16–22 July 2017.
When people hurt us and say mean things about us, it’s only natural for us to want revenge. Straight away we start to think of things we can do or words we can say to hurt them even more than they hurt us.
In Psalm 17, the writer describes the hurtful way that other people have treated him. They are vicious; they attack him; they surround him and trap him with their murderous intentions; they have no pity in their hearts; like hungry lions they hunt him down, looking for any chance to attack. And even worse, they are proud of themselves for this and boast to their friends about their evil schemes!
After suffering so much pain and hurt, how should the writer react? Should he dream up ways to take revenge? No. Instead he falls before God in prayer and places his trust in the Lord. He tells God how even in the face of such terrible attacks, he refuses to participate. He has kept himself innocent, and refuses to join in his enemies’ actions of violence and evil. He refuses to hit back, he refuses to take revenge – he refuses to become evil like them.
Instead of taking revenge he trusts God to make things right and to protect him. In verse 8, he offers up his beautiful prayer to God: “hide me in the shadow of your wings”. He knows that God is the one who will protect and care for him, because that is who God is: he is the one who saves those in trouble, the one who protects the needy. Then in v. 13, the writer hands his desire for revenge over to God. God may use his own divine sword and justice to punish those enemies, but he himself refuses take revenge.
We remember that in Matthew 5:8 Jesus says, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” Blessed are they who refuse the temptations of violence and revenge, and instead keep their hearts pure, because they will be with God. That’s the best “revenge”: not to take revenge at all but to leave things with God; not to sink to the level of our attackers but to continue living a life of goodness and happiness with God. When we stay pure in heart despite the meanness of others, we will see God, and see him acting for us in our lives. As the psalm writer says is v. 15: “Because I am righteous, I will see you. When I awake, I will see you face to face, and I will be satisfied.”
Pastor Stephen Lakkis