Proverbs 29:22

The High Cost of Anger

An angry person stirs up conflict, and a hot-tempered person commits many sins. Proverbs 29:22

“Must we bring you water out of this rock?” With the force of forty years’ frustration, Moses slammed his staff against the rock. Water gushed out in a torrent, creating a creek bed that extended for miles—enough water for two million people and all their livestock (Numbers 20:9–11).

Moses may have experienced the rush of adrenaline that usually accompanies accomplishment. He and Aaron may have slapped each other on the back, celebrating another victory.

But their joy was short-lived. God was displeased because Moses hadn’t followed his instructions. God said, “Speak to the rock,” but Moses struck it instead. He acted in anger, “Listen, you rebels.” He also claimed authority that belonged to God alone when he said, “Must we …”

The discipline was severe. “The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, ‘Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them’” (20:12).

Seems harsh, doesn’t it?

I sympathize with Moses. His frustration appears justified. A three-month trip had turned into a forty-year trek. So many times the Israelites had lashed out at Moses—blamed him for their troubles and accused him of wrongdoing. He had a right to be angry, didn’t he?

God, however, expected more of Moses. And that’s what makes me squirm. God expected Moses to respond in love, grace, forgiveness, and patience in every circumstance—the way God responded. After all, Moses was God’s chosen representative, divinely ordained to lead his people.

God expects more of us too. We may feel we have the right to respond in anger, especially when people repeatedly hurt us in the same way. But God says no.

Here’s the encouraging part of the story: when Moses climbed Mt. Nebo—to view the Promised Land without entering it—God stood by his side: “There the Lord showed him the whole land” (Deuteronomy 34:1). That beautiful scene assures me that when I sin and God disciplines me, he also walks with me through the consequences of my sin, affirming his love for me.

Are you living through painful consequences caused by a fit of anger? God hasn’t abandoned you. He’s right beside you. Ask him to reveal the best way forward.

Dig Deeper

Read Numbers 20:2–13. How does this incident from Moses’s life illustrate the truth of Proverbs 29:22? What other sins accompany your angry outbursts?

Compare Deuteronomy 3:23–27 and 32:1–4. What is Moses’s focus in chapter 3? What is his focus in chapter 32? What do you think motivated the change?

Read Mark 3:1–6 and Ephesians 4:26–27. How did Jesus illustrate the principle of “in your anger do not sin”?

Denise K. Loock

This devotion is part of a series on the Book of Proverbs.

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