I’ve been working through Matthew Henry’s book on meekness this year; and I find it ironic that as I’m writing today’s thoughts on what meekness does for our angry souls, my spirit is battling frustration over yet another break-in from our neighbor-thief! Ephesians 4:26, “Be ye angry, and sin not.” (I was unable to post this two weeks ago when I first began writing it, but the thoughts still apply today!)
Here again are the four “jobs” that meekness does for us when we are angered by something:
- Consider the circumstances of that which we find to be a provocation.
- Calm the spirit so that inward peace may not be disturbed by any outward provocation.
- Curb the tongue and keep the mouth as with a bridle when the heart is hot.
- Cool the heat of passion quickly and not suffer it to continue.
Last time, I talked about that first point, and how we should see anger as a thief trying to break into our house or as an enemy soldier trying to sneak across our border; thus we will be very cautious and thoughtful before we allow anger into our souls.
James 1:19 gives three commands for the soul striving to be meek:
Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.
Did you know that three names of the sons of Ishmael in Genesis 25:14 (Mishma, Dumah, and Massa) correlate to this verse? They mean, “Hear, Keep Silence, Bear.” (Aren’t the Puritans amazing to find that nugget?) Henry notes, “Hear reason, keep passion silent, and then you will not find it difficult to bear the provocation.” I find it ironic to write about keeping anything silent or bearing provocations when our neighbor is blaring their music behind our house so loudly that the speakers are going fuzzy, and in the next room my children are watching a *loud* DVD. How can I hear or bear anything when silence is a joke? We need these three reminders daily, hourly: Hear, Keep Silence, Bear.
God is our ultimate example, again. When the Egyptians provoked him, Psalm 78:50 says, “He weighed a path to His anger.” If only we could learn to take the time to carefully weigh a matter before we pour out our own anger. Is my cause just? In both stories of the tower of Babel and the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, God first came down to see their sin, before destroying them. How many of us quickly answer matters before even taking time to hear them or certainly to “weigh” anything, whether anger is involved or not? I know I am so quick to speak my mind. Maybe I should primarily focus on that first reminder, so that I could at least fix the part that causes my downfall in the other areas: Hear.
Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? Let him show out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom. –James 3:13
Nehemiah was a wonderful example of wisdom being shown in meekness. He says, “I was very angry when I heard their cry,” but that anger did not break the laws of meekness because he then says, “Then I consulted with myself.” He did end up rebuking “the nobles in a very solid, rational discourse” and he succeeded! Henry remarks,
In every cause, when passion demands immediate judgment, meekness moves for further time and will have the matter fairly argued, and counsel heard on both sides.
So every time that our tempers are hot, we need to first take time to ask ourselves the same question that God asked Cain, “Why am I angry?” Here are Henry’s questions to ask yourself not if, but the next time when you are angry:
- Why am I angry at all?
- Why so soon angry?
- Why so very angry?
- Why so far transported and dispossessed of myself by my anger?
- What reason is there for all this? “Do I well to be angry for a gourd that came up in a night, and perished in a night?” (Jonah 4:6)
- Should I be touched to the quick by such a sudden and transient provocation?
- Will not my cooler thoughts correct these hasty resentments, and therefore were it not better to check them now?
This is my attempt to rephrase Matthew Henry’s book The Quest for Meekness and Quietness of Spirit.
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