“O LORD God, to whom vengeance belongeth; O God, to whom vengeance belongeth, shew thyself,” Psalm 94:1.
I read this Psalm this morning as part of my daily Bible reading. It was scheduled for reading today in ‘Robert Murray M‘Cheyne’s Bible Reading Calendar’.
I could not but notice how appropriate the Psalm is, given the news from Israel over the last couple of days. I would like to take note of some lessons we should learn from recent events in the Holy Land in the light of God’s eternal Word.
This Psalm has not the author’s name attached to it but it is commonly believed to be David. If that is so, it is some 3000 years old and yet its words indicate an application to today’s circumstances which but emphasise the everlasting relevance of the Word of God.
I. THE TITLE GIVEN TO GOD IN THE OPENING WORDS IS ONE THAT EVERY MAN SHOULD NOTE!
He is the God to Whom ‘vengeance belongeth’. He is One Who will demand an account of all men for their actions.
1. This is something every individual should note. That well-known verse in Romans 6, underscores a truth men wish to ignore: “For the wages of sin is death,” Romans 6:23. Sin is followed by judgment, something sin has worked for and which will, in due time, be paid by the God of Justice. The verse goes on to say. “But the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” The ONLY alternative to man’s sin and the eternal judgment that it will bring upon the head of the perpetrator is “eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” That is what is offered FREELY in the gospel. Man has but to believe and receive the message set for in Holy Scripture to be delivered from that judgment which his sin will inevitably bring upon him at death. This we are taught by Paul the apostles “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment,” Hebrews 9:27.
Oh, how wonderfully simple, how gloriously merciful, is the message of the God of Heaven, Who is so defied and despised by mankind. To those who live to mock Him, He offers freely the “wine and milk” of the gospel, “ without money and without price,” (Isaiah 55:1).
2. This is something the terrorists involved in the latest atrocities against Israel will learn to their eternal cost. I must stress that Israel, as a nation, is not without sin. In the whole turmoil of the Israel/Gaza controversy, there are many wrongs to be seen on both sides. Loving the ancient people of God as we do, we cannot ignore her sin. If that sounds contradictory, let me remind you of what the God, Who has chosen this people to be His forever, has to say of Israel in her present spiritual state.
“And when he (the Lord Jesus) was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it, Saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes. For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, And shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation,” Luke 19:41-44.
The Saviour here, with tears, pronounces upon His covenant people the judgment that will follow their persistent rebellion against His Word, which reached its climax at Calvary. The ‘days’ He speaks of here indeed came upon the nation in AD 70, when the Roman armies destroyed Jerusalem and the temple and the Jewish people were sold and scattered as slaves amongst the nations of the earth. That fact is substantiated by the Jewish ‘diaspora’ evident all around us.
However, God is not finished with His people. This is so both with regards punishment for the ongoing rebellion and for their eventual pardoning. Jeremiah spoke of both these things. “Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob’s trouble; but he shall be saved out of it,” Jeremiah 30:7. There is a time of great trouble ahead for the Jewish people. The Saviour spoke of this in His wonderful prophecy, recorded in Matthew 24.
“And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come. When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains: Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house: Neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes. And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days! But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day: For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened,” verses 14-22.
The ‘great tribulation’ will mark the end of the period of God’s retribution against His rebellious people. As Jeremiah said, Israel “shall be saved out of it.”
God has not cast away forever His people. Paul rhetorically deals with that matter in Romans 11:1. “I say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid.” The purpose of God regarding His ancient people is repeatedly revealed to us in the Holy Scriptures. Paul quotes from Isaiah 59 in the eleventh chapter of Romans. Here are Isaiah’s words.
“According to their deeds, accordingly he will repay, fury to his adversaries, recompence to his enemies; to the islands he will repay recompence. So shall they fear the name of the LORD from the west, and his glory from the rising of the sun. When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the LORD shall lift up a standard against him. And the Redeemer shall come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob, saith the LORD,” Isaiah 59:18-20.
The final deliverance of Israel will take place when “the Redeemer shall come to Zion” and there will be a turning “from transgression in Jacob.” That is God’s plan simply put. A searching of God’s Word will give even greater details of when and how that wonderful deliverance will take place. Here is but one such revelation.
“The burden of the word of the LORD for Israel, saith the LORD, which stretcheth forth the heavens, and layeth the foundation of the earth, and formeth the spirit of man within him. Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of trembling unto all the people round about, when they shall be in the siege both against Judah and against Jerusalem. And in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it. In that day, saith the LORD, I will smite every horse with astonishment, and his rider with madness: and I will open mine eyes upon the house of Judah, and will smite every horse of the people with blindness. And the governors of Judah shall say in their heart, The inhabitants of Jerusalem shall be my strength in the LORD of hosts their God. In that day will I make the governors of Judah like an hearth of fire among the wood, and like a torch of fire in a sheaf; and they shall devour all the people round about, on the right hand and on the left: and Jerusalem shall be inhabited again in her own place, even in Jerusalem. The LORD also shall save the tents of Judah first, that the glory of the house of David and the glory of the inhabitants of Jerusalem do not magnify themselves against Judah. In that day shall the LORD defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and he that is feeble among them at that day shall be as David; and the house of David shall be as God, as the angel of the LORD before them. And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem. And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn. In that day shall there be a great mourning in Jerusalem, as the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the valley of Megiddon. And the land shall mourn, every family apart; the family of the house of David apart, and their wives apart; the family of the house of Nathan apart, and their wives apart; The family of the house of Levi apart, and their wives apart; the family of Shimei apart, and their wives apart; All the families that remain, every family apart, and their wives apart. In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness. And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the LORD of hosts, that I will cut off the names of the idols out of the land, and they shall no more be remembered: and also I will cause the prophets and the unclean spirit to pass out of the land,” Zechariah 12:1-13:2.
Here is the intervention of God to the deliverance of Israel from her enemies as they seek to wipe her out forever. Here is the saving of Israel spiritual as God opens their eyes upon the One “whom they have pierced”, to the breaking of their hearts and a mourning over their sin. That is what lies ahead in what may well be the not too distant future!
In the wake of the cruel attack upon Israeli citizens by the Palestinian terrorists of Hamas, I expect to see something of that divine wrath manifested in the coming days for even though Israel is in a state of rebellion against the Lord, He will step forward to deal with those who strike against them. If Hitler and his evil cronies were around today you could ask them to verify that truth!
While the full wrath of God will not be levelled against the enemies of Israel until that day of which Zechariah spoke (chapter 12), nevertheless, any who put forth their hand against Israel will pay a price. Even while they are under the chastening hand of God, He will exact judgment against those who act evilly against them.
God’s words to the nation of Edom are relevant here. “For thy violence against thy brother Jacob shame shall cover thee, and thou shalt be cut off for ever. In the day that thou stoodest on the other side, in the day that the strangers carried away captive his forces, and foreigners entered into his gates, and cast lots upon Jerusalem, even thou wast as one of them. But thou shouldest not have looked on the day of thy brother in the day that he became a stranger; neither shouldest thou have rejoiced over the children of Judah in the day of their destruction; neither shouldest thou have spoken proudly in the day of distress. Thou shouldest not have entered into the gate of my people in the day of their calamity; yea, thou shouldest not have looked on their affliction in the day of their calamity, nor have laid hands on their substance in the day of their calamity; Neither shouldest thou have stood in the crossway, to cut off those of his that did escape; neither shouldest thou have delivered up those of his that did remain in the day of distress. For the day of the LORD is near upon all the heathen: as thou hast done, it shall be done unto thee: thy reward shall return upon thine own head,” Obadiah 1:10-15.
II. MEN NEED TO ‘SEE’ GOD FOR WHO AND WHAT HE IS.
1. Man in his natural state is blind to God. Such blindness is both inherent, inborn and enforced. Man is born spiritually blind and then further ‘blinded’ by the devil.
Paul tells us of man’s natural state. “This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness,” Ephesians 4:17-19.
This natural state of depravity is further augmented by the devil’s activities. “But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them,” 2 Corinthians 4:3-4.
This explains the state into which nations, once blessed by a knowledge of the truth of God, have been brought by the preaching of the devil’s agents who have infiltrated the pulpits of denominations once known for gospel preaching. The darkness of our own nation is the direct result of that ‘blinding’ of minds of men which believe not!
Nothing illustrates this sad fact better than a report in today’s newspapers, headlined in one as: ‘Teacher sacked by CofE school after refusing to teach ‘extreme’ LGBT lessons’. The newspaper reports that: ‘Church trust insists it follows official guidelines ‘to promote British values’ after dismissal of Glawdys Leger’. It certainly was not seeking to promote ‘Bible values’!
This incident illustrates the gross apostasy of the Church of England. Sodomy and perversions that are akin to this evil practice, have become the standards it is following and teaching to the pupils at this school and likely others under its auspices.
This is the blindness into which the devil is leading our nation!
2. The Psalmist prays to the Lord, ‘shew thyself’. The word ‘shew’ carries the meaning of ’shine forth’. The word first appears in Deuteronomy.
“And this is the blessing, wherewith Moses the man of God blessed the children of Israel before his death. And he said, The LORD came from Sinai, and rose up from Seir unto them; he shined forth from mount Paran, and he came with ten thousands of saints: from his right hand went a fiery law for them,” Deuteronomy 33:1-2.
Moses, the writer of Deuteronomy, uses a metaphor of the rising of the sun in the morning to illustrate the impact and effect of God revealing Himself to His people on Mount Sinai. Today, such a ‘shining forth’ takes place whenever the gospel is preached in the power of the Spirit of God. That is what Lydia experienced as she listened to Paul preach outside the city of Philippi. “And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul,” Acts 16:14.
As in the dawn, the darkness of the night is dispelled and all becomes clear to our view, so when the gospel is preached, as it was in Philippi, there is a seeing, an understanding and a receiving of the truth of God to the saving of the soul by a resting in faith upon the promises of the gospel, which speak of Christ dying in the place of wretched sinners and bearing away their guilt.
3. There will never be repentance wrought in the heart of sinners without a sight of the justice and judgment of God that is levelled against sin and the guilty sinner. If men believe that sin is never to be judged then they will abide in their sin! But the gospel shows clearly that “The soul that sinneth, it shall die,” Ezekiel 18:20.
Yes, as I have already quoted: “It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment,” Hebrews 9:27. It is a judgment entered upon immediately upon death. This the Saviour taught in the story of Lazarus and the rich man. “And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom,” Luke 16:22-23. The rich and sinful man was not ‘annihilated’ upon death but entered into a conscious state of suffering in hellfire. This is stated clearly for us in the next verse of the Saviour’s narrative. “And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.”
The gospel is a call to “flee from the wrath to come,” Matthew 3:7. ‘Hellfire’ preaching is an essential part of the gospel message! There is a ‘day of wrath’ and it shall surely come (Revelation 6:17). This men need to understand and plainly see if they are to escape the wrath of God.
Preachers too need to bear this in mind. There is a declining number of ‘evangelicals’ who include the preaching of ‘hell’ as part of their message. The terrors of the Law must be preached by way of preparation for a receiving of the gospel. “The law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith,” Galatians 3:24. The tuition of the Law is an essential element of the message of God to fallen man. Avoiding it may please men and add numbers to the attendance but it does not please the God of heaven in Whose service such preachers claim to be.
Amongst the last words of the Saviour to His disciples before His ascension are found this directive. “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen,” Matthew 28:20.
Who is it would dare to ignore this command and substitute his own limitations upon the “gospel of God”? There has to be a dreadful reckoning for such audacious rebellion.
Rev Ivan Foster (Rtd)
Monday 9th October, 2023