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Ezra 4: We Do Not Repay Evil with Evil

Ezra 4 would frustrate me. For one thing, the other cities made up a totally fake story just to discredit what Israel was doing in Jerusalem. They told the king of Persia that they were building up a rebellion and would no longer want to pay tribute to Persia.

We have no record that that was anywhere near remotely true. The only reason it seems that they made up these charges was because the Jewish people would not allow them to help build the Temple.

Ezr 4:2  Then they came to Zerubbabel, and to the chief of the fathers, and said unto them, Let us build with you: for we seek your God, as ye do; and we do sacrifice unto him since the days of Esarhaddon king of Assur, which brought us up hither.

Ezr 4:3  But Zerubbabel, and Jeshua, and the rest of the chief of the fathers of Israel, said unto them, Ye have nothing to do with us to build an house unto our God; but we ourselves together will build unto the LORD God of Israel, as king Cyrus the king of Persia hath commanded us.

Nevertheless, when the false charges came up, the Persian king gave all of these rivals permission to go and force the people of Israel to stop rebuilding the city.

All of this happened because of a total lie that was retaliatory.

I think that all of us can relate to this on some level. People might make up a false story about us for some external purpose. Maybe they want to get that promotion ahead of us, or maybe they want to knock down our popularity for the benefit of their own.

They are not right to do that, and the Ten Commandments themselves tell us not to bear false witness. However, we cannot force other people to act morally. We can only make sure that we do not retaliate in a similar way. We don’t repay evil for evil.

Tomorrow, we will find that how the Israelites responded, so I might just leave you hanging until then on that level.


1 Samuel 26: Holding Back Our Revenge

1 Samuel 26 feels an awful lot like what we read two days ago.

Let me give you a very abridged recap.

Saul went to sleep in a trench with his spear right beside him. David and his men saw this. One of David’s men wanted him to go over and kill Saul because this good of an opportunity must be from God. David still would not murder him, but he did take his spear and a cruse that was lying nearby. Then, just like before, he called over and asked why Saul was pursuing him. Saul said that he was sorry.

1Sa 26:21  Then said Saul, I have sinned: return, my son David: for I will no more do thee harm, because my soul was precious in thine eyes this day: behold, I have played the fool, and have erred exceedingly.

1Sa 26:22  And David answered and said, Behold the king’s spear! and let one of the young men come over and fetch it.

1Sa 26:23  The LORD render to every man his righteousness and his faithfulness: for the LORD delivered thee into my hand to day, but I would not stretch forth mine hand against the LORD’S anointed.

1Sa 26:24  And, behold, as thy life was much set by this day in mine eyes, so let my life be much set by in the eyes of the LORD, and let him deliver me out of all tribulation.

1Sa 26:25  Then Saul said to David, Blessed be thou, my son David: thou shalt both do great things, and also shalt still prevail. So David went on his way, and Saul returned to his place.

You know, it is difficult when we get burned. Personally, if I was David, I would have felt pretty good at the end of chapter 24. After all, Saul sounded sincere. It seemed as if all of this running was over. Perhaps David would finally get to settle down.

Then, Saul went on the offensive again.

Again, you would think that David would be mad and would want to get revenge.

However, he didn’t, and I think that this is a very good illustration of something that Jesus taught many years later.

Mat 5:38  Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:

Mat 5:39  But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.

Some people have taken this to mean that Christians ought to be wimps. However, that is not absolutely true. David had all of the power in this situation, and he held himself back. He never did anything unjust to Saul, but I do not think that any of us would call him weak. That is the difference. He stood strongly for what God would want, but he held back his power.

Even though Jesus had not obviously said this yet, I think it can help us understand a little bit more why David did what he did.

1 Samuel 25: When Someone Wrongs Us

1 Samuel 25 is pretty interesting because I think that most of us have been in a somewhat similar situation where we did something nice but were not appreciated whatsoever.

David’s men came across Nabal’s shepherds in the wilderness, and it seems as if it was a positive meeting.

1Sa 25:5  And David sent out ten young men, and David said unto the young men, Get you up to Carmel, and go to Nabal, and greet him in my name:

1Sa 25:6  And thus shall ye say to him that liveth in prosperity, Peace be both to thee, and peace be to thine house, and peace be unto all that thou hast.

1Sa 25:7  And now I have heard that thou hast shearers: now thy shepherds which were with us, we hurt them not, neither was there ought missing unto them, all the while they were in Carmel.

Basically, David was just saying that we took care of your men while they were with us, so he was simply asking for a little bit of hospitality in return. That is certainly reasonable, but here is what Nabal said:

1Sa 25:10  And Nabal answered David’s servants, and said, Who is David? and who is the son of Jesse? there be many servants now a days that break away every man from his master.

1Sa 25:11  Shall I then take my bread, and my water, and my flesh that I have killed for my shearers, and give it unto men, whom I know not whence they be?

David was not necessarily thrilled about this, and he ordered his men to get their swords. Without the intervention of Abigail, Nabal’s wife, there would have been a battle.

1Sa 25:32  And David said to Abigail, Blessed be the LORD God of Israel, which sent thee this day to meet me:

1Sa 25:33  And blessed be thy advice, and blessed be thou, which hast kept me this day from coming to shed blood, and from avenging myself with mine own hand.

Maybe we have had something similar happen. How do we react? Do we need to be reminded by someone like Abigail to not pursue vengeance on our own? Do we leave it to God?

I hope we do the last one. It is no fun to be wronged, but we need to be very careful about vengeance.

1 Samuel 24: Mercy Triumphs over Vengeance

I am convinced that mercy is one of the strongest forces in the universe. Because God has shown us such amazing mercy, I guess there are times when we pass it on when all of the world would say that we really shouldn’t.

In 1 Samuel 24, David was hiding in a cave, and it just happened to be that Saul and his men decided to spend the night in that cave. Obviously, this would have been the perfect opportunity for David to kill Saul and be done with this entire business.

However, that isn’t what he did. He went to Saul and cut off a piece of his shirt, but he did not harm him in any way.

After Saul left in the morning, David yelled out to him and told him that he had every opportunity to kill him the night before, but he refrained.

Here is how Saul responded.

1Sa 24:16  And it came to pass, when David had made an end of speaking these words unto Saul, that Saul said, Is this thy voice, my son David? And Saul lifted up his voice, and wept.

1Sa 24:17  And he said to David, Thou art more righteous than I: for thou hast rewarded me good, whereas I have rewarded thee evil.

1Sa 24:18  And thou hast shewed this day how that thou hast dealt well with me: forasmuch as when the LORD had delivered me into thine hand, thou killedst me not.

1Sa 24:19  For if a man find his enemy, will he let him go well away? wherefore the LORD reward thee good for that thou hast done unto me this day.

1Sa 24:20  And now, behold, I know well that thou shalt surely be king, and that the kingdom of Israel shall be established in thine hand.

I have to imagine what might have happened if David had killed Saul right then. There probably would have been a civil war, and the people who still loved Saul as ruler would have been incredibly upset.

In the way that David operated, he was able to diffuse the situation, protect his own life and not take Saul’s life. His mercy made it better than vengeance would have.

We are called to do the same thing. We are not supposed to lash out at people.

Luk 6:35  But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil.

Luk 6:36  Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.

Mercy will always triumph over vengeance, and since vengeance is not supposed to be ours anyway, I hope that we all can be a little bit more merciful today.

Judges 19: The Evil of Humanity

Judges chapter 19 reminds me quite a bit of Lot and the wickedness that took place in Genesis 19. I think that is a clear example of the evil that humanity is capable of, and it certainly helps prove that humanity does indeed have a sin nature.

Jdg 19:20  And the old man said, Peace be with thee; howsoever let all thy wants lie upon me; only lodge not in the street.

Jdg 19:21  So he brought him into his house, and gave provender unto the asses: and they washed their feet, and did eat and drink.

Jdg 19:22  Now as they were making their hearts merry, behold, the men of the city, certain sons of Belial, beset the house round about, and beat at the door, and spake to the master of the house, the old man, saying, Bring forth the man that came into thine house, that we may know him.

Again, this sounds a little bit familiar and incredibly wrong to me. It really gets worse though.

Jdg 19:23  And the man, the master of the house, went out unto them, and said unto them, Nay, my brethren, nay, I pray you, do not so wickedly; seeing that this man is come into mine house, do not this folly.

Jdg 19:24  Behold, here is my daughter a maiden, and his concubine; them I will bring out now, and humble ye them, and do with them what seemeth good unto you: but unto this man do not so vile a thing.

Jdg 19:25  But the men would not hearken to him: so the man took his concubine, and brought her forth unto them; and they knew her, and abused her all the night until the morning: and when the day began to spring, they let her go.

Now that you have read what happened, I’m sure you have a lot of questions just like I do. For one thing, why did God allow this to happen?

Obviously, that can easily be turned into a huge theological discussion, but at the same time, the most basic answer comes down to the fact that there is sin in the world.

Essentially, all of the men involved in the situation did really bad things, and the woman was the victim. The men did all of this stuff because they were sinners, and humanity is wicked at heart.

Jer 17:9  The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?

I am not trying to dismiss what they did at all, but I am saying that when you are working with something that is naturally evil, evil things can certainly happen.

Why didn’t God eliminate evil from the world? He wanted humans to have choice. We can choose to follow Him, or we can choose to follow the world. It was a human decision that brought evil into the human race.

However, as much as all of us now know that this took place and are probably appalled, God also knew what was happening.

Rom 12:19  Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.

When you read about things like what we talked about above, it is easy to wonder if God was really in that situation. He was there, and, just like everyone else, those men will need to stand before God to answer for what they did. I personally would not want to be in their position.

Deuteronomy 19: An Eye for an Eye?

Deuteronomy 19 brings back another controversial thought that seems to come under fire very often in popular culture.

Deu 19:21  And thine eye shall not pity; but life shall go for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.

Many people will take this verse out of context. They will see this verse and say, “Where’s the forgiveness?”

If people had read the entire chapter, it might make a little more sense. Basically, Moses was telling the people not to shed innocent blood.

Because it was presented in this way, it seems as if there was a problem of killing people or at least overreacting. By emphasizing an eye for an eye, God is essentially saying through Moses that even if somebody chopped off somebody else’s hand, his punishment should only be equal to his offense.

Because of the chapter that this verse is set in, it makes a lot more sense to believe that the tendency was to overreact and try to repay any type of pain with far greater pain.

Now, it is worth mentioning that Jesus came to earth and spoke about the same issue.

Mat 5:38  Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:

Mat 5:39  But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.

While some might say that Jesus was contradicting what God had said in the past, that really is not true. When I read this passage, it felt a lot more like a person who is taking justice into his or her own hands. Jesus is not condemning the justice system. However, He is essentially calling us to not even think about vengeance.

That fact fits in very well with another important Biblical thought.

Rom 12:19  Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.

Rom 12:20  Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.

Rom 12:21  Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.

So, I hope that this does kind of make sense. For the legal and judicial sense, the law in Deuteronomy makes sense. It is the job of the leaders of the people to administer justice like Moses did. They needed to ensure that the law is fair.

However, in our everyday life, we are not supposed to take vengeance. We need to treat everyone with love, and vengeance belongs to God.

Genesis 34: Don’t Fight Fire with Fire

Genesis chapter 34 shows what can happen when people take vengeance too far into their own hands.

All of the sons of Jacob were upset that their sister, Dinah, had been “defiled” (I love using my KJV vocabulary) by Shechem. Obviously, Shechem should not have done that, but when he came to the family to ask if he could marry Dinah, he was basically handed an ultimatum.

Gen 34:15  But in this will we consent unto you: If ye will be as we be, that every male of you be circumcised;

Gen 34:16  Then will we give our daughters unto you, and we will take your daughters to us, and we will dwell with you, and we will become one people.

Gen 34:17  But if ye will not hearken unto us, to be circumcised; then will we take our daughter, and we will be gone.

Even though this whole procedure is definitely unpleasant, Shechem really wanted to marry Dinah, so he consented. However, as we find out later, this was really a plot that led to his own demise.

Gen 34:24  And unto Hamor and unto Shechem his son hearkened all that went out of the gate of his city; and every male was circumcised, all that went out of the gate of his city.

Gen 34:25  And it came to pass on the third day, when they were sore, that two of the sons of Jacob, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brethren, took each man his sword, and came upon the city boldly, and slew all the males.

Gen 34:26  And they slew Hamor and Shechem his son with the edge of the sword, and took Dinah out of Shechem’s house, and went out.

Simeon and Levi were incredibly upset about this entire process, so they decided that they were going to catch all of the men of the land at a weak moment and kill all of them.

The rest of their brothers came along and ruined the rest of the city. They also brought back all of their possessions as almost spoils of war.

Jacob wasn’t especially thrilled with this situation.

Gen 34:30  And Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, Ye have troubled me to make me to stink among the inhabitants of the land, among the Canaanites and the Perizzites: and I being few in number, they shall gather themselves together against me, and slay me; and I shall be destroyed, I and my house.

Jacob was thinking that the other people around would like to avenge Hamor and Shechem. In fact, he realized that he didn’t have enough soldiers to fight off this type of hypothetical attack.

Simeon and Levi really didn’t have a lot to say in response.

Gen 34:31  And they said, Should he deal with our sister as with an harlot?

They started from an accurate premise. Obviously, Shechem should have done the right thing. He was obviously wrong in the first place, and it is not all right to excuse sin.

However, we are also not supposed to take vengeance into our own hands.

Rom 12:19  Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.

It is not wrong for Simeon and Levi to want to defend their sister’s honor. However, coming up with a devious plot that eventually leads to murder is not how we should deal with this type of situation.

The next two verses in Romans tell us how we are supposed to react when people do things to us that we really don’t like.

Rom 12:20  Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.

Rom 12:21  Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.

The end of verse 21 virtually sums it up. We are not supposed to use evil to fight evil. Rather, we are supposed to do good to those that harm us and let God take care of the rest. I know, that is easier said than done, but it is not impossible.

Php 4:13  I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

Genesis 27: Hatred Is Not the Answer

Genesis chapter 27 is a giant web of deception.

You have probably heard the story before, but Rebekah heard Isaac call Esau and tell him that he was going to give him a blessing after he made his favorite meal.

While Esau went out to get the game, Rebekah had Jacob deceive Isaac and receive the blessing instead.

Of course, Esau was understandably upset. How many of us enjoy it when people sneak in and take away what we think is rightfully ours?

However, Esau was not exactly innocent in this situation either. While he couldn’t control what Jacob did, he should have controlled his reaction better.

Gen 27:41  And Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing wherewith his father blessed him: and Esau said in his heart, The days of mourning for my father are at hand; then will I slay my brother Jacob.

No matter how many things we have to go through because of actions of others, we should never turn to hatred as a respectable response. Jesus himself had pretty strong words about how we should treat those who might not treat us right.

Luk 6:27  But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you,

Luk 6:28  Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.

Luk 6:29  And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloke forbid not to take thy coat also.

Notice, Jesus says that people might hate you, but that doesn’t mean that that gives you the same right to hate them. In fact, you even need to pray for them who use you.

That is hard to do. I know that all of us have been wronged in our lives, and I think that our first reaction is often to get revenge. However, we aren’t even supposed to do that.

Rom 12:19  Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.

We aren’t supposed to hate, we aren’t supposed to get vengeance and on top of that we are supposed to bless and pray for those who do bad to us.

That is not what you learn from the world. The world will tell you that if someone messes with you, you have every right to mess with that person.

However, I hope that we can all learn to move to react less like Esau and more like Jesus. Jesus had a ton of atrocious things done to Him as He was being crucified, but His only reaction was one of kindness.

Luk 23:34  Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots.

It would be amazing if we all could react like that when people mistreat us.