When the Wicked Attack the Innocent

I wanted to share a passage from Psalms today.

To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David. Hear my voice, O God, in my complaint; preserve my life from dread of the enemy. Hide me from the secret plots of the wicked, from the throng of evildoers, who whet their tongues like swords, who aim bitter words like arrows, shooting from ambush at the blameless, shooting at him suddenly and without fear. They hold fast to their evil purpose; they talk of laying snares secretly, thinking, “Who can see them?” They search out injustice, saying, “We have accomplished a diligent search.” For the inward mind and heart of a man are deep. But God shoots his arrow at them; they are wounded suddenly. They are brought to ruin, with their own tongues turned against them; all who see them will wag their heads. Then all mankind fears; they tell what God has brought about and ponder what he has done. Let the righteous one rejoice in the LORD and take refuge in him! Let all the upright in heart exult!
(Psalm 64:1-10)

The wicked may delay or even escape justice here on earth, but no one can escape God. God is a merciful and gracious God, but He is also a holy and a just God. We are encouraged here by the Holy Spirit through David to take our refuge in God, with full assurance that He is a safe place and He will bring the wicked to justice.

It will not be well with the wicked

Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed speedily, the heart of the children of man is fully set to do evil. Though a sinner does evil a hundred times and prolongs his life, yet I know that it will be well with those who fear God, because they fear before him. But it will not be well with the wicked, neither will he prolong his days like a shadow, because he does not fear before God.
(Ecclesiastes 8:11-13)

It may seem that the wicked get away with their wickedness, but as Solomon reminded us here, it will not be “well” with them in the end.

Read it again, “Though a sinner does evil a hundred times and prolongs his life…but it will not be well with the wicked.” There is no “getting away with it” when it comes to God. But if you will not do so, behold, you have sinned against the LORD, and be sure your sin will find you out (Numbers 32:23).

Many times in the Scripture, we see God’s people groaning and lamenting over the wickedness done around them. They, like God’s people today, wonder why God lets it go on and when God’s going to do something about it. It is especially hard when the good people suffer so much at the hands of these wicked people. But remember that God is very aware both of the righteous and the wicked. He will eventually deliver those who fear Him, and He will bring swift justice on those who do not fear Him.

Here is a passage from 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10 that once again brings comfort to the righteous that God will take care of them and He will punish those who do not fear God.

This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering–since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed.

When God Brings Justice

I was listening to a video by Frank Turek this week and he made an excellent point about our view of God’s justice. He said something to the effect of, “So many people wander why God doesn’t do something about evil, but when He does do something about evil we don’t like how he went about it!”

We all can probably relate. There are times, I’m sure, when you have read the Bible and came across one of God’s judgments and were tempted to think, “Man, that’s harsh.” David was angry when God struck Uzzah dead for touching the ark of the covenant. Habakkuk had a really hard time accepting that God would send a more wicked nation (Chaldeans/Babylonians) to punish the nation of Judah. Abraham was very concerned about God being a just judge and doing what was right when it came to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.

There are many more examples of people questioning God’s decisions, and we can all say that at some time we’ve wondered about why God does things the way He does. It can be a real struggle for our faith, but as we come through those valleys of confusion, we can have a much stronger faith and a better appreciation for who God is.

Here are a few thoughts about God when He administers justice.

When God brings justice:

  • God has exhausted all other avenues to bring someone or a group of people to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). If you read through the pages of the Bible and see the wrath and punishment of God, you can in those same texts see the mercy and long-suffering nature of God. He waits until there is no remedy but to bring punishment.
  • His punishment is at the right time, done in the right way, and is completely free of partiality (Romans 2).  This is why mankind does such a lousy job of vengeance and punishment. We often do it at the wrong time, with poor motives and full of favoritism.
  • He sees the hearts of mankind and sees the future. Since you and I can see neither of these, we are not equipped to make God’s judgments like He is. There is a lot of information He has access to that we will never have. I remember having a hard time wondering why God struck Uzzah dead while King David lived. God sees things that I don’t see, and I need to trust that.
  • God’s heart is always ready to forgive and receive back the sinner. We just studied about King Manasseh last Sunday. Manasseh was a really wicked dude. No king was as wicked as he was. God brought punishment upon King Manasseh and the nation of Judah, and what happened? Manasseh showed great humility and repented of his sins. God forgave him.

Our hearts can be built up in faith knowing that when God makes a decision, even a decision that causes us to shudder, we can be assured that it was the right decision with the purest motives. God will do what is right, and He will do it out of love.

then the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment,
(2 Peter 2:9)

Overcoming Evil

What About Justice?

“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.  Romans 12:17-19

What do you think about justice?  Is it important?  Let’s ask that a different way; how do you feel when someone cuts in line?  How about when your car gets broken into or your home is burglarized?  What if your wife or kids are disrespected and treated rudely?  How about when a known criminal gets off on a “technicality”, how does that sit with you?

Justice is essential and is one of the key attributes of God.  In fact, Psalm 89:14 tells us that, “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne; lovingkindness and truth go before You.”  Psalm 89:14  But Paul challenges us in Romans 12 to set justice aside.  He says “Never PAY BACK evil for evil”, implying that the wages earned for evil is evil.  As Christians, we are to pursue peace and leave room for God to administer justice.

How easy is this command?  The last time someone rudely cut you off in traffic how did you respond?  How did you want to respond?  What about when your co-worker lied about you or took advantage of your kindness or made that derogatory remark about your faith?  Most of the time it is a victory when we just ignore it or keep our mouths shut.  Sometimes I wish the text would end there but Paul’s challenge goes even further.

 The Higher Calling 

“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.”  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”  Romans 12:20-21

The call of Christ is not to simply ignore evil.  The call is not to hold in our desired response and keep our mouths shut.  The call of Christ is to do the unexpected…to actually do good to those who do evil.  I believe this command is one of the most challenging in the entire bible.  This concept goes against our inherent sense of right and wrong.  It turns our concept of justice upside down.

What’s the purpose?  Why would God ask us to do something so difficult?  In short, because He did it for us.  How did Jesus overcome evil?  In the book of Revelation, Satan and evil is personified as a great dragon and how is Jesus pictured?  He is a bloody and battered lamb…a sacrifice.  The entire story of the bible depicts how Jesus overcame evil with good.  As a result, when He was lifted up, He drew all men to Himself (John 12:32).  God has called us for the same purpose.

We are to be lights to the world and we’ve tried to accomplish that our own way.  We’ve tried to batter people with the truth.  We’ve tried to be louder than the opposition.  We’ve tried to stand up for ourselves and defend our rights.  We’ve even tried to take the “high road” and keep our mouths shut, but maybe, just maybe, we should try it God’s way.  When we do the unexpected and we love those who hate us and we show that love in action by doing good it will impact the world.  People will feel the God given shame of sin and be drawn to the sacrifice of Jesus.

The fact is that Paul starts his discussion in Romans 12 with urging us “by the mercies of God”.  Think of the life of rebellion you lived before Christ.  Think of the wages that you deserved.  Now consider how God looked at you and the price He paid for your redemption.  Let us meditate on that daily and strive to be a living sacrifice.

You have had pity on the plant

Then God said to Jonah…”You have had pity on the plant…”  (Jonah 4:10).

I encourage you today to read Jonah 4 today. Jonah was angry, really angry. He was angry because he knew God was gracious and merciful. God showed mercy on the city of Nineveh and forgave them because they repented at the preaching of Jonah. Even though Jonah preached to them, he really didn’t care about the salvation of the souls of Nineveh. He preached in anticipation that this effort would fail. Nineveh would reject God and God would toast them.

Read the last verse of chapter 3 and the first verse of chapter 4. God relented because Nineveh repented and Jonah vented. Jonah went outside of the city in verse 4 and waited in eager anticipation of God raining down judgment and destruction upon Nineveh (Jonah 4:5).

Notice the mercy that God had upon Jonah, while at the same time teaching a critical lesson. God prepared a plant to grow up and shade Jonah “to deliver him from his misery” (Jonah 4:6). Jonah was very grateful. Next, God sent a worm to destroy the plant. Then God brings a “vehement east wind” and the sun “beat on Jonah’s head” (Jonah 4:8).

All Jonah wants to do now is die. Now Jonah is really ticked off. This provides one of those “teachable moments.”

Then God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?” And he said, “It is right for me to be angry, even to death!” But the LORD said, “You have had pity on the plant for which you have not labored, nor made it grow, which came up in a night and perished in a night. And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left–and much livestock? (Jonah 4:9-11).

You have had pity on the plant

This being Wednesday, our focus is on parenting. I want to take this concept and apply it to parenting. As a Father, God was parenting Jonah. There are some valuable lessons to learn here in parenting.

Our children sometimes will care more about the plant, which creates teachable moments. They will get really upset about something, like a sibling borrowed a shirt without asking. Justice must be administered! It is times like that that we can help direct them to areas where they really should focus their passion. We are there to help them gain some “perspective.” Jonah cared more for a stupid plant than he did for 120,000 souls. Andy Harrison wrote an article recently about “Misplaced Compassion,” and today’s article connects well with it.

We must show mercy to our kids at those times, like God showed Jonah. I mentioned in Monday’s article about a sermon that Mike Sullivan preached recently. He made a point that Jesus was not self-righteous about the self-righteous. Jesus ate with the Pharisees, too. He loved them and wanted desperately for them to understand His grace and mercy. As we see the hypocrisy and double-standard in our kids, we must remember God and Jonah. God kept teaching Jonah and showing mercy to Jonah, too.

Righteousness and Justice

Clouds and thick darkness surround Him; righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne (Psalms 97:2).

What is the foundation of God’s throne? Righteousness and justice. Righteousness is His standard of morality and holiness. Justice is how God applies that standard impartially to everyone. It may seem basic to you, but without righteousness and justice, what kind of “throne” do you have?

This is the foundation of the Messiah’s kingdom. Look at Isaiah’s prophecy:

Therefore thus says the Lord GOD, “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a tested stone, a costly cornerstone for the foundation, firmly placed. He who believes in it will not be disturbed. “I will make justice the measuring line and righteousness the level (plumb line); then hail will sweep away the refuge of lies and the waters will overflow the secret place (Isaiah 28:16-17).

What is the function of a plumb line? It makes sure the walls are built straight up. Righteousness (God’s moral code) is the plumb line in Jesus’ kingdom (the church). Without God’s standard of morality, the walls of any kingdom will be crooked. The measuring line in Jesus’ kingdom is justice. It is applied to everyone impartially and equally. No one gets preferential treatment. There isn’t someone who can buy off Jesus and escape justice. With Jesus, there isn’t a different standard for the rich person and the poor person.

Note that the “refuge of lies” and the “secret place” are swept away in the Messiah’s kingdom. There’s no getting away with it or explaining it away with Jesus. In His kingdom, there is no place to hide from His light that exposes the darkness.

Righteousness and Justice

You see the prophets of God repeatedly cry out about the lack of these two foundational qualities in a nation. Amos to me is the most notable. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., quoted Amos during the civil rights movement in the 1960’s.

“But let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (Amos 5:24).

If God’s standards (righteousness) are lacking in a land, the people will groan:

When the righteous increase, the people rejoice, but when a wicked man rules, people groan (Proverbs 29:2).

If God’s standards are not applied impartially (justice), the nation will become unstable.

The king gives stability to the land by justice, but a man who takes bribes overthrows it (Proverbs 29:4).

Men, let us keep always in mind what is foundational to any home, congregation, business or nation. If righteousness and justice are God’s foundation, then they must be ours as well. No house will stand on any other foundation.

To do righteousness and justice is desired by the LORD more than sacrifice (Proverbs 21:3).