I thought that I had dealt with the subject of the first half of this verse already, but I was mistaken. It was a small point in a message from Ecclesiastes, but with another theme in mind I only touched it. Ecclesiastes 7:9 says – “Be not hasty in thy spirit to be angry; for anger resteth in the bosom of fools.” Not that it is significant, but the Hebrew word used in Ecclesiastes is different from the one here. And yet anger is anger no matter which word we use.
Let’s say you are trying to tell someone what the Bible says about sin and salvation. Immediately that other person blasts you in the face, calling you a “hypocrite.” Fueled by the man’s anger, your own anger is ignited and you explode with an inappropriate reply. You are justified in your anger aren’t you? The man lied; he accused you of sin; he defamed you. But is your anger any less wicked than his?
There are many synonyms for anger – “passion,” “irritation,” “resentment,” “annoyance or “wrath” and “rage.” Whatever word we use, it boils down to “anger,” and the Bible has much to say about that subject. But our two Hebrew words approach the subject differently. For example, the word used in Ecclesiastes speaks more of the heart than of outward actions. And this takes us to the words of condemnation from the Lord Jesus. The omniscient God knows EXACTLY what is going on inside that soul of yours. You may try to explain or justify your outburst, but the Lord knows the real source of your anger. In fact, you may not have expressed your anger at all, and it may still be recognized by God as sin. On the other hand, the word used here in Proverbs does speak of an outward expression of our anger And of that we aren’t too surprised because Proverbs is a very practical book.
Before we go on – would it shock you to learn that neither “angry” nor “anger” – have been mentioned in Proverbs thus far? Our text is the first use of the word “angry” in this book, and “anger” comes up for the first time in Proverbs 15:1. So this is why we haven’t looked at this subject before now. But we will correct that this evening – at else very briefly. And rather than giving you a three point outline, let’s just read and apply all of Solomon’s references.
His first use of this Hebrew word in Proverbs is in 11:22 where it is translated very differently.
“As a jewel of gold in a swine’s snout, so is a fair woman which is without discretion” – perhaps expressed with anger. The swine’s snout in that verse is the “angry” of 14:17. So picture the snout of the pig – besides being flat, can’t you visualize the rather large nostrils? The angry man LOOKS angry, with flared nostrils, a face turning red and eyes narrowing at you. This Hebrew word again is used in Proverbs 30:33 – twice – “Surely the churning of milk bringeth forth butter, and the wringing of the nose bringeth forth blood: so the forcing of wrath bringeth forth strife.” Both “wringing of the nose” and “the forcing of wrath” are the same Hebrew word – “angry.”
As you probably know, the Bible doesn’t condemn anger outright. There are positive examples of anger in God’s Word. But our anger must be under control or it is not Christian anger – even if we think it to be righteous. Our anger must not turn into retaliation or it becomes sin in us. And this particular Hebrew word teaches that our anger shouldn’t even be seen on our faces. I have watched dozens of Christians destroy their testimony through uncontrolled, explosive anger. And I can’t say that I haven’t been guilty. When we are reviled, unlike our Saviour, we open up our mouths in violent defense or retaliation. And at that point we cease to glorify our Redeemer no matter how righteous our cause might be.
Proverbs 15:1 brings this same word in through the back door when it says, “A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.” No one can claim to be strong, if he or she cannot control his temper. He may even be in the right doctrinally or morally, but his character is weak if he can’t reply to someone with a calm voice and a pleasant face. “He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city.”
Proverbs 19:11 – “The discretion of a man deferreth his anger; and it is his glory to pass over a transgression.” “Pass over a transgression” – this is not referring to transgressions against God – sins against His holiness. These are transgressions against ourselves – yes, even sins against us. These sins against us might be accusatory words, spoken in anger – “you hypocrite, you idiot, you fool.” These might be things which have hurt us – lies, slights, insulting acts or gestures, thefts. A discrete person, a Christian,“deferreth his anger” – he is slow and measured in his response. If he replies at all, it with a soft answer, often deflecting the anger of the other person. If we ourselves were sinless, we might be able to justify our anger against the sin against us. But we are just as guilty as the man who has falsely accused us, even if our sin is in other areas.
Proverb 14:17 – “He that is soon angry dealeth foolishly.” If we’ve learned anything thus far in Proverbs , foolish behavior is opposed to Christian behavior. In this case, the word “soon” – in this “soon angry” – is interesting. It is rarely used, but twice as often as “soon” it is translated “small” and once even “few.” So this verse is referring to the person who QUICKLY gets angry over LITTLE things. ( Isn’t that a relief? Because you and I never get angry over little things – only really big things. )
“He that is slow to wrath is of great understanding: but he that is hasty of spirit exalteth FOLLY.” Elsewhere Solomon adds, “A wrathful man stirreth up strife: but he that is slow to anger appeaseth strife.” What is it to appease? It is to bring something to rest, to quiet a situation; to create tranquility.
Sometimes where this word is used, the subject it the Lord,
but it is used in such a way that there is still a lesson for us.
Proverb 24:17-18 – “Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth, and let not thing heart be glad when he stumbleth. Lest the LORD see it, and it displease him, and he turn away his wrath from him” – to you. Our anger against someone who transgresses against us …. Our happiness at the judgment which might fall upon him …. Our pleasure at seeing him hurt in the same way that he hurt us …. always catches the eye of the omniscient God. The Lord may choose to teach US a lesson, when we think that only the other man deserves it.
Paul’s words in Romans 12 reflect on what Solomon is saying – “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.” Christian, set your anger down and let the Lord deal with the man who got you so riled up.
Since there is no flat condemnation of anger, saved sinners, think they can excuse their anger. Paul’s words to the Ephesians – “Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath” are used as an excuse to check our watches. “Oh, good, the sun is still up, so I have a Biblical mandate to be furious at you.” “Your sin is an offence against God, therefore I have every right to attack you.” “Your doctrine is different than mine, and that makes me so angry I could spit.” “God has appointed ME to defend HIS honor.” Has He really? Is the Omnipotent God been so weakened that He needs you to be angry or to hate someone on His behalf?
Proverbs provides us with ways in which to respond to the temptation of anger. It says keep yourself under control. “A fool uttereth all his mind: but a wise man keepeth it in till afterwards” when our hearts are not quite so inflamed. Overlook those offences against you. ” The discretion of a man deferreth his anger; and it is his glory to pass over a transgression.” Do your best to appease the angry person, whenever that is possible. “A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.” And whenever possible, deliberately avoid angry people. “Make no friendship with an angry man; and with a furious man thou shalt not go: Lest thou learn his ways, and get a snare to thy soul.” And it may not be a matter of intentionally learning his ways, but we can subconsciously pick up his ways.
But why does Solomon say “Make no friendship with an angry man”? It might be argued that we should try our best to become that man’s friend. We might be able to defer his wrath, and help him to become a better servant of God. And perhaps that is an exercise well worth attempting. Also, if he is a lost man, when he sees his sin with our help, he might be lead to the Saviour. When it becomes obvious he is going to remain an angry man, it might be dangerous to befriend him. “An angry man stirreth up strife, and a furious man aboundeth in transgression.” When that angry man stirs up the hornet’s nest you may be stung. Or the chastisement of God may soon fall on him, and there could be collateral damage – you. As the angry man’s friend, the stench of his sin may seep into your clothing and others may smell him on you.
The Lord Jesus has said, “Whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment…” “It’s sure a good thing that I have a good reason to be angry.” Are you absolutely sure of that? James added, “Wherefore my beloved brethren let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.” Reiterating what Solomon says in our opening scripture – “He that is soon angry dealeth foolishly.”