Much more of the time, imitation of God slides, ever so subtly, into replacement of God. We do that thing that we do. We take his place, and soon it is our honor that we are concerned about, our law that is being breached, and our own needs that are stirring us to passionate rage.
Justified Human Anger
There are a few examples in the Scriptures of human anger that would appear to be justified, but only a few. What follows is not a selection of examples; it is, so far as we can see, the entire list!
When Moses comes down the mountain with the Ten Commandments, he hears the sound of wild revelry. We read that “Moses’ anger burned hot” when he hears this (Ex. 32:19). The narrative makes clear that the anger of Moses is precisely in line with the anger of God. Moses is right to be angered by the people’s idolatry.
When the people of Jabesh-Gilead are threatened with atrocities by their Ammonite enemies, and Saul hears of it, we read that “the Spirit of God rushed upon Saul when he heard these words, and his anger was greatly kindled” (1 Sam. 11:6). The close link between the Spirit coming upon Saul and his anger strongly suggests that this was a righteous anger.
Christopher Ash and Steve Midgley explore the root and character of human anger, examine the righteous anger of God, and offer readers practical wisdom about the way the gospel can gradually transform a heart of anger into a heart filled with the love of God.
When John the Baptist comes face-to-face with religious hypocrisy, he burns with anger. “You brood of vipers!” he declares in the heat of his righteous indignation (Matt. 3:7). He is right to be angry.
When the apostle Paul visits Corinth and sees the ever-present idolatry and the insult to the honor of the one true God, “his spirit [is] provoked within him” (Acts 17:16). This indicates a hot anger in his spirit. The only other time this word, provoked, is used in the New Testament is in 1 Corinthians 13:5, where it also refers to getting angry. But whereas in 1 Corinthians 13 love contradicts a wrong anger, in Acts 17 it would seem that Paul experiences a right anger.
Is It Right?
So when God asks of us the question, “Is it right for you to be angry?” (cf. Jonah 4:4 NIV), the answer may sometimes, just sometimes, be a qualified yes. And yet even then, in most of our experiences, even our most righteous anger is tinged with ungodliness. A trivial example will suffice to make this point. I was crossing a side road not far from where it left a main road. As I stepped off the sidewalk, a car on the main road turned into the side road without signaling, and I had to dodge out of its way. I was angry. Had you asked me why I was angry, I might have said this: “I am angry because this behavior threatens the good, moral order of society.”