What ‘Does Vengeance is Mine, Saith the Lord’ Actually Mean? #186

Hello and happy Wednesday, friends! Shout out to my 8 year old daughter Phoebe, who is apparently a keen listener to the podcast, and let me know tonight that the link to the Bible meditation podcast that I said was in the shownotes was not on the shownotes that she has on the iPad, and she wanted me to let everybody know that – so be informed. Links don’t work on the podcast app shownotes, so you have to go to the website to get them. Shoutout to Abbey, our wonderfully talented and unique 17 year old who also sometimes listens to the podcast, but wants to keep that a secret, because its not that cool to listen to this podcast.

Tonight at 7pm, I invite you to join us at VBC Salinas for our livestream on racism and the Bible. Two major topics: #1 The abominable fallacy of white supremacy, considering that Jesus was NOT white and #2 The Surprising Biblical ‘cure’ for racism. Today we open with a great question from listener and friend Jesse “Top Secret Clearance”  Worrell, based on episode #183, Why Did Jesus Cast Demons Into a Herd of Pigs?

Intriguing/speculating question. Since the demons requested to have Jesus permit them to go into the pigs – it would seem unlikely the demons would have wanted the pigs to kill themselves. Is the death of the pigs a thwarting of the demons ultimate desires? Or another meaning?

That’s a great question, Jesse. I still have an awful lot of questions about that entire passage, and this is one of the top ones. What point did the pigs serve? Why did Jesus grant their request knowing that it would kill all of the pigs? I’ve read some pretty out there answers to these questions, which include some pretty elaborate allegorizing of the whole incident (which I don’t really ascribe to) as well as the theory that Jesus allowed this knowing that the pigs would die because Jewish people weren’t allowed to eat pigs anyway. I suppose that is possible, but I do believe the text would have at least hinted that such a thing was in view by Jesus. My best guess, and that’s all it is – is that Jesus sent the demons into the pigs, rather than releasing them entirely to go on to their next victim. Perhaps in a way, He sent them into a sort of jail in the pigs, but they quickly escaped, but Jesus is not culpable for that, because they escaped on their own. My ‘answer/guess’ is at least partly inspired by Matthew 12:

43 “When an unclean spirit comes out of a person, it roams through waterless places looking for rest but doesn’t find any.44 Then it says, ‘I’ll go back to my house that I came from.’ Returning, it finds the house vacant, swept, and put in order.45 Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and settle down there. As a result, that person’s last condition is worse than the first. That’s how it will also be with this evil generation.”

Matthew 12:43

Is Jesus speaking of people as places with water, that a demon could rest in? If He had simply sent the demons out of that man, would they have been free to immediately enter another man? As you can see, I have no idea how these things work relative to the spirit/demon realm. No idea. But I am as curious as you are. Perhaps some more research is in order.

Today’s Bible readings include Joshua 3, Psalms 126, 127 and 128, Isaiah 63 and Matthew 11. Our focus passage is Isaiah 63, and buckle in, because its going to be a bumpy ride, because we are talking about bloody judgment today. No, I am not using the mild English epithet, but am referring to the second coming of the Servant of the Lord – AKA Jesus – and how bloody it is going to be. When I say second coming, I realize that ‘bloody’ is the last adjective that you’d expect me to use, but – as we will see in the Word – it is surprisingly on point. Let’s read Isaiah 63…actually, no – let’s read Revelation 19 first:

11 Then I saw heaven opened, and there was a white horse. Its rider is called Faithful and True, and with justice he judges and makes war. 12 His eyes were like a fiery flame, and many crowns were on his head. He had a name written that no one knows except himself. 13 He wore a robe dipped in blood, and his name is called the Word of God. 14 The armies that were in heaven followed him on white horses, wearing pure white linen. 15 A sharp sword came from his mouth, so that he might strike the nations with it. He will rule them with an iron rod. He will also trample the winepress of the fierce anger of God, the Almighty. 16 And he has a name written on his robe and on his thigh: King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

Revelation 19:11-16

This passage is important to read before we read Isaiah 63, because here we see that Jesus is coming back on a war horse with a sword coming out of His mouth, and the sword is for striking the nations. He is also going to trample the winepress of the ‘fierce anger of God.’ This is incredibly intense – Jesus is NOT coming back meek and lowly to be born in a manger – He is coming back as a mighty warrior with His robe dipped in blood. Why dipped in blood? Probably from the crucifixion, is what I thought when I first read this passage a few decades ago. I was quite wrong, as it turns out. Let’s read Isaiah 63:

So – Jesus is coming back and will trample down His enemies (who, according to Revelation, will be arrayed in battle formation to meet and battle Him upon His second coming.) It will be bloody, and insanely violent. So violent, in fact, that Revelation 14 describes it like this:

19 So the angel swung his sickle at the earth and gathered the grapes from the vineyard of the earth, and he threw them into the great winepress of God’s wrath. 20 Then the press was trampled outside the city, and blood flowed out of the press up to the horses’ bridles for about 180 miles.

Revelation 14:19-20

Now, for some of you, this will completely undo your understanding of Jesus. Surely He is compassionate and merciful and gentle, right? And the answer is, yes – He is all of those things, but He is also a majestic and mighty warrior – the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, and fully just. In fact, in His FIRST SERMON, you can see exactly who He is:

The Spirit of the Lord God is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives
and freedom to the prisoners;
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,
and the day of our God’s vengeance;

Isaiah 61:1-2

We see the mercy AND holiness of Jesus here: Good news to the poor, liberty to the captives, healing for the brokenhearted AND the day of God’s vengeance. What is the day of God’s vengeance? Great question! I believe that Isaiah 63 and Revelation 19 are both describing it. Consider these passages:

19 Friends, do not avenge yourselves; instead, leave room for God’s wrath, because it is written, Vengeance belongs to me; I will repay, says the Lord.

Romans 12:19

God is the one who will have vengeance – we are not called to getting revenge. Jesus, looking forward to His return, describes it as a ‘Day of Vengeance.’ in Luke 21:

Then those in Judea must flee to the mountains. Those inside the city must leave it, and those who are in the country must not enter it,22 because these are days of vengeance to fulfill all the things that are written.

Luke 21:21-22

Jeremiah the prophet also uses this term:

That day belongs to the Lord, the God of Armies, a day of vengeance to avenge himself against his adversaries. The sword will devour and be satisfied; it will drink its fill of their blood, because it will be a sacrifice to the Lord, the God of Armies, in the northern land by the Euphrates River.

Jeremiah 46:10

The prophet Joel calls the end of times and the second coming the ‘Great and Terrible Day of the Lord:

I will display wonders
in the heavens and on the earth:
blood, fire, and columns of smoke.
31 The sun will be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood
before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes.
32 Then everyone who calls
on the name of the Lord will be saved,
for there will be an escape
for those on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem,
as the Lord promised,
among the survivors the Lord calls.

Joel 2:30-31

The book of Revelation then reveals more of the fullness of what is coming during these days that the prophets saw before the coming of Christ. It will be a beautiful and great day, because all of the people of God will be delivered, saved, healed, and prepared for eternal life in the presence of Jesus with no pain, suffering, or trouble. It will be terrible because it will also be a day of judgment when those who are enemies of God and wicked will be judged. Revelation 19 sums it up quite well:

Salvation, glory, and power belong to our God,
because his judgments are true and righteous,
because he has judged the notorious prostitute
who corrupted the earth with her sexual immorality;
and he has avenged the blood of his servants
that was on her hands

Let’s close with the fullness of the Christian ethic we are called to, and a reminder that we are not the judge nor the avenger of wrongdoing – vengeance and justice belong to God – we are ministers of His mercy, love, grace, truth and kindness.

19 Friends, do not avenge yourselves; instead, leave room for God’s wrath, because it is written, Vengeance belongs to me; I will repay, says the Lord. 20 But If your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty, give him something to drink. For in so doing you will be heaping fiery coals on his head. 

Romans 12:19-20

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