A soft answer or a harsh word
People are often angry at us. Sometime they have a good reason; sometimes they don’t. It is important that we respond to the anger in the right way.
A soft answer turns away wrath,
but a harsh word stirs up anger. (Proverbs 15:1)
We can respond with a soft answer or with a harsh word. The Bible tells of two men who responded in each of these ways.
The first was Gideon. God empowered him to drive out the Midianites who had invaded Israel. After he had done this the men of Ephraim, another tribe, were angry with him.
Then the men of Ephraim said to him, “What is this that you have done to us, not to call us when you went to fight against Midian?” And they accused him fiercely.
And he said to them, “What have I done now in comparison with you? Is not the gleaning of the grapes of Ephraim better than the grape harvest of Abiezer? God has given into your hands the princes of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb. What have I been able to do in comparison with you?”
Then their anger against him subsided when he said this. (Judges 8:1-3)
Gideon gave a soft answer and pointeed out that they had helped by capturing two of the Midianite leaders. This dissipated their anger at him.
Jephthah faced a similar situation but responded in a completely different way. He defeated the Ammonites who were trying to invade Israel. The Ephraimites were angry with him just as they had been with Gideon.
The men of Ephraim were called to arms, and they crossed to Zaphon and said to Jephthah, “Why did you cross over to fight against the Ammonites and did not call us to go with you? We will burn your house over you with fire.” (Judges 12:1)
(I wonder why the Ephraimites waited for someone to invite them to join in the fight. It seems to me that they could have simply gathered their forces and taken action against the enemy. I sometimes feel they were more interested in quarreling with their fellow Israelites than defending Israel from its enemies.)
Jephthah didn’t respond the way Gideon did.
And Jephthah said to them, “I and my people had a great dispute with the Ammonites, and when I called you, you did not save me from their hand. And when I saw that you would not save me, I took my life in my hand and crossed over against the Ammonites, and the Lord gave them into my hand. Why then have you come up to me this day to fight against me?”
Then Jephthah gathered all the men of Gilead and fought with Ephraim. And the men of Gilead struck Ephraim, because they said, “You are fugitives of Ephraim, you Gileadites, in the midst of Ephraim and Manasseh.”
And the Gileadites captured the fords of the Jordan against the Ephraimites. And when any of the fugitives of Ephraim said, “Let me go over,” the men of Gilead said to him, “Are you an Ephraimite?” When he said, “No,” they said to him, “Then say Shibboleth,” and he said, “Sibboleth,” for he could not pronounce it right. Then they seized him and slaughtered him at the fords of the Jordan.
At that time 42,000 of the Ephraimites fell. (Judges 12:2-5)
Jephthah’s response led to a civil way in which 42,000 Ephraimites were killed. Earlier he had defeated the Ammonites but we are not told how many of them were killed. It is possible that he killed more Israelites than Ammonites.
When others are angry at us it is natural for us to respond with anger. Christians have the Holy Spirit in us. Our response should be supernatural, not natural.