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THE LORD WILL VINDICATE HIS PEOPLE

A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE HIGH HILL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
AND
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS

1 SEPTEMBER 1991

By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor

SCRIPTURAL REFERENCES:

Deuteronomy 32:35-36
1 Kings 2:1-9
Psalm 121:1-8
Matthew 5:38-39
Mark 7:1-8

Preparation Verse: (Matthew 5:38-39)

38. “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’

39. “But I say to you, do not resist him who is evil; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn to him the other also.”

Jesus is clearly telling us not to take vengeance upon anyone, or even to physically defend ourselves, which is totally counter to the way our world functions, today.

So what do we do?

The Bible tells us that the Lord will vindicate His people. Note Deuteronomy 32:35-36.

35. 'Vengeance is Mine, and retribution,
In due time their foot will slip;
For the day of their calamity is near,
And the impending things are hastening upon them.'

36. "For the Lord will vindicate His people,
And will have compassion on His servants;
When He sees that their strength is gone,
And there is none remaining, bond or free."

But the world usually considers the opposite position. People generally take retribution into their own hands.

Out of pride, we take vengeance against people who do things against us.

We do this either individually or collectively, sometimes including whole countries.

Even members of the church, today, fall victim to this kind of mindset, just as many true believers in the past have done.

And when we do this, we miss out on God's blessings; for God's word tells us to love Him and our neighbor, and to leave this kind of punishment to Him.

In other words, if we wish to be happy and successful in Godly things we do, then we had best obey the teachings of the Lord our God.

Just before David died, he tried to explain about God's blessings to his son Solomon, and to instruct him in what he should do.

Let's take a look at these verses, starting at 1 Kings 2:1-4.

1. As David's time to die drew near, he charged Solomon his son, saying,

2. "I am going the way of all the earth. Be strong, therefore, and show yourself a man.

3. "And keep the charge of the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, to keep His statutes, His commandments, His ordinances, and His testimonies, according to what is written in the law of Moses, that you may succeed in all that you do and wherever you turn,

4. so that the Lord may carry out His promise which He spoke concerning me, saying, 'If your sons are careful of their way, to walk before Me in truth with all their heart and with all their soul, you shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel.'

This sounds like very solid and accurate advice; and it is, as far as we have gone with what David is telling Solomon.

To David, Solomon must have seemed somewhat weak, for he tells him to be strong and to be a man.

Perhaps Solomon started off as a fairly sensitive person; and David, in all his own ways of honoring and trusting in the Lord, sees this sensitivity as a weakness that needs to be discouraged.

If this really is God's standard, then Jesus Himself was weak; for He willingly died for us, rather than killing those who opposed Him.

When the Pharisees opposed Jesus, when He tried to show the people the true intent of the Law, the only sword He drew was the word of God.

This is a lesson that we all should learn.

Listen to one of these conversations, as recorded in Mark 7:1-8.

1. And the Pharisees and some of the scribes gathered together around Him when they had come from Jerusalem,

2. and had seen that some of His disciples were eating their bread with impure hands, that is, unwashed.

3. (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they carefully wash their hands, thus observing the traditions of the elders;

4. and when they come from the market place, they do not eat unless they cleanse themselves; and there are many other things which they have received in order to observe, such as the washing of cups and pitchers and copper pots.)

Our communion service, which we are celebrating this morning, has come to us from the Jewish Passover Service, which also has its hand washing ceremonies, but we are not going to wash our hands in accordance with that tradition.

We are going to celebrate the Lord Jesus Christ and what He did for us.

We are going to celebrate the washing away of our sins with the blood of Jesus.

We can clean the outside of our bodies anytime with soap and water; but here and now, we will cleanse the inside.

This was the message that Jesus was bringing to the people.

So, what does Jesus do as these Pharisees continue to oppose Him? Let's continue and see:

5. And the Pharisees and the scribes asked Him, "Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat their bread with impure hands?"

6. And He said to them, "Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written,
'This people honors Me with their lips,
But their heart is far away from Me.

7. "But in vain do they worship Me,
Teaching as doctrines, the precepts of men.'

8. "Neglecting the commandments of God, you hold to the tradition of men."

Jesus, all God, and yet among men as a man, set the proper example for them to follow.

He didn't wipe these hypocritical teachers off the face of the earth; instead He sought to inform and persuade the people with the truth, so that they would follow God, and not the false teachings.

He wanted the people to understand that a war of rebellion would not solve their problems.

A heart of repentance and compassion was their only hope of salvation.

Jesus wanted the people to understand that they were to put their full trust in the Lord, and not to worry about what the other person was doing.

That trust is what Psalm 121 is all about:

1. I will lift up my eyes to the mountains;
From whence shall my help come?

2. My help comes from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.

We so often forget that every thing that exists came from God.

We may reform, remodel, or remold some of what God made; but all the basic substances are from God. Even the basis of our thought and reason are from God.

When we forget this, and begin to think that we have to protect our own things, we lose our trust in God and quite often find ourselves in worse shape.

This is the psalmist’s reminder to us.

3. He will not allow your foot to slip;
He who keeps you will not slumber.

4. Behold, He who keeps Israel
Will neither slumber nor sleep.

And as long as we put our faith in the Lord, He is faithful in what He promises.

It is only when we seek to do things by our will that God backs off.

We must remember what the psalmist tells us:

5. The Lord is your keeper;
The Lord is your shade on your right hand.

6. The sun will not smite you by day,
Nor the moon by night.

7. The Lord will protect you from all evil;
He will keep your soul.

8. The Lord will guard your going out and your coming in
From this time forth and forever.

Now with this assurance in mind, let's go back to David's instructions to his son in 1 Kings 2:5f.

Judge for yourselves whether or nor the faith in God that David is talking about is expressed in these verses:

5. "Now you also know what Joab the son of Zeruiah did to me, what he did to the two commanders of the armies of Israel, to Abner the son of Ner, and to Amasa the son of Jether, whom he killed; he also shed the blood of war in peace. And he put the blood of war on his belt about his waist, and on his sandals on his feet.

6. "So act according to your wisdom, and do not let his gray hair go down to Sheol in peace."

This doesn't sound like David trusts in the Lord his God to bring whatever vengeance is necessary upon Joab or what he deserves for his deeds, does it?

When we combine what David is saying here with his previous instructions, it sounds very much like he is saying to Solomon: if you kill Joab, you will overcome your weakness and be strong and also strengthen your kingdom.

Isn't God to be our strength?

And if that is true, why do we so often think, as David did, that we have to take things into our own hands?

If Solomon never did anything to Joab, wouldn't God preserve his kingship because of His promise to David?

Of course He would!

Let's go on and see what else David says:

7. "But show kindness to the sons of Barzillai the Gileadite, and let them be among those who eat at your table; for they assisted me when I fled from Absalom your brother.

Now, this is more like what we would expect a godly person to say, isn't it?

But many godly people today, including me, say and do things, at times, that are counter to God will.

We do this when we let our eyes slip away from God in order to focus only on the situations around us.

Even what David is saying about Barzillai is based on his personal feelings. He doesn't give the honor to God.

David concludes this instruction with one more personal request:

8. "And behold, there is with you Shimei the son of Gera the Benjamite, of Bahurim; now it was he who cursed me with a violent curse on the day 1 went to Mahanaim. But when be came down to me at the Jordan, I swore to him by the Lord, saying, 'I will not put you to death with the sword.'

9. "Now therefore, do not let him go unpunished, for you are a wise man; and you will know what you ought to do to him, and you will bring his gray hair down to Sheol with blood."

David swore, by the Lord, to Shimei that he would not kill him.

Isn't this instruction to Solomon going against that vow?

It doesn't matter who actually does the killing; David is still giving the instructions.

David is leaving no room for God. He is taking everything into his own hands and, in the process, he is contaminating his son.

Perhaps it was this instruction in teaching his son to kill that did in fact corrupt Solomon’s sensitivity, and led him to drift away from God later in his life.

Our sensitivity, whether in a man or a woman, or in a girl or boy, is a gift from God so that we would not only be sensitive of the feelings of others, but also toward God and to the whole of His creation.

When we take vengeance into our own hands, we become hard of heart.

And this applies to us having others take the revenge for us, or doing the killing for us, or participating in the spoils of such actions.

That's why we must learn to trust in God and leave these matters of retribution to Him.

And I often wonder if this is what the billions of farmed animals who suffer and die every year are doing, and what God's retribution will be upon us.

And perhaps, we are actually living in part of His retribution with all the wars and violence we have in the world.

Peace will only come to this world when we become the peacemaking children of God.

We need to end all our violence and trust in the Lord.

He will do the right thing. He really will.

He's God!

Amen.

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