The Value of Being Slow To Anger

The Old Testament often describes God as “slow to anger.” A more literal translation of the Hebrew is actually “long-nosed,” which makes no sense in English. But it’s a picture of a person who takes a long time to reach the point where they’re so angry that their nostrils flare and the air whooshes through their nose like a bull about to charge.

The phrases “slow to anger” and“long-suffering,” are both translated from two Hebrew words — “long” and “breath/passion/heat/anger.” The Greek equivalent is typically translated “patience” or “long-suffering.” It’s not about never getting angry, but about having control over when that happens and not flying off into a rage.

Anger is not inherently sinful. God gets angry, and Paul also tells us we can be angry without sinning (Eph. 4:26). But God doesn’t get angry quickly or without good cause, and we shouldn’t either. So how can we become “slower to anger” and “longer suffering”?

Quick Anger Fuels Strife

I think the dividing line between anger that is and is not sinful can be found in the effect that it has. Jesus throwing those who were exploiting believers out of the temple? Righteous anger. Me getting so upset at someone that I say something nasty which leads to conflict? Sinful anger.

God hates arrogance, wicked schemes, and discord. So if your anger is causing these (or anything else He hates), then it is leading to sin. There are several Proverbs addressing this. Here are a few: Read more

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Anger Is Not A Sin (at least not all the time)

A couple weeks ago, I read a blog post that stated emotions can’t be sins. They just are, and how we act on them determines whether or not we’re sinning. The example they used was anger. For proof, they cited all the times God is described as angry. Because God is incapable of sin, this demonstrates that anger can’t be inherently sinful.

I knew the verses they were talking about, but just out of curiosity I ran a word search to see how often God is described as angry. 208 verses. That’s out of 268 verses in the KJV containing the word anger in any context. Anger is only used 60 times that it’s not in reference to God, and this isn’t even counting words like fury and wrath.

click to read article, "Anger Is Not A Sin (at least not all the time)" | marissabaker.wordpress.com
photo credit: “Angry” by Rodrigo Suriani, CC BY via Flickr

Wow. That’s far more than I’d expected. The sheer number of verses wasn’t the only interesting thing, though. There’s also a marked difference in how the Bible talks about God’s anger and human anger. God’s anger is always righteous, ours not so much. Read more

Feeling After The Lord

Feeling After The Lord | marissabaker.wordpress.comIt seems that Christians are often suspicious of feelings. And why shouldn’t we be? After all, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” (Jer. 17:9). We can’t understand our own hearts, so how can we trust anything they tell us?

I’ve suspected for some time that our feelings may be more important to our relationship with God than some people like to admit, but I wondered if my own tendency to favor intuition and feelings in decision-making was coloring my thinking. Then I noticed a verse in my King James study Bible that talked about people seeking the Lord “if haply they might feel after Him” (Acts. 17:27). When you look at the Greek this doesn’t really havemuch to do with emotions, but it did prompt a more in-depth study about how much we can trust our hearts and feelings.

New Hearts

When we talk about our “hearts” in the Bible, the Hebrew word is lebab (H3824). The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament by Harris, Gleason, and Waltke describes this word as “the richest Biblical term for the totality of man’s inner or immaterial nature.” It refers to someone’s personality, and primarily includes their emotions, thoughts, and will. Any sort of feeling — positive and negative — can be attributed to the heart.

The passage in Jeremiah 17 which tells us our hearts are deceitful and wicked also tells us that the Lord is able to know, search, and try our hearts (Jer. 17:9-10). As the only one Who can really understand what’s going on in our innermost self, God is also able to effect changes inside us at a heart-level.

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them. (Ezk. 36:26-27)

Our hearts can be changed. They don’t have to stay wicked and untrustworthy. That doesn’t, however, mean we can follow our hearts all the time once we’re in a relationship with God. David walked “in integrity of heart” and God called him “a man after My own heart, who will do all My will” (1 Kings 9:4; Acts 13:22), yet he still sinned by acting on his feelings for Bathsheba.

Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life. (Prov. 4:23)

Even when God is working with our hearts, we still have an obligation to keep and guard our inner selves. We have the Holy Spirit in us, but we’re also still human. While our gut instincts and feelings are more likely to be right when we’re in covenant with God, we could still be deceived by our hearts.

Reach Out

Let’s go back to that verse I mentioned in Acts. It’s part of Paul’s sermon in Athens.

And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’ (Acts 17:26-28)

In the Greek, the phrase “grope for” (NKJV) or “feel after” (KJV) is translated from the word pselaphao (G5584). This word is derived from a root that means “to touch lightly,” and here in Acts if means to feel or touch and object. The picture it paints is of us reaching out, searching for God like someone feeling around in the dark to find another person.

By night on my bed I sought the one I love; I sought him, but I did not find him. “I will rise now,” I said, “And go about the city; in the streets and in the squares I will seek the one I love.” I sought him, but I did not find him.” (Song 3:1-2)

Since we’re not going to find God by waving our hands around and reaching for something physically tangible, I imagine this “feeling after” God takes place in our hearts. This brings us right back to the idea of emotions, thoughts, and the immaterial parts of us.

I’m reminded of a conversation I had with a friend some years ago about what role emotions have in our faith. One of the questions that came up was, “What does the Holy Spirit in us feel like, if it’s not a feeling?” It’s an appeal to probability fallacy to , but it illustrates a point — we instinctively sense that the immaterial part of us will be involved in noticing the immaterial Spirit of God.

Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.” (John 14:23)

In Acts 17, Paul told those who were “feeling after” God that “He is not far from each one of us.” Here in John, Christ tells us that both He and His Father will dwell with an inside of Their people via the Holy Spirit (John 14:15-18). Talk about being close to someone! We “live and move and have our being” in Them, and They live inside us. That’s the most intimate relationship you’ll ever have with anyone.

For in Him [Jesus] dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power. (Col. 2:9-10)

Being in relationship with God makes us complete. He strengthens our weaknesses, makes wise our foolishness, and quiets our anxieties. When we go looking for God and cling tightly to Him, the change He can and will work inside us on a spiritual, emotional, and mental level is astonishing. It transforms us to the core of our being, including our feelings.

God’s Feelings

Two days ago I was asked the question, “Does God have feelings?” I responded, “yes.” Of course God has feelings. But when called upon to back it up with scriptures, I pretty much drew a blank. I hadn’t really studied the subject, and only had generalities to mention like Jesus Christ experiencing human emotions and yet not sinning.

So, I sat down with e-Sword and we started doing word searches and found a huge long list of scriptures. Then I Googled “God’s emotions” to see what other people had written and found even more scriptures. This isn’t even an exhaustive study — it only took a couple hours — and there’s already too many scriptures to use them all in a blog post. I’m going to do my best to condense it into a manageable article.

Jesus Christ’s Emotions

"Jesus Wept" John 13:35When He “was made in the likeness of men,” Jesus Christ experienced being human (Phil. 2:7). As we know — sometimes all too well — being human involves experiencing emotions. For Jesus, this also meant exercising perfect emotional control (1 Pet. 2:23).

For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. (Heb. 4:15-16)

Not only did Christ experience what we go through, but He can still be touched by our feelings. And not only sympathize, but help. “God is the strength of my heart,” He gives not just physical aid when we are in need, but emotional help as well (Ps. 73:26).

One of the ways we can see God’s emotions and character most clearly is looking at the example of Christ. There is ample evidence in the scripture to show that Jesus felt deeply. In His time on the earth, Jesus Christ experienced a myriad of emotions. He felt joy (John 15:11; 17:13; Hebrews 12:2). He was moved with compassion (Matt 9:36; Luke 13:34). He was grieved and in agony (Mark 8:12John 11:38; Luke 22:44; Matt. 27:46). He got angry (Mark 3:5). He cried (John 11:35; Luke 19:41). He loved His friends and the people who came to Him (Mark 10:21; John 13:1; John 15:13) [the Greek words are forms of agape — a Godly love that expresses compassion]).

God’s Reaction to Sin

The sin of man is a source of grief for God. It hurts Him when we turn away from Him because He is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9). We are instructed to pray for all men because God wills that “all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4)

And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented the LORD that He had made man on the earth, and it grieved Him at His heart. (Gen. 6:5-6)

For their heart was not right with Him, neither were they stedfast in His covenant. But He, being full of compassion, forgave their iniquity, and destroyed them not: yea, many a time turned He His anger away, and did not stir up all His wrath. For He remembered that they were but flesh; a wind that passeth away, and cometh not again. How oft did they provoke Him in the wilderness, and grieve Him in the desert! (Psalm 78:37-40)

Because He is a God of mercy, He is patient and “slow to anger” (Psalm 103:8; 145:8), but He does get angry. The fact that He is just and righteous means that He will not overlook sin. Jealousy and anger is the response described when His people consistently turn away from following Him.

And therefore will the LORD wait, that He may be gracious unto you, and therefore will He be exalted, that He may have mercy upon you: for the LORD is a God of judgment: blessed are all they that wait for Him. (Is. 30:18)

God is jealous, and the LORD revengeth; the LORD revengeth, and is furious; the LORD will take vengeance on His adversaries, and He reserveth wrath for His enemies.The LORD is slow to anger, and great in power, and will not at all acquit the wicked: the LORD hath His way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of His feet. (Nah. 1:2-3)

Mercy and Joy

For those who turn from evil to obey and love Him, there is a far different response from God. Jesus Christ said, “joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance” (Luke 15:7). Long-suffering, mercy, and compassion are key attributes of His personality.

For if ye turn again unto the LORD, your brethren and your children shall find compassion before them that lead them captive, so that they shall come again into this land: for the LORD your God is gracious and merciful, and will not turn away His face from you, if ye return unto Him. (2 Chron. 30:9).

But thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth. (Ps. 86:15)

Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy. (James 5:11)

Those who love and obey Him faithfully are told that Jesus “is not ashamed to call them brethren” (Heb. 2:11). Of those who, like Abraham, live by faith it is said that “God is not ashamed to be called their God: for He hath prepared for them a city” (Heb. 11:16). God is love (1 John 4:8, 16), and He wants to share that love with everyone.

“Does God have feelings?” The answer is a resounding yes. He has feelings, and He can sympathize with what we are feeling. He is not an impersonal God. He is grieved by our sin and joyful when we choose life by following in the footsteps of Jesus Christ.