“To the contrary, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.'” Romans 12:19
I’m going to be a little contrary this morning. The other day, someone taught me how I could start a story from the end, so today, our story is starting from the second verse instead of the first. But this second verse is what You require as my correct response. Yes, this is my correct response to those I’m crying out for vindication from. This is my correct response to those who have misunderstood me, unappreciated me, ignored me, questioned my decisions, oppressed or hurt me, belittled me, slandered me, short-changed me, or wrongly accused me. My retribution for them is to return kindness. How is that for vindication?
Well, no matter how I feel about it, that’s my part. Because this God who is the only one who can give righteous vindication, and this God who brings vindication in His right timing, is also the only One who has the right to pay vengeance upon anyone. Paul warned us, “Beloved, NEVER avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.” (Romans 12:19-bold face my own) So there’s the proceeding verse. Paul is quoting Your words from Deuteronomy 32:35, “Vengeance is Mine, and recompense, for the time when their foot shall slip; for the day of their calamity is at hand, and their doom comes swiftly.” This is Your part God, not mine.
Why? Why can You do this and not me? Maybe it’s back in Moses’ words in Deuteronomy 32. See, this was part of a song about You, Lord, before all the people. I think he states why You can judge rightly and we can’t right from the start. “The Rock, His work is perfect, for all His ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is He…Is He not your Father, Who created you, Who made you and established you?” And who am I? Well, I’m a blemished, crooked, and twisted person who has been declared righteous by the Just One. I have the privilege of receiving vindication but never the right of delivering vengeance.
But You, Lord, have the right and power to deliver both. And they are two different things. Here’s what man’s vengeance is according to Noah Webster, “the affliction of pain on another, in return for an injury or offence.” Often times it comes out in the form of revenge. But Your vengeance, Lord, is never tainted by injustice, and whereas ours sometimes stems from this following aspect, Yours always does. Listen to Noah Webster again, “When such infliction proceeds from a mere love of justice, and the necessity of punishing offenders for the support of the laws, it is vengeance, and it is warrantable and just. In this case, vengeance is a just retribution, recompense or punishment. ” On the other hand, vindication is the act of You, Lord, “defending, justifying, supporting or maintaining me as true or correct, against denial, censure or objections.” Another way of looking at it is that vengeance is “God’s justice for the ‘victimizer’,” (Binay) while vindication is “God’s justice for the ‘victim.'” (Cayetano and Trillanes) So, let me look at an example in Your Word.
During the reign of King Ahasuerus, You saw fit for a young Jewish woman to be taken as his wife. This young woman, Esther, had an uncle named Mordecai. Not only was she taken as the king’s wife, because of her attitude and whole demeanor, she won grace and favor in the sight of others and especially in his eyes. That’s a good start. But Mordecai won an enemy. Another official, Haman, who expected people to bow before him, was offended that this Jew, Mordecai, would not bow. So Haman went to the King saying that these Jews were disrespecting the king. So the king allowed him to pass a law calling the citizens to annihilate all the Jews on a particular day. Later, as if that wasn’t enough, Haman so detested Mordecai that he began building a gallows in order to hang him. Well, Mordecai found out about the edict. What could he do?
Mordecai dressed in sack cloth, weeping. He stood at the king’s gate where Esther’s servants saw him and told her. He called for Esther to take a stand. Esther explained that the only way to approach the king was to be invited. And if she went to him without being invited, unless he held out his golden scepter that she might live, she would be put to death. Well, Mordecai reminded her that the edict was for her also and all her people would perish if she didn’t try. “Who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” I like her reasoning after that. “Go, gather all the Jews and have them fast and pray for three days and nights. I’ll go. And if I die, I die.” Kind of sounds like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.
So Esther prepared. On the third day she appeared before the king. He raised the golden scepter. He offers to meet her request up to half the kingdom. What does she ask for? “Will you, King, and Haman come to a feast I have prepared for you?” Sot they do, and quickly at that. At this feast the King again offers Esther up to half the kingdom. What does she ask for? “Will you, King, and Haman come again to the feast I will prepare for you tomorrow? And then I will ask my request as you wish.” And it was agreed upon.
In the meantime, all this feasting with the king is puffing Haman up in greater pride. He’s heading home and bragging to his family and friends. He’s getting even more enfuriated at Mordecai because Mordecai is still honoring his God and not bowing to him. In all this pride and hate, this is where the gallows starts to be built.
Well, while Haman is plotting disaster on Mordecai and his people, the king can’t sleep. He wakes up and calls for his book of memorable deeds. As he looks through, he sees that Mordecai saved him from an assassination attempt once and that he had never been rewarded. What are the chances that this is the night he would wake up and look at that? Now that’s a God chance! That’s called vindication from You at the right time!
Now here’s the twister. Haman also “happened” to come to the court at this time. Haman wanted to discuss hanging Mordecai. So the king calls Haman to him. He asks Haman, “What should be done to the man whom the king delights to honor?” Haman, thinking the king was speaking of him, offers his delight, “Put the king’s own royal robes upon him, and place him upon the king’s own royal horse, and put a royal crown upon his head. Not only that, let the robes and horse be handed over to one of the king’s most noble officials. Let him be the one to dress the man, and lead him on the horse through the city, declaring: ‘Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delights to honor.'” Imagine Haman’s horror when the king told him, “Go get Mordecai and do that to him!”
Keep watching this progression. Haman hardly has time to go home and pout when the king’s eunuchs come to bring him to Esther’s feast. At the feast, the king offers Esther her request up to half the kingdom. This time she gives her request. What is it? Life for herself and her people. She tells of Haman’s plot, of the law he has passed that stands against her. The King asks, “Who has done this?” “Haman!” Haman was terrified. The king was so mad he walked into the garden. On returning, Haman was pleading at the couch before Esther. The king was offended by his assault on the queen. I’m pretty sure no one had a right to be close to her other than him. Now watch the progression.
One of the attendants offers a solution. “Haman’s been working on a gallows at his house. He’s been building it for Mordecai, the one who saved you. “ “And the king said, ‘Hang him on that.’ So they hanged Haman on the gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai. Then the wrath of the king abated.” Well, that’s not the end of the story. I think that’s the end of God’s vengeance on Haman. But more vindication was coming.
See, the law to kill the Jews was a law. And you couldn’t unwrite a law. But there was something just that could be done. The king could write another law, more powerful than the last. So he made a new edict, and he equipped all the Jews with weapons and the right to annihilate anyone who tried to harm them on that day and to plunder their goods. And there was feasting and gladness amongst the Jews. And you know what else? God was glorified. I never realized this before but “many from the peoples of the country declared themselves Jews, for fear of the Jews had fallen on them.” Well, I hope it was more than fear of the Jews, and that it was actually fear of You, Lord.
Now, that’s not just a good story. It’s a story that teaches me things I need to know and remember and live by. You are my Deliverer, so I may come before You always to ask for deliverance, to ask for vindication. That’s what Mordecai did. That’s what Esther did. They cried out for help for themselves and their people. They weren’t angry, they were distraught and helpless. They declared the facts. They were not the ones plotting their victimizer’s hurt. Neither should I.
I’m sure there is not one of us who doesn’t need to remember this. It’s so natural to want to inflict pain on those who have inflicted pain on us. But it’s not spiritual, it’s carnal. God, You said it’s Your job to determine what is just, not mine. And I believe You are right. That means it’s not always easy to submit to You, especially when the pain is great. I hear of killings in Kenya. People are being killed simply because they are Christian. What will the response of their families be? Will they seek vengeance or vindication? What about me? Will I be willing, no matter what or who it costs me, to allow You to be God over every circumstance in my life? Will I allow You to be the One to vindicate me in Your time and Your way? Or will I be like Haman, calling it vindication but practicing my own vengeance? Vengeance, which never belonged to me in the first place.
Lord, I would rather pray for deliverance and that You would change the heart of my oppressors. I would rather see them become my brothers and sisters in Christ than to see them destroyed. Yes, I want their oppression to stop, but I don’t ever want to become an oppressor myself. The problem is, I can’t naturally act like this on my own. I need You so desperately. I need to cling to Your Word no matter how I feel. I need You to teach me how to feed them and how to give them the drink they need. Maybe it’s as simple as a hug, or a kind word, or even a prayer when they don’t know I’m praying. Maybe it’s as simple as being silent, or just smiling, or just visiting. Whatever it is, Lord, show me. I’m glad for Your vindication, Lord, but I’m sad that sometimes it must be accompanied by Your vengeance. I’m not sad by Your judgment, but I am sad for the one who wouldn’t turn to You.