Proverbs 29:8-10 “Anger”

Pastor Joshua Hall; Faith Presbyterian Church, Quincy, IL; June 2, 2020.

Good Morning, Brothers and Sister!

Today we continue our series of devotionals on the themes from the book of Proverbs by examining the theme of anger.

If you have your Bible, follow along with me as I read Proverbs 29:8-10 from the English Standard Version’s translation of the Bible and consider this teaching on anger.

“Scoffers set a city aflame, but the wise turn away wrath. If a wise man has an argument with a fool, the fool only rages and laughs, and there is no quiet. Bloodthirsty men hate one who is blameless and seek the life of the upright.”

Let us pray…

Everything surrounding the murder of George Floyd is sickening. One police officer murders a man, both from the same race, since we are all part of one human race, all one family, all descended from the same parents, Adam and Eve, all created equally in the image of God! Anger over systemic oppression due to a false separation of the human race into culturally defined subgroups breaks out into deadly rioting all over our country. Good people are being hurt. Businesses are being destroyed. Our country is deeply divided. Revenge begets revenge. When will it all end?

No wonder James tells us that the anger of man does not accomplish the righteousness of God in James 1:20! Is it justice when activists cross state lines and burn and pillage businesses destroying family livelihoods and sending grocery stores packing? What about all those poor people who no longer have access to a grocery store in their neighborhood? The anger of mankind does not bring about the righteousness of God!

Proverbs has a lot to say about anger. “Scoffers set a city aflame.” Where there is no respect for God or for others, people suffer. Those who riot are scoffers, in their looting and destroying of the property of others they scoff at God and his law. For God has commanded us not to steal and not to kill! Vandalism is a form of stealing. Pillaging is stealing in its most plain form.

So how do we combat these scoffers? The proverb tells us that the wise turns away wrath. The wise man speaks in a manner which calms down those who are angry. The wise woman smiles and affirms so that the angry scoffer sees love and respect. The wise person does not seek to be justified, for this only inflames the anger of the scoffer. The wise person aims not to be justified or seen as wise, but rather to turn away wrath. 

Perhaps the reason the wise person turns away wrath is because the wise person recognizes that eradicating wrath in another person is impossible. We cannot change the heart of another human being. Angry people look for an opportunity to express their anger. The wise person simply turns that anger away, the wise person does not point out to the scoffer how angry he or she is, but carefully turns the anger away from the wise person, and from others.

So those who would be wise in the situation with George Floyd and the riots will seek the wisdom necessary to turn the wrath of the angry away from rioting and destruction. 

The proverb cautions the wise against getting into an argument with an angry person. When we encounter an angry person, whether a friend, relative, co-worker, or even an enemy, we would be wise to avoid arguing with that individual. We may be right, but being right is never the aim of the humble, the wise, or the loving. We who care about others put them first, which means that we do not need to be justified when our feelings are hurt or we feel attacked, unless it is for the sake of continuing to love and serve others. 

Christ Jesus was silent before his accusers. He let God the Father justify him in the resurrection from the dead. But when Paul was imprisoned, he appealed his case to Caesar, not so that his ego would be soothed, but so that in his defense others would hear the gospel. 

So when we are attacked by those who are angry, we aim for their good and for the good of others. We seek to turn away wrath before the angry person does something we may all regret. The Proverb warns us that if a wise person gets in an argument with a fool, it only leads to the fool raging and laughing. For the fool will be a fool! Those who are angry cannot be reasoned with. No matter how wisely one tries to deal with the wrath of an angry person, rationality cannot be restored to one filled with rage. The wise man will hear this proverb and become even wiser. The wise woman will not try to reason with one who is angry, for this does not bring peace or quiet. It does not turn away wrath.

There are those who are bloodthirsty. The four characteristics of the antagonist in this proverb are that he or she burns cities, scoffs at God, thinks like a fool, and is bloodthirsty. These are not characteristics of a child of God, not characteristics of righteousness, and they do not lead to life or peace or anything good. The writer of Provers has nothing good to say about them. He unmasks them, showing them to be what they are, ungodly and destructive. This proverb is not written to those who are so wicked, but rather to the wise who would increase in learning. This proverb is written to warn us not to be fooled by the fool, not to be sucked into the trap of reasoning with an angry scoffer. We are to work to turn away wrath.

The bloodthirsty man is a threat to the wise and the righteous. They are not as big a threat to other rioters, nor to those who are like them. Rather, it is the blameless and upright whom they seek to kill. They will justify their action by laying blame at the feet of the innocent, but make no mistake, they are after the righteous who make them look evil in comparison. The wise listen and take heed, they work to turn away wrath before it gets to this level. For the natural outworking of anger is murder!

Consider the first murder. Adam and Eve’s firstborn son killed their second born. Why did Cain kill Abel? Because Cain’s sacrifice was unacceptable to God, while Abel’s was accepted. Cain was angry at Abel because he was blameless and upright, and so he killed him. Beware the fool, the bloodthirsty! For he or she operates out of anger and will destroy the righteous and upright!

We all struggle with anger from time to time. Jesus calls us to forgive. He warns us that to be angry with a brother and out of this anger call him or her a fool is to committed murder in our heart! So we must take our anger to God and let Him deal with those who offend us. Vengeance is mine says the Lord.

Beloved, let us ask God for the wisdom to turn away the wrath of the scoffer and the fool. And let us pray that God will preserve us from ever becoming the scoffer or the fool. God loves to grant wisdom to his children who ask!

Let us pray…

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