Avenge Us, God!
(8) Do not hold against us our former iniquities. Let your compassion come quickly to meet us, for we are brought very low. (9) Help us, God of our salvation, for the glory of your name. Deliver us and atone for our sins for your name’s sake. (10) Why should the nations say, “Where (is) their God?” Let the avenging of the outpoured blood of your servants be made known before the nations, before our eyes. (11) Let the cries of the prisoners come before you. According to the greatness of your strength preserve those condemned to die. (12) Pay back sevenfold into the laps of our neighbors the reproach with which they have reproached you, Lord. (13) But we, your people, the sheep of your pasture, will give thanks to you forever. From generation to generation we will declare your praise.
Each of the words emphasized by repetition in this second half of the psalm are found in the opening seven verses. First, “your name” occurs twice (vs. 9), a repetition of the same terminology found earlier (vs. 6). The psalmist appeals to God to deliver his people for “the glory of your name” and “for your name’s sake” (vs. 9). “Nations,” sometimes translated “heathen,” mentioned twice (vs. 10), is also found in two previous occurrences (vss. 1 & 6). The phrase, “outpoured blood” (vs. 10), clearly refers to an earlier verse where the psalmist had vividly described the nations’ brutal treatment of Israel as “pouring out our blood like water” (vs. 3). Finally, “reproach” (vs. 12) recalls the way the psalmist had earlier described Israel’s treatment by her enemies (vs. 4).
I. Petitions: (8-12)
- Help us, deliver us, for the glory of your name. (8 & 9)
- Avenge us for the ways the nations have treated us. (10-12)
II. Promise: we will declare your praise forever. (13)
Because God delivers us from our enemies and avenges the wrongs done to us, we will respond with thanksgiving and praise.
When abused, wrongfully mistreated, betrayed, or persecuted for our faith, all of us struggle with Jesus’ well known exhortation in the Sermon on the Mount: “Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also” (Mt. 5:39). How can we act this way, especially if that mistreatment is directed against someone we love and feel obligated to protect?
The New Testament does offer us one recourse for dealing with the evildoers we encounter as we live in this sinful, fallen world. Paul tells us: “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Rom. 12:17-19). These verses do not mean that we should not attempt to protect ourselves nor seek the help of others when faced with violence that threatens our wellbeing or the wellbeing of those we love. There is nothing wrong with our finding refuge behind a shield or within a strong-walled fortress.
What Paul's words in Romans seem to indicate is that there is no place in the life of the believer for personally seeking revenge. While our natural reaction may be to retaliate against those who hurt us, we must learn to respond as Jesus did, turning to God in prayer and asking him to right the wrongs that have been done to us. When we leave everything in his loving hands, we can trust him to do what is just in his way and in his time.