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Resisting Revenge

Devotions

New Tribes missionaries Martin and Gracia Burnham were kidnapped and held for more than a year by terrorists in the Philippines, an ordeal that ended with Martin’s death. In the book that describes her experience, Gracia tells how the Scriptures were a source of comfort to her. One Sunday, she found a piece of paper and began writing down all the promises of God she could remember. “A couple of days later, when I was in a slightly less spiritual mood,” Gracia writes, “I thought of another divine promise to add to my list: ‘Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord’ (Rom. 12:19).”

David resisted the temptation to take revenge on Saul once before (1 Samuel 24). He had another opportunity while hiding in the hill country east of Ziph. At that time, he snuck into Saul’s camp while the king was sleeping. David’s nephew Abishai offered to pin Saul to the ground with one thrust of a spear, arguing that God had delivered the king into David’s hands. Once more, David chose to leave matters in God’s hands. He explained to Abishai, “The Lord forbid that I should lay a hand on the Lord’s anointed” (v. 11).

Saul’s behavior continued to be erratic and although he admitted sin in verse 21, David was not inclined to trust him and asked for his spear in verse 22. David balanced his desire for retribution with His belief that vengeance belonged to God alone. As Christians, we often use the language of grace. We sing: “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.” It is one thing to sing about being a wretch. But it is something else to have to worship next to a person who acts like a wretch. Although we often sing about grace, we sometimes long for revenge.

>> Patience informed by faith is the remedy for revenge. When we leave room for God, we open the door not only to justice but also to the possibility that God may offer others the same grace that He has shown us.

Pray with Us

King David’s life story of God guiding, forgiving, and restoring him reassures us of God’s love. The Lord’s mercy and love are available to us in the same way. Nothing can separate us from His love!

BY Dr. John Koessler

Dr. John Koessler, who retired as professor emeritus from Moody Bible Institute, formerly served in the division of applied theology and church ministry. John and his wife Jane enjoy living in a lakeside town in Michigan. A prolific writer, John’s books include Dangerous Virtues: How to Follow Jesus When Evil Masquerades as Good (Moody Publishers), The Radical Pursuit of Rest (InterVarsity), The Surprising Grace of Disappointment (Moody), and True Discipleship (Moody). John is a contributing editor and columnist for Today in the Word.

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