I have a confession to make. Despite knowing that vengeance belongs to God, I love a good movie where the hero systematically eradicates all the villians. Even in a story like Eastwood’s Unforgiven, I’m glad to see him take out his enemies because, even though Eastwood has given them every chance to back off, they just won’t give up. Eastwood may have ultimately lost a bit more of his soul in shooting it out with the bad guys, but as a movie-goer, I am really glad the bad guys bit the dust.
How different are the realities of a world where people live according to the belief that God has the only right to vengeance. In our modern age, I’m not sure how many of those communities actually exist, but in the pages of my Bible, I find a history of God’s people asking for guidance in dealing with their enemies and giving full credit to God for any victories that they attain. When the Israelites are on top of their faithfulness with God, no force in the world can beat them. Vengeance is God’s.
I’ve been reading the Psalms this week. In David’s Psalms, he repeatedly acknowledges his own sinful state and how little he deserves God’s help. But, David also acknowledges how he can do nothing without God, how great God is all the time, how willing David is to accept God’s will, whatever that may be. For David, whatever happens is the will of God, and God is good all the time–even when what God decides to do makes David hurt.
When you read that attitude coming from a man who lives under the weight of sin, you understand more and more just how much David had a heart like God’s. What I mean is this: in David’s time, there was no such thing as grace. In order to renew one’s relationship with God, you had to perpetually offer blood sacrifices to make right what you inevitably had done wrong in the sight of God. Even as David pours his heart out to God in the Psalms, he knows that the only man on earth that can most closely speak to the Maker is the High Priest one day each year when the Holy of Holies is entered after much sacrifice and even more sacrifices are made in the very presence of God. During that ceremony, tradition holds that the people would tie a rope to the High Priest in which to drag him back out of the Holy of Holies in case God did not find favor with him.
Because Christ died for our sins once and for all, we Christians in this modern world are living every day, truly, in a state of grace that it can be so easy to take for granted. David, who was persecuted by Saul, lived a life of war, lost children, and had children rebel against him, could always remember that God is good and worthy of praise. David knew he himself had no right to be proud, even though he was a great king in the eyes of men, because he only ruled by the will of God. David knew that at any minute he could die in a state of sin that separated him from the God he loved so much.
You and I have been given the gift of starting each day and ending it in relationship with God. The Holy Spirit dwells in us at the point that we accept Christ as our Savior. We owe such a debt to Christ for His sacrifice, and yet He presents it to us as a gift, lovingly given. We do nothing to earn our salvation except to accept that gift and submit to Christ’s will.
If David, living under the threat of unforgiven sin, could devote so much of himself in praising his God for the love and protection and mercy God gave him, how much more should we who have been given the gift of relationship with our God be daily loving, praising, believing, and submitting to His will? Even though we cannot earn our salvation, do we not owe so much more of a debt to our God that He was willing to die for us, once and for all?
Make no mistake, Christianity does not equal inaction. As James puts it, “faith without works is a dead faith.” Reading the Psalms of David reminds us of the debt we all owe to our loving God, who gave His whole self for us.
Thank You, Jesus, for the indwelling of the Spirit that allows me to know that when I cry out to You, You always hear me. And so often, You are my one and only source of comfort. My job is learning to lean into this awesome debt I lovingly owe.
Our God is truly an awesome God.