“In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace…” Ephesians 1:7
What is my hope when I cry to You for vindication, Lord? When I’m misunderstood, unappreciated, ignored, when my decisions are questioned, when I’m oppressed or hurt, belittled, slandered, short-changed, or wrongly accused am I crying out for vengeance? That’s not the hope of vindication although You may bring that, Lord, where appropriate. I think of the example of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and their hope was to stand firm in the Lord. There was no ill will. And they had a hope to be delivered whether by fire or death. But what was most important? Your glory.
What about Mordecai and Esther? What was Mordecai crying out about while he was in sackcloth? Wasn’t he too crying out for deliverance of the people? What did Esther present to King Ahaseurus? Kill Haman? Or was it the facts that this man Haman had devised a plan to kill all the Jews, of which she was one? Wasn’t she crying out for deliverance for her people?
Then there is Lazarus, who remained at the rich man’s gate. What was he crying out for? Wasn’t he crying for his needs to be met? Wasn’t he just crying for a morsel, a scrap? How’s that for not having high expectations?
And I shouldn’t forget Leah. What about her? What was she crying for? Was she crying that You would pay back her sister and husband for the way they were treating her? Absolutely not. She prayed that You, Lord, would give her sons to bless her husband and remove her reproof. She just wanted to be known as a good wife, I suppose.
But there’s another common thread in all these people. They were looking towards honoring You first. In whatever situation You placed them, in whatever circumstances surrounded them, no matter the treatment they received, their hope was to honor You. I say this and Lazarus keeps popping up in my mind. I mean, I can see how the other examples wanted to honor You, Lord, but how did Lazarus? How could a poor man just staying outside a door begging, honor You? I don’t think anything was mentioned where he spoke of You or prayed or cried out verbally. But maybe his faithfulness was in his attitude. Maybe by his action of continuing at the rich man’s gate, he was saying, “I don’t see it coming, but I’m sure I’m going to be taken care of, and God can use even this man to care for me. I’ll wait ’till my help comes.” I don’t know. It’s just a parable. But what if that’s the way he would have thought had he been a real person?
So I don’t see any ill will toward the oppressors in these people. I see individuals looking to God, waiting on Your timing, sometimes receiving vindication accompanied by vengeance, and having it more than made up to them. I see people who kept their hearts and hands and attitudes clean because they kept their focus on You and not their oppressor. I see people walking out faith in their lives in the middle of tough and terrible times.
And this shows me that if I desire vindication from You, Lord, I had better follow their examples. Because if I desire Your vindication, I better remember how You treated me. Because the truth of the matter is that their was a time in my life when You had to vindicate Yourself before me. There was a time in my life, when I was Your enemy. We all were. Really? Yes, listen. “At one time you were far away from God and were His enemies because of the evil things you did and thought. But now, by means of the physical death of His Son, God has reconciled You, in order to bring you, holy, pure, and faultless, into His presence.” (Colossians 1:21) Paul repeats that thought in Romans 5:10 where he reminds us, “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by death of His Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by His life.” Here’s the basis of the enmity, the thing that makes it so bad, “The wicked through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God: God is not in all his thoughts.” (Psalm 10:4) When You are not in all my thoughts, I wind up like Nebuchadnezzar, or the Rich Man, or Haman, or Rebeccah and Jacob, or Saul. But what if I put You and Your thoughts first?
That leads me to another example of Your vindication, Lord. I’m taken back to Joseph in Genesis 45. Here’s this powerful ruler now, second to the Pharaoh. But what were his beginnings? He used to have dreams, dreams from You. What does that tell me? This boy Joseph had his thoughts on You. And maybe because his thoughts were so excitedly on You, he said things that offended others sometimes. It wasn’t that what he said was offensive in itself, but it was offensive to their thoughts, their dreams, their ideas maybe because their thoughts and dreams and ideas were their own, and not Yours. So his brothers are jealous of him because of his dad’s special love for him, and because of the things he says, and I suppose just because he’s Joseph, and they strip him and throw him in a pit. Probably for the first time in his life, he must cry out. But his brothers don’t deliver him. I wonder who he continued to cry out to?
He’s sold as a slave by his own brothers which is better than being killed by your own brothers. He becomes a servant for Potiphar where he is faithful but then accused by Potiphar’s wife. Joseph is thrown into jail. Eventually he interprets dreams for two of the king’s workers who have been imprisoned. He asks them to remember him when the time comes as he has been unjustly imprisoned. The remembering is a long time coming but at just the right time, the King needs a dream interpreted. Joseph is fetched from the prison and interprets the dream wisely. Joseph’s wise decisions bring him to hold second place to Pharaoh.
In this elevated position, the famine approaches and so do Joseph’s brothers, asking for help. Joseph sees his brothers before him. He has the power to revenge what they have done. He has the power to punish. Does he? And though he had the power, he doesn’t use it. He rakes them over some minor coals and gives them time to think and repent, but this is his reaction. “Come near me. I am Joseph your brother, whom you sold into Egypt. Dont’ be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep many survivors alive for you. So it wasn’t you who sent me here, but God. He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt. “ And he told them more and to send the message on to his father. And then guess what he did? He kissed all his brothers and wept over them. Why? Why did he treat them like this?
Maybe it was because he had continually kept his eyes and his thoughts on You, God, instead of on himself. He continually kept his hands and heart clean before You and before others. Why? Because he was constantly thinking about Your glory. You had forgiven and redeemed him. He offered that same forgiveness and redemption to others, including his persecutors, which he had plenty of. He could have payed them back but instead he “payed them forward.” He didn’t just forgive, he demonstrated the depth of his forgiveness by his love and provision for them beyond anything they deserved. How’s that for following God’s example. How about me, can I follow that example?
There’s a lot of hurt in my life right now. And I can’t change it on my own. I have to wait on You, Lord, to change it. But in the mean time, I want to have clean hands, a clean heart, and a clean attitude. Sometimes I just don’t understand why people choose to act the way they do, but then I do, because I act that way sometimes too. It’s what happens when we value our own thoughts and feeling over You. But I want to value You above everything. And I really want them to value You that way too. Lord, forgiving and redeeming don’t come naturally to me, but I know what it feels like because You have forgiven and redeemed me. So I know what it looks like and how it acts and thinks. But sometimes, I still don’t know how to translate it into my own life. So, I’m going to have to do like Joseph. I’m just going to have to wait until You bring that right time and bring it all together. I’m just going to have to walk in faith, honoring You in every situation until You bring that time to pass. And I won’t take my thoughts off of You. Because before Joseph there was You, Jesus. Your plan was already a done deal. And You’ve allowed me by trust to enter into that plan, so my deliverance, just like Joseph’s; Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego’s; Lazarus’; Mordecai and Esther’s; and Leah’s is a done deal. And I want to be part of that deal for others.