness of our sin and to our responsibility before God. They are like fertilizer that feeds falsehood and blindness in our hearts.
Broken Walls – When We Declare the Guilty Innocent, We Break Down the Truth: Declaring the guilty to be innocent diminishes human sinfulness and human need. The more we justify ourselves and others, the less important and necessary the Gospel becomes.
Prov.24:27 & 32-34 — TURNING TO JESUS IN EVERYDAY LIFE
(Part 2: Turning to Jesus for the Wisdom to Rest)
This sermon was preached at Peace Hill Christian Fellowship on January 16th, 2011. To listen to the audio of this sermon, just click on this link – Prov 24C.
Last week we began looking at Prov.24:24-34. We talked about turning to Jesus in our conversation. This week we want to take up the second issue in this passage – the issue of work and rest. This morning we want to see what it means to turn to Jesus for the wisdom to rest.
We are Driven by a Desire for Rest.
A Picture of Work and Rest: Put your outdoor work in order and get your fields ready; after that, build your house. Prov.24:27 gives us the picture of a man starting out who has either bought or inherited a field to farm. He is living in a hut in the middle of his field and he dreams of making his property beautiful and prosperous.
The first thing the man needs to do is to plant his fields -to get his crop in so that, at harvest time, he will have something to harvest. He needs to spend some time every day outside weeding and watering and building fences. This is his outdoor work.
But he dreams of having a fine house – a place to rest – a place to make beautiful, his “castle” – an ideal space to live in. Like us, he feels that it is more enjoyable to fix the place up – to build a fine home and buy nice things to go in his home, than it is to work out in the fields.
We Long for Restoration: On the face of it Prov.24:27 is a command to be responsible. But because this proverb is set in the context of this passage that ends up talking about the sluggard (vs.30-34), we need to see that there is more going on here than basic advice about responsibility. Vs.27 is a call to be wise in the way we work and rest because both are important. We have responsibilities that are important and that must be carried out – but we also long for rest – or restoration. That longing for rest drives us both in the way we rest and in the way we work. The sluggard is a picture of how, when rest and work are corrupted by false understanding, our lives are deeply affected and hurt. The sluggard is driven by a longing for rest – but his understanding of both work and rest is foolish.
We Have Been Foolish in Our Pursuit of Rest.
There is a True Rest: We were made, designed and commanded to have both meaningful work and restoration. We need meaningful and satisfying work, but we also need restoration – refueling – healing – rebuilding.
The idea of rest has, at times, been over-spiritualized in the church. We have been told that true rest means only rest in the forgiveness and favor of God. This rest of peace (the shalom of God), is the foundation of true rest, but it should not be all we mean when we talk about our need for rest. We are physical beings with bodies that wear down – relationships that either bless or wear us down – minds that need rest – and appetites that need filling. Restoration for us involves a time of laying down our cares and being at peace – a time of physical let down and sleep and comforting – good food to satisfy our appetites – relational healing and building up and joy – a time of rest for our minds. We need physical restoration as well as spiritual restoration.
There is a False Rest: But our world has taken up this longing for rest without wisdom. We have created a false kind of rest through excess…
~ We need physical let down – but too much let down has led us to laziness.
~ We need good food – but excess in food has led us to gluttony
~ God has given us drink – but too much drink has led us to drunkenness
~ We enjoy entertainment – but we have become enthralled by entertainment
In the same way we have turned rest into idolatry. We turn that which is good into god by trying to find shalom – rest and peace and favor — Through relationships — Through acquisition of wealth — Through status or position — Through our work.
We look for restoration through these things, but instead of building us up they perpetuate imbalance and exhaustion in our lives. We turn things mean to restore and give rest into drains that drain our lives – and being drained we pursue our false rest all the more, creating an ever increasing unrest.
In our drive for restoration we have all turned to false pursuits of rest – whether through work or entertainment or food or relationships – we have all become the sluggard. The entertainment junkie is looking for rest and restoration – the drunkard is looking for rest and restoration – the workaholic is looking for rest and restoration. And none of us is wise enough to find true rest.
We Must Turn to Jesus for the Wisdom to Rest.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Ask Jesus to Break Your False Rest: If we want to begin to change and turn from the false rest that drains our lives, we need to ask Jesus to show us our false rest – the lie we are believing about rest – and to help us. We need to recognize how we have been deceived and foolish. We have not just got wrong information – we have loved and pursued false rests and held on to them even as they were eating away at our lives. What we need is the confrontation of the Holy Spirit and the humility to receive correction. We need the supernatural grace to recognize and turn away from false rest.
Ask Jesus to Bring You Into True Rest: We need restoration, healing, good food and drink – but all of these things can only be rest for us if they are used properly – and they can only be used properly by those who have first received the foundation of all rest – the shalom of God – his peace and favor. Let me give two practical examples.
~ Shalom in Relationships: We look for rest in relationships. Many people get married because they want to have the joy of another’s company- be built up by them – find healing through being loved. But too often, instead, we find in even our closest relationships the drain and exhaustion of hostility, dysfunction and distance.
When we go to the Jesus and confess our deceit, resentment and selfishness – the ways in which we have sinned against one another – He forgives us and washes our guilt away through the blood of Jesus. He calls us his favored children. Then we can go to one another and say – This is what I have done – these are my lies, this is my selfishness – this has been my resentment, anger and hostility towards you. We can do this because the one whose opinion is more important than that of our spouse has declared us righteous, favored and loved.
Only then can we find rest in one another’s company – where there has been open confession and restoration on both sides. And as we become increasingly free to be open with one another, we become increasingly free to be open about our failings – yet loved and forgiven. We become increasingly free to be open about what we think – and to have that valued and received. We become increasingly free to be open about what we want and don’t want – and to have that honored. In short, our relationship becomes something that is restorative and a place of freedom and blessing. Rest in relationship is being known – to be able to expose ourselves and to be accepted and loved.
~ Shalom in Work and Rest: Laziness is exhausting and excessive overwork does not restore us. Laziness just makes us more tired and less motivated and overwork drives us and enslaves us. When we turn to Jesus and confess our distorted desires for rest that consumes us and work that we can’t put down – that we love ease and comfort above all else and don’t want to deal with responsibilities – that we just want to enjoy ourselves, and yet this is not restoring us – how does he help us? Does he just tell us to get up and get to work? Does he just tell us to be more disciplined? No!
Jesus begins to reveal to us the truth – that there is a created balance we need for rest. In fact this is the first thing we are shown about rest in Gen.2 – that God, who did not need to rest, balanced work and rest. Meaningful work is part of rest – you cannot truly rest until you have worked. Rest is what makes work meaningful – without rest work becomes burdensome and enslaving.
When we come to Jesus in the brokeness of our overwork or laziness, he forgives the sin of our neglect and begins the process of leading us towards right balance and where true restoration is possible. He does not give us a law (work this many hours) but shows us our unique capacity for work and our needs for rest. Then we do not need to be driven by guilt in our work and rest because we are working and resting in obedience to what God has shown us.
When I begin to work and rest in the peace and favor of God – work changes from something that I am driven to do and becomes something that God is calling me to do – I work differently – purposefully wanting to please God. I become more aware of the fact that God helps me in my work and my work takes on greater meaning. Rest from work also becomes not a matter of guilt – but a gift from God, given to me for restoration – something I need and also meaningful.
The Warning of the Sluggard.
Poverty the Thief: … poverty will come on you like a thief… False rest indulged in replaces the true rest we need with worthless false rest so that we become tired and exhausted and pulled out of shape. There is an exchange when we indulge in false rest.
Scarcity the Armed Man: …and scarcity like an armed man. We are given a picture of scarcity as one who breaks in and takes control of a house – a robber. When we indulge in false rest it has a way of increasing our discontent and need – it takes over.
The sluggard is a picture of a man who thinks he is only getting a little rest and folding of the hands – but look at his broken down walls – his overgrown fields. His indulgence has deceived him and grown in him. In the same way, we need to realize that our false rests will overgrow and overwhelm our lives – it is an exchange we cannot afford.
Prov.24:28-34 — TURNING TO JESUS IN EVERYDAY LIFE
(Part 3: Turning to Jesus in our Anger)
This sermon was preached at Peace Hill Christian Fellowship on January 30th, 2011. To listen to the audio of this sermon, just click this link – Prov 24D.
This morning we are going to finish up with Proverbs 24:23-34. So far we have looked at what it means to turn to Jesus in our conversation (part 1), what it means to turn to Jesus for work and rest (part 2), and this morning we want to look at what it means to turn to Jesus with our anger.
The Courtroom Scene: Do not testify against your neighbor without cause – would you use your lips to mislead? Prov.24:28 gives us the picture of a courtroom scene where a man is bringing his neighbor before the judge without cause – accusing him falsely and misleading the court.
These commands, like others in Proverbs, seem kind of obvious. Most of us are not so blatant in our actions towards those who make us angry. However, this is the point behind what the author is doing – he is exposing and making obvious the true nature of what happens in the heart of the angry person. The author’s words paint a picture of a man who is open and obvious about his anger in a way we might never be.
The truth is, in our anger – we put people on trial – we speak against them as judge – jury and executioner. We embellish and build up our case and build up the offenses of others against us. We create a story in our minds that demands outrage and vengeance.
Anger Seduces Us: The thing about anger is that it is an appetite! Anger physically affects us – causes our adrenaline to surge and our body to prepare for action. Anger feels powerful and like we are taking action and control. Anger feels like we are going to get justice and call the guilty to account. And there are times when we are rightly angry because an injustice or a wrong has been done.
But anger can feel the same way when we have not been wronged. Prov.24:28 describes a man who has not been wronged – who is angry “without cause”, and who allows his anger to lead him and convince him that others have and are injuring him. He convinces himself – he misleads himself – through his own thoughts he determines the motivations and the meaning of the actions of those with whom he is angry. He builds up the offenses against him and his feeling of rage.
Anger Stays Under the Radar: The truth is that we all struggle with anger – but very few are aware of that struggle. Anger is a stigma, and even the most obviously angry people will deny that they have any problem with anger. Yet we all deal with issues of anger every day – the thoughtlessness of people we live with – the sinful expectations of others that make us angry – the dismissals and slights and implied insults – the carelessness of others – and even our reactions to innocent words and actions. We are self loving people who, on some level are demanding respect and appreciation – a demand that is ignored and violated by people every day – and we are angry about that whether we admit it or not.
Anger Desires Pay back: Do not say, “I’ll do to them as they have done to me; I’ll pay them back for what they did.” The desire that anger produces in us is the desire for pay back – the desire to sting and hurt another – to make them feel the anger and the hurt we feel. This desire, and our absolute commitment to the idea that the fulfillment of this desire will satisfy us in our anger, is what drives and blinds us in anger. We need to recognize how evil – how demonic that desire is. We need to see how the desire of pay back motivates evil – how it drives the desire to harm.
Turn to Jesus in Your Anger.
Ask Jesus to Reveal Anger in You: “… He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” – Luke.4:18-19. Jesus stated purpose in coming to earth was to do things like reveal to those who are blind the destructive sin in their lives – to set free those who are prisoners of things like anger and lust and greed.
Turning to Jesus in our anger begins when we come to him in prayer and begin to ask him to reveal our anger and what is driving it in our lives. Jesus begins to show us the appetite of our anger and the ways that it has deeply distorted our lives – the utter sinfulness and the emptiness of our desire to harm others – and how our anger and desire to harm can never bring us peace or satisfaction.
Ask Jesus to Show You How to Think Redemptively About Anger:
~ By Teaching You His Great Compassion: The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love… he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him…” – Ps.103:8-13.
When I am angry, when I have been slighted or dismissed or treated thoughtlessly – how does God want me to react?
* Should I stuff my anger and pretend everything is fine (and so create an anger time bomb that will go off once I have had enough)…
* Should I retaliate and start a war – no!
* Should I spiritualize my anger – “Well I guess I deserve to be mistreated because I did the same thing to Jesus”…
NO! God wants me to turn to Jesus for grace. First, to find his Shalom – peace and favor and rest – to be at rest with him. And then, Secondly, God wants me to learn compassion – that is – how to treat someone graciously even in my anger – not as their sins deserve – how not to repay someone according to their sin. How to be angry and yet to choose to act graciously. Learning how to love in a costly way.
~ By Showing You the Righteous Thing He Desires to Do: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. – James 1:19-20 See what this text is saying – there is something God desires to do through anger – but we are never going to see it unless we slow down. God’s anger is redemptive – simply stated that means that when God is angry at our sin and at evil that is taking place – his response is to do good – to bring about repentance and healing and true justice with compassion. God wants our anger to be redemptive as well – he doesn’t want us to stuff anger – he wants to redeem. God wants to take a situation – a person – who is making us angry and God wants to do good.
Be Warned Against Leaving Anger Unattended.
I went past the field of a sluggard, past the vineyard of someone who has no sense; thorns had come up everywhere, the ground was covered with weeds, and the stone wall was in ruins.
One last time we will look at this picture of the sluggard (the man or woman who will not do the work of confronting these everyday sins) , given in vs.30-34.
Like Thorns, Untended Anger Entangles Our Lives: Most obviously, anger draws us into trouble. No matter how much we believe we are hiding it or controlling it – without the grace of God, anger comes out in our actions and reactions. Retaliation draws us deeper into broken situations that work destruction in our own lives and in the lives of others. The only thing that can untangle the damaged relationships we have fed our anger into is to turn with humility and to repent of our anger.
Like Weeds, Untended Anger Spreads: When Paul tells the Ephesians not to sin in their anger – not to let the sun go down while they are angry and so give the devil a foothold (Eph.4:26-27) – he warning them about untended anger. He is not saying that they should in some shallow way deny the existence of anger – nor that they should ignore anger – but that they must deal with anger redemptively rather than allowing it to fester.
Untended anger disintegrates marriages, destroys friendships, tears up families and communities and blinds the mind and heart.
Like a Broken Down Wall, Untended Anger Breaks Down Our Willingness to Show and Receive Grace: Jesus is very clear in the parable of the unmerciful servant (Matt.18:21-35), and in the prayer he gives his disciples (Matt.6:12-15), about those who do not forgive and show grace – that they will not receive grace. Anger breaks down our desire and our willingness to show grace. Bitter anger and graciousness do not exist side by side – although we can often fool ourselves into thinking that they do because we are able to be nice and socially friendly and polite to those we are bitter against. But graciousness longs for and pursues restoration and peace and love.