I looked up all the passages I could find in Scripture that use the phrase, vengeance is mine, and what I found was very fascinating. It is often very easy to apparently vindicate typical views of a vengeful, retributive, violent God if one is predisposed to cling to that view. I do wonder many times though, what vested interest people might have in clinging so tenaciously to such dark views of God. But in this study, what surprised me a little was how many clues there are in these passages that reinforce what we have been exploring about a God of consistent non-violence. That is not to say there is never any violence involved in interactions between God and humanity, but what has been a problem is that God's people have not understood Him very well in this regard. Yet mingled throughout the descriptions of vengeance and wrath even in the Old Testament are clear references to the true meaning of wrath spelled out in Romans 1 as abandonment rather than attack. Also found in these passages are clear and explicit references to a God who relies on goodness rather than violence to achieve His purposes.
I readily acknowledge that the language in many passages can be confusing and seem to convey mixed messages about God. What I also observe however, is that the predisposition that one brings to their investigation of these matters greatly influences what they think they discover in the Bible. This is where I think the crucial difference lies, for it all hinges on how one approaches this subject and the motives of the heart. If one starts with dim, confusing, cloudy views of God shared by most all the Old Testament writers and assumes that is clear truth, and then attempts from that position to harmonize their conclusions with the teachings and example of Jesus, there is always going to be untenable discrepancies and doubts about the goodness of God's character.
This is what has been the typical approach of so many throughout history. Yet the more I examine these issues the more I find this approach to conflict with the New Testament writers and particularly with the witness of Jesus Christ who came to reveal the truth about God most explicitly. I believe it is very dangerous and can even be fatal to give more credence to any other testimony about what God is like than the only verifiable, certified exhibition in human form of the real truth about God in Christ Jesus. To start with any other version is to give priority to diluted testimony influenced by confusion created by Satan's lies and accusations that have clouded the thinking of everyone since the fall of Adam.
I am starting to see more clearly than ever that our opinions about how God treats the wicked and how He relates to this issue of vengeance and punishment and retribution dictates how our own reflections of God affect our relationships with the world around us. We cannot escape this underlying principle of reflection, for humans are innate reflectors by design from the moment of our creation. Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness..." (Genesis 1:26) An image is a reflection by definition just as a reflection is what is always seen in a mirror and is its primary function. Thus it is unavoidable that our opinions and beliefs about what kind of God created us will be exhibited/reflected in our treatment of others and even our treatment of ourselves.
This is the core issue at work and why it is so important concerning how we come to see God in our hearts. I am seeing that our problem in coming to a correct view of God's character is not so much about being able to win arguments about who has the most correct doctrine; rather it has everything to do with the kind of reflection that is displayed in our treatment of those who hold differing opinions from us. Look at the clear teachings of Jesus about how to relate to our enemies and then compare those with the typical notions we promote about how God treats His enemies and see how compatible they are with each other. These are clues I am finding in many of the passages relating to this issue of God's vengeance.
We must be extremely careful not to give excessive weight to Old Testament inspiration and exalt it above the clarity of God's testimony to this world in His own Son. When we attempt to compromise the teachings and witness of Jesus with the reports of prophets and writers who had less clear views of God than Jesus had, we only end up diluting the witness of Jesus meant to refute all the subtle lies and insinuations of the enemy that still influenced all the Old Testament writers.
Another part of the problem I am beginning to see is in our definition of the term inspired. We have to reexamine our assumptions about what inspiration really implies, for without realizing it many of us have fallen into the trap of assuming 'word inspiration' rather than more other views of inspiration. Many are afraid that if we stray too far from believing that God nearly dictated the words used by the inspired prophets to prevent them from saying anything incorrect, that somehow it will be impossible to have full faith in the Bible. But this too can be a subtle diversion of the enemy to prevent us from embracing fully the testimony of the only accurate and faithful Witness who ever walked this earth. We cannot afford to dilute in the slightest amount the clear revelation about God in Jesus that may conflict with anyone else's testimonies about God. Every other witness must surrender all authority to the only reliable and True Witness – the express image of God found only in Jesus Christ (Revelation 1:5-6; Hebrews 1:3).
Fear has had far too much influence on how we approach this issue of truth and inspiration. Fear has had far too much affect on everything to do in our ideas about God and religion and everything else. I believe that is why John – possibly the only person other than Jesus Christ and who had the most advanced understanding of the real truth about God – stated that as long as we have fear we are not yet complete/perfected in God's love. I believe he is telling us that as long as we allow fear to be a motivator in how we approach learning truth, that the resultant beliefs we arrive at will always be contaminated by errors and misconceptions about God. That does not mean God is going to punish us or decide that we have to be lost if we don't get our facts all straight. But it will mean that our testimony about God will be less than as effective as it could be if we were more willing to embrace all the truth about Him as taught and demonstrated by Jesus, the only true image of God.
This same issue applies to all of God's children including all the prophets through which He sought to convey truth to the world, to the extent that the prophets could grasp it. But to insist that all the prophets and Bible writers could not have anything less than ideal and complete understandings about God's character is to deny even the words of Scripture itself. The Bible teaches that only Jesus was the express image of God an no one else. Consider why Moses and Elijah showed up on the Mount of Transfiguration. I am coming to see that it was to publicly indicate the submission of their testimonies to the superior witness of Jesus as the only fully reliable truth about what God is like and the exhibition of the nature of His character.
After coming to see a more mature view of God after their arrival in heaven, I believe these two men may have been somewhat embarrassed in some respects by what they had said and done while they had lived on earth. So by the time of Jesus they may well have been quite eager to help clarify this issue of who had the more reliable testimony by coming in person to stand by Jesus and have the Father declare as clearly as possible that only Jesus should be considered the reliable witness about what God is like.
While he was still speaking, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and behold, a voice out of the cloud said, "This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!" (Matthew 17:5)
Then a voice came out of the cloud, saying, "This is My Son, My Chosen One; listen to Him!" (Luke 9:35)
This event was in the context of a nation of people who were obsessed with clinging to mistaken views of God derived from the teachings of Moses and the prophets and who were constantly challenging Jesus because He did not align with their religious conclusions, especially about what God is like. So what better way could God come up with to challenge that paradigm than to have Moses and the lead prophet show up in person and hand over their authority in deference to the Son of God?
My question is, why do we not take these words directly from the Father more seriously? Why do we still insist on trying to mingle and compromise and dilute the clear testimony of the only explicit revelation of God in His Son with cloudy, more indistinct and confusing pictures of God from any other source? That is not to discount in any way the usefulness of other inspired writers. But I believe we have to revisit our assumptions about the very nature of inspiration itself and quit preempting the clear witness of Jesus with other testimonies that are less reliable. That is why God explicitly stated that we need to listen to His Son, while Moses and Elijah were standing there; because there was and still is a serious problem concerning who's testimony we rely on the most to determine the ultimate truth about who God is and what He is like.
When it comes to discerning the truth about the nature of God's vengeance, wrath and all the other disturbing terms that produce unhealthy fear in our hearts, I believe the only safe course of study is to always make paramount the teachings and example of Jesus as the only safe standard by which to test any other reference in Scripture or inspiration. We cannot afford to allow any other testimony to distort our thinking about what God is like if it in any way casts doubt on the clear testimony of Jesus. This is the context we absolutely must maintain ever-present in our thinking as we come to Scripture to discern the real truth about God and what we can expect from Him relating to vengeance, punishment or violence.
Having said all of that, I turn my attention to carefully examining all the passages I just collected related to this and ask the Spirit to guide my thinking and reinforce what He has already been showing with me for a number of years. I am going to highlight what I see as clues within these passages that reinforce what Jesus made more clear, and allow what appears to be contradictory to Jesus' clear teachings to remain as evidence that some writers had not yet seen God's goodness as clearly as Jesus did. That should be a given in our approach to looking for truth I would think.
I will examine these passages in the following section with notes interspersed throughout the references.
I find that the context of these passages have a great deal to contribute, both to properly understanding the true nature of God's kind of vengeance, but also conflicting ideas that must be challenged in the light of the truth as it is seen in Jesus. That is why I am including large portions of context for each of these references where vengeance is mine is found. I want to make clear that I am not trying to mask over more difficult passages or lift things out of context to force them to say what I want them to mean.
There are three passages that use this term, vengeance is mine. I will start with the ones more readily understandable, and more importantly, the ones closer to the clear testimony of Jesus as found in the New Testament. Then at the end I will review the song of Moses from which this phrase originally appeared and was later quoted by the New Testament authors, to consider some of the clues and conflicts found in that previous passage. My thoughts and observations and questions will be interspersed identified by the use of italics for distinguishing clarity.
(from Romans 12)
9 Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.
10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor;
11 not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord;
12 rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer,
13 contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.
15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.
16 Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation.
17 Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men.
18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.
I included this part of the context ahead of the reference to vengeance for a very specific reason. Reread these words and think about them in the context of how Jesus Himself demonstrated all of these things in His own life and example. God does not ask us to do anything He does not consistently do Himself. If He did then He would be ignoring the principle of reflection which is the core nature of humanity from its very creation. We will always reflect the kind of God we believe in which is why it is to vital to have the most accurate internal concept of God that we can if we are to be truthful witnesses to the God of heaven, the God described by John as Love itself. It must be from this perspective that we approach out attempt to understand the truth about vengeance.
19 Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, "VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY," says the Lord.
We must not allow the slightest trace of our own version and definitions of either vengeance or wrath to infect our understanding of what is being said here. Wrath according to Paul in Romans and supported throughout Scripture, is letting go, turning someone over to the natural consequences of their own choices. That is in stark contrast to our usual definition of wrath which is why it is so vitally important that we allow God to define His terms rather than allowing our assumed definitions to confuse our ideas about how God relates to sinners.
To make it even more clear, Paul immediately defines in the following verse the kind of vengeance God is talking about. Remember that Paul is on this side of the revelation of God in Jesus Christ while Moses was on the other side before the truth about God was made so plain by His Son. That informs me that Paul is more likely to have a better explanation of these things that the one he quoted from centuries before. I will examine the original reference later here.
20 "BUT IF YOUR ENEMY IS HUNGRY, FEED HIM, AND IF HE IS THIRSTY, GIVE HIM A DRINK; FOR IN SO DOING YOU WILL HEAP BURNING COALS ON HIS HEAD."
21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
This last reference is one I want to also explore later here. But I just want to note here that if God commands us to not return evil for evil or to be overcome by evil, then it is a given that He too will always operate in harmony with these same principles.
(from Hebrews 10)
19 ¶ Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus,
20 by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh,
21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God,
22 let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.
23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful;
24 and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds,
25 not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.
This preamble must be the context in which we view all of the following verses. Remember also that Hebrews is a treatise based on explaining things from an Old Testament view but seeking also to update it to an understanding enlightened by the revelation of God in Jesus Christ.
26 For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins,
27 but a terrifying expectation of judgment and THE FURY OF A FIRE WHICH WILL CONSUME THE ADVERSARIES.
This is one of the most misunderstood passages I have come across, and it took me many years of living in fear caused by beliefs that many associate with this passage before God made it clear to me what this is really talking about. What I now see here is a very stern warning to me personally, but a warning very different than what most people might assume. If, after I have come to a realization of the real truth about the goodness of God and the true nature of His character, I turn away from that knowledge, the insights He has so graciously shared with me, and I turn back to the old way of viewing God as vengeful, desiring to impose punishments and pain and torture on all who spurn His love, then my understanding of Jesus' death as an exhibition of God's goodness will be lost and the only thing left is an even more intense terror of an angry God as proposed by His archenemy. When I reject the truth about God in favor of going back into harmony with the majority belief system of a God needing appeasement, then all joy will be lost, all hope will be destroyed and the only thing I will be left with is pure terror, trepidation and expectation of being punished because I can never live up to the standard of perfection as expressed in the Laws of God.
This is a strong reminder of the liberty into which God is bringing me right now, but also of how fragile that liberty is and how it can only be enjoyed as long as I am willing to cling to the truth as it is in Jesus. If I turn back to the vomit of the old ways of thinking about God as embraced by so many around me, I can only expect to be plunged into despair and depression, not an increase of hope or peace.
28 Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses.
29 How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace?
This is the very thing I was just referring to above. I am just now beginning to experience the Spirit of grace in my heart. To turn away from that truth that the Spirit has been revealing to me about what God is really like is to insult that Spirit which in reality is destroying my own capacity to repent and be restored and healed by that very Spirit. That is my greatest fear, that I might slip back into the dreadful patterns of thinking about God, judgment, wrath, vengeance and all the other confused and dark notions that suffocated me for most of my life. I want to remain true to the truth as it is being revealed to me in the life and teachings of Jesus and as reinforced from Scripture by the Spirit of Truth that Jesus sent to lead us into all truth.
30 For we know Him who said, "VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY." And again, "THE LORD WILL JUDGE HIS PEOPLE."
31 It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
Because we have such stupidly confused notions about vengeance and even judgment, God just says to leave that all in His hands. We must learn to trust that His kind of vengeance will produce far better results than the selfish kinds of vengeance that we usually want.
I believe that the pivotal phrase in this verse is to know Him. How important it is to really know God, for this is central theme all throughout Scripture that makes the difference between those who come close to God and those who are more interested in just keeping up religious appearances. God's ways are not our ways and God's thoughts are not at all like ours (Isaiah 55:8-9). We must allow God to transform our ideas about Him, away from the sinful beliefs that religion and Satan has instilled into us all our lives in order to see the real truth about this God who does not have to resort to sinful violence to establish His kingdom of righteousness.
Yes, it still is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God. However, this kind of terror will be extremely thrilling (like an intense roller-coaster ride to the adventure addict) for those who have hung onto the hope they have found in the revelations of truth about God as revealed by Jesus, while it will become a self-destroying kind of terror for those who have clung to their distorted opinions about God's passionate love for them.
32 But remember the former days, when, after being enlightened, you endured a great conflict of sufferings,
33 partly by being made a public spectacle through reproaches and tribulations, and partly by becoming sharers with those who were so treated.
34 For you showed sympathy to the prisoners and accepted joyfully the seizure of your property, knowing that you have for yourselves a better possession and a lasting one.
35 Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward.
36 For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.
Most of us have very little experience in knowing what this feels like. But we will not be able to avoid persecution if we honestly share openly these fresh revelations about God that are coming to light in these last days. Those who oppose this truth about God will feel compelled to act like the kind of God they believe in and will attempt to suppress and persecute all who threaten the traditional dark and even violent views long promoted about Him. But Paul tells all who have tasted of the true goodness of God not to throw away their new-found confidence received from a revelation of God as viewed in the life of Jesus Christ. As we do the will of God – which according to Jesus is to believe in Him as the express revelation of God – we can receive what is promised. And what is it that has been promised, that is extremely good indeed? The very next words tell us the best part of that promise.
37 FOR YET IN A VERY LITTLE WHILE, HE WHO IS COMING WILL COME, AND WILL NOT DELAY.
38 BUT MY RIGHTEOUS ONE SHALL LIVE BY FAITH; AND IF HE SHRINKS BACK, MY SOUL HAS NO PLEASURE IN HIM.
39 But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul.
To shrink back is to turn away from the very truths about God that Jesus came to bring into clear view, not just for this world but to all the watching universe. To shrink back is to slip back into the dark views of God embraced by the majority and perpetrated by Satan, the great accuser and deceiver.
Notice the following examples of God's kind of vengeance. And ponder the fact that God doesn't demand His followers to live up to a higher standard of rightness than He Himself is willing to perform. God is the epitome of righteousness and therefore we must be very cautious about accusing Him of resorting to violence when His own prophets demonstrate attitudes much better.
(from 2 Kings 6)
2Ki 6:11 Now the heart of the king of Aram was enraged over this thing; and he called his servants and said to them, "Will you tell me which of us is for the king of Israel?"
12 One of his servants said, "No, my lord, O king; but Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the words that you speak in your bedroom."
13 ¶ So he said, "Go and see where he is, that I may send and take him." And it was told him, saying, "Behold, he is in Dothan."
14 He sent horses and chariots and a great army there, and they came by night and surrounded the city.
15 Now when the attendant of the man of God had risen early and gone out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was circling the city. And his servant said to him, "Alas, my master! What shall we do?"
16 So he answered, "Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them."
17 Then Elisha prayed and said, "O LORD, I pray, open his eyes that he may see." And the LORD opened the servant's eyes and he saw; and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.
18 When they came down to him, Elisha prayed to the LORD and said, "Strike this people with blindness, I pray." So He struck them with blindness according to the word of Elisha.
19 Then Elisha said to them, "This is not the way, nor is this the city; follow me and I will bring you to the man whom you seek." And he brought them to Samaria.
20 When they had come into Samaria, Elisha said, "O LORD, open the eyes of these men, that they may see." So the LORD opened their eyes and they saw; and behold, they were in the midst of Samaria.
21 Then the king of Israel when he saw them, said to Elisha, "My father, shall I kill them? Shall I kill them?"
22 He answered, "You shall not kill them. Would you kill those you have taken captive with your sword and with your bow? Set bread and water before them, that they may eat and drink and go to their master."
23 So he prepared a great feast for them; and when they had eaten and drunk he sent them away, and they went to their master. And the marauding bands of Arameans did not come again into the land of Israel.
If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; And if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; For you will heap burning coals on his head, And the LORD will reward you. (Proverbs 25:21-22)
(from Matthew 5)
38 ¶ "You have heard that it was said, 'AN EYE FOR AN EYE, AND A TOOTH FOR A TOOTH.'
39 "But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.
40 "If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also.
41 "Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two.
42 "Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you.
43 ¶ "You have heard that it was said, 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and hate your enemy.'
44 "But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
46 "For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?
47 "If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?
48 "Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
How is it that Christians can teach that these instructions should apply to Christians everywhere, yet at the same time exempt God Himself from following these same principles? If Jesus tells us to love our enemies, why would God not love His enemies as our example? These passages explicitly connect the Father to these instructions, yet most Christians refuse to view God as consistently following the clear principles laid out by His Son who came to represent Him and what He is like.
(from Luke 6)
27 ¶ "But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,
28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.
29 "Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also; and whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either.
30 "Give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back.
31 "Treat others the same way you want them to treat you.
32 "If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.
33 "If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.
34 "If you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners in order to receive back the same amount.
35 "But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men.
36 "Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
37 ¶ "Do not judge, and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; pardon, and you will be pardoned.
38 "Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure--pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return."
39 And He also spoke a parable to them: "A blind man cannot guide a blind man, can he? Will they not both fall into a pit?
40 "A pupil is not above his teacher; but everyone, after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher.
I am coming to realize that most Christians have been mentored by other blind Christians and the result has been causing nearly all of Christianity to fall into the pit of Satan in our views of what God is like. We have preferred our traditions about God over the plain teachings of Jesus about God. We have thought that we knew more than our teacher, Jesus. What we desperately need is to be trained by God, not by religion, so that we can become like our only true Teacher of the truth about God.
When we go back to the original passage from which the New Testament writers quoted, we can get mixed messages. I believe this may be partially due to the incomplete picture of God in Moses' own mind, despite the fact that he had far more advanced appreciation of God than anyone else living at that time. Remember that God had to warn Moses that because of less than mature views of God's character that it would be fatal for Moses to see God's face at that time. As long as there are any hidden faulty notions about God still lingering inside our hearts, God has to protect us from His full glory until we are completely safe to live in His unveiled presence.
The following passage is Moses' last speech to his people just before he went up the mountain to die. So we must keep in mind that all these words are from Moses' perspective and are his personal views about God that he had arrived at throughout his own lifetime of experience. They likely were not as completely accurate as the revelation of God in the life and teachings of Jesus, but they were extremely more advanced than anything on earth for thousands of years before Jesus arrived on the scene.
(from Deuteronomy 32)
1 ¶ "Give ear, O heavens, and let me speak; And let the earth hear the words of my mouth.
2 "Let my teaching drop as the rain, My speech distill as the dew, As the droplets on the fresh grass And as the showers on the herb.
3 "For I proclaim the name of the LORD; Ascribe greatness to our God!
I see a clue here that this may be revealing that the following are Moses' own views of how he has come to see God. Let's respect that disclaimer by Moses himself in his own writings. He is saying here that he (I) is proclaiming how he sees the name, or character, of the Lord.
4 "The Rock! His work is perfect, For all His ways are just; A God of faithfulness and without injustice, Righteous and upright is He.
5 "They have acted corruptly toward Him, They are not His children, because of their defect; But are a perverse and crooked generation.
6 "Do you thus repay the LORD, O foolish and unwise people? Is not He your Father who has bought you? He has made you and established you.
Can we honestly claim that these words of Moses are indisputable; that there are people who are not God's children? Many might adhere to that notion, but I find problems reconciling this with the fact that all human beings are in God's image. Yes, many have turned their back on Him and have chosen the devil as their father, the one they reflect. This was also true of many of the leaders of God's chosen people in the time of Jesus. But Moses did not have the clearest views of God that he later was privileged to have after he gained the perspective of heaven, after his special resurrection by Michael (another name for Christ at that time.) (see Jude 9 about the resurrection of Moses)
Here is another issue I see in these words by Moses. Is our worth to God and our identity determined by whether we have defects or not? Moses certainly had the most advanced understanding of God of any of his generation and far beyond. But even God told Moses that he was not yet safe enough to see God's face and survive the experience. I believe that was because Moses still had far too much infection of his thinking with less that mature ideas about the nature of God's character. And as long as we have such dissonance in our hearts about what God is really like, that very dissonance and resistance to truth is a fatal flaw that must be cleansed before it will be safe for us to live in the fiery presence of God's face.
7 ¶ "Remember the days of old, Consider the years of all generations. Ask your father, and he will inform you, Your elders, and they will tell you.
8 "When the Most High gave the nations their inheritance, When He separated the sons of man, He set the boundaries of the peoples According to the number of the sons of Israel.
9 "For the LORD'S portion is His people; Jacob is the allotment of His inheritance.
10 "He found him in a desert land, And in the howling waste of a wilderness; He encircled him, He cared for him, He guarded him as the pupil of His eye.
11 "Like an eagle that stirs up its nest, That hovers over its young, He spread His wings and caught them, He carried them on His pinions.
12 "The LORD alone guided him, And there was no foreign god with him.
Again, is it completely accurate to say that there was no foreign god with Jacob? That may have been true at times, but if we understand the nature of what a god is for people, and even the stories of the gods carried around and fought over by his wife, it is a bit of a stretch to say there were none with him. Moses here is making a generalization that is perfectly acceptable. But we must read his words with a view to the broader perspective and discern his passion to defend God's reputation while still not fully appreciating God's fullness as revealed in the life of Jesus.
13 "He made him ride on the high places of the earth, And he ate the produce of the field; And He made him suck honey from the rock, And oil from the flinty rock,
14 Curds of cows, and milk of the flock, With fat of lambs, And rams, the breed of Bashan, and goats, With the finest of the wheat--And of the blood of grapes you drank wine.
15 ¶ "But Jeshurun (another name for Israel) grew fat and kicked--You are grown fat, thick, and sleek--Then he forsook God who made him, And scorned the Rock of his salvation.
16 "They made Him jealous with strange gods; With abominations they provoked Him to anger.
17 "They sacrificed to demons who were not God, To gods whom they have not known, New gods who came lately, Whom your fathers did not dread.
18 "You neglected the Rock who begot you, And forgot the God who gave you birth.
19 ¶ "The LORD saw this, and spurned them Because of the provocation of His sons and daughters.
20 "Then He said, 'I will hide My face from them, I will see what their end shall be; For they are a perverse generation, Sons in whom is no faithfulness.
21 'They have made Me jealous with what is not God; They have provoked Me to anger with their idols. So I will make them jealous with those who are not a people; I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation,
22 For a fire is kindled in My anger, And burns to the lowest part of Sheol, And consumes the earth with its yield, And sets on fire the foundations of the mountains.
When God says He will hide His face, that is a reference to the biblical definition of wrath as it must be viewed from God's perspective. Any other belief in a vindictive, lashing out kind of wrath has been contaminated by fallen sinful definitions of wrath.
Also, much of this passage seems to be as prophetic of future events as it is recounting history from the time of this speech. That helps to clarify some of the things said in the last words of Moses to the world.
23 'I will heap misfortunes on them; I will use My arrows on them.
24 'They will be wasted by famine, and consumed by plague And bitter destruction; And the teeth of beasts I will send upon them, With the venom of crawling things of the dust.
25 'Outside the sword will bereave, And inside terror--Both young man and virgin, The nursling with the man of gray hair.
26 ¶ 'I would have said, "I will cut them to pieces, I will remove the memory of them from men,"
27 Had I not feared the provocation by the enemy, That their adversaries would misjudge, That they would say, "Our hand is triumphant, And the LORD has not done all this."'
This section can be easily misunderstood and twisted by anyone who is not mature in their perceptions about what God is like as revealed by Jesus Christ. However, it is very much in line with the Old Testament practice of attributing everything to God no matter what source it came from. From what I have learned, God took the risk being misunderstood by allowing everything to be blamed on Him, both good and bad, rather than to open the door for superstitious people with darkened minds to think there were other deities out there in the supernatural who might be the source of some of their experiences. In that culture, people felt compelled to worship anything and everything supernatural. So it was too much of a risk at that time for God to open to their understanding what we can now see more clearly, the titanic struggle between the supernatural forces of righteousness and darkness.
28 "For they are a nation lacking in counsel, And there is no understanding in them.
29 "Would that they were wise, that they understood this, That they would discern their future!
30 "How could one chase a thousand, And two put ten thousand to flight, Unless their Rock had sold them, And the LORD had given them up?
31 "Indeed their rock is not like our Rock, Even our enemies themselves judge this.
32 "For their vine is from the vine of Sodom, And from the fields of Gomorrah; Their grapes are grapes of poison, Their clusters, bitter.
33 "Their wine is the venom of serpents, And the deadly poison of cobras.
We can see clearer hints here that the gods we trust in, i.e. our internal picture of what supernatural force(s) dominate our lives and bring us what we want, will determine how we act and treat those around us. Moses is appealing to evidence to determine how God should be viewed or who should even be trusted to be viewed as God.
34 'Is it not laid up in store with Me, Sealed up in My treasuries?
The question arises here – what is it that is laid up in store? What is sealed up in God's treasuries? Is it the poison of serpents mentioned above? Or is it possibly the truth about the nature of vengeance as viewed from God's perspective mentioned immediately following? I believe it is the latter, given references to this by New Testament authors and how they try to help us see more advanced truth about God's kind of vengeance in their context.
35 'Vengeance is Mine, and retribution, In due time their foot will slip; For the day of their calamity is near, And the impending things are hastening upon them.'
36 "For the LORD will vindicate His people, And will have compassion on His servants, When He sees that their strength is gone, And there is none remaining, bond or free.
37 "And He will say, 'Where are their gods, The rock in which they sought refuge?
38 'Who ate the fat of their sacrifices, And drank the wine of their drink offering? Let them rise up and help you, Let them be your hiding place!
Notice that up to this point Moses – speaking on God's behalf here – seems to vindicate God as being like the more advanced views of God shared by New Testament writers. There we see more clearly that wrath is defined as God releasing people to the natural consequences of their bad choices. Likewise, the true biblical definition of justice is to make things right again, restoring situations and people back to their healthy and balanced state. What is being pointed out here is also the futility of trusting ourselves to any other kind of god. This is in contrast to the imitation gods we so easily gravitate toward with glowing but empty promises while only the true God can bring real life to us.
39 ¶ 'See now that I, I am He, And there is no god besides Me; It is I who put to death and give life. I have wounded and it is I who heal, And there is no one who can deliver from My hand.
40 'Indeed, I lift up My hand to heaven, And say, as I live forever,
41 If I sharpen My flashing sword, And My hand takes hold on justice, I will render vengeance on My adversaries, And I will repay those who hate Me.
42 'I will make My arrows drunk with blood, And My sword will devour flesh, With the blood of the slain and the captives, From the long-haired leaders of the enemy.'
43 "Rejoice, O nations, with His people; For He will avenge the blood of His servants, And will render vengeance on His adversaries, And will atone for His land and His people."
This is the kind of speaking that gives comfort to people who long for a violent God to defend them, to avenge them and to inflict pain and suffering on their opponents. It is possible that Moses himself shared some of that sentiment which would explain why it was woven into his descriptions of God here. But again, if we do not make the testimony of God's own Son of greatest authority over any and all other testimonies, we are sure to come up with faulty conclusions and less than healthy opinions about the nature of God's true character of perfect love.
44 ¶ Then Moses came and spoke all the words of this song in the hearing of the people, he, with Joshua the son of Nun.
45 When Moses had finished speaking all these words to all Israel,
46 he said to them, "Take to your heart all the words with which I am warning you today, which you shall command your sons to observe carefully, even all the words of this law.
47 "For it is not an idle word for you; indeed it is your life. And by this word you will prolong your days in the land, which you are about to cross the Jordan to possess."
This was the song of Moses, and it has had great credibility for centuries to improve the reputation of God in the eyes of billions of people. But there is a new version of this song about God that we must learn for ourselves, a more advanced view of God that we must not neglect to learn, so that we can move on to a deeper level of intimacy in knowing the Father. This new song is the song of the Lamb, Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away all the sins (distrust and malfunction) of the whole world. Those who are saved at last will be seen coming from both directions. Many have only known the song of Moses, but there are to be many who come to know and experience the far greater, more accurate and more compelling version of God's song written by the Lamb. This is what we are privileged to learn and sing in these last days. It is a mistake to turn back to rely on an old song when Jesus wants us to learn His new song; a song of experiential truth about what God is really like.
And I saw what appeared to be a sea of glass mixed with fire, and those who had conquered the beast and its image and the number of its name, standing beside the sea of glass with harps of God in their hands. And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb: "Great and amazing are your deeds, Lord God the Almighty! Just and true are your ways, King of the nations! (Revelation 15:2-3 NRSV)