Expressing Anger at Ungodly Behavior
"19 When Moses approached the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, his anger burned and he threw the tablets out of his hands, breaking them to pieces at the foot of the mountain. 20 And he took the calf the people had made and burned it in the fire; then he ground it to powder, scattered it on the water and made the Israelites drink it." (Exodus 32:19-20)
July 1, 2018
In this life there are things that anger us. No one is exempt. This is a fact in today's world and it has been a fact for untold centuries. As we continue our study in the second book of the law, Exodus, what might we learn about expressing anger toward ungodly behavior and conduct?
Moses was angry about what had occurred while he was having a one-on-one meeting with God. He had gone up Mt. Sinai at God's request. For some unknown reason Moses was with God on the mountain for an unusually long time. He was with God on the mountain so long that the Israelites became very upset with him. They spoke some unkind words about him:
When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, "Come, make us gods[a] who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don't know what has happened to him."
To read their response to Moses' long visit with the Lord is disappointing. After all, Moses is meeting with God! That alone should have given him some special wiggle room with his people. What impatience! Their response seems to show a low regard for quiet and uninterrupted time with the Lord! The people expressed their disapproval with some very sharp words:
"As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don't know what has happened to him."
That was their unkind response to his being detained by God. His response to them was based on what he saw them do. They had gotten Aaron to build them a golden calf from the earrings they took out of the ears of their wives, sons, and daughters. They had taken the action of building a golden calf despite the fact that God had given them a commandment not to fashion anything in representation of him. They did it anyway. And they went a step further and spoke these unbelievable words:
These are your gods,[b] Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt."
You are probably compelled to ask as I did, what in the world would cause them to go to this level of resentment toward Moses and maybe even toward God to give credit to idols for freeing them from bondage in Egypt? We don't know. But what we do know is that God had already commanded them not to make any graven images of him.
God had given them these commandments:
"You shall have no other gods before[a] me.
4 "You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them." (Exodus 20:3-5a)
It's interesting to note that God expressed anger against his people's conduct and behavior before Moses did. The author of Exodus informs us that God's anger burned against the people of Israel:
9 "I have seen these people," the Lord said to Moses, "and they are a stiff-necked people. 10 Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them. Then I will make you into a great nation." (Exodus 32:9-10).
Thinking about God's anger against his people of that day and time makes me wonder about God's anger against people's conduct and behavior today. The blessed thing today is that God has forgiven us through his son, Jesus who died for our sins. God no longer destroy his people for their sins. God has mercy toward us and does not destroy sinners. What we learn from this text is that there is a time for God's people to express anger toward ungodly conduct and behavior.
Moses' anger toward the Israelites is hard to overlook. Moses seems to have lost it. He went wild. He didn't hold back.
Moses' expressed his anger in a dramatic way. He became so angry at their ungodly behavior that he broke the tablets that God had given him on the mountain; he broke both of the tablets that had God's laws on the front and back of them. These tablets were nothing to sneeze at. They had God's own handwriting engraved on them. When Moses saw the calf they had made, he broke the tablets into pieces; he threw them down; he took the calf and burned it in the fire; he ground it into powder, scattered it on the water, and made the people drink it. That's a picture of anger! Moses was angry at the ungodly behavior and conduct of his people.
Is there any ungodly behavior and conduct that angers you? That's our focus. Let us not get stuck on God killing people that make golden calves today. Rather let us know that it's expected that Christians will express anger at ungodly behavior and conduct. Is there any ungodly thing you see today that really gets you hot under the collar? Is there ungodly behavior and conduct that makes you sick to your stomach? I think there are lots of ungodly things all around us that should have the same impact on us as the things that made God and Moses angry in that day and time.
Does it make you angry to see people worship cell phones in church at the exact time they have gathered to worship Almighty God? They refuse to silence their cell phones; they will text while worship services are being conducted. Can anything be so important on a cell phone that a worshiper needs to extend his or her finger into the air requesting the pastor's permission to leave the worship service to talk to someone on his/her cell phone? I say, "No way Hosea!" It should anger us to see worshipers typing messages on their cell phones, talking lightly on them, and exiting worship services again and again to use their golden calf!
Did it anger you to see a group of Cleveland ministers gathered in downtown Cleveland pleading for the city of Cleveland to establish a statue to honor LeBron James and to hopefully keep him in the city? Now, let me be clear. I like basketball-high school, college, and professional basketball-but I don't like it so much that I could support preachers begging for approval and funds from the city to construct a statue for LeBron. How can preachers justify a request for a statue when churches throughout the city are financially strapped? Church buildings looked unkempt, church grounds lack curb appeal, churches lack updated equipment needed to conduct worship services, and here at such a time as respected and well-known clergy are on national television seeking funds to construct a statue for a very rich man playing professional basketball! In my humble opinion that ought to anger Christians! Some of God's people see this kind of activity as ungodly behavior and conduct and are filled with anger like that Moses' expressed.
Lastly, does it anger you to see children, some of them mere babies, being snatched from their parents as their parents seek safety in our country? I believe it should anger all of us. You remember what Jesus says, "And they were bringing children to Him so that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw this, He was indignant and said to them, "Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these." (Mark 10:13-16) Again, Jesus says, "And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." (Matthew 25:40)
Do you get angry about ungodly conduct and behavior? Almighty God did. Jesus did. Do you? I am not suggesting that you hurt such people doing such things, but I am suggesting that these things should anger us. I believe it is past time that we too get angry about ungodly conduct and behavior.
If you need motivation to get angry at ungodly behavior then remember Moses' anger and his reasons for being angry. He had not forgotten that God freed him and his people from slavery in Egypt; he had not forgotten that God delivered them from Pharaoh and his chariots that sought to wipe them off the face of the earth; he had not forgotten that God brought them safely through the sea; he had not forgotten that God gave them water and food in a desert land; he had not forgotten that God "bore them on eagle wings "and brought them to Mt. Sinai where they could worship him; he had not forgotten that God had done great thing for them and could not let go of that fact! No wonder he showed such anger when his people gave the credit to a golden calf for all these marvelous and miraculous things that God had done for all of them. Think about his view about these things and you too will find the motivation to get angry at some things around you.
When I was growing up my parents got angry about my ungodly conduct and behavior. When I entered the house or a house of worship and didn't take off my hat, my mother got angry. When I used a bad word my mother got angry. When I disrespected my elders my mother got angry about my ungodly conduct and behavior. She did something about my ungodly conduct and behavior. Her response was somewhat like Moses'. At times she beat my butt. Get angry for the right reasons. The right reasons are God's reasons; the right reasons are Jesus' reasons. The reasons are lawful reasons. The right reasons are for the benefit of our children; the right reasons are for the protection of our elderly; the right reasons are for justice. Let us get angry at ungodly conduct and behavior. Amen.