Volume. XXI, No. 34
Sunday, 18 February 2007

From the pastors heart: Justice (part 2)

It is not unusual to find that psalmists cursed or imprecated their enemies. However, we are told at the same time to put away the sword (Matthew 26:52) and to love our enemies (Matthew 5:43-48). If I elaborate the issue I pointed out from the previous article, I must say two things: (1) Some Christians argue that those imprecatory words are expressions of human hatred. Therefore, they are not God’s Word. The problem with this is that if we have doubts about imprecatory psalms, then, there is no way that we can treat other psalms as canonical. (2) Some Christians say that nothing is wrong even though we pray against those who are persecuting us and God’s church. In this case, it is difficult to harmonize the view with the love of Jesus who had redeemed us from our sins and enmity against God. The Old Testament itself testifies against those who argue for different ethical teachings between the two testaments. For example, Proverbs 25:21-22 says, “If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink: 22For thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head, and the LORD shall reward thee.” It is the exact same teaching that Romans 12:19-20 teaches. 
For our study, Deuteronomy 32:35 is important: “To me belongeth vengeance, and recompence; their foot shall slide in due time: for the day of their calamity is at hand, and the things that shall come upon them make haste.” If we look at both the Greek and Hebrew words for vengeance and recompense, we may have a better idea about the issue. 

Greek word meaning
Hebrew word meaning
rendering of justice; retribution, punishment, revenge
(Quite often) vengeance of covenant
To repay, return
To recompense

There are two distinguished ideas in the meanings of vengeance from both languages: (1) the idea of justice, and (2) the idea of covenant. If we want to know the meaning of imprecations in Psalms, there is one more thing we need to understand, that is, the use of curses in ancient times. 
The Idea of Justice
The foremost important element in the biblical vengeance is that it is tied to the requirements of justice. Whenever justice is mentioned, the idea of vengeance follows. Whenever justice is trampled, vengeance is demanded. It is the very idea that God is the Judge who is holy and righteous. The Scripture also portrays God as King. If the King does not rule His subjects by justice, His rule is neither fair nor just. It means that He must punish those who offend His holiness and majesty. The negative side of His justice through vengeance is only one aspect of His sovereign rule. If God does not rule by justice and vengeance, then He cannot preserve and protect His people. If God does not deal with the sinfulness of the offenders of His laws, then, what happens to those who uphold His laws and proclaim them? If God does not deliver the just from oppressions and injustice, how can His kingdom stand and how can He be righteous? The rule, by protecting and delivering His people from injustice, is a more positive side of His vengeance/justice. On the one hand, God saves His people, but on the other hand, He punishes the wicked. Both reflect the justice of God. Isaiah 35:4 is a good example in this regard: “Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompence; he will come and save you.” Deuteronomy 32:43 is another example: “Rejoice, O ye nations, with his people: for he will avenge the blood of his servants, and will render vengeance to his adversaries, and will be merciful unto his land, and to his people.” 
We have seen people saying and believing that there is heaven, but there is no hell. When they talk about heaven, they talk about God’s goodness and justice; but, when they talk about hell, they regard it as human imagination or a picture of primitive god. But, the biblical justice must have both aspects: reward and deliverance of the righteous and judgment and punishment of the wicked. Any repulsive feelings about vengeance do not support the biblical view of justice. When we study justice, we must recognize that vengeance is a part of it. Isaiah 34:8, “For it is the day of the LORD'S vengeance, and the year of recompences for the controversy of Zion.” God’s vengeance is based on His righteous attributes. Isaiah 59:17 says, “For he put on righteousness as a breastplate, and an helmet of salvation upon his head; and he put on the garments of vengeance for clothing, and was clad with zeal as a cloke.” Paul also says, in Romans 3:5, “But if our unrighteousness commend the righteousness of God, what shall we say? Is God unrighteous who taketh vengeance?” Jude 1:7 says, “Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.” 
Hans-Joachim Krau says: “The ‘vengeance’ for which Israel hopes is God’s judgment in response to the scorn and mockery of the enemy nations. The prayer is that Yahweh [Jehovah God] will not allow his enemies free rein or let their rage go unanswered. It is expected that Yahweh will manifest his power in the world of the nations. Not alone in the Old Testament, but in the New Testament as well, there is a certainty that this will not take place in an invisible, ideal realm of retribution, but in the reality of this world. Therefore, there rings out a cry for revenge and for God’s judgment in the face of the unbearable suffering and torment of God’s people, on down to the Revelation of John (6:10). To set up a polarity of love and vengeance would involve a total misunderstanding of biblical truth.” 
The notion of God’s vengeance in terms of His justice is not foreign to the Bible believers. Whenever they are praying for the second coming of Christ, they are praying for their deliverance from the world and the wicked. At the same time, when the Lord Jesus comes again, the wicked will face His judgment. Thus, the day of His coming is the day of His vengeance. “For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled.” (Luke 21:22). 2 Thessalonians 1:8 says, “In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 
As we can see so far, we need to consider God’s vengeance from His justice point of view. His vengeance comes from His love of justice which upholds His sovereign rules. This concept is being promoted by both the Old and the New Testaments. Is God cruel by exercising His vengeance to the wicked in terms of punishment and to the righteous in terms of deliverance? We ought to thank and praise the Lord for His justice.
Your Pastor

More Lively Hope



Shorter Catechism Question 84: What doth every sin deserve? Every sin deserveth God’s wrath and curse, both in this life, and that which is to come.
Please pray for health & God’s healing: Rev George & Sis Nan van Buuren, Rev Peter Clements, Rev David Koo, Rev Timothy Tow, Dr S H Tow, Preacher Zhang, Dn Yaw Chiew Tan; Bros S Dhamarlingam, Makoto Kobayashi, Raphael Ng’s father, & Winston Selvanayagam; Sisters Sheila George, Myung Ki, Alice Lee’s father, Aranka Rejtoe (Norwood Nursing Home at 75-79 Hilltop Drive, Oaken. Phone: 8261 5177), Chrisanthi Selvanayagam, Juanita Tong, Susan Veradi, & Giok Yeo’s sister-in-law; Auntie Oei & others in affliction. "Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you” (1 Pet 5:7).
Please pray for – a) Cambodia Missions - Rev Moses Hahn & Ministry (Sihanoukville); Khmer Bible students (FEBC); b) Laos Missions - Bro S Dhamarlingam; c) Pastors & believers in India & Pakistan; d) Sketch n’ Tell Ministry - Bro H S Lim; e) Journey Mercies - Bros Yick Ho Lam & You Wen Yiep; Sisters Lydia Fan, Tabitha Heah, Charlotte Lin & Clara Sim (Adl); Sis Peng Ha Yeo (Syd); f) YAF Orientation Week - Outreach at Adelaide University; God’s wisdom, guidance & protection as tracts are distributed. More helpers.
Praise and Thank God for – a) BSAG, Joy & YAF Bible Study & Prayer Meetings; b) Journey mercies - all those who have arrived safely at their destinations; c) Working Bees yesterday.
YAF Welcome Night & International Buffet Dinner - open to all YAFers and newcomers. Please invite your friends. For any transportation arrangements, please see Sis Gillian Ong.
Looking ahead : Combined Ladies and Men’s Fellowship Dinner at My Yen on Fri, 2 Mar at 7pm. $20 per head. Please book and pay Sis Julie Tan ASAP. Menu on notice board.
Looking ahead: Easter Family Bible Camp 6-9 April 2007. Speaker will be Dr Gary Cohen.



© Hope Bible-Presbyterian Church
14 Bedford Square, Colonel Light Gardens, South Australia 5041