Ever been so furious, you wanted to smash something? I remember my middle school band instructor. It was his first year teaching, and we quickly discovered he had a short fuse. A mischevious bunch, we enjoyed watching him explode. One day, he took a music stand, and went into the instrument room and smashed it on the floor. Then he screamed, “You all need to shut the hell up!” In concert, we all went, “uuuuuwwwwwww!” He shouted back, “Don’t give me that. It’s in the Bible and on TV!” Sadly, his first year was his last year.
Moses’ anger problem goes back to Exodus 2:12, when he blew up and killed the Egyptian. Here at the end, he has an episode of wilderness rage. We can hear it in his words, “Listen, you rebels!” (Nubers 20:10) Ever wanted to kick off a staff meeting that way?
Numbers 20:11 says, “Moses raised his arms and struck the rock twice with his staff.” The Hebrew for “strike” is nakah, and it can also mean “to hit, beat slay, kill, or smash.” Back in Exodus 3:20 God said, “So I will stretch out my hand and strike (nakah) the Egyptians…” After God commanded him to speak, Moses smashed the rock. He slammed it not once, but twice. In The Message we read, “With that Moses raised his arm and slammed his staff against the rock—once, twice…” In response God said, “You will not bring the people into the land I give them.”
Moses was offended, bitter, frustrated, and fed up with the people he was called to love and lead. But maybe Moses was also irate with God. Perhaps he resented God for not having done more, for leaving him in the desert for so long.
Make no mistake. Sometimes we need to get angry about poor performance, shoddy work, broken promises, bad behavior, and missed opportunities. If focused, the heat of our anger can help everyone rise to a new level. Anger is a healthy emotion we should not bottle up, but we don’t want to live that way. Ephesians 4:26-27 says, “…Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold…”
Here’s the scary thing about leading angry. It works. The wife does what you want. The kids clean the kitchen. The yard gets mowed. The water comes gushing out. We win. And we can start to like it that way. But in winning the battle, we lose the war. Frustrated and irritated leaders who smash and ram things through will never reach the land of rest and promise God has for them.
The answer for us is found in Ephesians 4:31-32, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”