Today’s psalm begins in a way that may disturb many. The psalmist cries out,
O Jehovah, God of vengeance, God of vengeance, shine forth! Rise up, O God Judge of the earth, Render recompense to the proud! Psalm 94:1-2
To those who do not fully grasp Who God is, a reference to Him as “God of vengeance” or as “Judge of the earth” may seem very unsettling.Yet, God has revealed Himself not only here - but also in Deuteronomy 32:35, which is what is quoted in such New Testament passages as Romans 12:19 and Hebrews 10:30.The phrase, “God of vengeance, shine forth!” is pretty terrifying - because it refers to how God revealed His wrath with lightning flashing during times of judgment.When Nadab and Abihu were consumed with fire when they dared enter God’s presence without a sacrifice on their behalf - they were consumed with such lightning.The same happened to Dathan and Abiram and those who stood with them in their rebellion against Moses and God.Fire came forth from the presence of the Lord and killed all those standing with bronze censors filled with incense.When the Law was given on Mount Sinai - the mountain was covered with smoke at the top and lightning was flashing all around as well.
But is such a revelation of God just “Old Testament speak” - to be superseded by the revelation of God as a God of love in the New Testament - and through Jesus Christ?That is one of the errors of those who do not grasp that God is a God of love and holiness in both testaments.The passage in Deuteronomy 32:35 is the basis for the quotes made in Romans 12 and Hebrews 10.Neither of them apologize for God reserving vengeance for Himself - nor do they negate that one day He will act with vengeance on those who reject Him and the Gospel He has given.Let’s look at little deeper into these verses about God’s vengeance.
Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. 17Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. 18If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. 19Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, "VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY," says the Lord. 20"BUT IF YOUR ENEMY IS HUNGRY, FEED HIM, AND IF HE IS THIRSTY, GIVE HIM A DRINK; FOR IN SO DOING YOU WILL HEAP BURNING COALS ON HIS HEAD." 21Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12:16-21, (NASB)
Through Paul, God instructs us to never take our own revenge on others.In the same passage we are reminded to feed our enemy when he is hungry and give him a drink when he is thirsty.God reminds us that our role on this earth is not to be overcome by evil - but to overcome evil with good.Yet hidden within that very passage is a reminder that God has said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay.”Such words are not an empty threat - but very real. Some will object to this saying that the passage is all about rejecting revenge and vengeance - and showing mercy, grace, and love instead.I agree wholeheartedly that this is the instruction for us - but to say that this negates God as Judge is going too far.God is Judge and He will repay.For those of us who understand the gospel of Jesus Christ - we grasp that even our forgiveness involved God’s vengeance and judgment being fully revealed.That is what happened at the cross.God’s justice was paid in full by Jesus Christ.His vengeance was taken on sin - but His Son paid the price for it.As a result, we receive forgiveness - grace - the righteousness of Christ as a gift so we can stand before a holy God.But do not be mistaken - it was not because God forgot His holiness and righteous standard.It was kept completely.Also do not be mistaken that one day He will come to judge the earth.In that day, at the end of the age, God’s vengeance toward sinners who reject Jesus Christ will be fully poured out.This is where Hebrews 10 will enlighten us.
For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27but a terrifying expectation of judgment and THE FURY OF A FIRE WHICH WILL CONSUME THE ADVERSARIES. 28Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace? 30For we know Him who said, "VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY." And again, "THE LORD WILL JUDGE HIS PEOPLE." 31It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God. Hebrews 10:26-31
We are warned; at least the Hebrews were directly - and we are if we choose religion over Jesus and His death, burial, and resurrection for our salvation from the judgment rightfully given to sin; we are warned about those who receive the knowledge of the truth and yet continue to sin willfully.What the writer of Hebrews was referring to was not Christians - but non-Christians who hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ - and yet reject it.After they do so - they choose a life of willfully sinning against God for the rest of their lives.They reject Christ - trample under foot the Son of God - and consider the blood of the covenant an unclean thing - and insult the Spirit of grace.They are lost in their sins - and as Jewish people - reject what God (understand Jehovah here) has done to pay for sin - fulfill the covenant - and offer to them by grace through His Spirit.For them there is nothing left for them from God except, “the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries.”In ultimately rejecting Jesus Christ - all they have left is the promise of God that, “vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” as well as the promise that “Jehovah will judge His people.”
God IS the God of vengeance for those who reject Christ their entire lives.God IS the God of vengeance for those who trust their own works to be enough to merit God’s favor and to overshadow their sin.As the writer of Hebrews stated, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”That fear is only mitigated when we fall into His hands for judgment - but have trusted in His provision for what our sins truly deserve - i.e. His wrath and eternal punishment.What is that provision?It is what the “Spirit of grace” so eagerly desires to bring us.The Holy Spirit loves to testify of Jesus Christ.He testifies of Him as the only way of salvation - the only sufficient payment for our sins - the only righteousness that will stand in that terrifying and ominous day of the Lord.If we fall into the hands of the living God having repented of sin and believing on Jesus Christ for our salvation and righteousness - we fall into merciful and gracious hands.He will forgive.He will give us the righteousness of Christ so we can stand before His holiness.These things will happen because He has saved us because of Jesus paying the punishment for our sin on the cross - and having given usHis righteousness as a gift of His grace.BUT - if we fall into the hands of the living God having rejected His salvation only available through His Son - there remains nothing that can be done.In that final hour He will be the God of vengeance, Who will pour out His wrath and vengeance on all those who have not believed - who have trusted in their own righteousness - their own works - their own man-made and man-empowered religion.They will see the folly of trusting in themselves and their own wisdom.That will be a fearful day indeed.
God IS the God of vengeance. That is how He has revealed Himself through the Scriptures. But . . . He has also revealed that His vengeance was poured out on His Son at the cross - so we may be forgiven and saved from His vengeance and wrath. Those who want to reject His revelation of His wrath do so at their own peril. They prefer a god of their own making - a god not concerned at all with sin and righteousness unless it is one of which they approve. They reject God because a God of revealed holiness involving standards is awkward and unpopular. They reject a God Who cannot be controlled - Who cannot be voted down - Who cannot be molded to their current beliefs - or at least those currently popular with their culture. They also reject Him because they find Him too opinionated - too demanding - and definitely too authoritarian. God, Who is a God of wrath and vengeance to those who reject His Law as the absolute standard of right and wrong, is a threat to them. Such a God is dangerous - even if He provided a way for the punishment due to sin to be paid by His Son. Yet - if His Word is true - the reject Him at their absolute peril. As God has revealed through the psalmist who praised him in Psalm 96, God is coming. He is coming to judge the world in righteousness - and the peoples in His faithfulness. He will “shine forth” through His vengeance and final judgment on sin. Either we can see that “shining” by seeing the glory of God in the face of Christ, who paid that judgment - or - we will see it on that day when all will stand before Him and give an account for what they did on earth. One will receive infinite grace and eternal life. The other will receive infinite punishment and eternal death.
Copyright Calvary Chapel Jonesboro | all rights reserved