Yes, we love our enemies, as Jesus said we should. But our love is balanced by our longing for the day that will God step in to vindicate his name and avenge his people. That is why when believers throughout the ages and around the world read stories in scripture where God actually executes justice, they say, “yes!” While we don’t see that every day, and while we patiently wait for God’s sovereign timing in bringing righteous judgment upon the nations, it is right and fitting that we long for the day when God arises and his enemies are scattered—permanently!
Going Deep // Focus: 1 Samuel 5:1-3,6
After the Philistines captured the Ark of God, they took it from the battleground at Ebenezer to the town of Ashdod. They carried the Ark of God into the temple of Dagon and placed it beside an idol of Dagon. But when the citizens of Ashdod went to see it the next morning, Dagon had fallen with his face to the ground in front of the Ark of the Lord! … Then the Lord’s heavy hand struck the people of Ashdod and the nearby villages with a plague of tumors.
The world that God so loves is a world that doesn’t love him back. It is ruled in this present age by a god who has blinded people’s eyes to the truth so they won’t believe. Thus they reject God, they go their own way and stubbornly persist in ways of living that is contrary to the call of their Creator. Yet the Creator stubbornly persists in loving what he has created—a love demonstrated at its greatest when he sent his Son into this hostile world to redeem it:
Jesus came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him. He came to his own people, and even they rejected him. (John 1:10-11)
Not only did the world miss him, and dismiss him, they killed the Son of God. But of course, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit knew in advance that the world would reject his love and crucify Jesus on the cross, yet God entered the world anyway. Such is the persistent, stubborn love of God for his world.
And of course, as followers of the Son, we know that this is the hostile condition of the world to which we have been sent as Christ’s ambassadors. It is a world that by and large continues to miss and dismiss him—and often becomes hostile and hateful toward those of us who represent Christ. We understand and accept that this is the brutal way they play the game. Yet we too, persist in the Love of God for a world we are trying to reclaim for God’s glory.
At the same time, we long for the day when God vindicates his name. We hope for the time when God steps in and calls those who have mocked him, reviled his Word, flaunted their sin and abused his people. While we patiently surrender the right to defend ourselves and fight back, our sense of a just God provides us moments when we dream for the vindication of God and his people. Of course, we do not long for anyone to come under the terrible and eternal judgment of God, but we also do not want the horrible things that have been inflicted upon the saints over the ages to go unpunished. And so we cry out,
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me? (Psalm 13:2)
How long, O Lord? How long will the wicked be allowed to gloat? (Psalm 94:3)
O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you judge the people who belong to this world and avenge our blood for what they have done to us? (Revelation 6:10)
Yes, we love our enemies, as Jesus said. But we also long for the day that God vindicates his name, and avenges his people. And when we read a story like the one in 1 Samuel 5 when the god of the evil Philistines actually falls before the Ark of the Covenant, we says, “yes!” And while we don’t see that every day, and while we patiently wait for God’s sovereign timing in bringing judgment upon the nations, it is right and fitting that we long for the day when God arises and his enemies are scattered—permanently!
Nonetheless, in whatever evil days we may happen to find ourselves in, let us remember that the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, speaks of the blood of the righteous crying out to God for vengeance. It speaks of the innocent blood polluting the ground on which that blood is shed, and it speaks of a God who promises to repay the blood of the innocent on the hands of the murderers, even to hold the jurisdiction of murderers responsible if they do not atone for the righteous blood found in their territory. Since God cares so much about atoning for the righteous blood of innocent victims, we ought to care greatly about the issue as well. For there is much in this world that needs to be avenged, and no one is better at vengeance than one who is all knowing, all-powerful, and knowledgeable of what goes on everywhere, rather than relying on our own weak arms to avenge us. (Nathan Albright)