The Law of Revenge--Part 3
Jan 11, 2008
It has long been assumed that God is bound by His own law to judge all sin (offenses against him). This is only a partial truth, because it is based purely upon the law's inability to forgive sinners. However, the victim always has the right to forgive, and God is no exception to the rule.
The law merely upholds the victim's right to exact a precise penalty according to a simple mathematical formula. If a man steals $100, he owes his victim $200 (Ex. 22:4). If he steals the tools of a man's trade, he owes his victim five times what he stole (Ex. 22:1). If it is not possible to return that which was stolen, either because it was consumed, broken, killed, or sold on the black market, then the thief owes his victim four times what he stole (Ex. 22:1).
But in all of this, there is no law demanding that the victim be merciless and unforgiving. The law merely upholds the victim's right to receive restitution. If we say that restitution MUST be paid, then what is to prevent the victim from paying it himself? This does not put away the law. It simply adds the mercy factor as it might seem good to the victim.
This is, in fact, what Jesus did at the cross. The law demands the death penalty for idolatry, following after false gods, and we are all guilty of this on various levels. Jesus did not put away the law, but He did pay its full penalty on the cross. This was mercy operating according to law. It was Jesus' right to give mercy in this way, because as Yahweh, He was the primary victim of men's sin.
When we combine judgment with mercy, the result is redemptive judgments. In other words, the law ought not to be considered apart from mercy, for that can only produce an unbalanced view. The love of God--His very character and nature--causes Him to seek for a way to save mankind from judgment which the law, in itself, demands on account of sin. And so, as we learn the law and its application today, we see that it is not possible to know how to apply the law by the mind of Christ unless we understand the mercy factor imbedded in the law. This has been the major problem with merciless legalists and loveless Pharisees.
In the tabernacle of Moses, the Ark of the Covenant was the throne of God, and it housed the Ten Commandments. It pictured the rule of God by means of the law. But the actual seat of his throne is called the Mercy Seat. God rules by the justice of the His law, but He sits upon mercy.
And so God uses the law to correct and redeem sinners, but His ultimate purpose and goal is not to lose them or destroy them but to bring "mercy to all" (Rom. 11:32). In other words, God is our Father, and He has many rebellious, immature sons to correct. He corrects them with absolute justice, but His motive is Love and His goal is redemption.
Will He accomplish His goal, or will He fail? To fail is to sin, because the literal definition of "sin" in the Old Testament (kawtaw) is to miss the mark, to fail to achieve the goal. God cannot fail, even if it seems impossible from the human perspective. God loves to make things "impossible" and then to surprise everyone by succeeding.
God is the Goel to the fatherless, the widow, the orphan, and the stranger, for we read in Exodus 22:21-23,
" (21) You shall not afflict any widow or orphan. (23) If you afflict him at all, and if he does cry out to Me, I will surely hear his cry; (24) and My anger will be kindled, and I will kill you with the sword; and your wives shall become widows and your children fatherless."
These are the ones who have no covering, no goel to protect them from injustice. God becomes their Goel, their direct covering and protector. This was the law to which David appealed in Psalm 27:10,
"For my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the Lord will take me up."
When David was an outlaw in the eyes of King Saul, his parents had little choice but to renounce him. The alternative may have been disastrous for them, and they would have lost their land inheritance and perhaps their very lives. It was not possible for David's father to be his goel, and so God took the job.
It is the same today with the prophetic descendants of King Saul in the Church. When people flee from the spears of Christian leaders that threaten to kill them spiritually, they are called outlaws and renegades. They are also criticized for not having any man as their covering (goel). They do not realize that God Himself has taken up their cause and acts as their goel, even as with David.
This also brings us to another related issue. When the earthly courts establish injustice, or when the earthly courts are incapable of bringing justice (say, for lack of a double witness as evidence), how does one obtain justice here and now? Is there no higher Court of Appeal?
Yes, there is. The Divine Court of Heaven is open, and it would do a brisk business if men knew how to appeal to this court. Most of the time, however, men are content to try to establish their own justice on earth, acting as their own counsel, their own goel, their own paraklete. But Deut. 1:17 established the precedent for the Court of Appeal when Moses said,
"You shall not show partiality in judgment [justice]; you shall hear the small and the great alike. You shall not fear man, for the judgment is God's. And the case that is too hard for you, you shall bring to me, and I will hear it."
In those days Moses represented the Divine Court above that of the 70 elders. Moses was a type of Christ in this (Deut. 18:18). If at any time justice cannot be done in earth, one can always appeal the case to the Divine Court for justice. Yet I should warn you that you ought to think carefully before doing this, because the court costs might be greater than you think. I first did this in 1981 and discovered that God judges ALL parties involved in the case, beginning with the one making the appeal. I found myself in a 414-day correction time, as God dealt with me before dealing with others. Of course, looking back at it, I can testify that it worked together for good, because God worked to overthrow a few idols of my heart. But such situations are not "the best of times." If we appeal to the Divine Court, we must also be willing for God to deal with us, for He is without partiality, as the verse above says.
In summary, the law of revenge is not about revenge at all, but about justice and mercy. The goelhas the responsibility to obtain justice for those under his authority. He is not authorized to take personal revenge, but to bring the case before the court and obtain restitution for the victim. This is how the goel shows love to those under his authority.
If justice cannot be done because of a lack of actual evidence, or if the judges are corrupt and deliberately pervert justice, the goel is responsible to make the appeal to the Divine Court. Because the goel has discharged his duty, all that is left to him is to refer the matter to a higher Court where God Himself becomes both Witness and Judge in the matter. God then becomes the victim's Goel.
Justice must first be determined before the victim can show mercy. Without the law, there is no need for grace, and without justice, there is no true mercy. But mercy is not always the best course of immediate action. If the sinner has not repented, mercy may only confirm him in his evil deeds. In such cases, the law's judgment is there to bring him to true repentance. Then mercy is beneficial.
Dr. Stephen Jones