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Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Merciful Vengeance

Merciful Vengeance

"Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, 'Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.' To the contrary, 'if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.' Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." Romans 12:19-21 (ESV)

AVENGE:
"Ekdikeo", to vindicate, retaliate or punish; from "ekdikos" (carrying justice out, a punisher) and "dike" (right, as self-evident, justice) and "deiknyo" (to show)

WRATH:
"Orge", desire, reaching forth, excitement of the mind, violent passion, punishment; from "orego" (to stretch oneself, reach out, long for)

REPAY:
"Antapodidomi", to requite (good or evil); from "anti" (opposite) and "apodidomi" (to give away)

HEAP:
"Soreuo", to pile up; from "soros" (a funereal receptacle: urn or coffin)

A wrong done to me may not be a wrong - it may be, it certainly is, something allowed and arranged by God for my ultimate benefit. Believing this, and trusting in God's goodness, I cannot take it upon myself to exact revenge, seeking to carry out my personal version of justice.

Instead, I must get out of the way of God. If the wrong was allowed and arranged by God as a way of demonstrating the evil in the other person's heart, then God must be the Judge and Punisher.

If the wrong was allowed and arranged by God as a way of demonstrating evil in my heart, then gladly I submit to God as my Merciful Father of correction.

If the wrong was not allowed and arranged by God, yet it happened despite His desires, then He would not be God.

"Heap burning coals on his head". This does not appear to be a good deed, at least in its literal sense.

"Aaron shall present the bull as a sin offering for himself, and shall make atonement for himself and for his house. He shall kill the bull as a sin offering for himself. And he shall take a censer full of coals of fire from the altar before the Lord, and two handfuls of sweet incense beaten small, and he shall bring it inside the veil and put the incense on the fire before the Lord, that the cloud of the incense may cover the mercy seat that is over the testimony, so that he does not die." Lev 16:11-13 (ESV)

"As for the head of those who surround me, let the mischief of their lips overwhelm them! Let burning coals fall upon them! Let them be cast into fire, into miry pits, no more to rise!" Psalms 140:9-10 (ESV)

"The Lord tests the righteous, but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence. Let him rain coals on the wicked; fire and sulfur and a scorching wind shall be the portion of their cup." Psalms 11:5-6 (ESV)

Coals of fire always indicated God's judgement, His wrath and punishment against sin.

The proverb is using the example of coals of fire as a description of "merciful vengeance".

"If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink, for you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you."
Prov 25:21-22 (ESV)

The enemy is real, and truly deserves God's judgement and punishment. But, so do I. The proverb commands me to carry out upon my enemy the type of justice that God has carried out upon me: merciful forgiveness and kindness through His Son Jesus Christ.

Giving food and drink to a needy enemy is the only manner of vengeance of which God allows me to carry out. It is vengeance for sin, but it is a merciful vengeance. It is vengeance with an expectation of repentance and joy, rather than of pain and sorrow.

"Vengeance is mine, and recompense, for the time when their foot shall slip; for the day of their calamity is at hand, and their doom comes swiftly." Deut 32:35 (ESV)

"If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink, for you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you."
Prov 25:21-22 (ESV)

We need to allow God to be God in every part of our lives. Whether He judges others to carry out justice or mercy, His ways are always best, completely right, and ultimately good.

Image courtesy of Aaron Schwab