Acting Angry

Yael Eckstein  |  March 12, 2023

Yael Eckstein delivers help to elderly Jewish woman
(Photo: Avishag Shaar-Yashuv)

God is a righteous judge,
    a God who displays his wrath every day. —
Psalm 7:11

We start out every week with an inspirational lesson from the beloved Psalms. For centuries, these ancient poems of King David and others have been the foundation for Jewish and Christian worship. Enjoy!

Do you ever get angry? As a mother of very active and lively children, let’s just say anger has sometimes been a challenge for me. Anger is a very destructive emotion. It leads people to say and do destructive things, which they often regret after they’ve calmed down.

In his ethical writings, the great Jewish rabbi and theologian of the 12th century, Moses Maimonides, wrote that every emotion is positive under certain circumstances, except anger. Anger, Maimonides explained, is the only characteristic we must root out completely.

The Jewish sages of the Talmud went so far as to say that being angry is comparable to worshipping a false god. Does this sound a bit harsh? Let me explain.

When a person becomes angry, they are unwilling to accept the situation as it presents itself. It’s not just that they don’t like what’s happening; they refuse to accept reality. The person who is angry demands that things be a certain way that they are not. This refusal to accept reality expresses itself as anger.

Acting Angry

So how are we to understand verses in the Bible that describe God as getting angry? In Psalm 7, we read, for example, “God is a righteous judge, a God who displays His wrath every day.”

In the Hebrew, the word for “displays his wrath” is zo’em. This word really means to show oneself as angry, to act angry. In other words, God may display anger, but He doesn’t feel anger.

Acting angry can be a valuable tool for education and proper discipline. If one of my children does something wholly unacceptable, displaying anger as a way of teaching them that there is no tolerance for such behavior can be very effective.

But this only works because my children love me and know I love them. And that’s the key to understanding our verse.

God displays anger and metes out justice for the same reason that a loving parent gets angry when their children severely misbehave, because He loves us.

As parents, grandparents, and formal or informal teachers of the young, we occasionally must express righteous anger as a way of teaching what is and is not acceptable. But let’s make sure that no matter how we show our disapproval, that it always comes from a place of love.

Your Turn:

Do you ever struggle with anger? Next time you feel yourself getting angry, remind yourself that God put you in this situation and wants you to respond in the most productive way possible.