“Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and He will deliver us. On Him we have set our hope that He will deliver us again.” 2 Corinthians 1:9,10
Here’s a necessary thought, “Sometimes vindication puts your heart to a test from God.” (Bo Barredo) It’s one thing to be mistreated and misjudged but it’s a whole other thing to act wrongly in return. Sometimes we don’t know how we’ll respond until we’re placed in a really tough situation. I mean, it’s one thing to love your neighbor by bringing them cookies, but it’s a whole other thing to pray blessing on someone who is raining down pain on you. And here’s what comes before vinidication–a lot of pain and suffering. But You, Lord, are telling me that You position this suffering in my life to make me rely not on myself but on You, the One who raises the dead.
I can’t help but think of David. Here he was, the next anointed king. He was serving the present king and playing music for him, probably enjoying the worship himself, when out of nowhere a spear is thrown at him from the one he is offering peace and comfort to. Time and time again, for every act of appropriate service, for every act of worship in You, Saul responds with murderous intent to the point that David must run for his life. He runs and hides and twice has the opportunity to kill Saul but refuses to do so. For eight years David was pursued by Saul. That’s a long time.
That’s a long time to have time to become bitter at Saul. But David wasn’t bitter. I know he kept asking Saul, “Why? What have I done to you? I’ve shown you only love and loyal service. Why? Before God, why?” I wonder if this eight year period of being pursued and misunderstood and undervalued by his king led to his son Solomon penning the words of Proverbs 24 after listening to his dad recount the story. “My son, fear the LORD and the king, and do not join with those who do otherwise…” Through everything, David feared You first Lord, and he honored Your king even when that king wasn’t honorable by our standards.
And what was his response when vindication came? When he heard the news that Saul and Jonathan were dead, how did he respond? Well, this Amalekite, comes to David in Ziklag in torn clothes with dirt on his head carrying Saul’s crown and armlet to pay homage before him and tell him the news of Saul and Jonathan. Here’s his report. “By chance I happened to be on Mount Gilboa, and there was Saul leaning on his spear, and behold, the chariots and the horsemen were close upon him…And he said to me, ‘Stand beside me and kill me, for anguish has seized me, and yet my life still lingers.’ So I stood beside him and killed him, because I was sure that he could not live after he had fallen…” Now, even though it is most likely from Biblical evidence that Saul fell on his own sword to end his life, and this man is probably thinking he will gain favor with David by his story, look at David’s response. “Then David took hold of his clothes and tore them, and so did all the men who were with him. And they mourned and wept and fasted until evening for Saul and for Jonathan his son and for the people of the Lord and for the house of Israel, because they had fallen by the sword.” There was sorrow over the loss of his tormentor. And the Amalekite was slain for not having had fear of slaying God’s anointed one.
Here are God’s instructions to me in Proverbs 24:17-18, “Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles, lest the Lord see it and be displeased, and turn away his anger from him.” Lord, You take what men had twisted and set it straight. Man had twisted Your word to say to love our neighbors and hate our enemies. But You reminded us that Your way, what You say, is to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”
Why must I love my enemies while I wait for Your vindication? Why do such a hard thing? Because this is Your way of making me complete and perfect in You. This is Your way of making me like You, of building Your character in me. I learn to love others when they don’t love me because that’s what You did to me. I learn to give good things to my enemies because I was Your enemy once and You gave good things to me. See, this is Your desire, in Your own words, “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” You have high standards for me. You have Your standards for me. And because You dwell in me by the power of Your Holy Spirit in Jesus Christ, You give me the power to be daily perfected in You, experience after tough experience.
Your Gospel is more than words. It’s a practical, and power-filled guide to life. Luke reiterates Your words in chapter 6. “But I say to you who hear, ‘Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish others would do to you, do so to them.” Tough stuff demands tough training.
If You truly are my Master, Lord, than why would I expect anything less than what You had to go through? Didn’t you do all of this for me? Why? Was it for Your own good or mine? You loved me when I was Your enemy. You did good to me when I hated You. You blessed me when I wasn’t even thinking about Your way at all and even when I was going against You. You prayed for me even though I mistreated Your name, even though I misunderstood You, even though I persecuted You beneath my sins. I struck You on the cheek along with every other sinner who has or will ever live. You turned the other cheek and took more. I took Your robe. You let me. And all along You wanted my love. So what did You give me? You gave me Your love, despite myself.
Despite myself, when I saw what I had done, when You gave me eyes to see, when I turned to You in repentence and called out for Your saving grace, You ran to me. I mean, You were already there, You’ve been running to me since before creation, only I was too blind to see. And now, now that I have You in me, I can run like that toward those who mistreat and misunderstand and persecute me. Because maybe, by Your grace, they’ll become my brother or my sister instead of my enemy. Maybe if I let You perfect Yourself in me, I can be a vessel of redemption and do unto others as I would have done unto me. No, it’s not what I would have done onto me, it’s that I know what was done and what is continually being done unto me in You, Lord. That’s what I want to spread. That’s what David spread. That’s what You call us to spread.
Your vindication is coming. But I won’t gloat over the demise of my enemy. I may not understand why they choose to do or act the way they do, and that’s a good thing. Any way that is not Your way ought to seem foreign to me. But guide me to respond in love continually just as You responded to me. May my eyes continually remain fixed on You and the joy set before me. And may they respond to that joy and find it for themselves.