“But he directly pays back and destroys those who hate him. He will not hesitate to pay back directly the one who hates him.”
It’s Payback Time
What do you think of when you hear a sentence like, “It’s payback time”? It may call to mind images of kids outrageously seeking revenge. Or maybe you’re thinking instead of the duty to pay back something owed. All in all, it doesn’t necessarily leave us with a positive connotation. And when we add in the concept of God’s wrath, it may even make us feel uncomfortable or uncertain.
So, how do we navigate this idea for ourselves, let alone for others who are questioning the faith? When we think about this concept of “the ultimate payback,” we must remember the character of the God whom we serve.
His Righteousness, Our Comfort
God’s justice and wrath are difficult topics for us to come to terms with; we just seem to find greater comfort exploring the facets of His nature that seem to be “more” loving and merciful. But what if we were to find that all parts of God’s character work together for our good and for His glory…even these?
Today’s verse piggybacks verse 9, which declares God’s faithfulness. And from this notion stems His justice and the awareness that He knows all and sees all. But for those in Christ Jesus, this shouldn’t bring us worry or fear. Instead, we should find our greatest comfort. He loves us and is for us; therefore, we find our greatest harmony with Him as we seek to obey His Word and teachings. If we are to reject His covenantal love (which is what the word “hate” means in our verse today), it is then that we see His righteousness setting straight all that mankind’s waywardness distorts. But this doesn’t have to be our reality; in this, we find our gospel hope—Jesus who takes away our sins.
In Christ Alone
The concept of God’s wrath and righteousness are heavy for us, with our finite minds and wandering nature. We are altogether too prone to stray from the commandments that glorify Him and set straight our paths. So, to really understand this idea of “the ultimate payback,” we must remember that He is patient and gracious to us by His very nature, which we know intimately through Christ’s example (2 Peter 3:9).
God desires a right relationship with us, and from His passion for us we find the closeness of a God who truly desires us… not just our rote obedience. We’re not following a god who is “out to get us”; rather, He is the God who loves us and has made a way for us in Jesus. It’s from His goodness that His justice stems, as He sets right all that is broken. In Jesus, He brings about righteousness for those who are oppressed, and He defeats the enemy within our lives. Because God loves us, our best response is to love Him for all He has done. This is our reality, the ultimate payback: that Christ has already paid back all we owe and that death and destruction have no part in our future. Come and receive this same grace.
Take a moment to consider where you stand in your thoughts on God’s just and righteous character. Is this a source of comfort or of fear? Reflect on what it means for Christ to have already paid back what you owed; for Him to have set straight your path and made relationship with Him possible. How does this flip the script and lead you to share the truth not only with yourself, but with others as well?