“Don’t sin by letting anger control you. Think about it overnight and remain silent.”
In the middle of this Psalm, David suddenly remembers the destructive force of anger. Earlier in the Psalm he has been musing about people who are making false allegations against him. He mentions the destructive forces of their lies, potentially ruining his reputation. But he is confident in his God, who he knows will hear him when he calls, who will answer his prayers, who will always be there for him. And that is all that matters to him. But there must have been something welling up within him, pushing back against the mayhem, tempting him into a reaction fuelled by anger. David reflects on the controlling tendency of angry thoughts and actions, and he knows it will lead to sin if allowed to proceed unchecked.
Anger is a common problem with society and for anyone living within it. We can get angry over all sorts of things. A thoughtless driver who cuts in front of us in a queue of traffic. A bad mannered person reaching across us in a supermarket for the last packet of Tea Cakes or Snowballs (specialities much prized in Scotland). A husband or wife upset about their spouse not agreeing with their plans. The list is endless. But anger in itself is not wrong. Jesus Himself became angry on several occasions, we are told in the Gospels. One example is in Mark 3:5, “[Jesus] looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored.” Jesus had every right to be angry with the behaviour of the Pharisees. But He didn’t sin through it – He dealt with the issue and moved on.
That is how we too must behave. When anger knocks at the door of our hearts, we must deal with any issues if we can. Otherwise we must follow the Psalmist David’s advice and “Think about it overnight”. Things will look different in the morning.