Thursday, June 23, 2011

MrsDrPoe: "Vengeance is Mine"

Happy Theology Thursday to all! The inspiration for today's post is a bit different than usual, but I hope you'll find these thoughts interesting/useful...

Last Saturday night we watched the 2010 remake of True Grit. While there was some language and violence in the film, we found it to be pretty interesting. We thought it was especially neat that scripture was quoted throughout the movie and instrumental versions hymns were used for the background music - not things you typically see in movies these days. (I also liked how very few contractions were employed by the characters, but that's off subject.)

The general plot of the movie is that a 14 year old girl hires a US Marshal to help her find and prosecute the man who shot and killed her father; she is prepared to kill this man herself if he does not receive a death sentence in a court of law. So as the search for the criminal continues throughout the movie, the scripture that is quoted is related to the wicked receiving their punishment. Mr. Poe found it very ironic that this very learned girl neglected Deut 32:35, Rom 12:19, and Heb 10:30, which all tell us that God has said "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay." That made me think of how often people look forward to others "getting what's coming to them."

In the old testament, we frequently see God employing surrounding nations to punish the children of Israel for their unfaithfulness. Later, these nations are judged and punished by God for their own actions and attitudes. In Chapters 25-32 of Ezekiel, the prophet pronounces God's judgement on seven nations neighboring Israel:

In 25:1-7, we are told that Ammon will be judged because "[they] said, 'Aha!' against [God's] sanctuary when it was profaned, and against the land of Israel when it was desolate, and against the house of Judah when they went into captivity." Furthermore, Ezekiel tells us, "Thus says the Lord God: 'Because you clapped your hands , stamped your feet, and rejoiced in heart with all your disdain for the land of Israel, indeed, therefore, I will stretch out My hand against you, and give you as plunder to the nations..."

And in 25:15-17, Ezekiel pronounces God's judgement on Philistia, saying, "Thus says the Lord God: 'Because the Philistines dealt vengefully and took vengeance with a spiteful heart, to destroy because of the old hatred,' therefore thus says the Lord God: 'I will stretch out My hand against the Philistines, and I will cut off the Cherethites and destroy the remnant of the seacoast. I will execute great vengeance on them with furious rebukes; and they shall know that I am the LORD, when I lay My vengeance upon them.'"

From these two passages, we see that the nations of Ammon and Philistia will be punished by God for their desire for revenge against and their enjoyment of the punishment of Israel. It's one thing to execute justice; it's another thing to enjoy it or to seek revenge.

If we again examine God's declaration of His name in Exodus 34:6-7, we see that He is "merciful, gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth," but He is also just in that He is "by no means clearing the guilty..." It's sometimes hard for us to understand how love and justice can coexist, but just because we don't understand doesn't mean they can't. Ezekiel 33:11 says, "'As I live,' says the Lord God, 'I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways!'" We can see the truth in this statement from the way that judgements throughout scripture are declared with woe and lament.

Applying this to our own lives, we should hate sin (in ourselves and in others) and try our best to rid ourselves of it. We should teach against it and, when necessary, discipline those among our number who turn away from God's law (Matt 18:15-17, I Cor 5:9-13). But through this discipline and teaching, we should never find enjoyment in punishment of the wicked. We must keep in mind that all men have souls and are precious to God. We should aid and pray for our enemies (Luke 6:27-36).

Our friend, Mr. Holley, makes the point that often when we watch movies, we get so sucked in to the story that we rejoice when the "bad guy" is killed. But this is a worldly view. We can take comfort in the fact that, ultimately, good has and will triumph over evil (our faith in God is not in vain); however, we should never rejoice when a soul is eternally lost to sin...even in fictional stories.


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