09 April 2020

Vengeance Is Mine?

My Bible journeys with the prophet Jeremiah continue to reveal some critical truths I need for this season of life.  You may wonder, "Mike, why Jeremiah of all books?  Isn't that a little depressing for when we're cooped up at home these days?"  I hear you...but I am ever-so-glad that I'm on this path, and I'm learning some insights for my life that might apply in yours, as well.

A bit of background: Jeremiah was into the priestly line of Aaron in the little town of Anathoth, a few miles north of Jerusalem, where he served God faithfully. Later, God called Jeremiah to give His people a message. “Return your hearts to Me – repent of your wickedness – for judgment is coming!” 

Sadly, the people of Israel and Judah didn’t listen and continued on in rebellion, worshiping idols and following their own evil desires.   As you can imagine, when this humble prophet came to deliver God’s warning, the people didn’t like it! 

It’s not fun when someone points out the sin in your life, and I tend to get a bit defensive! But instead of defensiveness, the people went even further. In Jeremiah 11:18-23 NLT, we read this:  

“Then the LORD told me about the plots my enemies were making against me. I was like a lamb being led to the slaughter. I had no idea that they were planning to kill me! “Let’s destroy this man and all his words,” they said. “Let’s cut him down, so his name will be forgotten forever.”  O LORD of Heaven’s Armies, you make righteous judgments, and you examine the deepest thoughts and secrets. Let me see your vengeance against them, for I have committed my cause to you. This is what the LORD says about the men of Anathoth who wanted me dead. They had said, “We will kill you if you do not stop prophesying in the LORD’s name.”  So this is what the LORD of Heaven’s Armies says about them: “I will punish them! Their young men will die in battle, and their boys and girls will starve to death.  Not one of these plotters from Anathoth will survive, for I will bring disaster upon them when their time of punishment comes.”   

People in Jeremiah’s own hometown plotted to kill him, to silence the messenger, as if that would silence God! But I notice several truths I can apply to my life here...   

First, have you ever been naïve and fail to see what’s clearly ahead? I think we’ve all been here before! God revealed to a clueless Jeremiah that these men were out to get him. That’s God’s providential hand at work in our lives!  When I trust Him for guidance, He never fails me!   

Second, and this was the big lesson for me... I realize that when someone is out to get me, I tend to want God to “throw the book” at them!  It’s a natural response, and Jeremiah had it, as well. I think to myself, “Vengeance is Yours, Lord... so go get ‘em!” That’s when my heart is revealed, how equally cruel I can be in return.    

Jesus reminds me, “Mike, do not seek evil for evil; do not bear a grudge or resent those who have mistreated you. Do not seek revenge or look for a chance to retaliate.  But forgive... go out of your way to help those who do evil against you. Such an attitude is the only way to ever reach them for the Kingdom of Heaven!" (Matt. 5:38-48).   

Finally, I’m encouraged by God’s response to this desire for vengeance, vs. 23: “For I will bring disaster upon them when their time of punishment comes.” His timing is always perfect, not mine! When I get impatient in waiting for something good to come, I can have confidence that, yes, evil will be judged, but that I’m in this for the long haul – I have a life after this one with Jesus where all things will be made new again! That’s what the cross and resurrection remind us of, as well.   

Are you anxious or irritated that God isn’t moving fast enough? (Especially now as we are all told to stay at home!) Are your plans not coming together as you’d hoped? Maybe you have people who are “out to get you!” In all these things, we can have utmost confidence in God’s timing and purpose. Evil will not prevail. Sickness will not prevail. God will! Be encouraged with that today!   

Lord, help us this morning remember that You are Sovereign and in control of everything, even when it looks like chaos out there! Help me to resist the temptation to lash out at others and instead demonstrate your love. And above all, help me to trust in Your timing and that You will renew all things. Guide me today. I love You, Lord...in Jesus’ name, amen!    

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