SermonVengeance Hardens Hearts
An all-creatures Bible Message

Vengeance Hardens Hearts
 
A Sermon Delivered to
The Compassion Internet Church
 
30 September 2018
 
Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor

Scripture References

Esther 9:20-28
Psalm 124:1-8
Matthew 5:9
Mark 9:38-50
James 5:19-20

Vengeance hardens hearts, but peacemaking softens hearts, and we believe that this is why Jesus taught us in Matthew 5:9 thatÖ

9. "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
NASB

Itís the children of God who end all forms of exploitation and violence upon the earth, and Paul tells us in Romans 8 that the whole of creation groans waiting for the revealing of the children of God to free it from its present corruption.
 
Vengeance hardens hearts and only opens the world to more violence, which most people are all too happy to participate in, which includes their total indifference to the corruption that causes the suffering and deaths of millions of human beings, and billions of other animals every year.
 
Unfortunately, Esther 9:20-28, seems to tell the opposite story that vengeance is good because of the immediate results of acts of vengeance, but it also says nothing about God or His heavenly will.

20. Then Mordecai recorded these events, and he sent letters to all the Jews who were in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus, both near and far,
 
21. obliging them to celebrate the fourteenth day of the month Adar, and the fifteenth day of the same month, annually,
 
22. because on those days the Jews rid themselves of their enemies, and it was a month which was turned for them from sorrow into gladness and from mourning into a holiday; that they should make them days of feasting and rejoicing and sending portions of food to one another and gifts to the poor.

The Jewish people still celebrate this holiday, but as we all should know, their vengeance only had a short term effect, for over the years the Jews have been horribly oppressed by many nations and people.

23. Thus the Jews undertook what they had started to do, and what Mordecai had written to them.
 
24. For Haman the son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, the adversary of all the Jews, had schemed against the Jews to destroy them, and had cast Pur, that is the lot, to disturb them and destroy them.

This is an example of the evil that has continued to plague this world even to this very day.
 
Why has this happened?
 
Because the leaders of countries and other people either permit or encourage or even support such behavior, which in our opinion is just as evil as the people like Haman.

25. But when it came to the king's attention, he commanded by letter that his wicked scheme which he had devised against the Jews, should return on his own head, and that he and his sons should be hanged on the gallows.

This king is sympathetic to the plight of the Jews, but instead of blocking such action in the beginning by setting a heavenly example of how we are to live here on earth, he resorts to revenge against Haman and his sons.
 
True peacemakers stop the evil in the beginning before it is able to manifest itself.

26. Therefore they called these days Purim after the name of Pur. And because of the instructions in this letter, both what they had seen in this regard and what had happened to them,
 
27. the Jews established and made a custom for themselves, and for their descendants, and for all those who allied themselves with them, so that they should not fail to celebrate these two days according to their regulation, and according to their appointed time annually.

In other words, they customized vengeance as being a normal way of life, when in fact, it is totally against the heavenly will of God.
 
We donít have to be like this; we can do better; we can live in Godís heavenly will.

28. So these days were to be remembered and celebrated throughout every generation, every family, every province, and every city; and these days of Purim were not to fail from among the Jews, or their memory fades from their descendants.
NASB

What the people are remembering is that vengeance is good; instead of the truth that vengeance hardens hearts.
 
As we look at Psalm 124:1-8, letís remember what the Bible tells us about God and His vengeance: "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay," which means that we are not to take vengeance on our own initiative.

1. "Had it not been the LORD who was on our side,"
Let Israel now say,

The Lord is on our side when we are living in the heavenly will of God here on earth as it is in heaven, which also requires us to put our complete trust in the Lord.

2. "Had it not been the LORD who was on our side,
When men rose up against us;
 
3. Then they would have swallowed us alive,
When their anger was kindled against us;
 
4. Then the waters would have engulfed us,
The stream would have swept over our soul;
 
5. Then the raging waters would have swept over our soul."

If this is the way we feel, then it shows that we have put our trust in the Lord and are not taking vengeance on our own, but leaving it in the hands of God. 

6. Blessed be the LORD,
Who has not given us to be torn by their teeth.
 
7. Our soul has escaped as a bird out of the snare of the trapper;
The snare is broken and we have escaped.

This happens when we allow God to take whatever vengeance He deems appropriate.

8. Our help is in the name of the LORD,
Who made heaven and earth.
NASB

This psalm is in total contrast to the passage we read in Esther, where the people took their own vengeance, but here they have put their trust in the Lord to take whatever action He deemed appropriate.
 
Now, letís take a look at Mark 9:38-50Ö

38. John said to Him, "Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in Your name, and we tried to hinder him because he was not following us."

Simple comments or questions like this in our societies often lead people to commit acts of vengeance; they may not think about it in these terms, but if it then leads to hindering the person in any violent way, it is against Godís heavenly will.
 
Note how Jesus responds:

39. But Jesus said, "Do not hinder him, for there is no one who shall perform a miracle in My name, and be able soon afterward to speak evil of Me.

Anything done in the heavenly will of God will have a positive outcome.

40. "For he who is not against us is for us.
 
41. "For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because of your name as followers of Christ, truly I say to you, he shall not lose his reward.
 
42. "And whoever causes one of these little ones who believe to stumble, it would be better for him if, with a heavy millstone hung around his neck, he had been cast into the sea.

Jesus isnít suggesting that anyone do this, but that people who are ungodly or full of vengeance will end up this way in the spiritual realm.

43. "And if your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life crippled, than having your two hands, to go into hell, into the unquenchable fire,

Again, Jesus is most likely not suggesting that we actually do this, but that we need to control our emotions, for unchecked emotions can lead us to hell.

44. [where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.] 
 
45. "And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame, than having your two feet, to be cast into hell,

This is just another example of how much we need to control our emotions, or risk going to hell.

46. [where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.] 
 
47. "And if your eye causes you to stumble, cast it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes, to be cast into hell,
 
48. where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched. 

This is the third time that Jesus mentioned this example in three different ways, which should also alert us to how important it is for us to control our emotions and not be influenced by the schemes of the devil and his minions.

49. "For everyone will be salted with fire.
 
50 "Salt is good; but if the salt becomes unsalty, with what will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another."
NASB

In other words stand up for what is right in the eyes of God, and avoid those things that are ungodly.
 
Letís end our discussion of how vengeance hardens hearts by looking at James 5:19-20, and letís see these verses as addressing those who are prone to being vengeful.

19. My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth, and one turns him back,

All the time we hear from people who get so angry at the horrible treatment of animals that they want to take revenge on the people doing these horrible things, and we well understand their feelings, but they are from the corrupt ways of this world and not from God.
 
So, we try to turn the energy of their anger into compassionate and empathetic ways to wake up the general public to the horrible ways animals are treated.
 
And when we do this, we actually receive a blessing that further energies us to be even more of a child of God.

20. let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death, and will cover a multitude of sins.
NASB

Vengeance hardens hearts, but being peacemaking children of God softens hearts, and brings us closer to freeing creation from its present corruption.
 
We can and must do it.
 
Amen?
 
Amen.

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