Recently I've begun reading a book called "David". As soon as I picked it up the book proved that it would be a definate "meal" and not a snack. From the first I felt strongly convicted in many different areas of my life, but not nearly so much as this one. So, what exactly is this feeling we call "revenge"? Simply put, it means that you feel as though you have been mistreated and now want your persecuter to feel the same (or worse) than you do. Now, of course we have, over the years, changed what we call this "feeling". We now call it "standing up for our rights", in other words, justified retaliation. Whatever we call it, God calls it revenge. And He does not tolerate it in the slightest:
Romans 12:17-19 (see also Deut. 32:35-36)
Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it concerns you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay" says the Lord.
We can't make anyone live in peace with us, but we can make sure that the path to peace is clear on our side. Regardless of how others respond to us, God tells us to "Never take your own revenge"
Revenge may be sweet, but it sours the soul. It starts with an injury- someone hurts or offends us. Silently we let the anger burn inside of us, gaining heat and intensity, looking for an area of vulnerability. A place we can strike. We can see an example of this as far back in history as the first chapters of Genesis: Cain and Abel. God accepted Abel's sacrifice but rejected Cain's- which Cain interpreted as an injury to himself. Cain waited until he found Abel alone in the field- vulnerability- and killed him. Violent evidence of the fall and our resulting depravity. Since we are not all-seeing or all-knowing, we must leave the vengeance to our just and holy God.
1 Samuel 24
Now we come to our example in David. Before we get into it, lets get a little bit of background on the story...
We come into this story at a point when the entire kingdom is in turmoil. David has been anointed king, Saul (who is the present king) knows it and is, right now, doing everything he can to ensure David's death. David is on the run with a few hundred men who are loyal to him, but, for the time at least, it seems as though they have found somewhere to hide. But not for very long...
001: And it came to pass, when Saul was returned from following the Philistines, that it was told him, saying, Behold, David is in the wilderness of Engedi.
002: Then Saul took three thousand chosen men out of all Israel, and went to seek David and his men upon the rocks of the wild goats.
003: And he came to the sheepcotes by the way, where was a cave; and Saul went in to cover his feet: and David and his men remained in the sides of the cave.
It would seem that David has now been given a perfect chance for revenge. There's no one around and God couldn't fault him could He? On top of this, even his men are urging him on. Can David resist such a strong temptation???004: And the men of David said unto him, Behold the day of which the LORD said unto thee, Behold, I will deliver thine enemy into thine hand, that thou mayest do to him as it shall seem good unto thee...
David knows what he should do, but even still, he can't completely give up this chance to get even.
...Then David arose, and cut off the skirt of Saul's robe privily (secretly).
Even before he has returned his knife to it's sheath, God pricks his concience.
005: And it came to pass afterward, that David's heart smote him, because he had cut off Saul's skirt.
006: And he said unto his men, The LORD forbid that I should do this thing unto my master, the LORD'S anointed, to stretch forth mine hand against him, seeing he is the anointed of the LORD.
Because of David's refusal to get even with Saul, God blesses him. We see that in Proverbs it tells us.
When a man's ways are pleasing to the Lord, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.
Let's see what happens to David because of his obedience. We see David coming out to Saul in humility and with respect, wanting to prove his integrity.
008: David also arose afterward, and went out of the cave, and cried after Saul, saying, My lord the king. And when Saul looked behind him, David stooped with his face to the earth, and bowed himself.
009: And David said to Saul, Wherefore hearest thou men's words, saying, Behold, David seeketh thy hurt?
010: Behold, this day thine eyes have seen how that the LORD had delivered thee to day into mine hand in the cave: and some bade me kill thee: but mine eye spared thee; and I said, I will not put forth mine hand against my lord; for he is the LORD'S anointed.
011: Moreover, my father, see, yea, see the skirt of thy robe in my hand: for in that I cut off the skirt of thy robe, and killed thee not, know thou and see that there is neither evil nor transgression in mine hand, and I have not sinned against thee; yet thou huntest my soul to take it.
David's honesty and respect soften Saul's hardened heart.
016: 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.
017: And he said to David, Thou art more righteous than I: for thou hast rewarded me good, whereas I have rewarded thee evil.
018: And thou hast showed 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.
019: 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.
020: And now, behold, I know well that thou shalt surely be king, and that the kingdom of Israel shall be established in thine hand.
021: Swear now therefore unto me by the LORD, that thou wilt not cut off my seed after me, and that thou wilt not destroy my name out of my father's house.
022: And David sware unto Saul. And Saul went home; but David and his men went up unto their srong-hold.
Revenge is as old as human nature. And, while not all vengeance creates a tragedy as bitter as Cain and Abel's, it all makes a travesty of God's plan for our lives. If you're plotting revenge, however small and insignificant you may think it to be, surrender it now. Release your grip on your get-even scheme, and place the control into God's hands.
So, how do we keep from falling into this trap of revenge? There are some key priciples to remember that will help us to relinquish our desire for vengeance;
Since humanity is sinful, expect to be mistreated.
The same human nature that took over Saul's heart can take over all of our hearts. Trouble cames when we expect, and then demand, too much from others. People are fallible; feelings will get hurt.
Since mistreatments are inevitable, we can anticipate our desires for revenge.
Temptation to retaliate is not the same as retaliation. Rather, when we are aware of what is going on inside, we have time to feel and pray and think and then choose a course of action that reflects our trust in God.
Since the temptation toward revenge is inevitable, refuse to fight in the flesh.
We can make up our minds ahead of time to leave things in God's hands, which will make us less like to impulsively lash back when we're wronged. We're not responsible for how others behave, just how we respond.
004: Behold, God is mine helper: the Lord is with them that uphold my soul.
005: He shall reward evil unto mine enemies: cut them off in thy truth.
006: I will freely sacrifice unto thee: I will praise thy name, O LORD; for it is good.
007: For he hath delivered me out of all trouble: and mine eye hath seen his desire upon mine enemies.