The Bible tells us that God says “vengeance is mine”. But even Christians are people. And people tend to want to get our own revenge. So it leaves us with a bit of a problem. Sometimes a huge problem. If we don’t trust God to get the revenge He claims as His own, then do we even trust God to save us? And if not God, then who will save us?
Psalm 7 A shiggaion of David, which he sang to the LORD concerning Cush, a Benjamite. Ps 7:1 O LORD my God, I take refuge in you; save and deliver me from all who pursue me, Ps 7:2 or they will tear me like a lion and rip me to pieces with no one to rescue me. Ps 7:3 O LORD my God, if I have done this and there is guilt on my hands— Ps 7:4 if I have done evil to him who is at peace with me or without cause have robbed my foe— Ps 7:5 then let my enemy pursue and overtake me; let him trample my life to the ground and make me sleep in the dust. Selah Ps 7:6 Arise, O LORD, in your anger; rise up against the rage of my enemies Awake, my God; decree justice. Ps 7:7 Let the assembled peoples gather around you. Rule over them from on high; Ps 7:8 let the LORD judge the peoples. Judge me, O LORD, according to my righteousness, according to my integrity, O Most High. Ps 7:9 O righteous God, who searches minds and hearts, bring to an end the violence of the wicked and make the righteous secure. Ps 7:10 My shield is God Most High, who saves the upright in heart. Ps 7:11 God is a righteous judge, a God who expresses his wrath every day. Ps 7:12 If he does not relent, he will sharpen his sword; he will bend and string his bow. Ps 7:13 He has prepared his deadly weapons; he makes ready his flaming arrows. Ps 7:14 He who is pregnant with evil and conceives trouble gives birth to disillusionment. Ps 7:15 He who digs a hole and scoops it out falls into the pit he has made. Ps 7:16 The trouble he causes recoils on himself; his violence comes down on his own head. Ps 7:17 I will give thanks to the LORD because of his righteousness and will sing praise to the name of the LORD Most High.
God claims vengeance is His own
Does vengeance/revenge really have anything to do with our salvation?
If you search for this idea, you probably won’t find it. After all, it’s not a direct relationship. Revenge and salvation are so different.
But when I read this Psalm just now, this is what struck me. God does claim revenge for His own. However, our idea of what revenge is all about is so different from God’s.
And when we’re that far off, just how off-target is our view of God?
And how far off must we get before our salvation is at risk? In other words, can/do we reach a point where our view of God is so warped that He becomes our creation, rather than us acknowledging we are His creation? And can something like that put our salvation at risk?
Maybe I get overly concerned? But I don’t think so.
Things like the Sheep and the Goats cause me to worry about people who think they’re following Jesus, but really don’t know Him at all.
And in the end, they’re told, “I never knew you. Away from me you evildoers!”
How can we tell if we’re off the path?
Fruit. Are we producing any fruit? Are we producing or even trying, to do things for God’s Kingdom?
If you don’t know, or aren’t sure, what that means, just check out the article on The Parable of the Fruitless Fig Tree.
And if you aren’t producing fruit, take a good look at yourself.
As we go along, you’ll see the connection between God’s revenge and our salvation. Both are important to us as Christians. Both are mentioned in this Psalm. But, as always with the Psalms, we need to be aware of differences between OT and NT meanings.
Background on Psalm 7
Here’s some background on Psalm 7. A Psalm where David cries out for justice. And, where justice is handled in different ways under the New Covenant than it was under the Old Covenant.
Psalm 3 is a prayer for deliverance, apparently from physical or military danger. This was a serious danger, but the psalmist is not in any great distress about it. Instead he shows quiet confidence in God. Psalm 3 is called a morning psalm, because David says, “I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the Lord sustains me” (v. 5). Psalm 4 is an evening psalm. In this psalm David is distressed. It is true that he comes to a condition of trust and peace, but this is only after a struggle, and at the psalm’s end. Psalm 5 is filled with expressions of intense sighing and cries for God’s help (v. 1), and David’s enemies are described, not merely as political foes, but also as those who “do wrong” and “tell lies.” They are “bloodthirsty and deceitful men” (vv. 5–6). By Psalm 6 the psalmist is in deep personal anguish (vv. 2–3). He says that he is worn out from his groaning and weeping that last throughout the night (vv. 6–7).
Psalm 7 is the longest psalm thus far. In it David is so overcome with his enemies’ harsh injustice to him that he cries out for divine vindication. “Awake, my God; decree justice” is his cry (v. 6).1
Where does the question of revenge and salvation come from?
Let’s look at a few verses from the psalm.
Ps 7:6 Arise, O LORD, in your anger;
rise up against the rage of my enemies.
Awake, my God; decree justice.
Ps 7:7 Let the assembled peoples gather around you.
Rule over them from on high;
Ps 7:8 let the LORD judge the peoples.
Judge me, O LORD, according to my righteousness,
according to my integrity, O Most High.
Ps 7:9 O righteous God,
who searches minds and hearts,
bring to an end the violence of the wicked
and make the righteous secure.
Here’s what appears to be happening. David says the following things:
- Starts by acknowledging that God is angry.
- Calls for God to rise up in that anger.
- Not only to rise up, but to do it in a very public way.
- Asks for God to be, essentially, judge, jury, and executioner.
- Acknowledges that God is righteous.
- Also acknowledges that God is aware of everything.
- Even asks God to judge Him.
- Having said that, David does expect to be declared righteous in this case and therefore innocent.
- And finally, asks God to proclaim the sentence, pronounce judgment, and make things right.
- Making things right includes security for the righteous.
And so, in terms of today’s topic, we have:
- Anger and revenge
- Request for revenge carried out in public
- David including himself as a defendant
- Security for the righteous. Salvation.
Vengeance is mine – says God
Christians might best remember this from something Paul wrote. Oddly enough, and yet with good reason, it’s in a passage about love!
Love – Romans
Ro 12:9Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
Ro 12:14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.
Ro 12:17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
Ro 12:21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
How unreal is that? At least from our normal point of view. When we want revenge, we really want it. But even the very first verse says we shouldn’t.
Ro 12:9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.
Let’s face it. According to the Bible, according to God, revenge on our part is evil. But for God, it’s justified. So we should cling to what is good. Cling to love. And avoid revenge. Leave it to God, as He has claimed it from verse 19:
19 Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.
Paul is going back to the time of the Exodus. Specifically, a rather long passage from Moses after he finished writing the Book of The Law.
The Song of Moses
Dt 32:35 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.
32:35 Vengeance is Mine, and recompense. The manner and timing of the repayment of man’s wickedness is God’s prerogative. This principle is reaffirmed in the NT in Rom. 12:19; Heb. 10:30. 2
It’s up to God to decide when and how His vengeance will be carried out. It’s up to us to trust in God’s righteous justice to handle both the timing and method. To leave it all up to Him.
What if we don’t trust God to carry out His vengeance?
If we don’t like the timing and/or method, then we have a serious problem.
Remember what David wrote.
Ps 7:9 O righteous God,
who searches minds and hearts,
bring to an end the violence of the wicked
and make the righteous secure.
David tied together God’s righteousness, vengeance/punishment on the wicked, and security for the righteous.
No, it wasn’t my idea to do that. David did it. I just borrowed it for my thoughts on this Psalm today.
Here’s something about David that we should consider. Starting once more with the New Testament passage that Christians are likely to be familiar with:
In Pisidian Antioch
Ac 13:16 Standing up, Paul motioned with his hand and said: “Men of Israel and you Gentiles who worship God, listen to me! 17 The God of the people of Israel chose our fathers; he made the people prosper during their stay in Egypt, with mighty power he led them out of that country, 18 he endured their conduct for about forty years in the desert, 19 he overthrew seven nations in Canaan and gave their land to his people as their inheritance. 20 All this took about 450 years.
“After this, God gave them judges until the time of Samuel the prophet. 21 Then the people asked for a king, and he gave them Saul son of Kish, of the tribe of Benjamin, who ruled forty years. 22 After removing Saul, he made David their king. He testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’
Ac 13:23 “From this man’s descendants God has brought to Israel the Savior Jesus, as he promised. 24 Before the coming of Jesus, John preached repentance and baptism to all the people of Israel. 25 As John was completing his work, he said: ‘Who do you think I am? I am not that one. No, but he is coming after me, whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.’
In the middle of that, notice the underlined verse:
22 After removing Saul, he made David their king. He testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’
David, someone after God’s heart. And while David wasn’t perfect, look what God said about him. And then compare that with what Jesus said about friends, love, and obeying Him.
So David’s combining God’s righteousness, vengeance/punishment on the wicked, and security for the righteous wasn’t out of line. Especially when we add in the other New Testament reference to God claiming vengeance as His own.
A Call to Persevere
Heb 10:19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. 25 Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Heb 10:26 If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, 27 but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. 28 Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.” 31 It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
Heb 10:32 Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering. 33 Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. 34 You sympathized with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions.
Heb 10:35 So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. 36 You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. 37 For in just a very little while,
“He who is coming will come and will not delay.
Heb 10:38 But my righteous one will live by faith.
And if he shrinks back,
I will not be pleased with him.” 39 But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.
Check out again all the underlined verses above. It’s all in there. Starting in the Old Testament. Repeated for us in the New Testament. With the big difference being that judgment and rewards were relatively soon, and here on this earth. Often in their lives in the OT, but in the NT we must think long term. Very long term. Some benefits of being a Christian, such as peace and joy, begin in this life, the ultimate peace, joy, and everything else is in the next life.
Conclusion – If we don’t trust God then who will save us?
I hope that, by now, you can begin to see why trust in God is so important. Vengeance is one of our more visceral responses when things happen. It seems to be even more so these days.
And if we don’t trust God for something like that, how can we even begin to trust Him to save us? And if we don’t trust God, then who will save us? No one.
To put it in more detail, if we can’t hold off on revenge, giving to God what He claimed for Himself, then we do have a trust problem. And if we can’t trust God, then how can we love or follow Him? Finally, if we don’t love or follow Jesus, then we have, by our own words/actions, rejected His offer of salvation.
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