If we look at the word "revenge" we will see that in both Greek and Hebrew verses, the word implies some form of punishment will be meted out once the avenger has captured the perpetrator of the transgression. In young Sojourner's words "revenge" simply means "Paying him back" for what he did to her. It was clear that she was not about to tell anyone the details of the offense, just in case she would also be implicated in the wrong-doing, but she was not going to take a chance that God might let the boy off the hook either! She would just take matters into her own hands, no matter what the price may be for her. Six-year-old Sojourner was very happy to receive the Lord's help in getting her out of the garage before anything worse happened to her but, then, it was rather "Thanks and I'll take it from here, God." This was, definitely, not God's plan and was, in fact, in opposition to his Word. Little Sojourner did not know the word "revenge" but she surely did know what she wanted… she wanted him to pay for what he did! God used this occasion to teach her the results of displeasing God by lying about the rope incident and it was a lesson she would never forget!
We have heard it said, "Vengeance is mine saith the Lord, I will repay," but is that really in the Bible? I mean there are a lot of sayings passed down through the generations that are not in the Bible but only in the aural tradition… things such as "Cleanliness is next to Godliness." Well, let's check. In fact, it is recorded in the Bible and not just a saying. Throughout the Bible we are told that God is the One who will do the punishing (revenging) and it is for us to let Him do things His way. Probably the most familiar verse is found in the Old Testament side of the Bible…Deut. 32:35, which says:
"It is mine to avenge; I will repay. In due time their foot will slip; their day of disaster is near and their doom rushes upon them." Or in the more poetic King James Version: "To me belongeth vengeance, and recompense; their foot shall slide in due time: for the day of their calamity is at hand, and the things that shall come upon them make haste."
Well, that is what we want, isn't it… their foot to slip, their downfall? The only issue is that we don't usually see it making haste as fast as our own plan would have it!
God as the one meeting out the vengeance is not only an "Old Testament" idea as this same verse is quoted twice in the New Testament:
Romans 12:19 says, "Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay,"
And, again, the writer of Hebrews, Chapter 10 verse 30: "For we know him who said, "It is mine to avenge; I will repay,"
We know that the New Testament also records Jesus telling us that there are two great commandments that sum up the ten given to Moses by God on the mountain so long ago: The first is that we love the Lord, our God, with our whole heart and have no other gods before him and secondly, that we love our neighbor as ourselves. To which young Sojourner might reply, "But, God, have you met the boy on the other corner? He's my neighbor, but…!" Looking back in the Old Testament book where God's laws are being recorded Sojourner might think that the law was written just for her.
One of the later versions of Leviticus 19:18 says, "You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord." Ouch! The son of the nice people at the corner is, you guessed it, the offending bully! The NIV version says "Do not seek revenge…", so we should not even think about how we might pay the bully back.
Is there never a time when people can take revenge on someone else? Must we always let God do it? Well, yes, for the most part this is true. There are, however, two occasions in the Bible where the Lord has given a person authority to exact revenge on the evil-doer. Moses had seen many things that the Lord had done and had done many things as the Lord instructed him. This would be the last thing Moses would ever do on this earth and, as all things, it was under the direction of the Lord, Numbers 31:1-2: "The LORD said to Moses, "Take vengeance on the Midianites for the Israelites. After that, you will be gathered to your people." You can check the earlier passages about the Israelites journey through the wilderness to find out why the Lord was so upset with the Midianites. There are certainly enough other occasions where the Lord, Himself, takes revenge for those who do evil to His Chosen people but this time, he is asking Moses to lead the people in victory over the Midianites as revenge for their evil actions.
Secondly, God has given authority for those in leadership in judicial matters to punish those who break the law, as recorded in I. Peter 2:13-14: "Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right."
God has designed things so that it is God, Himself, Who will punish the evil-doers, those who break His commandments; it is not for us to "take the law into our own hands" (as the western marshals used to say in those old black and white television shows in the fifties and sixties). There are those times when such restraint is so very hard. There are a lot of reasons for us wanting to exact revenge against those who have hurt us. Little Sojourner saw it as the only way the boy would be punished because he was never punished for harassing the children. It was just what the big boys did, right? Now, he had about scared her to death and she was just not going to let him get away with this; but, neither did she want to get in trouble so she just waited for her opportunity. How many times do we think that the person "deserves" to be punished for what they did and it doesn't look like they are going to be punished because the lawyer is going to get him off with his fancy talking and loopholes? Let me assure you, no one ever gets off! He may not pay for his evil in the court system at the time you think he should but God is totally just and He has said that the evil will be punished so it will! By God if the legal system fails… count on it!
As I read the stories of King David's life in the Scriptures, I was glad to see that the kingdom was being passed into David's hand when God had finally had enough of King Saul. (I. Samuel 13:14) Well, King Saul was not going to just say, "Thank you, Lord, it has been a real hassle. Here's the crown and where is my retirement package?" Oh my, not that easy! King Saul was going after David! He would kill David and keep the crown! Over and over Saul tried to kill David and over and over the Lord delivered David from Saul's hand. A couple of times, Saul was right there where David could just whack him and get it over with! I just never understood why he didn't! I mean, David, Saul will kill you if you don't kill him! Once Saul was just inches from David in a cave that Saul was using for an outhouse on one more of his journeys to kill David. David even cut off the hem of Saul's garment to show him later that he had a chance to kill him but didn't! Why, or why not, I asked David many times as I read!
David gives us the answer to "why not off the guy, David?" in I. Samuel 24:12, as he speaks to King Saul, "May the LORD judge between you and me. And may the LORD avenge the wrongs you have done to me, but my hand will not touch you."
Okay, that is why David was said to be a man after God's own heart! He would obey the Lord no matter what or how he felt, personally. How unlike David I am when reading of Saul's evil ways. God has set Himself up as the only One to exact revenge on the evil-doer because God is very aware of how we fail ourselves. We are not perfect and need forgiveness, too. Our own carnal nature just may not meet out the punishment fairly or according to the Lord's ways since our thoughts and our ways are not the same as God's. In His wisdom he knows that and says it is not for us to take revenge or even to seek revenge! Leave it to God; He is just and He is fair. God is perfect and He will never let evil triumph, no matter what it may look like to us!
****A Present-Day Remembrance…Coming Monday