Psalm 17 - Vengeance

Hear me, LORD, my plea is just;
listen to my cry.
Hear my prayer—
it does not rise from deceitful lips.
Let my vindication come from you;
may your eyes see what is right.
Though you probe my heart,
though you examine me at night and test me,
you will find that I have planned no evil;
my mouth has not transgressed.
Though people tried to bribe me,
I have kept myself from the ways of the violent
through what your lips have commanded.
My steps have held to your paths;
my feet have not stumbled.
I call on you, my God, for you will answer me;
turn your ear to me and hear my prayer.
Show me the wonders of your great love,
you who save by your right hand
those who take refuge in you from their foes.
Keep me as the apple of your eye;
hide me in the shadow of your wings
from the wicked who are out to destroy me,
from my mortal enemies who surround me.
They close up their callous hearts,
and their mouths speak with arrogance.
They have tracked me down, they now surround me,
with eyes alert, to throw me to the ground.
They are like a lion hungry for prey,
like a fierce lion crouching in cover.
Rise up, LORD, confront them, bring them down;
with your sword rescue me from the wicked.
By your hand save me from such people, LORD,
from those of this world whose reward is in this life.
May what you have stored up for the wicked fill their bellies;
may their children gorge themselves on it,
and may there be leftovers for their little ones.
As for me, I will be vindicated and will see your face;
when I awake, I will be satisfied with seeing your likeness.

Once again, David finds himself attacked from all fronts by his enemies, who seek to take him down. Only somebody who has gone through something similar will understand the anxiety, anguish, and anger that David must have felt. However, we all know what it feels like to be accused of things, often falsely. It is a natural instinct in a human being to retaliate when we are hurt, and the temptation to exact vengeance can be tough to resist. 

However, what does David do? He chooses to trust God and God’s justice because, as God famously said, “Vengeance is mine!” (Deuteronomy 32:35). Many years later, the apostle Paul would quote these words as he advised us to forsake vengeance: “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, he urged, “but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord (Romans 12:19). 

However, Paul understood this “need” for vengeance we have, so he suggested a method that gives us a measure of satisfaction while not doing anything displeasing to God. What is the method? Do good to your enemy! “If your enemy is hungry, feed him,” he said; “if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head” (Romans 12:20). Do you see the logic in this? What better form of revenge is there?

Give his words some thought for a moment. If we retaliate, the violence becomes an unending cycle of pain. And the aggressor validates his claim that his attacks are justified. But if we are good to people who hurt us, not only can we stand in front of God with clean hands, we will have the satisfaction that our enemies will be humiliated by the goodness we show them. 

So, my dear friend, do not retaliate in anger the next time someone hurts you. If you cannot react kindly at that moment, remain silent and walk away. Silence is not agreement, and walking away is not cowardice. Both take tremendous strength of character, but God is cheering you on. People might make the wrong inferences, but we don’t live to please them. We live to please God. And he will be as pleased with us as he was with David. And that can only be a good thing, no?

God be with you.