Updated: Jul 6, 2021
Desires! The Holy Spirit gets to the heart of the matter of anger and conflict in these few verses, yet at the same time He makes stirring statements about God's desires for us. It is a rich text that continues to speak to and challenge me personally. There are no two ways about it, conflict and anger originate with inordinate, idolatrous, desires of our heart. Notice, the problem is not the desire (many of our desires alone are not sinful, but there are sinful desires), but that the desire has become a ruling desire in our heart. It is something that we must have and we will attack anything that gets in our way or prevents us from satisfying our desire (which cannot be satisfied and cannot satisfy). The desire for good has become a demand or an expectation that we are entitled to.
Here is a personal illustration. I have the potential to be a "hangry" person. This means when I am hungry, desire food, I tend to be irrationally and foolishly angry. Obviously, the desire to eat is not wrong, but rather it is part of our God-design for our body. However, for me, it becomes a ruling desire and when I am off-guard due to my need to be satiated with food, my sinful heart is exposed for my family and anyone else nearby to see. As is typical, in my anger, "hanger," I act foolishly and say hurtful things to anyone and anything that gets in my way. My desire for food is the driving force. When I do get food, I do calm down, at least until the next time. In this illustration, food is my functional god for the moment and I will do anything for food (think Esau). What are our functioning gods? What desires drive us and cause us to ignore what God is doing? What desires move us to sin against others?
Identifying these desires is important. It has been said that something has become idolatrous or an inordinate desire when we 1) sin (i.e. get angry) if we do not get it, 2) sin (i.e. get angry) in order to get it, 3) sin (i.e. get angry) to keep it or if it is threatened, or 4) sin (i.e. get angry) if we lose it. Here is an example, I enjoy riding my bike and I may desire to ride on a Saturday morning. How do I respond if I get a phone call that prevents me from riding? What if I ignore the phone call that I know will take me away from riding, so that I can go ride? What if I am already on the ride and phone call comes in? What if the phone call forces me to end my ride early? My response in these situations reveal the ruling desire of my heart. The good desire has become a ruling or necessary desire which makes it a sinful desire because it has now replaced God and has become the thing I worship. Anger is a response to the threats on our idols (desires).
There is something worth seeing in the passage about God. Note His response: (vs. 5) He is still jealous of us even in our idolatrous and adulterous behavior. (vs. 6) God gives grace upon grace. (vs. 7) God desires that we desire Him by submitting to Him. (vs. 8) God desires to draw near, but will do this when invited (Rev. 3:20). (vs. 10) God will exalt us as we respond in humility. The Amplified Bible explains "exalt" by stating that God will give us significance in life. We often believe that our sinful desires will give us meaning and significance, but God says that He will do that for us.
Where have our desires taken the place of God? Our anger will indicate there is a problem and will help to identify these false gods in our heart.