My heart was hot within me,
While I was musing the fire burned; Then I spoke with my tongue…
( Psalm 39:3)
See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire!
And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity;
The tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body,
And sets on fire the course of our life,
And is set on fire by hell.
As I embark upon my 22nd year of life, I think the word “vengeance” is a worthy focus for me.
From childhood till today, I have struggled with the urge to verbally avenge the wrongs I have received from other people. Just the other day, I felt such a desire in my heart to get back at someone who did something which was very offensive to me. Inside me I burned for payback…and I am ashamed of myself for it. I am so ashamed.
What kind of person must I be to have experienced such an abundance of mercy from God and still cling to the desire to pay back the evil of others with evil of my own?
I am convinced that this problem of mine takes root in an incomplete view of of God. I look away from the fire that consumed Sodom and Gomorrah; I turn my face from prophetic threats of Nahum; I forget about Ananias and Saphira; and, most of all, I fail to behold the my bloody Savior as he takes all of my sin and suffers the unimaginable wrath from his Father that comes with it. All of these truths whisper a stern warning of the immensity as well as the precision of God’s wrath.
They say, “God runs the show, not you.”
Rom 12:19 Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.
Do you ever meditate on God’s wrath?
Never is God’s wrath incompletely exhausted. It is purely just and utterly devastating. It may be delayed for the sake of grace, but it will find it’s resting place: all evil will be fully punished.
So many of us ignore the severity of God’s wrath because it seems unpleasant, but then we immediately turn to inflict our own sense of retributive justice on our neighbor. The softer my picture of God is, the harder I feel I need to be. The more I starve my sense of justice from the remembrance of God’s wrath, the more I feel the need to inflict my own.
On the other hand, the more I accept God as he is (wrath and all), the less I feel the need to impart punishment, wrath, or vengeance on those who sin against me.
Instead, Scripture says, I should be…contemplative?
Prov 15:28 The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer, But the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things.
James 1:19-20 This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.
Ok…but if our anger does not permit us achieve the righteousness of God, what does?
Gen 15:6 Then he [Abraham] believed in the LORD; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.
Our righteousness depends only on placing our complete trust in God. In this case, we place our faith in God as judge, punisher, and forgiver. We put our concerns in his hands.
Here are some specific ways in which Scripture tells us to trust God:
- That we all are sinners before God, undeserving of a relationship with him. (Romans 3:23)
- That God rewards those who seek him. (Hebrews 11:6)
- That through Jesus, God’s Son we may receive forgiveness of sins and eternal life with God. (Acts 10:43, 1 John 5:13)
- That this faith itself is the ultimate goal of God’s law, and by believing in Him, we acquire righteousness before Him. (Romans 4:5, 10:4, Galations 2:16)
If our holy, sinless Savior’s ultimate desire for us is to place our faith in him, and he doesn’t require we be perfect people in order to forgive us and be gracious to us…how much more ought we to show that unmerited favor to all people, especially those who offend us?
::This post was (heavily) revised from an earlier posting on Myspace on Friday, May 27, 2005::