“And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: ‘Take vengeance on the Midianites for the children of Israel. Afterward you shall be gathered to your people.’”
Webster defines vengeance as, “the act of doing something to hurt someone because that person did something that hurt you or someone else.” Some synonymous would include payback, reprisal or even revenge. We seem to be fascinated with the concept of vengeance. It is the premise behind famous works of literature like; The Iliad, Hamlet and The Count of Monty Christo. It seems that the idea of paying back those who have wronged us resonates within the heart of man. This is probably due to the fact that all of us have felt wronged one time or another and wished that we were able to do something to get back at the ones who hurt us. There seems to be an innate cry in the heart of all men for what we perceive as justice. We have all heard children complain that things are not fair, and we see adults, young and old, rallying behind politicians who have stirred in them the desire to get what is theirs.
When it comes to the concept of divine vengeance it is vital to realize some very important distinctions between the judgment of God and the judgment of men. First off, the very definition is different. Instead of being a form of payback for being hurt, divine vengeance would better be seen as, “punishment inflicted in retaliation for an offense.” God does not lash out in a fit of rage, nor does He seek to get back at those who have hurt Him. Instead, God metes out perfect justice upon those who have violated His laws. Throughout Scripture we find that the vengeance of God does not come without warning and long periods of forbearance with the rebellious ways of mankind. The Canaanites were given over four hundreds years before judgment came, Egypt received numerous plagues before the angel of death arrived, the judgments recorded in the book of Revelation are distributed in waves. God gives every individual numerous opportunities to turn to Him before ever pouring out His wrath.
While judgement is not our favorite subject to meditate upon, it is important for us to realize there is a time coming for every individual, and for the world as a whole, when we will give an account to God for the life we lived, and the decision we made regarding His Son. There is no way to avoid that day, but there is a way to avoid the judgment. The Bible teaches that, apart from Christ, we are all under the wrath of God, but when we receive Christ, wrath is replaced with mercy. Instead of facing judgment, we can receive the free gift of eternal life. One thing we can count on is that God will be fair. If we want to avoid punishment and receive reward, we must allow Christ to take the judgment we deserve.