Posts Tagged ‘Vengeance’

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The Love, justice and grace of God © Image created by Ross Cochrane

Psalm 5:9-12 – DO I REALLY WANT JUSTICE? (An interview with King David)

ME: David says in Psalm 5:9,10 (NLT) “My enemies cannot speak a truthful word. Their deepest desire is to destroy others. O God, declare them guilty. Let them be caught in their own traps. Drive them away because of their many sins, for they have rebelled against You” (Psalm 5:10 NLT).

If I had a chance to question King David on these things, I would probably ask…

AVENGE MY ENEMIES?

ME: Should I pray for Justice on the earth; vengeance from God on those who lie about me?  Yet you, David, pray for exactly that. Isn’t this a sinful prayer?

DAVID: There is always a balance of God’s Love and Justice in the Scriptures and in this case, I am asking for Justice. Those who practice deceit inevitably fall into their own traps and I pray that they will do so. After all, such sin is rebellion against God as their King not just me as their king.

Psalm 33:5 (NLT) says “He loves whatever is just and good; the unfailing love of the Lord fills the earth.” Notice, God is a God of Love, … and He loves Justice.

LOVE MY ENEMIES?

ME: But how does this line up with the words of Jesus, the Messiah, your descendant?

In Matthew 5:38-48 (NLT) Jesus gives a different perspective on how we are to regard enemies. He says “You have heard the law that says the punishment must match the injury: ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also. If you are sued in court and your shirt is taken from you, give your coat, too. If a soldier demands that you carry his gear for a mile, carry it two miles. Give to those who ask, and don’t turn away from those who want to borrow.” 

“You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For He gives His sunlight to both the evil and the good, and He sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.”

LOVE AND HATE 

DAVID: You say that what Jesus says is a totally different perspective, but is it? Look closely. I notice that there is a recognition that followers of Christ do have enemies. The choices we make reflect the Father’s attitude toward enemies. He also has enemies. In Psalm 5:5 (NLT), I have written part of God’s Word, saying “… for You hate all who do evil. 

Yes, let’s admit it. God hates those who do evil, but strangely provides ways for repentance for them anyway. I know this first hand. I know personally God’s justice and grace in action.

So just as I have used the word Hate in a judicial sense in my 5th Psalm, the Love Jesus speaks of is obviously given as an example of what you can actively do in order to live as a follower of Christ. Love is certainly not an emotional response to evil people. It is something you do despite your feelings about sin. Love your enemy in the sense of doing good to them, not in the sense of condoning their evil ways.

Fools do what their enemies want, and do it begrudgingly and under their authority, but free people are those who exercise purity by choice, under the authority of God, doing what we are created for and going the second mile. It provides an example of the love of God at work, which may bring our enemies to repentance. I wanted my son Absalom to come to repentance but it didn’t happen.

UNPRETENTIOUS LOVE AND HATE 

ME: But Romans 12:9ff (NLT) makes it very clear. It says, “Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good…. Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. … Live in harmony with each other. … Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.

DAVID: Again, I notice in this verse that followers of Christ don’t just pretend to love others and yet they still hate what is wrong. We do not relinquish our essential ethical stance on evil in the world for the sake of loving others. They go hand in hand.

Love, justice and grace animation © Image and Animation created by Ross Cochrane

JUSTICE AND EVIL

ME: Thanks David. In Psalm 5, I am starting to see that you do not pray sinfully or from a human perspective although I can tell you that some commentators I have read have concluded this. It is not that easy to pass over what you are saying about your enemies. I love the fact that you are being honest before God but you also acknowledge that it is only God who can take care of justice. Only He is able to do this.

This is consistent with Romans 12:17-21 (NLT) which says, “Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the Lord. Instead, “If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads.” Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.” 

DAVID: I can see that followers of Christ recognise that there is evil in the world, but choose to conquer it, not copy it, by doing good.

ME: Yes and Galatians 6:7-9 (NLT) says, “Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant. Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit. So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.” 

Jesus didn’t wipe out the Sanhedrin when He was so unjustly treated. He didn’t strike back. Evil people will have their day in God’s courtroom or even experience God’s discipline while they are on earth in all kinds of ways in order to bring them to repentance and faith in Christ.

THE HEART AND HATE

DAVID: I notice that many people want to quote me in Psalm 139:23 (NLT) which says, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends You, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.”

But the verse I wrote before this beautiful verse speaks about what I hate.  Few people want to quote my heart in Psalm 139:21-22 (NLT). It says, Lord, shouldn’t I hate those who hate You? Shouldn’t I despise those who oppose You? Yes, I hate them with total hatred, for Your enemies are my enemies.” 

If you remember, I already said in Psalm 5 that God hates them too. I am only agreeing with God.

I would hope that those who follow Christ recognise evil for what it is, recognise enemies for who they are, and Satan for who He is. We choose to hate what is wrong and hold tightly to what is good. We hate what God hates and love what God loves.

CURSING AND BLESSING

God promised Abraham that He would bless those who blessed Israel and curse those who cursed them (Genesis 12:1-3). Let’s not water it down. God has a judicial hatred of sin and those who sin. We are not called to be neutral but to stand for what is right and most importantly live as people who do what is right.

With regards to those who exclude God from their lives, my Psalm calls them rebellious (Psalm 5:10), not only against God but also His anointed king.

ME: Well, Followers of Christ pray the Lord’s prayer, that His kingdom will come on earth as it is in heaven. That will involve the destruction of sin, rebellion and wickedness of all kinds, but that’s in the hands of a just and loving God.

DAVID: Are you reviled by God who hates sin and sinful people?

ME: In my culture I find the concepts difficult. Nevertheless, the invitation of the Bible is for me to regard sin through the eyes of God.

REDEMPTIVE POTENTIAL

The injunctive we have from God as believers is that we see people from the standpoint of the Cross. We see their redemptive potential. We co-operate with God, who sees His enemies as those with a capacity to repent, just as you, David, repented. We co-operate with God who loves His enemies in the sense that He offers them a way to be forgiven, not that He loves them for their defiled lifestyle.

DAVID: I know firsthand what forgiveness from God is. And despite Absalom’s attempt to overthrow me, I sought to show mercy. I didn’t want to see him die in battle.

In Psalm 5:11 (NLT), I wrote But let all who take refuge in You rejoice; let them sing joyful praises forever. Spread Your protection over them, that all who love Your Name may be filled with joy.

Don’t misunderstand me. I am not joyful about people lying about me or happy about people trying to murder me. I’m not condoning their sin by ignoring it or trying to see their point of view. I am joyful because I feel safe in the refuge of the Rock of Ages. I recognised that some of those who had a genuine relationship with God were misled and even for them I ask for God to protect them and give them joy.

A SHIELD OF LOVE 

“For You bless the Godly, O Lord; You surround them with Your shield of love” (Psalm 5:12 NLT).

ME: What I get from your Psalm is that when I am dislocated from a relationship with God, I am exposed to attack from the circumstances of life. The invitation of Psalm 5 is to take cover by finding security through genuine trust in God.

DAVID: Yes, the shield I refer to in my Psalm is a large shield which covers the whole body. God’s love is such a shield. The only thing my enemies can see is God’s love for me. This shield of love absorbs all that my enemy’s hate can throw against me.

ME: Thankyou David. The invitation of Psalm 5 surely leads me to stand for the Truth, to see evil for what it is, to leave justice to God and to show an active love for my enemiesThis willingness to conquer evil with good provides an example which may bring my enemies to repentance as they see the active nature of the love of God. 

Pastor Ross

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Bleed for Greed © by Ross Cochrane

Genesis 34:25-31 – BLEED FOR GREED (Part 2)

  1. DECEPTION WITHOUT CONSCIENCE

No doubt every male is a little surprised by the requirements of the deal Shechem and Hamor propose, but then again the advantages are lucrative? “… if we do this, all their livestock and possessions will eventually be ours. Come, let’s agree to their terms and let them settle here among us.” 

Their greed gets the better of them and “So all the men in the town council agreed with Hamor and Shechem, and every male in the town was circumcised” (Genesis 34:21-24 NLT). As if circumcision, devoid of meaning, isn’t bad enough,…then comes the horror in the aftermath of their decision …

  1. VENGEANCE WITHOUT COUNSEL

“… three days later, when their wounds were still sore, two of Jacob’s sons, Simeon and Levi, who were Dinah’s full brothers, took their swords and entered the town without opposition. Then they slaughtered every male there, including Hamor and his son Shechem. They killed them with their swords, then took Dinah from Shechem’s house and returned to their camp” (Genesis 34:25-26 NLT). This is not unlike the horrors of ISIS.

The sons of Jacob butcher every male in the town! Circumcision was used as a means for murder. Innocent men are massacred, deceived by promises of riches and by the misuse of a holy Covenant ritual. Blasphemy heaped upon murder and lawlessness. This is not justice, only vengeance!

Dinah has other brothers; Reuben, Judah, Issachar and Zebulun but they do not participate in the massacre. Perhaps Simeon and Levi thought that if they killed only Shechem, who had raped their sister, Dinah, it would bring the whole town upon them in retaliation. And so since Shechem, despite his crime, was somehow still the respected leader of the community, house by house, Levi and Simeon commit their atrocity of murdering every unsuspecting male. Although Simeon and Levi were the main instigators perhaps their servants joined in the bloodbath under their authority.

Did the writer of Proverbs 3:29 (NLT) have these events in mind when he wrote many years later, “Don’t plot harm against your neighbor, for those who live nearby trust you.” 

It seems significant to me that years later, the tribe of Levi would become the priestly tribe of Israel and they would look back at their ancestor as a murderer of innocent people. Perhaps God used this terrible event to remind the priestly tribe of Levi of their need to involve God in matters of justice, not abuse the ritual symbols.

  1. PLUNDER WITHOUT CONSTRAINT

But the train of lawlessness has not run it’s appalling course because…

“Meanwhile, the rest of Jacob’s sons arrived. Finding the men slaughtered, they plundered the town because their sister had been defiled there. 

They seized all the flocks and herds and donkeys—everything they could lay their hands on, both inside the town and outside in the fields. 

They looted all their wealth and plundered their houses. They also took all their little children and wives and led them away as captives” (Genesis 34:27-29 NLT).

Ruthless! All the brothers join in! First murder, now pillage and enslavement! Why? “Because their sister had been defiled there” is their excuse, but there is no measure of justice in Levi and Simeon’s deceptive barbarous revenge, nor is there in the brothers’ additional atrocities of robbery and slavery. And still Jacob is nowhere to be seen!

Paul would one day write in Romans 12:17 (NLT) “Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable.” Brutally murdering all the males in the town, kidnapping women and children as slaves! There is nothing honorable here.

So far in this Chapter of Shame, it seems lawlessness prevails, from rape without consequences, to deception without conscience, to blasphemy without covenant reverence, to vengeance without counsel, to murder without cause, to plunder without constraint, and then to slavery without compassion. A train-wreck of sin upon sin.

  1. INEPTITUDE WITHOUT CONTRITION

It is at this point that Jacob finally speaks up. Where have you been?

“Afterward Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, “You have ruined me! You’ve made me stink among all the people of this land—among all the Canaanites and Perizzites. We are so few that they will join forces and crush us. I will be ruined, and my entire household will be wiped out!” (Genesis 34:30 NLT).

He is not pleased. But notice, Jacob is not repentant for his absolute lack of leadership. He is not remorseful for not seeking to retrieve Dinah when she was raped and kidnapped. He was not apologetic for his silence concerning justice for Shechem’s crime, He is not regretful of not gathering his sons around the altar he had built to seek to find God’s way of dealing with this terrible situation when he first heard of it. And now he’s not even concerned that his sons have just committed a crime against humanity, an atrocious violation of justice. He’s only concerned about his reputation! Unbelievable! He does stink!

  1. JUDGMENTS WITHOUT THE CROSS

Then a bell tolls loud enough to hurt Jacob’s ears and echoes to him from the very beginning as his sons retort angrily,

“But why should we let him treat our sister like a prostitute?” (Genesis 34:31 NLT).

This question burns on the page at the end of the chapter. Why should we allow this to happen? This is a piercing question which needed asking at the beginning of this chapter immersed in morally flawed judgments.

Shechem does deserve the discipline of justice served upon him for his rape of their sister. But equally, Simeon and Levi deserve justice served upon them for their revenge rampage. Their brothers deserve justice served upon them for their looting and slavery of women and children.

But perhaps most of all Jacob needs justice served upon him for his lack of any kind of spiritual direction. He needs justice served upon him for not seeking to save his daughter after she was so brutally abused. He needs justice served on him for his lack of parenting and leadership guidance to his sons just as much as Hamor does for his lack of discipline of his son, Shechem. Both fathers bear the results of inaction and lack of leadership. The man of faith was no better than the pagan.

I am reminded that despite the atrocities done in His Name, that God is just. But look carefully because His justice was satisfied at the Cross when Jesus was judged and died for my sin. He took my shame and sin and I received His grace. The disgraceful and unjust crucifixion of Christ was used by God to bring me His forgiveness. He died for our sins.

I don’t know the specifics of what happened after this terrible chapter. Did Jacob run to the altar and ask for forgiveness because, more than ever, he and his sons need it now? All I know is that God has the only means of dealing justly with my sin.

This section of Genesis 34 screams of my need to get involved when moral leadership is required long before things spiral out of control and end with unimaginable regrets. It invites me to bring justice to bear on my circumstances but only by seeing my circumstances through the eyes of the Cross, where God’s justice collides with His love. Only through the eyes of the Cross can justice be administered fairly and it is the only justice that gives me an opportunity still to experience God’s mercy and grace.

Lord, despite my propensity to take things into my own hands, help me to do what is right at the right time when I am faced with the moral dilemmas of life. Micah 6:8 says “He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” What an incredible balance that is.

Pastor Ross

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Bleed for Greed © by Ross Cochrane

Genesis 34:18-24 – BLEED FOR GREED (Part 1)

  1. ASCENDANCE OF VENGEANCE

Jacob’s sons make a deal with the Shechem and his father Hamor. “If you and all the males in your city are willing to be circumcised, then we will give you our daughters, and we’ll take your daughters for ourselves,” they say, “We will live among you and become one people.” They have no intention of doing this.But if you don’t agree to be circumcised, we will take her (Dinah, their sister, who has been raped and kidnapped) and be on our way.” (Genesis 34:16 NLT). Concealing their anger deceitfully from Shechem, they are now less concerned about Dinah’s welfare or even with justice, than with vengeance.

Oblivious to the deceit and willing to undergo a little pain to kill three birds with one stone (peaceful relations, trade and intermarriage), “Hamor and his son Shechem agreed to their proposal” (Genesis 34:18 NLT). Would Jacob approve of this plan? Where is he in all this?

Shechem wastes no time in acting on this request, “for he wanted Jacob’s daughter desperately. Shechem was a highly respected member of his family,  and he went with his father, Hamor, to present this proposal to the leaders at the town gate” (Genesis 34:19-20 NLT). 

It is likely that Shechem is an autocratic leader, used to getting his own way, and no-one is likely to go against his desires, nevertheless, the formality is followed. They put forward their proposal in the business center and gathering place – the city gate.

“These men are our friends,” they say. “Let’s invite them to live here among us and trade freely …” (Genesis 34:21 NLT). 

  1. BLEED FOR GREED

Trade. Shechem and Hamor present the terms of the deal they have made with Jacob to the business leaders. What remains unsaid and perhaps is well known is that Shechem is keeping Dinah, Jacob’s young daughter at his house and that this deal came about because he raped her and now wants a child marriage with her.

“… Look, the land is large enough to hold them. We can take their daughters as wives and let them marry ours … they will consider staying here and becoming one people with us only if all of our men are circumcised, just as they are.” No doubt every male is a little surprised by the requirements of the deal but then again the advantages are lucrative? “… if we do this, all their livestock and possessions will eventually be ours. Come, let’s agree to their terms and let them settle here among us.” 

Their greed gets the better of them and “So all the men in the town council agreed with Hamor and Shechem, and every male in the town was circumcised” (Genesis 34:21-24 NLT).

Shechem wants to get this over and done with and circumcision is a small price to pay. Short term pain for long term gain. Bleed for greed. They all agree.

Using this religious veneer, what follows is a shocking example of terrorism which finds expression simply because moral depravity, greed, anger, deception and lawlessness are given free rein in a community, without any reference to God. Nothing has changed (see the next post).

This section of Genesis 34 reminds me that with God’s help I can choose not to allow greed to blind me and divert my attention from real issues of justice and faith. Jesus says, “Beware! Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own” (Luke 12:15 NLT).

Pastor Ross

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Unbelievable! © Ross Cochrane

Genesis 34:14-16 – WHY? UNBELIEVABLE! (Part 4)

Shechem has raped Dinah, Jacob’s daughter. He now wants to marry her as a child bride and has kept her at his house. Surprisingly, Jacob’s sons don’t respond by speaking of the disgrace of raping their young sister! They don’t speak of the disgrace of child kidnapping and child sex slavery! They don’t talk of the disgrace of what they are really thinking! Instead, they talk of Circumcision. “We won’t let you marry her…” they say, “… because you’re not circumcised.”

WHY?!

Why circumcision? … Random. Circumcision is a sign of the covenant given to Abraham. What has this got to do with anything? If you want to talk about a sign why not a sign like a tattoo on the arm or something similar? Or wear colors on their leather jackets. At least those are signs that can be seen. But Circumcision? Really?

Here’s how I understand it. It seems to me that the sign of circumcision has something to do with the promise of Abraham having many descendants, being fruitful and multiplying (see the last post). The sign reaffirms God’s promise right at the very place where the sexual act takes place. It marks the sexual act as set apart for God’s purposes.

God was looking for obedience, but not just obedience. He wanted Abraham’s heart. This was a covenant sign of fruitfulness but also a sign of complete faith in God. The ritual needed to speak of the relationship. The outside sign needed to reflect an inward change of the heart concerning marriage and family and faith.

Romans 2:28-29 (NLT) speaks of what it means to be a Jewish believer. It says “For you are not a true Jew just because you were born of Jewish parents or because you have gone through the ceremony of circumcision. No, a true Jew is one whose heart is right with God. And true circumcision is not merely obeying the letter of the law; rather, it is a change of heart produced by God’s Spirit. And a person with a changed heart seeks praise from God, not from people.”

The sign of Circumcision reminds the Jewish male believers that God has authority over them even in the most private aspects of their lives. He designed them and set them apart for sex within the context of their marriages, with their wives alone. It prompts them to remember, “As for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.”

So what is going on in Genesis 34? Circumcision for someone like Shechem makes no sense at all! He is not part of the believing community. Shechem and the Hivite community have rejected faith in God. Now Jacob’s sons are also acting as if they have no faith … to the point of blasphemy. They are willing to desecrate a holy covenant ritual in order to amplify the intensity of their revenge?

DISCONNECTION

Twisting things around, Jacob’s sons say, in effect, that Circumcision is the only thing that separates them from the Hivite community. It’s a partial truth designed to achieve evil purposes. Circumcision is not the only reason for Jacob’s family to be separated from the Hivite community. What is? Hivite unbelief and a culture totally opposed to the things of God.

RELIGION AND REVENGE

Jacob’s son’s don’t mention anything about faith in God. Yet they want to use a holy sign of faith in Israel’s community as a means of revenge, the very opposite to the unifying sign of faith it was designed by God to be. Religion used as a means for murder. Nothing has changed. This is terrorism at its religious worst. Deceiving Shechem and themselves, they weave their evil trap further…

“… then we will give you our daughters, and we’ll take your daughters for ourselves,” they say, “We will live among you and become one people.” They have no intention of doing this.But if you don’t agree to be circumcised, we will take her and be on our way.” (Genesis 34:16 NLT). Are they really interested in Dinah or in revenge?

Are they really interested in Dinah or in vengeance?

Jeremiah 9:8 (NLT) mirrors what they are doing. It speaks of the deceit of religious people. “…their tongues shoot lies like poisoned arrows. They speak friendly words to their neighbors while scheming in their heart to kill them.”

The POSB commentary makes an interesting aside. “How many churches and ministers deceive people by leading them to put their trust in the church and its rituals instead of Christ Himself?”

Genesis 34 invites me to reflect upon being honest in how I respond to immorality. I am encouraged not to use religion as a means of manipulation or for indulging in revenge against those with whom I disagree. I am to be honest in expressing my faith and witnessing the change that has occurred in my heart because Christ died for my sins. I am to call for God’s justice in the world, even when depravity is an acceptable way of life in the community. I am to seek God’s heart and God’s promises, not simply fit in with cultural norms for my life and family.

Pastor Ross