When Wrong Seems Strong
So Daniel was taken up out of the den and no injury whatever was found on him…Then the king gave orders, and they brought those men who had maliciously accused Daniel, and they cast them, their children and their wives into the lions’ den; and they had not reached the bottom of the den before the lions overpowered them and crushed all their bones. Daniel 6:23-24
That was Sunday. Them, their children and their wives into the lions’ den. It was sort of an aside from a Sunday school lesson on prayer. As in “Daniel prayed, 3 times a day.”
Then 9 year-old Ted said what is at this second, probably in every one of your heads:
What!? The children and moms too? That seems wrong.
Ted’s right: It seems wrong. I get the malicious accusers, but their wives and their kids thrown to the lions too? Then 10 year-old Katie chimed in, incredulous at King Darius’ shocking decree: Maybe some of the children were babies! That was Sunday. Wrong seemed strong.
Then came Monday. Wrong was strong.
How Long, O LORD? (When will you ?)
And we were blasted by the morning news. News of the deadliest mass shooting on US soil. News of an unprecedented, horrific, wicked deed. Current count: 58 dead, more than 500 wounded.
We ache for the gaping holes these lost lives created. We pray that the wounded and the grieving will know the Lord is close to them, the brokenhearted. May they know God’s comfort. But we also cry.
Transported 3.000 years back in time, with Prophets and Psalmists, we cry,
How long, O LORD, will I call for help, and You will not hear? O Lord, how long until your enemies are scattered? How long will you hide your face? How long, O Lord?
I don’t know if Darius the Mede received divine direction to toss Daniel’s would-be killers to the lions. I do know the Bible says, He who digs a pit falls in it. But their wives and their children, too? Because children, I also know, are not to die for father’s sins. It just seems wrong.
Then came my reading in Jeremiah 11 Monday. Same issue, O LORD of hosts, who judges righteously, who tests the heart and the mind, let me see your vengeance upon them, for to you have I committed my cause.” No, we are not alone, and not wrong, in wanting justice to be served. Provided we don’t bring it.
Provided we commit our cause to God.
Trust the Judge (Because He will do what is right.)
So I latch on to these brass tacks of God’s absolute righteousness, brass tacks that Abraham nailed. I lock on these words.
“Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” (Genesis 18:25)
I lock on it and assure Ted and Katie and the rest of the Sunday school class what I assure myself: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is right?
When the wrong around us seems so strong- like the wives and children- or without doubt is so strong we can trust that one way or another the Judge of the earth will do what is right. But sometimes wrong gets closer.
What do you do then? I mean, when evil touches you?
The Avenger still will come. (So keep entrusting to Him who judges justly.)
“When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.” 1 Peter 2:23
That is the answer. When I’m on tempted to hate my enemies and avenge mistreatment and wallow in self-pity, 1 Peter 2:23 is the strong medicine I need. Walk in his footsteps and keep trusting mistreatment to God. Hand over the wrongs to him who judges justly. By faith, we walk like Jesus and trust God.
John Piper explains how Jesus did this.
[H]e handed over to God the whole situation including himself and those abusing him and the hurt done and all the factors that made it a horrendous outrage of injustice that the most innocent man who ever lived should suffer so much. He trusted it all into God’s hands as the one who would settle the matter justly someday.
He said, “I will not carry the burden of revenge, I will not carry the burden of sorting out motives, I will not carry the burden of self-pity; I will not carry the burden of bitterness; I will hand all that over to God who will settle it all in a perfectly just way and I will pray, Father, forgive them they don’t know what they do (Luke 23:34).”
Are you reeling from wrongs done to you? Hand them over to Him who judges justly. Him who- though the wrong seems oft so strong and just vengeance seems so long in coming- is the ruler yet.
But believing that when evil men have their way is super hard to do. Committing wrongs to an invisible Avenger is only done by faith.
But to this we were called. (Because Christ suffered for you.)
To this you have been called, Peter wrote, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should walk in his footsteps. Handing the hurt and desire for vengeance to God, is not merely a rule to be followed,John Piper says, it’s a miracle to be experienced. A grace to be received. It’s a promise to be believed.
But it starts with believing that “Christ suffered FOR YOU.” Not just suffered. Or suffered for wicked, evil dudes. But that Jesus Christ suffered for me. For you. He bore our sins in his body on the tree (1 Peter 2: 24).
Then Piper asks, and I ask myself and you, Do we really trust that God sees every wrong done to us? That he knows every hurt? That he alone can assess motives and circumstances with perfect accuracy and will settle all accounts with 100% perfect justice?
Do we really believe God when he says “Vengeance is mine. I will repay”?
Only if we believe that can we hand over our hurt and hold out for a hero.
Hold out for God. (Because our avenger hero will come.)
“O Lord, God of vengeance, O God of vengeance, shine forth!” sang the Psalmist (Psalm 94:1). “God alone is the Avenger,” wrote Martin Luther.
In his article, The Avenger, Tony Reinke explains,
This is not the Hulk-like rage of retaliation. God’s shining vengeance is his level-headed, righteous response to sin. It is his holy sanity. It is a revelation of himself that Christians are called to worship. And while the Avengers are called on to restrain evil forces, they are a faint echo of the One who has, and will again, break the evil, and break it forever.
Yes, massive wrong and unthinkable injustice was perpetrated at that concert Sunday night. And while your mistreatment may pale compared to that evil, still the wrongs you’ve suffered may be very wrong.
When I’ve wrestled with desire to avenge those who’ve mistreated me, these two truths help me commit my cause to God:
- Jesus (even God’s Son Jesus) trusted himself to the one who judges justly. Be like Jesus and remember vengeance is God’s. (1 Peter 2:23)
- All things will be settled rightly by the one who judges justly (Psalm 7:11) God always gets it right. The Avenger will come and right all wrongs.
He will. Not me.
Respond in faith, not hate. (Because this is our Father’s world.)
God either will punish the evil in hell (for those who do not repent), or has punished it on the cross (for those who repent). When we take vengeance into our own hands it’s like saying hell is an inadequate punishment or the cross is an inadequate sacrifice.
When we hold a grudge, we doubt the Judge. The Avenger will come. And when he does, he will “inflict vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus” (2 Thess. 1:8).
Like Marshall Segal posted yesterday,
God has seen, and heard, and felt last night’s terror, and it will not go unpunished. “The Lord hates the wicked and the one who loves violence” (Psalms 11:5). When confronted with violent terror like this, we respond in faith, not hate, because God himself will have his vengeance (Romans 12:19).
God will avenge. No wrong on earth has or will ever escape the perfect justice of our Father and Avenger.
After all, this this is His world.
This is my Father’s world. O let me ne’er forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet.
This is my Father’s world: the battle is not done:
Jesus Who died shall be satisfied,
And earth and Heav’n be one.