The Apostle Paul wrote, “I do not cease giving thanks for you, while making mention of you in my prayers; that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him” (Eph. 1:16-17). We need to know God, and the wonderful truth is that God wants us to know Him. Apparently knowing God is a gift from God, the Father. He must also give us wisdom and revelation if we are to know Him. I pray with Paul that as you read this month’s Chariot of Fire, you’ll be given a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of God.
Although I’m writing primarily to men and fathers, I trust that women will also be encouraged. We should all want to be an expression of the life of God to those around us, but men should especially pursue this purpose because they are laying the foundation for their children’s relationship with God. Children perhaps instinctively associate what they learn from their own fathers about God as a father. I cringe and grieve when I hear a guy say he can’t relate to God as a father because his father was so angry and hurtful.
A friend of mine was approached with this question: “Why is God so angry?!” Where did he get the notion that God is an angry potentate? Probably from his father’s example, and perhaps even from some preachers who have misrepresented Him by their tone and messages. I hope you are not a victim of such false propaganda, but if you are, please let me set the record straight on our Father’s behalf.
Exodus 34:6 Then the Lord passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth;
Psalm 86:15 But You, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness and truth.
Proverbs 14:29 He who is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who is quick-tempered exalts folly.
Proverbs 16:32 He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city.
Proverbs 19:11 A man’s discretion makes him slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook a transgression.
Being slow to anger is an expression of God’s glory
Moses asked to see God’s glory, and God granted his request. It’s recorded in Exodus 34 that God put Moses in the cleft of a rock and caused His glory to pass by. As God declared His glory to Moses, one of the qualities of His glory that he heard was that God is slow to anger. I conclude, then, that when we are slow to anger, we are expressing the glory of God to those around us.
However, knowing this fact won’t necessarily help us overcome our anger. We need spiritual wisdom and revelation of why God is slow to anger and why that is glorious. Perhaps the context of Moses’ request helps us. In this conversation with Moses, God had commanded him to lead the people to a promised land, where God would drive out those who occupied the land and give it to their descendants. God explained why He would not give it to that generation but to the next. God told Moses, “Say to the sons of Israel, ‘You are an obstinate people; should I go up in your midst for one moment, I would destroy you’” (Ex. 33:5). Doesn’t sound good, does it? God had every right to be angry and to destroy that generation.
Moses interceded on behalf of the people and asked God to reconsider and go with him and the people for His name’s sake. Read Moses’ prayer carefully. “Now therefore, I pray You, if I have found favor in Your sight, let me know Your ways that I may know You, so that I may find favor in Your sight. Consider too, that this nation is Your people” (Ex. 33:13). The Lord answered, “I will also do this thing of which you have spoken; for you have found favor in My sight and I have known you by name.” Then Moses said, “I pray You, show me Your glory!” (vv. 17 and 18).
When God’s glory passed by, Moses heard God declare His glory, but He didn’t see His glory then. When did God answer Moses’ request to show Moses His glory? It occurred as God went with Moses and that obstinate generation and led them up to the border of the Promised Land. Later, the Holy Spirit spoke of that generation.
Therefore, just as the Holy Spirit says, “Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as when they provoked Me, as in the day of trial in the wilderness, where your fathers tried Me, and saw my works for forty years. Therefore, I was angry with this generation, and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart, and they did not know My ways’; as I swore in My wrath, ‘They shall not enter My rest’” (Heb. 3:7-11).
God did express His anger to that generation, but first He put up with them for forty years! I would call that slow to anger, wouldn’t you? When God told Moses that He wouldn’t go up with them because if He did, He would destroy them, He knew their hostility and obstinate disposition toward Him was not going to change. They would push Him to His limits due to their hardness of heart. But in order to answer Moses’ prayer request, God would have to be compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, and abound in loving kindness, forgiving iniquity, transgressions, and sins (Ex. 34:6-7). So God kept His promise to Moses and went with him and those rebellious people. For forty years He endured their obstinacy while restraining His anger.
However, there were times when His righteous anger broke out, but even then He provided His people a way of escape. God revealed His glory by being slow to anger. Don’t you have your own narrative that reveals the glory of our Father who is slow to anger with you? Are there areas in your life where you are obstinate and unbelieving? If so, then you know that God is slow to anger by your own experience. This quality about God should be a source of encouragement and comfort. Remember, when you are slow to anger, you are displaying the glory of God.
Slowness to anger does not mean that sin is overlooked
Although we can take comfort from God’s patience and long-suffering, we must be careful not to think that God’s patience means He will not judge or punish sin. We must take care not to test God’s patience. It is possible to judge and punish sin without being angry. God was patient with Moses when he misrepresented God and struck the rock instead of speaking to the rock. He still gave His people water. But God still punished him by forbidding him from entering the Promised Land. In the same way, a father may punish disobedience in his child without expressing anger. Usually it is the fathers who ignore sin in their children and withhold discipline who also eventually explode with anger. We sometimes refer to this kind of father as passive-aggressive, but we know that God disciplines perfectly, and He is neither negligent nor passive-aggressive.
A good father disciplines His children consistently and without anger. God, our Father, is a good father. When God declared His glory to Moses by expressing His compassion, graciousness, and slowness to anger, He then said, “yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished” (Ex. 34:7). At first glance, you might think that these statements present a contradiction in God’s character, but that is not the case. He is both gracious and just.
If we are pursuing a true knowledge of God so we may love Him more, then we won’t take advantage of His patience and slowness to anger and continue in sin. Indeed, His kindness should lead us to a quick repentance. If you think you’ve been careless about your sin, ask God to make you more sensitive to it and to give you a heart that will repent quickly when the Holy Spirit brings sin to your attention.
Reflect God’s character to others
“But like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy’” (1 Pet. 1:15-16). Peter called his readers to be like our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. In other words, we are to reflect God’s character to others through our behavior. That’s why it is important for us to pursue knowing God. More specific to my point, God’s command that we be holy requires that we be slow to anger with those God puts in our paths.
Would those closest to you describe you as slow to anger? If they would not, then I encourage you to not callously tread on God’s slowness to anger by continuing to manipulate or threaten others with your selfish anger. It is evidence that you do not know God or trust Him with the administration of your life and with the sanctification He has promised through those things that try your faith. You can expect Him to put people into your life who are hostile to your expectations and pleasure precisely so that you can look to Him for grace to express His love, grace, forgiveness, and slowness to anger. In the process of transmitting His presence and character to others, you experience growth and transformation into the likeness of Christ. According to the proverbs above, when you are slow to anger, you show that you have great understanding and discretion, and that you are spirit-controlled. I pray that the Holy Spirit will fan the flame of desire in you to be like Christ and express His heart to others.
Father in heaven, for Your glory through Jesus Christ who lives in us, give us Your patience with others and ourselves. Make us slow to anger as you are slow to anger. Give us spiritual insight into how we have been blessed by your enduring love and patience, and may it motivate us to represent You faithfully in our relationships. We need to be filled with Your Spirit, so please, in Your great mercy and love, fill those of us who humble ourselves and pray. When we have been quick to anger, we thank You for forgiving us through the blood of Your Son, Jesus Christ, in whose name we pray.