Thursday, December 11, 2014
Vengenance and Mercy
Admittedly, we tend to associate vengeance with hatred and cruelty. Those who seek revenge are filled with inextinguishable and unreasonable anger. Scripture uses the term neqama, often translated as “vengeance,” with a different meaning. You can see this in Psalm 94. After referring to the Lord as “the God of vengeance” in verse 1, the psalmist calls him “judge of the earth,” asking him to “give the proud what they deserve” (94:2). These boastful ones “crush” and “hurt” God’s people (94:5). “They kill widows and foreigners and murder orphans,” while claiming that God doesn’t care (94:6-7). Thus, the vengeance of God is not some irrational burst of divine anger, but rather the exercise of divine justice. God gives sinners what their sin deserves. So, the last verse of Psalm 94 observes: “God will turn the sins of evil people back on them.” God’s vengeance is, therefore, a righteous expression of his justice.Too often, I think, we forget justice. We think grace so pervasive we forget justice. And yet, even the grace we receive comes at the price of a life - just not ours - thankfully.
Whenever we speak of divine justice or vengeance, it’s important to remember God’s mercy. Yes, he does judge us in our sin. But because God is “rich in mercy,” his “mercy triumphs over judgment” (Eph. 2:4; James 2:13, ESV). Thus the triune God did not dismiss our sin as no big deal, but instead bore our sin on the cross in the Son. Take away God’s justice or vengeance, and the cross becomes unnecessary.
And when we forget justice, what is wrong, somehow becomes right. When grace is so pervasive that we are not allowed to declare judgement in any fashion on anyone, then suddenly there simply is no wrong. e do not and cannot earn grace, but we must appropriate it by confession. If we rely on grace so heavily that we no longer can recognize our sin, then we no longer actually rely upon it and it escapes us.
I shudder to think of God's justice when we are incapable of even recognizing sin.
grace judgement sin