Now that we’ve covered the Lord’s ways dealing with Cain and with us, we can look at how He deals with His own emotions and how He interacts with us emotionally – that may sound strange, but consider Moses when the Lord wanted to wipe Israel off the map and start over with his family, from Exodus 32:10-14: “Now leave me alone that my wrath may burn hot against them and I will destroy them, and make of you a great nation!”
That is emotion! Wrath is to be distinguished from anger in that anger is abiding while wrath flares up quickly and dies down just as quickly. The Lord was experiencing the emotions of (justified) wrath against Israel for their hard hearts against Him. It was justified so it was not sin, whereas unjustified wrath would be sin the same way unjustified anger is sin, while justified anger is not.
How did Moses talk to the Lord in His emotional condition? “Why should your anger burn hot against your people, whom you brought out of Egypt with great power and a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians say ‘It is with evil intent He brought them out, to kill them in the mountains, and to wipe them off the face of the earth?’ Turn from your fierce anger and relent of your wrath against your people.” Moses asked the Lord to step back and look at history, all they meant to one another, the big picture. Don’t throw that away Lord. Look at what we’ve meant to one another, look at all the work and investment you made in the relationship with Israel.
Notice ‘turn from your fierce anger’ and ‘relent’. Some versions mistakenly use the word ‘repent’, but the Hebrew means ‘to turn from’ and has nothing to do with feeling sorry for feeling that way, it just means turn from this emotion to logic. Moses appealed to reason, to bring His emotions back under the control of His reasoning processes. This is exactly what the Lord expected of Cain when He asked the 3 questions: “Why are you angry? Why has your face fallen? If you do right won’t it be accepted?” The Lord tried to get Cain to step back and look at the big picture, the whole of their relationship and asked him to do what was right in spite of what he felt at that moment.
Moses continued, this time appealing to the integrity of the Lord: “Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob your servants, to whom you swore by your own self, ‘I will multiply your seed as the stars of heaven, and all this land will I give to your offspring…’ And the Lord relented of the wrath He had threatened.” Moses appealed to the covenant, to the larger picture to cause the Lord to step back from the intense moment and the emotions that flared. Moses caused the Lord to take a step back and look at the big picture. That is what the Lord did with Cain, trying to get him to see the larger picture of just doing what is right in spite of how he felt at the moment.
The Lord told Barb something when she was very hurt by a friend who got offended at her and cut off their friendship: “Don’t turn a moment into a life time. It’s only a moment.” She was able to step back from the emotions of hurt with that word – it still hurt of course and having been victimized by this friend’s immaturity she won’t allow herself to be hurt again by her, but it was just a moment, so she moved on, stopped looking in the rearview mirror of what was lost, and focused on the present.
Approachable in the midst of intense emotions
That the Lord would have the emotion of wrath and that He would be willing to be spoken to by a mere man reveals how humble and approachable He is and how literally we are created like Him – for we can see ourselves in His emotions. And we are to be like Him in this as well, approachable even in the midst of wrath.
This element of approachability in the midst of emotions that are swirling around threatening to explode over everyone in our path is something we must have in our hearts as well – think of that – Moses alone stood before God’s wrath and a whole nation, and the Lord allowed Himself to be spoken to like that. He allow Himself to be calmed down, to be reasoned with in the midst of His emotions.. We must be like that – certainly He allowed this incident to be recorded for our instruction and example!
The immature Christian and their emotions
Here again we see the value of being in relationship with others in the faith who can speak into our lives. We could say Moses was on the same spiritual page as the Lord – their relationship was such they could each speak into each other’s lives, for “the Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend.” (Ex 23:11).
As I’ve said before, anyone can say they are born again, but whether they are or are not is impossible to prove. Therefore God designed His righteousness to be revealed and worked through within relationships. Salvation, being of the spirit man, remains unproven except as revealed outwardly in the relationships we maintain. We need others to speak into our lives, to sand off the rough edges, to be used by the Lord to cause us to see ourselves through the eyes of others. That is the tougher road to follow, the one of transparency and humility, the one in which a person looks at everything and everyone as God’s handiwork able to speak into our lives, even if unintentionally, even if the devil is behind it trying to destroy us – we look for what God can make of a horrible situation and how what the devil intended for our destruction might be used of God to grow us and strengthen us.
When we offend, most often it was unintentional on our part but to them we were rude or sarcastic or had an attitude so they felt justified in throwing away the relationship.
(In our high tech world this is made worse in that emails and texts don’t convey emotions and tone, and therefore the reader can attach any emotion or tone they wish when they read the email or text. Emoticons were invented to convey the emotion and tone of a message because what is written in email or text cannot do so).
I’ve seen churches split because 1/2 the congregation was unhappy because the other 1/2 voted for dark green carpet for the sanctuary instead of burgundy. I’ve known friendships to be ended because one person said they didn’t have time to talk right then and the other got so offended and hurt they dropped their friend like they had the plague. I knew of another church split because the new pastor moved the Communion chalice and bread plate table from the platform to the floor in front of the platform.
And yet those same people who are so quick to cut the relationship with you stay at their job when someone at their work offends them, or their boss yells at them, or their company has a health care plan covering situations they don’t agree with, or they continue to go to movies which use the Lord’s name in vain…but let another brother or sister say “I’m busy right now” or “I just can’t deal with this now can we talk later” and they cut off the relationship.
They are not only hypocrites, but that hypocrisy is revealed in the fact they are emotions-led. Spirit-led reason doesn’t throw away a long and good friendship, or walk out of a church because 1/2 voted for the color they didn’t vote for.
What do you do with Christians who live their Christian lives being led by emotions rather than reason and a desire to grow in maturity?
And that’s where we’ll pick it up next week. Until then, blessings,