The Lordís vengeance.
Right at the start of the Bible Cain murders Abel, and we read of where Abelís blood cried out for justice.
Now Cain talked with Abel his brother; and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him. Then the LORD said to Cain, "Where is Abel your brother?" He said, "I do not know. Am I my brother's keeper?" And He said, "What have you done? The voice of your brother's blood cries out to Me from the ground. "So now you are cursed from the earth, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother's blood from your hand. "When you till the ground, it shall no longer yield its strength to you. A fugitive and a vagabond you shall be on the earth." And Cain said to the LORD, "My punishment is greater than I can bear! "Surely You have driven me out this day from the face of the ground; I shall be hidden from Your face; I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond on the earth, and it will happen that anyone who finds me will kill me." And the LORD said to him, "Therefore, whoever kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold." And the LORD set a mark on Cain, lest anyone finding him should kill him. (Genesis 4:8-15 )
Always, throughout the Old Testament, Godís retribution followed Godís displeasure at how men mistreated other men. The basic principle is summed up in Genesis chapter 9 verse 6.
"Whoever sheds man's blood, By man his blood shall be shed; For in the image of God He made man.
Vengeance belongs to God and He will issue retribution. Calamity will follow.
Vengeance is Mine, and recompense; Their foot shall slip in due time; For the day of their calamity is at hand, And the things to come hasten upon them.' (Deuteronomy 32:35 )
Letís look at a few examples of this principle at work around the times of Saul and David.
The Gibeonites were not part of the Children of Israel but under Joshuaís leadership Israel had sworn to grant them protection. They had pretended to be from a far off land and asked for a peace treaty (or peace covenant) to be made between their two nations. The evidence they presented seemed to support their story so without taking counsel from the Lord Joshua and the Israelites made a promise to let them live.
Then the men of Israel took some of their provisions; but they did not ask counsel of the LORD. So Joshua made peace with them, and made a covenant with them to let them live; and the rulers of the congregation swore to them. (Joshua 9:14-15)
However Saul in his reign put Gibeonites to death, even though there was no war between them, and at first it seemed that there would be no retribution from God.
However, years later, during Davidís reign we read the following ..
Now there was a famine in the days of David for three years, year after year; and David inquired of the LORD. And the LORD answered, "It is because of Saul and his bloodthirsty house, because he killed the Gibeonites." So the king called the Gibeonites and spoke to them. Now the Gibeonites were not of the children of Israel, but of the remnant of the Amorites; the children of Israel had sworn protection to them, but Saul had sought to kill them in his zeal for the children of Israel and Judah. Therefore David said to the Gibeonites, "What shall I do for you? And with what shall I make atonement, that you may bless the inheritance of the LORD?" And the Gibeonites said to him, "We will have no silver or gold from Saul or from his house, nor shall you kill any man in Israel for us." So he said, "Whatever you say, I will do for you." Then they answered the king, "As for the man who consumed us and plotted against us, that we should be destroyed from remaining in any of the territories of Israel, "let seven men of his descendants be delivered to us, and we will hang them before the LORD in Gibeah of Saul, whom the LORD chose." And the king said, "I will give them." But the king spared Mephibosheth the son of Jonathan, the son of Saul, because of the LORD'S oath that was between them, between David and Jonathan the son of Saul. So the king took Armoni and Mephibosheth, the two sons of Rizpah the daughter of Aiah, whom she bore to Saul; and the five sons of Michal the daughter of Saul, whom she brought up for Adriel the son of Barzillai the Meholathite; and he delivered them into the hands of the Gibeonites, and they hanged them on the hill before the LORD. So they fell, all seven together, and were put to death in the days of harvest, in the first days, in the beginning of barley harvest. (2 Samuel 21:1-9)
Why did God wait so long and deliver retribution on the next generation? Only He knows.
Joab was one of King Davidís mighty warrior leaders who like Saul killed many men in times of battle. However he killed two men in times of peace and that, like Saulís actions, brought retribution. Not immediately however, but during the reign of the next King. King Solomon. We read of Davidís words to his son Solomon as he was approaching his death.
Now the days of David drew near that he should die, and he charged Solomon his son, saying: "I go the way of all the earth; be strong, therefore, and prove yourself a man. ÖÖ "Moreover you know also what Joab the son of Zeruiah did to me, and what he did to the two commanders of the armies of Israel, to Abner the son of Ner and Amasa the son of Jether, whom he killed. And he shed the blood of war in peacetime, and put the blood of war on his belt that was around his waist, and on his sandals that were on his feet. Therefore do according to your wisdom, and do not let his gray hair go down to the grave in peace. (1 Kings 2:1& 5-6 )
Solomon ordered that Joab be put to death and he was struck down holding on the the horns of the altar, hoping for mercy. He had showed none and he received none.
So Benaiah went to the tabernacle of the LORD, and said to him, "Thus says the king, 'Come out!'" And he said, "No, but I will die here." And Benaiah brought back word to the king, saying, "Thus said Joab, and thus he answered me." Then the king said to him, "Do as he has said, and strike him down and bury him, that you may take away from me and from the house of my father the innocent blood which Joab shed. "So the LORD will return his blood on his head, because he struck down two men more righteous and better than he, and killed them with the sword-Abner the son of Ner, the commander of the army of Israel, and Amasa the son of Jether, the commander of the army of Judah-though my father David did not know it. "Their blood shall therefore return upon the head of Joab and upon the head of his descendants forever. But upon David and his descendants, upon his house and his throne, there shall be peace forever from the LORD." So Benaiah the son of Jehoiada went up and struck and killed him; and he was buried in his own house in the wilderness.(1 Kings 2:30-34 )
Again, why did God not exact retribution immediately, but wait years to deliver justice to the men who were unlawfully killed?
King David had slain thousands of men in battle, but it was the murder of one man outside of battle that brought divine retribution. We all know the story of how David had intercourse with the wife of Uriah the Hittite. She became pregnant and in an effort to save face he tried to get Uriah home from the battlefield to sleep with his wife and so mask the real father of the child in the womb. When that failed he gave instructions that Uriah be placed in a battlefield position whereby he would be struck down and killed, and so it happened. This time retribution came quickly. Despite Davidís repentance (Psalm 51) and Godís declared forgiveness of his sin of murder, retribution still followed Davidís family. Nathan the prophet declared..
'Why have you despised the commandment of the LORD, to do evil in His sight? You have killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword; you have taken his wife to be your wife, and have killed him with the sword of the people of Ammon. 'Now therefore, the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised Me, and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.' "Thus says the LORD: 'Behold, I will raise up adversity against you from your own house; and I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbour, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. 'For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel, before the sun.'" (2 Samuel 12:9-12 )
Nathan also declared that the child in the womb would not live..(verse 14)
"However, because by this deed you have given great occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme, the child also who is born to you shall surely die."
Those who know their Bible know only too well how real the outworking of this curse was on Davidís family.
Amnon raped his sister Tamar.
Absalom then killed Amnon.
Absalom tried to overthrow his father David and in the end was killed while humiliatingly hanging helplessly from a tree by his hair.
Solomon had Adonijah executed
The child lived for a week, and then died.
We know the story of Nabothís plot of land.
King Ahab wanted it but Naboth would not sell it. The king became downcast at not having exactly what he wanted and Jezebel, his wife, hatched a murderous plot to get the plot of land for her husband. She had Naboth falsely accused and then put to death. She also murdered Godís prophets.
For so it was, while Jezebel massacred the prophets of the LORD, that Obadiah had taken one hundred prophets and hidden them, fifty to a cave, and had fed them with bread and water.(1 Kings 18:4)
She seemed terrifyingly invincible. Even the mighty prophet Elijah feared her wrath. But Godís retribution followed her as surely as night follows day. God raised up Jehu and anointed him to kill Jezebel and Ahabís son King Joram. Listen to the scriptures associated with these two slayings.
'You shall strike down the house of Ahab your master, that I may avenge the blood of My servants the prophets, and the blood of all the servants of the LORD, at the hand of Jezebel. (2 Kings 9:7)
'Surely I saw yesterday the blood of Naboth and the blood of his sons,' says the LORD, 'and I will repay you in this plot,' says the LORD. Now therefore, take and throw him on the plot of ground, according to the word of the LORD." (2 Kings 9:26)
Manasseh was one of the most wicked tyrannical Kings in scripture.
Moreover Manasseh shed very much innocent blood, till he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another, .. (2 Kings 21:16 )
The slayings were not war time slayings but cold blooded murder of innocent civilians.
and also because of the innocent blood that he had shed; for he had filled Jerusalem with innocent blood, which the LORD would not pardon. (2 Kings 24:4)
Through his prophets God declared what the consequences of his murderous actions would be in due time.
Because Manasseh king of Judah has done these abominations (he has acted more wickedly than all the Amorites who were before him, and has also made Judah sin with his idols) therefore thus says the LORD God of Israel: 'Behold, I am bringing such calamity upon Jerusalem and Judah, that whoever hears of it, both his ears will tingle. And I will stretch over Jerusalem the measuring line of Samaria and the plummet of the house of Ahab; I will wipe Jerusalem as one wipes a dish, wiping it and turning it upside down. (2 Kings 21: 10-13)
Eventually a bigger tyrant, the King of Assyria defeated him, put him in fetters and trailed him of to a Babylonian prison where deeply afflicted he finally turned to God in repentance. God heard his prayer and brought him back to Jerusalem where, he spent the rest of his days undoing the previous evils he had committed. (2 Chronicles 33: 10-19)
Despite the fact that (among many other things) he brought much occult practice into the land and had many innocent children murdered in horrendous rituals, God not only forgave him but brought him back to Jerusalem and gave him the chance to produce fruit in keeping with his repentance.
Yet the vengeance that God attached to Manasseh's original actions still manifested three generations later. Manasseh's son Amon undid his father's latter good works and reintroduced the former evil back into the land. (2 Kings 21: 19-20)
His grandson Josiah however repeated his father's latter good works and undid all the evils, working hard to restore the righteous principles of the Kingdom of God into the land. (2 Kings 23) He was one of the best Kings.
Why did God wait for three generations before bringing retribution? Scripture tells us that God was so touched by his humility that he would not bring the consequences of Manasseh's actions about until Josiah was dead.
because your heart was tender, and you humbled yourself before the LORD when you heard what I spoke against this place and against its inhabitants, that they would become a desolation and a curse, and you tore your clothes and wept before Me, I also have heard you," says the LORD. Surely, therefore, I will gather you to your fathers, and you shall be gathered to your grave in peace; and your eyes shall not see all the calamity which I will bring on this place. So they brought back word to the king. (2 Kings 22:19-20)
The prophesied calamites were then unleashed following Josiah's death. Jeremiah had witnessed a revival for nearly two decades under Josiah, but when Josiah died (in 609 BC) the religious apostasy and the political and moral disintegration continued in rapid pace, culminating in the Babylonian captivity.
As God's prophet of the day he was called to tell the people the cause for the various forms of destruction they were being handed over to.
And I will appoint over them four forms of destruction," says the LORD: "the sword to slay, the dogs to drag, the birds of the heavens and the beasts of the earth to devour and destroy. I will hand them over to trouble, to all kingdoms of the earth, because of Manasseh the son of Hezekiah, king of Judah, for what he did in Jerusalem (Jeremiah 15: 3-4)
The New Testament continues the principle.
Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay," says the Lord. (Romans 12:19 )
For we know Him who said, "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay," says the Lord. And again, "The LORD will judge His people." (Hebrews 10:30 )
Again and again in scripture we see that the Lord does repay Ė in His time Ė and in His way. Even generations later.
One of Ireland 's many history books records the following fact.
'On the 1st of July 1795, The Rev.Mr Monsell, a Protestant clergyman of Portadown invited his flock to celebrate the anniversary of the battle of the Boyne by attending church, and he preached such a sermon against the Catholics that his congregation fell on every Catholic they met on the way home, beat them cruelly, and finished the day by murdering two farmer's sons, who were quietly at work in a bog'
- Mooney's History of Ireland (1846) page 876
The Orange Order's official book 'The formation of the Orange order' gives more details of this Reverend gentleman from Portadown on page 18. .
'Very few of the resident gentry of the Country joined us in the first instance. Of those few were my old friend, Joseph Atkinson,Esq., already mentioned; the Revd. George Maunsile,(sic Maunsell) (5) of Drumcree, afterwards Dean of Leighlin..'
I think there can be little doubt that the Rev Monsell of Portadown in 1795 (the year that the Orange Order was formed) described in ĎMooney's History of Irelandí is the same Rev Maunsell who was Rector of Drumcree, Portadown between 1781 and 1804 and one of the founding members of the Orange Order.
This may explain the spiritual roots to the 'Drumcree crisis' which suddenly erupted in 1995 from the church (built in 1854 upon the site of the original church which was erected in 1610 following the Ulster Plantation)
It was on the first Sunday in July 1995, that the Orange parade left the Drumcree Parish church after its annual service and was refused entrance to the nearby Catholic housing estate on the Garvaghy Road, area triggering off the annual confrontation that typifies the whole of the Northern Ireland problem that is several hundred years old.
That this has come to a head in Portadown exactly 200 years to the anniversary (i.e the first Sunday in July 1795 - 1st Sunday in July 1995) is unlikely to be a mere coincidence of history.
There has been no repentance for this Ė or for many other such murders. And yet we still seem to believe that God overlooks such violent actions simply because a measure of time has passed. In recent years men have marched out from the same church every first Sunday in July singing ĎHow Great Thou artí to be met with a wall of hostility from local Roman Catholic residents. The issue remains alive at the same spot where the innocent blood was shed 200 years earlier.
Repentance means humbling one self and admitting to behaviour that has offended the heart of God now or in past generations.
And I said: "I pray, LORD God of heaven, O great and awesome God, You who keep Your covenant and mercy with those who love You and observe Your commandments, "please let Your ear be attentive and Your eyes open, that You may hear the prayer of Your servant which I pray before You now, day and night, for the children of Israel Your servants, and confess the sins of the children of Israel which we have sinned against You. Both my father's house and I have sinned. (Nehemiah 1:5-6)
He is the God of justice and when Jesus returns He will ensure that justice is meted out appropriately.
But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who "will render to each one according to his deeds": (Romans 2:5-6 )
For it is written: "As I live, says the LORD, Every knee shall bow to Me, And every tongue shall confess to God." So then each of us shall give account of himself to God. (Romans 14:11-12 )
And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. (Revelation 20:12 )
However for those with ears to hear there is good news.
He who covers his sins will not prosper, But whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy. (Proverbs 28:13 )
In Cainís day, in Saul and Davidís day, in Jezebelís day and in Manassehís day there was no blood that had yet been shed that could cry out louder than the blood of the slain represented by Abel, the first victim. And that blood cried out for vengeance.
After Calvary there is Anotherís Blood that cries out much more powerfully than Abelís blood, and that of course is the Blood of Jesus. And His blood cries out for mercy.
To Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel. (Hebrews 12:24 )
In Godís sight mercy triumphs over judgement.
For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment. (James 2:13 )
The measure we use is the measure God uses to us.
Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy. (Matthew 5:7 )
ďBut go and learn what this means: ĎI desire mercy and not sacrifice.í For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.Ē (Matthew 9:13 )
Northern Ireland has innocent blood on its hands. Some of our church leaders have had, and still have, blood on their hands. Your nation most likely has as well.
I remember being at a meeting where an Englishman has asked for forgiveness from a Southern Irish lady, and then visa versa. Where a Scottish lowlander asked forgiveness from a Scottish Highlander and then visa versa. Where a white South African and Black South African have done the same. I saw men and women fall to the floor with deep uncontrollable weeping as they humbly asked for and received such forgiveness. The Presence of God in the room was tangible.
I remember the day when I approached a Roman catholic priest in front of a group of people and asked forgiveness for the hatred and animosity my Ulster Plantation ancestors would most certainly have held against the people that he represented. He knew that I was not coming into agreement with the faith that he represented but that at that moment we were representatives of two people groups who had a long history of malice and violence between them.
Having being raised an 'Ulster Protestant' and been a former member of the Orange Order this action was nothing short of a miracle in an Ulster man's life.
The priest in turn asked forgiveness for the actions that the people he represented had done to the people that I represented.
You never forget these moments. They run contrary to all carnality, and deep in your spirit you know you have sought the face of God and have touched the heart of God. You have humbled yourself before God and sought forgiveness from your 'neighbour'
It was after this that God released me to have a ministry to the nation of Southern Ireland. The ministry known as Christian Restoration in Ireland.
It is indeed Ė as the writer of Hebrews states ..
..a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (Hebrews 10:31)
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