Sing praises to the LORD, O you his saints,

   and give thanks to his holy name.

For his anger is but for a moment,

   and his favor is for a lifetime.

Weeping may tarry for a night,

   but joy comes in the morning.

Psalm 30: 4, 5

David knew a lot about life, for he seems to have experienced a wide range of that thing that we know as living. He knew victory, and he had experienced the direct relationship between faith in God and achieving the impossible. David had lived out human isolation and rejection, which gave him a deeper appreciation of the love and acceptance that came to him from the Lord. He had acted in direct opposition to God’s will and had rejected His Law of Life in thoughts, words, and actions; so, David had also incurred God’s anger and knew that a form of death always follows sinfulness. The king had been raised up by God, and he had become humbled and lowly by the actions of people; actions that the Lord allowed to happen. David had known many nights of sleepless tears, and he had gone through others that were filled with the deep despair that comes when all hope has slipped away. He had also seen many mornings when the sun came up, the song birds sang, and the presence of the Lord was the sweet aroma that filled his heart with song.

This morning song is the part of the on-going process of life that David wants us to grasp and to understand. There will be pain, and we will needfully cry tears along the way. These hard days and interminable nights when worry, fear, and grief are near at hand present us with the need to release emotions and to draw upon resources that come from outside of our strength. These are the hours of life when the Lord’s presence in its many forms can be the reality that takes us through until that first glimmer of the promised dawn’s light touches our troubled eyes. Hope is found in the certain knowledge of Christ’s victory over death and over all of that dark angel’s underlings in the form of disease, injury, broken relationships, and the many other forms of loss that come about due to the fallen nature of this world. We all sin, for we all think, say, and do things that are contrary to God’s will and that operate in rebellious disregard for His Law. Still, Christ has redeemed us from all of this, and God’s grace holds fast to our souls throughout these times.

So, even God’s anger and grief at our wandering away from Him is temporary. The Lord welcomes each of us back with open arms of love as He sings forth a song of restoration and hope. In reality, most of the hard times that we experience during the journey of life are not caused by any personal departure from God’s will. Instead, their presence is the result of the broken nature of our world. We do not bring about illness nor cause it to be present, we are not responsible for most of the injuries that we incur and almost none of them come about due to sinful acts. The pain of loss and the grief that follows are real, but life comes to an end as a result of the fact that this life is nothing more than the temporary first act in an eternal drama wherein our souls continue on into infinity. In Christ, the promise of morning’s approach is present in each of these hard situations. Christ went before us as He went through the darkest of all nights and then gave to us the gift of that resurrection dawn when hope is poured out upon all people of faith. Although we may be living in the dark hour of pain and loss at this moment, Christ’s light of redemption and joy is already poised to break out over the horizon at the dawn of a new day. 

Know this my beloved brothers, let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.

James 2: 19, 20

 

Speed kills, or in paraphrase, Haste lays waste. The point is simple, direct, and well-known. Anger can overtake us and when it does it operates much like a threshing machine in that it mows down everything in its path so that there is nothing except stubble left behind. I am not saying that there are not situations and circumstances that warrant anger, for there certainly are those times, and we all encounter them with too much frequency in our violent and oppressive world. I think that James makes an important distinction between the sort of anger that comes out of a foundation in God’s Word and one that is established within ourselves and that functions to establish personal power or dominance. It is in this distinction that lies the difference between that which is destructive and that which seeks to redeem.

 

For people, our first response is often to draw upon our own understanding and strength to attempt to handle whatever it is that we are facing. This is our go-to, fast response in many instances. When it comes to the highly charged environment that surrounds an angry response, rapid deployment of our words is frequently the first thing that we do. We toss out the most powerful and often the most caustic of remarks that we can summon up, and we do, in fact, intend to use this expression as a form of artillery barrage. We want the other person to be set back on their heels, fearful, and ready to concede to our point of view. We seek to win almost as much as we desire for them to lose. This is not the way that God operates, and it is very far removed from the manner in which God’s anger is known to be employed.

 

When we are counseled by the Lord to speak slowly, He is asking us to enter into His Word, especially as it is implanted in our hearts, and to listen to the prompting of the Spirit before we engage with other people. This moment or two of hesitation and contemplation can be truly valuable for both parties when we are face to face, and it can lead to saving us from the sort of ruinous written statements that flow far too freely in our fast moving world of electronic expression and communication. In most tense situations it is best to pause before speaking, seek the Lord in the moment, stopping to pray may seem strange to many of us, but it is never the wrong thing to do, and then speak with redemption as the intent of the words. The other thing that the Lord counsels us to do is to listen. Jesus was a good listener, for He knew the stories of the people that He engaged with. We, too, can allow others the space to tell us their concerns and let us into their journey before we pronounce judgement or attempt to solve the issues at hand. In all of this contemplative approach to conflict, Christ is glorified; for in it, Christ is revealed as the source of our strength as His love sooths the situation and seeks to redeem the relationship.

The LORD passed before Moses and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but he will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”

Exodus 34: 6, 7

 

There is much in these words that is hard to accept and to live with. God was stating a very strong warning to Moses. The Lord was making it clear that our sinfulness and rejection of Him and of His righteousness did have consequences that would not only impact us but that they would also effect our children and their children. Sin is not just personal, for its harmful and corrosive nature intrudes into the lives of many others. Yet, that is not really the point that God was making to Moses. Instead, the real emphasis here is on the nature and the quality of God’s love.

 

Bear in mind that a lot of highly negative things have been happening in the camp of the Israelites, and God has every right to be angry with them. Yet, the Lord has spared them and He has continued to place Moses before them as the person who will lead the people to their promised destination. It would seem that these Israelites are not all that different from us. So, in light of the reality of our human propensity to sin, God presents us with this essential aspect of His nature. The Lord is constant, consistent, and ever faithful in His love for people. God would rather forgive and restore us than punish and banish us. The Lord’s love continues long after we have seemingly rejected Him and His ways and entered into the worship of our own personal idols.

 

God presented them with an option, and He grants us the same one. We can repent, turn away from the sin that destroys our lives and that separates us from God, and we can enter into the Lord’s grace and restoration. God gave us Himself in the person of Jesus in order to permanently complete the return of lost souls to His presence. This sacrifice of self for each of us is God’s greatest demonstration of His steadfast and faithful love for all of humanity. Now we can do something about the warning that the Lord gave to Moses. Now we can turn to Christ for salvation and for healing, and we can also share the truth of God’s mercy, grace, and love with others so that they too can enter into the presence of perfect love.

 

Why do you boast of evil. O mighty man?

the steadfast love of God endures all the day.

Psalm 52: 1

 

David was well acquainted with opposition that came from very close to his home. These words were written about one of those times when his life was literally in jeopardy as a result of that opposition. In this opening line of the psalm David is speaking about King Saul; then, he responds to Saul with words of faith and trust in God. There is something to look at for myself in this approach to putting the antagonism and opposition that I might encounter into perspective. Although David speaks words of destruction and warns that God’s anger will be poured out onto those who turn away from Him, I do see aspects of redemption in these words.

 

If we are engaged disciples of Christ, we all will face trials and even opposition in this world. This is a promise that comes from God. Followers of Christ are warned in numerous places and ways in God’s word that this will be true for us. This world is not a friendly environment for people who think and act as Christ calls upon us to do. Christ calls upon us to be people who live in the full expression of God’s righteousness and love. There is no room for compromise or for culturally driven redesign of truth in this calling. Instead, there is God’s Word, there is Christ revealed in and through it, there is the community of faith that is the true church, and there is the unending and never failing love that God pours out as the oil of redemption on all of His creation.

 

This is what followers of Christ can boast in. We listen to Christ’s voice as He speaks truth, grace, and mercy to drown out the painful din of the world’s angry passions. We know where life is found, and we are alive because of the life that Jesus poured out for us. We recognize truth as its heartbeat is now ours as the Spirit of Christ dwells within us. Not only do we live in the center of God’s love, but we also are called upon by Christ to bear that same love into all of the places that we travel to during our days. The greatest answer to our culture’s angry boasting and to the opposition that we face in our world is the love of Christ that transforms people, for when opponents know Christ, they become our loving family.