SOAP Journal – 27 September 2017 (1 Samuel 24)

May the LORD judge between you and me, and may the LORD avenge me on you; but my hand shall not be against you.

1 Samuel 24:12

Saul’s pursuit of David was interrupted by the need for Saul to go defend the kingdom from the Philistines, but Saul went right back to hunting for David when the Philistines had been dealt with.

During this pursuit, Saul steps into a cave to relieve himself and David happens to be hiding in the depths of the cave. Saul does not notice David, but David and his men see Saul. David’s men tell David that it is time for him to kill Saul and take the kingdom, but David refuses. He cuts the edge off of Saul’s clothes and sneaks back over to his men to talk them down from wanting to kill Saul.

Afterward, David shows Saul the bit of fabric and lets Saul know that he (David) could have killed him (Saul) and the army could not have stopped it. David said quite a bit in his talk at Saul and Saul received it, but this morning’s verse hit home for several reasons.

First, David calls for God to do the avenging. David says May the LORD judge between you and me, and may the LORD avenge me on you. He had the perfect opportunity and he walked away from it, preferring to leave vengeance to God. Elsewhere in the Old Testament, God says that it is His place to take vengeance and repay (Deuteronomy 32:41). And Paul would tell the Roman believers to vengeance to God and quote the verse from Deuteronomy (Romans 12:19). The writer of Hebrews also quotes Deuteronomy (Hebrews 10:30). Clearly, The Bible indicates that vengeance is God’s domain.

My part is the same as David’s. David says my hand shall not be against you. In essence, David will not pursue vengeance against Saul. He had every reason to do so. Saul had chased David through the wilderness trying to kill him even though David had done nothing wrong. If anyone ever had a reason to kill someone, David had one with Saul. Yet David preferred to leave things to God to handle.

People will wrong me. I have the choice to take vengeance or to leave vengeance to God. Let me leave it to God.

Father, thank You for David’s heart toward vengeance. Those who  have wronged me have done nothing by comparison. Please give me a heart that seeks to leave vengeance in Your hands and to do nothing against those who wrong me.

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SOAP Journal – 13 June 2017 (Deuteronomy 32:43)

Rejoice, O nations, [with] His people; / For He will avenge the blood of His servants, / And will render vengeance on His adversaries, / And will atone for His land [and] His people.

Deuteronomy 32:43

The last part of the song that Moses teaches to the Israelites before his death caught my eye this morning. The song, as a whole, is an interesting thing. It is a mixture of prophecy about the impending faithlessness of the Israelites and winds its way around to this morning’s verse.

In these words, I see an early promise of the sacrifice of the Messiah. To make sense of it, though, I had to break it into three promises divided by the conjunction and. 

The verse begins with an invitation to the nations, to rejoice … [with] His people. The square brackets around with indicate that it was added by the translators. But this is the same song in which God has promised to make them jealous with [those who] are not a people and provoke them to anger with a foolish nation (v 21). It is possible that the phrase could be understood as inviting the nations; His people to rejoice.

The first part that caught my attention is the promise to atone for His land [and] His people. This is precisely what happened at the cross. Jesus made atonement by His death. And the law of the kinsman redeemer says that the One Who redeems the person also receives that person’s land inheritance. Back in Genesis, God gave dominion of the whole Earth to Adam, hence to people. It would seem that when people are redeemed, the Earth over which we were given dominion comes along for the ride. The word used for people here can also be used in the figurative to mean flock. And Jesus is my Good Shepherd.

But there is another promise: the promise of vengeance. The verse says that God will avenge the blood of His servants and will render vengeance on His adversaries. Almost this same phrasing is used in Revelation when those who are under the altar cry out to God, saying How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth? (Revelation 6:10) Many of the atrocities committed against those who place their faith in God seem to have gone unanswered throughout history, but God has promised that vengeance is coming.

I think, though, that the order is deliberate. The fulfillment of these promises will happen  and has happened in the opposite order. Redemption is already available and vengeance has not yet come. But placing them in the order of (1) vengeance and (2) redemption is a reminder that all of us deserve the vengeance of God to be visited on us, but we can all be redeemed and preserved from that judgment.

Let me seek God’s judgment insofar as it is the end of suffering. Let me seek to see people redeemed, that God’s vengeance is taken on as few people as possible.

Thank You, Father, for redemption; for a way to not be waiting for Your vengeance to be visited on me. Please make my heart such as desires to see all redeemed and to see Your vengeance rendered only on those angels that rebelled.

SOAP Journal – 06 April 2017 (Numbers 31:1-2)

Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Take full vengeance for the sons of Israel on the Midianites; afterward you will be gathered to your people.”

Numbers 31:1-2

The first time I read this, I was confused. Moses had been sheltered by the Midianites in the house of Jethro. The last time I read about him, it seemed like he was helping Moses and the Israelites out. Moses had married a Midianite woman, Zipporah, and had children with her. The last I read of her, she was traveling with her father and her sons to meet with Moses. This was back in Exodus 18 … and Exodus is 40 chapters long. With regard to the timeline, this was a short time after Moses and the Israelites had passed through the sea on dry land. Over 40 years have gone by between the last time The Bible recorded Jethro and the vengeance on Midian.

But, more recently in the timeline of what’s going on in The Bible, Aaron and Miriam took issue with Moses over his Cushite wife (Numbers 12:1). What gives? My best guess is that both Jethro and Zipporah died and that Moses remarried. It fits the timeline and fits the available facts. What is more, the Midianites have more recently been antagonistic toward the Israelites. Numbers 31:15-16 records Moses saying that the women of Midian caused the sons of Israel … to trespass against the LORD in the matter of Peor.

What I see in this passage is the lesson that there can be good individuals in bad groups. The Midianites had done something to draw the Israelites into trespass. Jethro, who was a Midianite himself, was a priest of God and did everything he could to help his son-in-law. Jethro gave Moses wise counsel and even offered sacrifices to God that The Bible has no record of God rejecting. There was, at least, one Godly man in the nation of Midian.

Jethro was an awesome man. Other Midianites, not so much. Ruth, who I will read about later, is an amazing woman who happens to be a Moabite and told her erstwhile mother-in-law, Naomi, that the Israelites would be her (Ruth’s) people and their God would be her God. Then there’s Balak, who was the king of Moab and wanted to curse Israel. Frequently, The Bible confronts me with the individual who is amazing and praiseworthy in the midst of an otherwise wicked people group.

In my life, I will meet people from all sorts of backgrounds and histories. Some of these will be less desirable than others. Each person needs to be taken on his or her own merits and flaws. More, I need to be mindful of what Paul wrote and remember that there is now neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female. God is not obliterating distinction — He loves variety — but pointing out that we all come to Him on the same footing and are viewed with the same love. Everyone comes to God equally in need of a Savior and everyone who asks is equally saved. Everyone who accepts God’s gift is adopted into God’s family and every child of God is God’s favorite child.

The Israelites took vengeance on the Midianites for the Midianites leading the Israelites into trespass. More often, God reserves vengeance for His especial province (Deuteronomy 32:35; Romans 12:19; Hebrews 10:30).

Father, please work in my heart to make me able to take people as individuals and to treat them according to Your love for them.

Things are Hastening (Deuteronomy 32:35)

‘Vengeance is Mine, and retribution,
In due time their foot will slip;
For the day of their calamity is near,
And the impending things are hastening upon them.’

Deuteronomy 32:35

This statement is nestled in the midst of The Song of Moses. Moses teaches this song to Israel as directed by God. This song is more or less a history and future history of Israel. In it, God explains where Israel came from and where Israel will go. This song contains a couple statements that are echoed by NT writers, namely “I will make them jealous with those who are not a people” and “Vengeance is Mine.”

The thought behind this particular verse is that the nations that God uses to discipline Israel will get all full of themselves and think that they were the ones who defeated Israel when it was God’s doing all the time. When that happens; when those nations get a big head, God is the One Who will exact vengeance.

So what does this have to do with me?

The principle that God is keeping tabs on things and that time is always running out (since time is never being added back, except for one or two instances recorded in scripture) lends itself to two bits of application.

One, since vengeance belongs to God and time is running out, I don’t need to think about how others wrong me. If the wrong is worth doing anything about, then God has it handled. If not, then I’m better off letting it go anyway, as God Himself doesn’t think it worthwhile. I’m not sure there’s a great lot of the latter (things about which God is unconcerned), but they could exist and I need to leave room for them. God is going to repay us all. Those of us under grace will be repaid for those things done while walking in the grace of God. Those of us not under grace will be repaid for things done under The Law. Which segues nicely into the second application.

Two, since the impending things are hastening upon folks and God’s vengeance is coming, I need to look for opportunities to tell people about their alternative. Judgment is a given, but grace is the alternative. I admit, I’m not so great about talking to people; not much of an evangelist. But God is able to use even such as me to expound His grace to those who are under condemnation.

In summary, I need to (as the recently popular Disney film soundtrack ear-wormed us) let it go and let others know about the grace of God that is offered to any and all who want it.