Wednesday, August 21, 2019

“Do not take revenge my friend, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to revenge: I will repay.’ ” (Romans 12:19-20)

The story is told in the Old Testament of a man named Naboth whose vineyard King Ahab had an eye on. When the latter made the proposal to buy the property Naboth declined his offer on the basis that it was ‘an inheritance from his father.’ (1 Kings 21:3) The king returned home utterly devastated because the deal did not go through. His wife probed him to find out what was the underlying reason for his mood. “Why are you so sullen? Why won’t you eat? He answered her, ‘because I said to Naboth, the Jezreelite; ‘Sell me your vineyard; or if you prefer, I will give you another vineyard in its place. But he said, I will not give you my vineyard.’ ” (1 Kings 21: 5-7)

Note the queen’s reaction: “Is this how you act as king over Israel? Get up and eat! Cheer up! I’ll get you the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite.” You guess what ensued? Sound familiar? The queen arranged for two scoundrels to accuse Naboth of blasphemy and he was stoned to death. Soon after, the queen said to the king: “Get up and take possession of the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite that he refused to sell you. He is no longer alive, but dead.’” So Naboth was brutally murdered for his property. Sadly, we have lived through similar circumstances here in this land.

For King Ahab, this was good news. So he got up and went down to take possession of Naboth’s vineyard. Naturally, God was not pleased with this happening, so He dispatched His prophet Elijah to denounce this evil act whilst the king was on the site.  “Say to him, this is what the Lord says: Have you not murdered a man and seized his property?” Then say to him: ‘This is what the Lord says; ‘In the place where dogs licked up Naboth’s blood, dogs will lick up your blood – yes, yours!” (Verse 19)

God’s justice as relayed to the king by the prophet Elijah, went like this. “... because you have sold yourself to do evil in the eyes of the Lord, I am going to bring disaster on you. I will consume your descendants and cut off from Ahab every last male in Israel—slave or free ... because you have provoked me to anger and have caused Israel to sin. And also concerning Jezebel the Lord says: ‘Dogs will devour Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel. Dogs will eat those belonging to Ahab who die in the city, and the birds of the air will feed on those who die in the country.” (Verses 21-24) No justice meted by humans could have such far-reaching consequences!

In another instance in the New Testament, Governor Herod permitted the beheading of John the Baptist for having spoken vehemently against him for unlawfully marrying his brother’s wife, Herodias. The King had put John the Baptist him in prison, in order to silence him. Draw comparisons yourself!

At Herod’s birthday party, Herodias’ daughter’s performance pleased the King and he promised on oath to offer her anything she would ask for. The girl consulted her mother and the latter advised her to ask for the head of John the Baptist on a platter. That was Herodias’ way of taking it out on John the Baptist for opposing the union.  John the Baptist was the Lord Jesus’ first cousin. When he heard about the incident, he was sorely grieved and moved to a solitary place to pray.

Satan has for long blindfolded us into believing that Gambians do not like to see blood; that we are not violent, but peaceful. These revelations have belied such a myth. The Bible says: “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9) It further states: “I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind to reward a man according to what his deeds deserve.” (Verse 10) Indeed, the heart of man is evil; no one knows a man’s heart as well as the Lord Himself and He is the ultimate Judge.

God has declared; “I will carry out great vengeance on them and punish them in my wrath. Then they will know that I am the Lord, when I take vengeance on them.” (Ezekiel 25:17) “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet He does not leave the guilty unpunished; He punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.” (Exodus 34:6-7)

We serve a living God, He is not dead. Any attempt to take justice into our hands will spell disaster and only compound the problem. It is no coincidence that it is God who has been working behind the scenes for such hideous crimes to be exposed in all their gory details. God is just: “He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give you relief to you who are troubled...” (2 Thessalonians 1:6) “Do not seek revenge or bear grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbour as yourself. I am the Lord.” (Leviticus 19:18) Our God desires that we do not seek revenge. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” (Romans 12:20) “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”  (Romans 12:21)

We are all clamouring for justice but is it what will really heal this land? I do not think so. Only true reconciliation will! Except we bury the hatchet and show genuine love, we will be equally guilty of the same callousness we are blaming the perpetrators of. God calls on us to love our enemies – something that is far from easy I must admit.

It is our prayer that God would give us the strength to face our sworn enemies and show them love because the Lord says so. Though it may be difficult to accomplish at the onset, God is ready to break our hearts, melt and shape them until they conform to His word.

Remember “Vengeance is mine,” says the Lord, “I will repay!”