Hating Well

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I hate… (Psalm 119:163). 

In my experience, many Christians struggle with the word “hate,” as though it shouldn’t have any part in their vocabulary. And yet here is that word right in the middle of Psalm 119, this longest chapter in the Bible which extols the value of the Bible in all 176 verses. 

I remember watching “Sesame Street” when they would sing the song, “One of these things is not like the other.” Let’s play that same game from this Sin/Shin section of Psalm 119:

  • I stand in awe of Your Word 
  • I rejoice in Your promise 
  • I love Your law 
  • I praise You, God, for Your righteous laws 
  • I follow Your commands 
  • I obey Your statues 
  • I love Your statutes 
  • I obey Your precepts 
  • I hate falsehood 

Doesn’t that last one seem out of place? In fact, it’s not just “hate,” but one translation says, “hate and abhor,” and another says, “hate and detest”! 

But I want you to notice first of all that it is not a person that the psalmist hates, but falsehood, deception, fraud, lying. The root word in Hebrew is someone who is purposefully dealing falsely as a means of tricking or cheating. 

This is what we could correctly say is righteous anger.

The psalmist’s love for the glory of God is great, which means he also reveres this Book of Truth—the Bible—that leads people to basking in God’s glory. To be apathetic about lies that are deliberately attempting to cheat people out of an intimate relationship with God is the exact opposite of love.

Hate is not the opposite of love; apathy is the opposite of love.

Hate of those things which keep people from God is the completion of the love for God and the respect for the Book that brings people to Him.

To love fully, I must also hate well. Not people, but actions that keep people away from experiencing and knowing God’s love. May all of us learn from the Holy Spirit how to awaken from any apathy we may have, and to correctly express our righteous anger. 

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Godly Anger

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on iTunes or Spotify.

…his anger was aroused… (Job 32:5).

Throughout the story of Job, there is very little insight from the story’s narrator. Other than the first two chapters which set up the story, and the epilogue in the last chapter, the narrator barely utters a word.

That is until a fourth man, who has been on the scene the whole time Job and his friends have been debating, finally cannot help but speak out. His name is Elihu. 

Elihu has been present the whole time Job has been speaking with his other friends, but because Elihu is the youngest, he has held his tongue, awaiting an opportunity to speak. Now the narrator tells us that Elihu “became very angry with Job for justifying himself rather than God. He was also angry with the three friends, because they had found no way to refute Job, and yet had condemned him. … When he saw that the three men had nothing more to say, his anger was aroused. 

The phrase “anger was aroused” is used 31 times in the Bible. Every single instance refers to God’s anger except here. In fact, God uses the same phrase in chapter 42 that Elihu uses here. 

Two things seem to arouse the anger of both God and Elihu (whose name, but the way, means “He is my God”): 

  1. Job justifying himself rather than God 
  2. Job’s friends condemning Job without evidence; in other words, they put themselves in the place of God the Judge  

Here’s what Elihu knew—

To not get angry at the things that anger God is itself a sin.

I need to pay attention to my anger, and I need to express my anger in a respectful, appropriate way. It is wrong to ignore or suppress godly anger, but it is equally wrong to sin in the way that I express godly anger. Remember that the apostle Paul doesn’t say, “Don’t get angry,” but he says, “When you get angry, do not sin” (Ephesians 4:26). 

When God finally speaks in this story, He expresses His anger at the same things Elihu addressed. Interestingly, God says to the oldest friend Eliphaz, “I am angry with you and your two friends,” but God doesn’t call out Elihu for any of his words.  

God gets angry, perhaps more than anyone else in the Bible does, but He never sins in the expression of His anger. We need to make sure that what makes us angry is also what makes God angry. And we need to make sure that our anger is never expressed sinfully. 

Reacting To Injustice

When Shechem…saw Dinah, he took her and he raped her (Genesis 34). 

There is no doubt that what Shechem did to Diana was abhorrent. The text is full of reminders:

  • an outrageous thing
  • a thing that should not be done 
  • Dinah had been defiled
  • their sister had been defiled 
  • he treated our sister like a prostitute 

Shechem never admits to his wrongdoing. We don’t even know if he told his father Hamor what he had done. Dinah was being kept in the city away from her family, so she didn’t tell her father Jacob. Somehow, however, Jacob found out and his response is curious: he did nothing about it (v. 5). Even as Shechem and Hamor address Jacob’s family, it’s Diana’s brothers who reply deceitfully, so either Jacob has left the meeting or he is still sitting there silently. 

Levi and Simeon have the same mother as Dinah. Their reaction to their sister’s defilement is extreme—they kill every male in Shechem’s hometown! 

Since Shechem hadn’t even mentioned his crime to his father, it’s possible that the rape of Dinah has been kept a secret from the rest of the citizens of his city. Perhaps if the other city leaders had found out, Shechem alone would have been punished, instead of the whole city being wiped out. 

Jacob’s silence and inaction to this injustice prompted an overreaction by his sons. 

When a leader’s response is inappropriate to injustice, the followers’ response is likely to become even more so. Injustices must be dealt with in a God-honoring way: quickly and appropriately. 

A mark of a godly leader is his appropriate and timely reaction to injustices.

This is part 50 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts in this series by clicking here. 

Trespassers

Psalm 59 is the prequel to David being betrayed by the Ziphites as well as the incident in the cave between himself and King Saul. 

This psalm is also called an imprecatory psalm, which is the theological way of saying, “Get ‘em, God!” Since King Saul has sent assassins to try to kill David, you can understand why David is praying this way. But I sort of wonder why he inserts a Selah pause after two rather angry-sounding sentences in verses 5 and 13. 

When we are reading—or even praying—an imprecatory prayer, here are some important things to keep in mind: 

  • This prayer is inspired by the Holy Spirit. All of the words in the prayer, including the Selah pauses, are directed by the Holy Spirit. Getting our angry thoughts out in God’s presence is the safest place to vent. 
  • This is a prayer for justice because an injustice has been done, not just a prayer because David is upset with someone. 
  • Since this prayer says, “Get ‘em, God,” it’s a prayer that turns matters over to God as the Ultimate Judge, taking the judgment out of my hands. 

Really this is a prayer that seeks to balance something vital: The desire to see evil punished while at the same time desiring to see all evildoers come to salvation. 

Think of it this way: When I sin, do I want to meet a God of justice or a God of mercy? Since we are to treat others the way that we would want to be treated, if I want to receive God’s mercy, I have to desire that for others too. Even those evildoers who have hurt me. 

David’s first Selah pause comes after saying that he is innocent of any offense or wrongdoing. When we pray an imprecatory prayer, we would do well to ask the Holy Spirit to search our hearts to reveal any trespasses we have committed (see Psalm 19:12-13; 139:23-24). 

David’s second Selah pause comes after he says, “Then it will be known to the ends of the earth that God rules over Jacob.” Is my “Get ‘em, God” prayer a desire for me to be seen as the overcomer or for God to be seen as glorious? 

As long as my focus is on my trespassers, my focus is off my God. 

I cannot be consumed by thoughts of “them” because then I rob myself of thoughts of Him! 

So when you get angry enough at someone who has trespassed against you that you want to pray a “Get ‘em, God” prayer, Selah pause and pray, “Holy Spirit… 

  • …show me my trespasses; 
  • …help me forgive my trespassers; and
  • …help me to focus on my God, and not on my trespassers or my forgiven trespasses.” 

If you have missed any of the other messages in our Selah series, you can find links to all of them listed here. 

Thursdays With Spurgeon—God Is Slow To Anger

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

God Is Slow To Anger

     God is “slow to anger” [Nahum 1:3]. When mercy comes into the world, she drives winged steeds. The axles of her chariot wheels are glowing hot with speed. But when wrath comes, she walks with tardy footsteps. She is not in haste to slay; she is not swift to condemn. God’s rod of mercy is ever in His hands outstretched. God’s sword of justice is in its scabbard, not rusted in it. It can be easily withdrawn, but is held there by that hand that presses it back into its sheath, crying, “Sleep, O sword, sleep. For I will have mercy upon sinners and will forgive their transgressions.” … 

     God will not at once slay the man whose character is the vilest until He has first hewn him by the prophets. He will not hew him by judgments. He will warn the sinner before He condemns him. He will send His prophets, “rising up early” and late (Jeremiah 7:13, 25; 26:5; 29:19; 32:33; 33:15), giving him ‘precept upon precept, line upon line, here a little, there a little’ (Isaiah 28:13). … 

     God does not in grace, as in nature, send lightning first and thunder afterward, but He sends the thunder of His law first and the lightning of His execution follows it. … But best of all, when God threatens, how slow He is to sentence the criminal! When He has told them that He will punish unless they repent, how long a space He gives them in which to turn to Himself! …

     Although God is slow to anger, He is sure in it.

From Mercy, Omnipotence, And Justice

But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. Instead He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives…. So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with Him. Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation… (2 Peter 3:8-11, 14-15).

8 Quotes From “The Jesus Who Surprises”

Dee Brestin has given us an excellent “starter’s guide” to help you discover Jesus on every page of the Old Testament. Be sure to check out my full book review by clicking here. 

“Every time we sin, it is because we do not trust the goodness of God, so we endeavor to meet our needs our way.” 

“The blood of innocent lambs spills throughout the pages of the Old Testament but ceases when John the Baptist heralds Jesus as the Lamb of God. Jesus is the only Lamb who can take away our sins (Hebrews 10:4, 10). All other sacrificial lambs were simply a foreshadowing of the One to come.” 

“What satan wants to do is cause attachment disorder between God and us. … satan wants to convince us that God does not love us and does not want the best for us so that we will back away and stop talking to Him, throwing away our only lifeline.” 

“Think about what makes Jesus so angry over and over again—it is the pretense and dishonesty of the Pharisees. He is not angry with Job, Naomi, the prophets, or the psalmists who lament, and indeed He often comes running to them. But He is angry with the Pharisees. They put up a façade, a wall that keeps them from experiencing intimacy with the Lord, and one day He may surprise them by saying, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me’ (Matthew 7:23).” 

“Recording and retelling increases memory—memory that is sorely needed in times of trouble.” 

“God knows the shaking of our world can awaken us to understand what is transitory and what is eternal. If we press into Him, we will discover what can never be shaken.” 

“Prayer is not getting God to give you what you want but dialoguing with Him, listening to Him, submitting to Him, and asking Him to give you what He wants, even if it is costly.” 

“Love is not love if it is only grace. That is enablement.” 

The Selah That Keeps Us From Sinning

There is a very natural emotion that we humans have when someone has hurt us, but if we don’t pause (Selah), that natural emotion can lead us into sin. David has good counsel for angry people in Psalm 4. 

Many scholars think that Psalm 4 is a continuation—or a part 2—of Psalm 3. As you will notice in the preface of Psalm 3, David is on the run from his son Absalom, who is trying to steal the kingdom of Israel from him. 

Look at the swing of David’s emotions:

  • Troubled/sad (v. 1) 
  • Anger (v. 4)
  • Contentment (v. 7)
  • Peace (v. 8)

The first time David tells his readers to Selah pause is between verses 2 and 3. The change is almost an about-face: 

Look at this: look who got picked by God! He listens the split second I call to Him. Complain if you must, but don’t lash out. Keep your mouth shut, and let your heart do the talking. Build your case before God and wait for His verdict (vv. 3-5 in The Message). 

My friend Josh Schram shared these truths: 

  1. Don’t sin by letting anger control you. 
  2. It’s right to be angry, but it’s not right to sin. 
  3. When someone hurts us, it’s tempting to break God’s law. We can almost justify it, but it is a sin to give in to anger. 

“Search your heart and be silent”Selah. This pause gives us hope that we can “build your case before God and wait for His verdict.” 

In Romans 12:17-21, Paul gives similar counsel when dealing with enemies:  As far as it depends on you…

  • Don’t repay evil for evil. 
  • Do repay evil with doing what’s right. 
  • Don’t take revenge. 
  • Do let God handle it. 
  • Don’t mistreat your enemies. 
  • Do bless your enemies. 
  • Don’t be overcome by evil. 
  • Do overcome evil by doing good. 

Since David let his anger go, that also means he didn’t sin! His clear conscience meant he could lie down and sleep in peace. 

You cannot hold a grudge and peace in the same heart. 

Please join me next week as we continue our look at the Selahs in the Book of Psalms. 

Saturday In The Proverbs—15 Ways To Defuse Tense Relationships (Proverbs 15)

[Each chapter in the Book of Proverbs contains thoughts that fit into a theme; they are not just random thoughts gathered together. In this “Saturday In The Proverbs” series, I will share a theme that I see in each chapter. But the cool thing about God’s Word is that you may see an entirely different theme. That’s great! If you do, I would love for you to share it in the comments below.]

A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger (Proverbs 15:1).

Here’s how to defuse potentially volatile situations with other people—

  1. Speak gently (vv. 1, 28)
  2. Speak truthfully (v. 2)
  3. Remember that God is watching (vv. 3, 9, 11, 25, 26)
  4. Speak helpful words or stay silent (vv. 4, 7, 14, 23, 30)
  5. Receive correction from others (vv. 5, 12, 31, 32)
  6. Find ways to add value to other people (v. 6)
  7. Ask for God’s help (vv. 8, 29)
  8. Be gentle (v. 10) 
  9. Develop emotional intelligence (vv. 13, 15, 21)
  10. Don’t envy others (vv. 16, 17, 27)
  11. Guard against getting angry (v. 18)
  12. Remember: good relationships take work (vv. 19, 24)
  13. Use all the wisdom you have… (v. 20)
  14. …get all the wisdom that others have too (v. 22)
  15. Stay humble (v. 33)

Relationships can be one of the greatest treasures in our life, or they can be one of the biggest disappointments in our life. 

Put the ball in your court, and YOU work on making your relationships treasures! 

We Usually Believe The Opposite

The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. (Psalm 145:8)

Let those words sink in because most of us live like the exact opposite is true. Check out this 2-minute explanation …

A Leader’s Appropriate Anger

…he became very angry (1 Samuel 11:6).

Sometimes we think of godly leaders as always being cool, calm, and collected. But to remain calm when the situation calls for a vigorous response is unbecoming of the title of “godly” leader, and may even be a sin.

The Israelite city of Jabesh-Gilead had been surrounded by the forces of King Nahash. His terms of surrender to these Israelites was unduly harsh: “I will gouge out the right eye of every one of you as a disgrace to all Israel! (v. 2).

When this message got to King Saul, “the Spirit of God came powerfully upon Saul, and he became very angry.” He sent messengers to all of Israel demanding all the able-bodied men to come out to join his army in counter-attacking King Nahash.

Notice that what prompted Saul’s anger was God’s Spirit coming upon him. Since Israel was about to be disgraced, Saul had to act! Also notice this: “And the Lord made the people afraid of Saul’s anger, and all of them came out together as one” (v. 7).

The opposite of love is not hate; the opposite of love is apathy. God expresses strong emotions without sinning. When the Spirit of God made Saul angry at the oppression and potential disgrace of His people, Saul acted. To not act—to shrug his shoulders in apathy and say, “That’s not my problem”—would have been a sin.

Sometimes Christians want to suppress a strong feeling of hate or anger. But when God hates something or is angry at something, we would do well to pay attention to that and feel and act as God would have us act. The Bible tells us not to sin in our anger, but it never tells us not to be angry. 

Anything that is keeping someone from God’s love or God’s presence should arouse our righteous anger to do righteous things.

A mark of a godly leader is one who knows the right things to hate.

This is part 19 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts on this topic by clicking here.

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