July 7, 2013

Leave Vengeance to God

Psalm 54:4–5

David could have written a whole book of poems lamenting the host of enemies surrounding him. Enemies in Saul's court. Enemies among the priests. Enemies in the surrounding territories. Enemies everywhere! But in Psalm 54, he devotes only three lines (54:1–3) to naming his problem people. He, instead, quickly turned his mind's eye to focus on his divine advocate.

The Defender

Behold, God is my helper;
The LORD is the sustainer of my soul.
He will recompense the evil to my foes;
Destroy them in Your faithfulness. (54:4–5)

The English term "helper" is terribly weak, but we don't have a better term to translate the Hebrew word ezer, which carries the idea of rescue. An ezer provides indispensable help, without which a person would be hopelessly doomed. For David, the Lord is the one who supplies what he lacks to survive his enemies' attacks.

He goes on to call the Lord his "sustainer." The Hebrew term is based on the idea of leaning on a support. Think of steel beams supporting a building; without these sustaining, foundational elements, the whole structure would collapse.

The fifth verse promises the evil planned against David will return upon those who planned it. Their wrong is fated to backfire. This realization helps David maintain his integrity.  Because the Lord has promised to carry out justice on David's behalf, David can concentrate on doing what's right instead of plotting revenge. So it is with the believer who maintains his integrity while under the attack of difficult people! The evil planned against us will return upon the attacker, thanks to our Defender! Thanks to His faithfulness, our attackers will be held accountable.

As I first read verse 5 of Psalm 54, it seemed awfully severe. Surely it doesn't mean what it says, I thought. Surely God won't actually destroy the enemy, I said to myself. How wrong I was! I looked up the term "destroy" in the Hebrew text. Do you know what it actually means? Are you ready for a shock? It is taken from the Hebrew verb tzamath, which means "to exterminate"! In fact, the verb appears in a Hebrew construction that denotes cause; literally, "to cause to annihilate"! In other words, David declares, by faith, that God will cause those who have become his enemies to be totally, completely, thoroughly removed! But I remind you that David doesn't do the removing; God does.

It is so easy to play God when we're under pressure, isn't it? Romans 12:17–19 warns us against doing that:

Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never 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.

Living beyond the daily grind of difficult people requires our leaving the vengeance to the One who can handle it best.

Adapted from Charles R. Swindoll, Living the Psalms: Encouragement for the Daily Grind (Brentwood, Tenn.: Worthy Publishing, a division of Worthy Media, Inc., 2012). Copyright © 2012 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights are reserved. Used by permission.