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
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.
We have known for some time that physical problems like ulcers, high blood pressure, possible strokes, and depression are often associated with anger. 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.
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. 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 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. 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.