Summary: Examining anger by considering the experiences of seven biblical characters: Cain, Moses, Balaam, King Ahab, Haman, Esau, Absalom. Illustrated with clip from movie, "The Hulk".

Seven Angry Men

Eph. 4:25-32[1]


Friday, the American Medical Association released the results of an interesting study teenage anger. The study was conducted at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston. It found that teenagers, who don’t manage their anger, are at a higher risk for weight gain than those who do. The study concluded that regardless of whether teens mismanaged anger by suppressing their feelings of anger or went to the other extreme and simply lost their temper –either way they were at a higher risk of weight gain.[2]

We have known for some time that physical problems like ulcers, high blood pressure, possible strokes, and depression are often associated with anger[3]. But now we can add one more problem that unmanaged anger brings into our lives--problem of weight gain. One way to lose the weight is to lose the anger.

But anger can be a complicated issue. This morning I want us to go a little deeper on this subject than to just say it’s not nice to be angry and anger can in the long run cause a number of social and physical problems in our lives.[4]

Behind the outbursts of anger there are usually underlying issues that are erupting at that moment. We may be angry because someone said something that was not respectful to us. We may be angry because somebody cut us off in traffic. Those may be the immediate triggers behind our rage. But why did that event upset us the way it did? What is going on at a deeper level that set us up for that kind of anger response?

This morning I want us to look at seven angry men in the Bible and see if we can’t identify some underlying issues that lie behind unmanaged anger. The incident that triggers an outburst of anger in our lives may be less significant than the underlying causes. The outburst of anger may just be the tip of the iceberg. There may be much, much more under the surface that will have to be addressed if we are to live above the sin of anger.

When was the last time you really got ticked off? Do you remember what it was that got you so upset? Do you know why that particular thing stirred such an upheaval in your soul? Were you able to look beyond the surface in your own heart and see what may have made you vulnerable at that particular time?

As we talk about these people in the Bible, see if you can identify some major problems that are behind the manifestations of anger.

I. In Genesis 4 we find Cain angry with his brother, Abel. In fact, he became so angry at Abel that he killed him.

Most of you know the story behind that incident. Abel brought his offering to the Lord and God received it with favor. Then Cain brought his offering but God did not look upon it with favor. We could talk about why that was the case. Perhaps Cain’s offering was in obedience to the pattern God had given Adam and Eve when He clothed them with the skins of animals. Perhaps God had made clear at that time that without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin[5]. It is possible that Abel brought to the Lord the first fruits and his best whereas Cain did not. But one thing is evident. The condition of Abel’s heart was right[6] when he came to the Lord with his sacrifice and Cain’s heart was not right.

Cain’s reaction to all of this was to become very angry. In his conversation with the Lord, God gave him opportunity to resolve the problem in his own heart and get things right[7]. But here was Cain’s underlying problem. Instead of taking personal responsibility, he blamed Abel. Instead of addressing the issues in his own heart he saw the problem as being something wrong with Abel. Cain’s had a warped perception of reality. He refused to see things as they really were. His thinking was wrong. Therefore the action he took was wrong.

A question we can ask ourselves in the light of Cain’s anger is this. Am I blaming someone else for my personal struggle? Am I sidetracking my own accountability and pointing the finger at others—at my boss, at my spouse, at people in general? If I do that, I will never solve my problem because I cannot control what they will do. I can only decide what I will do.

II. In Numbers 20 Moses lost his temper and struck the rock twice even though God had told him to simply speak to the rock. That act of anger cost Moses dearly. Because of it God did not allow Moses to lead Israel into the promise land. When you know the story behind all of that it’s pretty hard to blame Moses for getting upset. These people had murmured and complained the whole time. Nothing could please them. Miracle after miracle was not enough and Moses had been extremely patient with them. But he reached his breaking point and flew off the handle.

What was behind Moses’ outburst of anger? In Numbers 20:12 God said it was a lack of faith. Rather than fully trusting God to handle the situation Moses took matters into his own hands. When we try to fix situations ourselves rather than trust God to fix them we are prone to become angry. Why, because in reality we are not capable of fixing much of anything. Frustration is bound to ensue when we take matters into our own hands, even if our goals are worthy goals. The wife who prays for her husband to become a spiritual leader can somewhere along the way take matters into her own hands, become frustrated and strike more than a rock. It was not just the immediate frustration that got to Moses. It was the continual dripping of their disobedience.

III. In Numbers 22 Balaam got really ticked off at his donkey.

The animal just would not do what he wanted to do. Balaam had a goal in mind and circumstances were not cooperating with his objectives. It is natural for us as human being to be pursuing some kind of objective or goal. The objective may be something as simple as trying to get the family together at the table for a meal. It may be something broader like trying to succeed in your career. But we are made to do something. Adam and Eve’s job was to care for the Garden of Eden. They were not there to do nothing. They were there to do something. God made us in such a way that we are always trying to do something. The only people who are not trying to do something are dead people. And I’m assuming we have none of those here at the service this morning.

But when I am trying to do something and there are circumstances that are not cooperating with my plans, I can easily become angry. My great grandfather’s brother died because of anger. He had an unruly yoke of oxen. One day they just would not do what he wanted them to do. He lost his temper and began to beat them. In a fit of anger he beat them all day long. That day the oxen died. The next day he died! You might say a heart attack killed him. But I think it would be more accurate to say anger killed him.

The obstacle Balaam was encountering in his donkey was actually a merciful blessing from God. It was a hindrance designed by God for his guidance and protection. Instead of receiving God’s message to him in the event, Balaam got angry at the donkey. Of course, we know that Balaam’s motives were not right in that situation to begin with. But even if I am trying to do a good thing, how do I respond to circumstances I cannot control?

The other day I didn’t have much time but I decided to run into Wal Mart Super Center to pick up a few things on the way home. Unfortunately five hundred other people had the same idea. That’s OK. I understand that. I quickly found my three items and rushed to the shortest line. But for some reason it wasn’t moving. Well, I thought, “That’s OK. Maybe the cashier has to do a price check. There, over there, is a line that seems to be moving along pretty good. I’ll just go to that line.” Can anybody identify with this story? I got into the line and immediately it stopped moving. The cashier was calling for a manager to do something to the cash register. I was standing there with a forced smile on my face. But inside I was climbing the walls. It would not have been a good time to step on my toe or bump into me. I was not a happy camper.

Now what is behind all my turmoil? I could not get circumstance to cooperate with my objectives. And for some reason I was not resting in that reality. The real problem was not slow lines and inefficient cash registers. The real problem was my false assumption that I can control what I really can’t control. My problem was a lack of faith in God that He can and will control according to my best interest.

Are there circumstances beyond your control that are getting to you? Phil 4:6-7 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” NIV

IV. In 1 Kings 21 Ahab tried to get Naboth to sell him some property that was situated next to the King’s palace. He offered him a very reasonable amount for the land. But Naboth would not sell. Actually Naboth was obeying a scriptural mandate to keep the land in the family.[8] But no matter what King Ahab did he could not get Naboth to sell.

King Ahab became very angry. Why, because he could not control Naboth’s decision. And Ahab was used to controlling other people. The way Ahab expressed his anger was very different from the way his wife, Jezebel, expressed her anger.

Ahab just withdrew and began to sulk.[9] Have you ever know anyone who expressed anger that way? Jezebel’s way of expressing anger was to attack. Her anger was vented in a calculating vicious way. She set up a mock trial and had Naboth killed and then took his land.

What was the underlying problem with Ahab? Certainly it was selfishness. But more specifically he felt he should be able to control other people. Have you ever dealt with a controlling person like that? Some of the most miserable people I have ever met were controllers.

Like Balaam, Ahab motives were wrong. But even when it’s something that is legitimate, can I leave the end result in God’s hands? Let me give you an example of something that is not quite so extreme—something that most of us can relate to. You deserved the promotion at work. You have worked longer and harder than your associates. Your production performance speaks for itself. But you don’t get the promotion. You are not even given a descent explanation why. The promotion goes to a fellow employee that far less qualified than you. That could be a reasonable cause for anger. Or it could be a reason to look up into heaven and say, “Father, I know promotion comes from you[10]. I also know that you always have my best interest in mind. So I commit this matter to you and even thank you for the protection you may be giving me in it all.”

So what is my solution? Faith in God—perhaps an expression of faith that does not seem so very spectacular. But it is essential to anger management. If I truly believe that the steps of a good man are ordered of the Lord[11], if I trust God to control the events of my life and the people who intersect my life, then I can relax and go with the flow. Much of our frustration in life is really a lack of faith-- not really trusting Him to control the course of our lives—still trying to maintain control.

A way to deal with the anger is to deal with the vulnerability to frustration. The way to not be frustrated is to trust.

Ps 37:5-9 “Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this: 6He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun. 7Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. 8Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret--it leads only to evil. 9For evil men will be cut off, but those who hope in the LORD will inherit the land.” NIV

That chapter goes on to say in verse 11, “But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy great peace.” NIV

Who is it that enjoys great peace? The meek. Who are the meek? They are those who have learned to trust their lives to the Father. You can afford to be meek if you know that the Almighty is looking out for your interest. It is impossible to be meek if you are trying to simply take care of yourself.

The moment I try to control other people, I lose my peace. I lose peace because I am not authorized to do that. My life can be an influence. Sometimes I’m in a role of authority and by virtue of that office perhaps have more influence than would be otherwise. But bottom line, I am not responsible or even able to control other people. I leave that business between them and God. I make sure that I make wise choices about what I am going to do.

Rom 12:18 “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” NIV

Why is that verse worded that way? Because all I can be responsible for is my side of the argument. I can’t make others agree with me. I can choose to forgive them. I can choose to have a peaceable and respectful attitude toward them. I am responsible to guard my heart and make sure it is loving and gracious toward the other person. But if I think I am going to make that other person do what I think is right for them to do, I’m probably going to wind up frustrated and angry.

The antidote to that kind of frustration is trust in the ultimate sovereignty of Almighty God and trust in His intentions toward me.

V. There was a prideful man in the book of Esther named Haman. He had attained to a very high position in the Persian kingdom. One day he stood at the king’s gate and when the other noblemen saw him they quickly bowed in respect. But there was one nobleman named Mordecai who did not bow. He knew what kind of man Haman was and he refused to show him that kind of respect. Do you know what Haman’s response was? Did he simply ignore the disrespect and go about his business? Did he try to win the other man’s respect? No, he became so angry that he plotted the death of not only the Jew, Mordecai, but the annihilation of all the Jews in the kingdom. I would say that was quite an over reaction.

Down deep the man was insecure and weak. He felt threatened by the disrespect. He feared that if he did not take action others might not respect him as well. Fear and insecurity are often behind outbursts of anger. A prideful heart will respond quickly to any kind of belittlement or disrespect. Here is an underlying cause of anger: pride. Prov 13:10 begins with these words, “Pride only breeds quarrels...” NIV

In contrast to that, Jesus stands before Pilate, having been unjustly beaten and abused. The soldiers had put a purple robe on him and a crown of thorns. They had mocked him saying, “Hail, King of the Jews.” How does Jesus respond? Is there even one tinge of anger expressed? No, he stands as a Lamb before the shearers and opens not his mouth[12]. He offers no defense. He makes no protest. He knows who he is and nothing they could ever say or do can take that away from him. He is the epitome of self-control.

One expression of the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5 is self-control. The more I am submitted to the influence of the Holy Spirit the less I am going to ever be out of control in anger.

But what is the key to Jesus’ repose? How is he able to stand under such abuse and injustice without responding in his own defense? The key once again is faith—he has placed his trust in the Father. Therefore when Pilate says to him in amazement,

“Don’t you know that I have power to crucify you or release your?” Jesus answered him; “You would have no power at all against me if it were not given to you from above.”[13]

The contrast between Jesus’ humility and Haman’s pride is as evident as the contrast between Jesus’ peace and Haman’ fury.

VI. Then there was a man in the Bible named Esau who manifested a long-standing problem with anger.

In fact, his anger carried on to future generations[14]. Amos 1:11 “This is what the LORD says: ‘For three sins of Edom, even for four, I will not turn back [my wrath]. Because he pursued his brother with a sword, stifling all compassion, because his anger raged continually and his fury flamed unchecked.” NIV Edom was the descendants of Esau and when Israel wanted to pass through their land on the way to the promise land they would not let them. Edom’s or Esau’s brother was Jacob or Israel.

What was Esau angry about? Jacob stole his birthright. Of course, Esau chose to sell it. He was not forced to sell it—he chose to sell it. But when his bad choices began to bear fruit in his life he became resentful toward Jacob. In fact, he simply became a bitter person. Heb 12:14-17 “Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. 15See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. 16See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son. 17Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. He could bring about no change of mind, though he sought the blessing with tears.” NIV

When we carry a root of bitterness in our soul it doesn’t take much to set us off. Esau was like the man they said was even tempered, mad all the time. What a toll that kind of thing can take on a family. Bitter parents teach their children to be bitter people. They often pass on their offenses on to their posterity.[15] A root of bitterness produces a lot of anger in a lot of lives.

VII. Absalom was David’s favored son. He had a sister named Tamar and half brother named Amnon. (2 Sam. 13). Amnon raped Absalom’s sister and Absalom was enraged. That would be a reasonable cause for a person to be angry. The problem was with what Absalom did with that anger. He gave place to the devil.[16] He allowed the anger to smolder in his soul. And he insisted on revenge.

Rom 12:17-21

17Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. 18If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord. 20On the contrary: "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head." 21Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” NIV

Absalom’s vengeful anger led not only to the murder of Amnon but became part of the plot that eventually led to Absalom’s death as well. He was consumed with a desire for revenge. When we insist on revenge we take a place that is not ours to take. When we set ourselves up as judge over others even if we do not take external action against that person the way Absalom did, we make a terrible mistake that significantly affects the condition of our souls. God says in Rom 12:19 “It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord.” NIV

What was Absalom’s alternative? He could have forgiven Amnon and left the matter in God’s hands. He could have invested his energy in protecting and caring for his sister, Tamar rather than in plotting revenge on Amnon. A refusal to forgive an offense opens a person’s soul to the devil’s influence. When a spirit of revenge is nurtured, place is given to the devil and anger will be vented.

No wonder our text in Ephesians 4 tells us to get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Just get rid of it. Cast it off your soul and out of your thinking. The time to deal with anger is now. Don’t wait until the explosion is about to happen. Address the underlying issues and there will be nothing to explode. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger...and every form of malice.

How might God want you to do that this morning? Has anyone come to mind during this sermon? Is there anyone you need to forgive? You may or may not feel like forgiving that person. The decision to forgive is really not a feeling anyway. It is a decision you make in your will simply because it is the right thing to do. If you will make that choice and continue to affirm it in the days ahead, God will help you and the right feelings will eventually follow. As we all bow our heads in prayer, just affirm to the Lord your decision to forgive.

TEXT Eph 4:25-32

25Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. 26"In your anger do not sin": Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27and do not give the devil a foothold. 28He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need. 29Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. NIV

Richard Tow

Grace Chapel Foursquare Church

Springfield, MO


[1] Text which was read at the beginning of the service is provided at the end of this manuscript.

[2] accessed 3-6-04. William H. Mueller, Ph.D. was lead author of study announced at the American Heart Association’s 44th Conference in San Francisco on March 5, 2004.

[3] accessed 3-6-04.

[4] During our other morning service (instead of talking about the AMA study) we opened the message with a video clip from the movie, Hulk, (Ch Chapter 15: 0:57:37 to 0:59:48) and commented on the damaging effects of anger.

[5] Hebrews 9:22

[6] Hebrews 11:4

[7] Genesis 4:4-8

[8] Lev. 25:23-28 and 1 Kings 21:3

[9] 1 Kings 21:5

[10] Psalm 75:6

[11] Psalm 37:23 and Jerm.10:23

[12] Isaiah 53:7

[13] John 19:10-11

[14] Num 20:21; Ps 137:7; Ezekiel 25:12

[15] Num 14:18

[16] Ephesians 4:27