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SHELL NOT GOD AVENGE HIS OWN?
Christ had been speaking of the period just before His second coming, and of
the perils through which His followers must pass. With special reference to that
time He related the parable “to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not
“There was in a city,” He said, “a judge, which feared not God, neither
regarded man; and there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him,
saying, Avenge me of mine adversary. And he would not for a while; but
afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man; yet
because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming
she weary me. And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge saith. And shall not
God avenge His own elect, which cry day and night unto Him, though He bear
long with them? I tell you that He will avenge them speedily.”
The judge who is here pictured had no regard for right, nor pity for suffering.
The widow who pressed her case before him was persistently repulsed. Again
and again she came to him, only to be treated with contempt, and to be driven
from the judgment seat. The judge knew that her cause was righteous, and he
could have relieved her at once, but he would not. He wanted to show his
arbitrary power, and it gratified him to let her ask and plead and entreat in vain.
But she would not fail nor become discouraged. Notwithstanding his indifference
and hardheartedness, she pressed her petition until the judge consented to
attend to her case. “Though I fear not God, nor regard man,” he said, “yet
because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming
she weary me.” To save his reputation, to avoid giving publicity to his partial,
one-sided judgment, he avenged the persevering woman.
“And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge saith. And shall not God
avenge His own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though He bear long
with them? I tell you that He will avenge them speedily.” Christ here draws a
sharp contrast between the unjust judge and God. The judge yielded to the
widow’s request merely through selfishness, that he might be relieved of her
importunity. He felt for her no pity or compassion; her misery was nothing to him.
How different is the attitude of God toward those who seek Him. The appeals of
the needy and distressed are considered by Him with infinite compassion.
The woman who entreated the judge for justice had lost her husband by
death. Poor and friendless, she had no means of retrieving her ruined fortunes.
So by sin, man lost his connection with God. Of himself he has no means of
salvation. But in Christ we are brought nigh unto the Father. The elect of God are
dear to His heart. They are those whom He has called out of darkness into His
marvelous light, to show forth His praise, to shine as lights amid the darkness of
the world. The unjust judge had no special interest in the widow who importuned
him for deliverance; yet in order to rid himself of her pitiful appeals, he heard her
plea, and delivered her from her adversary. But God loves His children with
infinite love. To Him the dearest object on earth is His church.
“For the Lord’s portion is His people; Jacob is the lot of His inheritance. He
found him in a desert land, and in the waste howling wilderness; He led him
about, He instructed him, He kept him as the apple of His eye.” Deuteronomy
32:9, 10. “For thus saith the Lord of hosts: After the glory hath He sent me unto
the nations which spoiled you; for he that toucheth you toucheth the apple of His
eye.” Zechariah 2:8.
The widow’s prayer, “Avenge me”–“do me justice” (R.V.)–“of mine
adversary,” represents the prayer of God’s children. Satan is their great
adversary. He is the “accuser of our brethren,” who accuses them before God
day and night. (Revelation 12:10.) He is continually working to misrepresent and
accuse, to deceive and destroy the people of God. And it is for deliverance from
the power of Satan and his agents that in this parable Christ teaches His
disciples to pray.
In the prophecy of Zechariah is brought to view Satan’s accusing work, and
the work of Christ in resisting the adversary of His people. The prophet says, “He
showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and
Satan standing at his right hand to resist him. And the Lord said unto Satan, The
Lord rebuke thee, O Satan; even the Lord that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke
thee: is not this a brand plucked out of the fire? Now Joshua was clothed with
filthy garments, and stood before the angel.” Zechariah 3:1-3.
The people of God are here represented as a criminal on trial. Joshua, as high
priest, is seeking for a blessing for his people, who are in great affliction. While
he is pleading before God, Satan is standing at his right hand as his adversary.
He is accusing the children of God, and making their case appear as desperate
as possible. He presents before the Lord their evil doings and their defects. He
shows their faults and failures, hoping they will appear of such a character in the
eyes of Christ that He will render them no help in their great need. Joshua, as the
representative of God’s people, stands under condemnation, clothed with filthy
garments. Aware of the sins of his people, he is weighed down with
discouragement. Satan is pressing upon his soul a sense of guiltiness that makes
him feel almost hopeless. Yet there he stands as a suppliant, with Satan arrayed
The work of Satan as an accuser began in heaven. This has been his work on
earth ever since man’s fall, and it will be his work in a special sense as we
approach nearer to the close of this world’s history. As he sees that his time is
short, he will work with greater earnestness to deceive and destroy. He is angry
when he sees a people on the earth who, even in their weakness and sinfulness,
have respect to the law of Jehovah. He is determined that they shall not obey
God. He delights in their unworthiness, and has devices prepared for every soul,
that all may be ensnared and separated from God. He seeks to accuse and
condemn God and all who strive to carry out His purposes in this world in mercy
and love, in compassion and forgiveness.
Every manifestation of God’s power for His people arouses the enmity of
Satan. Every time God works in their behalf, Satan with his angels works with
renewed vigor to compass their ruin. He is jealous of all who make Christ their
strength. His object is to instigate evil, and when he has succeeded, throw all the
blame upon the tempted ones. He points to their filthy garments, their defective
characters. He presents their weakness and folly, their sins of ingratitude, their
unlikeness to Christ, which have dishonored their Redeemer. All this he urges as
an argument proving his right to work his will in their destruction. He endeavors to
affright their souls with the thought that their case is hopeless, that the stain of
their defilement can never be washed away. He hopes so to destroy their faith
that they will yield fully to his temptations, and turn from their allegiance to God.
The Lord’s people cannot of themselves answer the charges of Satan. As they
look to themselves they are ready to despair. But they appeal to the divine
Advocate. They plead the merits of the Redeemer. God can be “just, and the
justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.” Romans 3:26. With confidence the
Lord’s children cry unto Him to silence the accusations of Satan, and bring to
naught his devices. “Do me justice of mine adversary,” they pray; and with the
mighty argument of the cross, Christ silences the bold accuser.
“The Lord said unto Satan, The Lord rebuke thee, O Satan, even the Lord that
hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee: is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?”
When Satan seeks to cover the people of God with blackness, and ruin them,
Christ interposes. Although they have sinned, Christ has taken the guilt of their
sins upon His own soul. He has snatched the race as a brand from the fire. By
His human nature He is linked with man, while through His divine nature He is
one with the infinite God. Help is brought within the reach of perishing souls. The
adversary is rebuked.
“Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and stood before the angel:
and he answered and spake unto those that stood before him, saying, Take away
the filthy garments from him. And unto him he said, Behold, I have caused thine
iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment. And I
said, Let them set a fair miter upon his head. So they set a fair miter upon his
head, and clothed him with garments.” Then with the authority of the Lord of
hosts the angel made a solemn pledge to Joshua, the representative of God’s
people: “If thou wilt walk in My ways, and if thou wilt keep My charge, then thou
shalt also judge My house, and shalt also keep My courts, and I will give thee
places to walk among these that stand by”–even among the angels that surround
the throne of God. (Zechariah 3:3-7.)
Notwithstanding the defects of the people of God, Christ does not turn away
from the objects of His care. He has the power to change their raiment. He
removes the filthy garments, He places upon the repenting, believing ones His
own robe of righteousness, and writes pardon against their names on the records
of heaven. He confesses them as His before the heavenly universe. Satan their
adversary is shown to be an accuser and deceiver. God will do justice for His
The prayer, “Do me justice of mine adversary,” applies not only to Satan, but
to the agencies whom he instigates to misrepresent, to tempt, and to destroy the
people of God. Those who have decided to obey the commandments of God will
understand by experience that they have adversaries who are controlled by a
power from beneath. Such adversaries beset Christ at every step, how constantly
and determinedly no human being can ever know. Christ’s disciples, like their
Master, are followed by continual temptation.
The Scriptures describe the condition of the world just before Christ’s second
coming. James the apostle pictures the greed and oppression that will prevail. He
says, “Go to now, ye rich men, . . . ye have heaped treasure together for the last
days. Behold, the hire of the labourers who have reaped down your fields, which
is of you kept back by fraud, crieth: and the cries of them which have reaped are
entered into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth. Ye have lived in pleasure on the
earth, and been wanton. Ye have nourished your hearts, as in a day of slaughter.
Ye have condemned and killed the just; and he doth not resist you.” James 5:1-6.
This is a picture of what exists today. By every species of oppression and
extortion, men are piling up colossal fortunes, while the cries of starving humanity
are coming up before God.
“Judgment is turned away backward, and justice standeth afar off; for truth is
fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter. Yea, truth faileth; and he that
departeth from evil maketh himself a prey.” Isaiah 59:14, 15. This was fulfilled in
the life of Christ on earth. He was loyal to God’s commandments, setting aside
the human traditions and requirements which had been exalted in their place.
Because of this He was hated and persecuted. This history is repeated. The laws
and traditions of men are exalted above the law of God, and those who are true
to God’s commandments suffer reproach and persecution. Christ, because of His
faithfulness to God, was accused as a Sabbath-breaker and blasphemer. He was
declared to be possessed of a devil, and was denounced as Beelzebub. In like
manner His followers are accused and misrepresented. Thus Satan hopes to
lead them to sin, and cast dishonor upon God.
The character of the judge in the parable, who feared not God nor regarded
man, was presented by Christ to show the kind of judgment that was then being
executed, and that would soon be witnessed at His trial. He desires His people in
all time to realize how little dependence can be placed on earthly rulers or judges
in the day of adversity. Often the elect people of God have to stand before men in
official positions who do not make the word of God their guide and counselor, but
who follow their own unconsecrated, undisciplined impulses.
In the parable of the unjust judge, Christ has shown what we should do. “Shall
not God avenge His own elect, which cry day and night unto Him?” Christ, our
example, did nothing to vindicate or deliver Himself. He committed His case to
God. So His followers are not to accuse or condemn, or to resort to force in order
to deliver themselves.
When trials arise that seem unexplainable, we should not allow our peace to
be spoiled. However unjustly we may be treated, let not passion arise. By
indulging a spirit of retaliation we injure ourselves. We destroy our own
confidence in God, and grieve the Holy Spirit. There is by our side a witness, a
heavenly messenger, who will lift up for us a standard against the enemy. He will
shut us in with the bright beams of the Sun of Righteousness. Beyond this Satan
cannot penetrate. He cannot pass this shield of holy light.
While the world is progressing in wickedness, none of us need flatter
ourselves that we shall have no difficulties. But it is these very difficulties that
bring us into the audience chamber of the Most High. We may seek counsel of
One who is infinite in wisdom.
The Lord says, “Call upon Me in the day of trouble.” Psalm 50:15. He invites
us to present to Him our perplexities and necessities, and our need of divine
help. He bids us be instant in prayer. As soon as difficulties arise, we are to offer
to Him our sincere, earnest petitions. By our importunate prayers we give
evidence of our strong confidence in God. The sense of our need leads us to
pray earnestly, and our heavenly Father is moved by our supplications.
Often those who suffer reproach or persecution for their faith are tempted to
think themselves forsaken by God. In the eyes of men they are in the minority. To
all appearance their enemies triumph over them. But let them not violate their
conscience. He who has suffered in their behalf, and has borne their sorrows and
afflictions, has not forsaken them.
The children of God are not left alone and defenseless. Prayer moves the arm
of Omnipotence. Prayer has “subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness,
obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of
fire”–we shall know what it means when we hear the reports of the martyrs who
died for their faith–“turneth to flight the armies of the aliens.” Hebrews 11:33, 34.
If we surrender our lives to His service, we can never be placed in a position
for which God has not made provision. Whatever may be our situation, we have a
Guide to direct our way; whatever our perplexities, we have a sure Counselor;
whatever our sorrow, bereavement, or loneliness, we have a sympathizing
Friend. If in our ignorance we make missteps, Christ does not leave us. His
voice, clear and distinct, is heard saying, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”
John 14:6. “He shall deliver the needy when he crieth; the poor also, and him that
hath no helper.” Psalm 72:12.
The Lord declares that He will be honored by those who draw nigh to Him,
who faithfully do His service. “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is
stayed on Thee, because he trusteth in Thee.” Isaiah 26:3. The arm of
Omnipotence is outstretched to lead us onward and still onward. Go forward, the
Lord says; I will send you help. It is for My name’s glory that you ask, and you
shall receive. I will be honored before those who are watching for your failure.
They shall see My word triumph gloriously. “All things, whatsoever ye shall ask in
prayer, believing, ye shall receive.” Matthew 21:22.
Let all who are afflicted or unjustly used, cry to God. Turn away from those
whose hearts are as steel, and make your requests known to your Maker. Never
is one repulsed who comes to Him with a contrite heart. Not one sincere prayer is
lost. Amid the anthems of the celestial choir, God hears the cries of the weakest
human being. We pour out our heart’s desire in our closets, we breathe a prayer
as we walk by the way, and our words reach the throne of the Monarch of the
universe. They may be inaudible to any human ear, but they cannot die away into
silence, nor can they be lost through the activities of business that are going on.
Nothing can drown the soul’s desire. It rises above the din of the street, above
the confusion of the multitude, to the heavenly courts. It is God to whom we are
speaking, and our prayer is heard.
You who feel the most unworthy, fear not to commit your case to God. When
He gave Himself in Christ for the sin of the world, He undertook the case of every
soul. “He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall
He not with Him also freely give us all things?” Romans 8:32. Will He not fulfill
the gracious word given for our encouragement and strength?
Christ desires nothing so much as to redeem His heritage from the dominion
of Satan. But before we are delivered from Satan’s power without, we must be
delivered from his power within. The Lord permits trials in order that we may be
cleansed from earthliness, from selfishness, from harsh, unchristlike traits of
character. He suffers the deep waters of affliction to go over our souls in order
that we may know Him and Jesus Christ whom He has sent, in order that we may
have deep heart longings to be cleansed from defilement, and may come forth
from the trial purer, holier, happier. Often we enter the furnace of trial with our
souls darkened with selfishness; but if patient under the crucial test, we shall
come forth reflecting the divine character. When His purpose in the affliction is
accomplished, “He shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy
judgment as the noonday.” Psalm 37:6.
There is no danger that the Lord will neglect the prayers of His people. The
danger is that in temptation and trial they will become discouraged, and fail to
persevere in prayer.
The Saviour manifested divine compassion toward the Syrophenician woman.
His heart was touched as He saw her grief. He longed to give her an immediate
assurance that her prayer was heard; but He desired to teach His disciples a
lesson, and for a time He seemed to neglect the cry of her tortured heart. When
her faith had been made manifest, He spoke to her words of commendation and
sent her away with the precious boon she had asked. The disciples never forgot
this lesson, and it is placed on record to show the result of persevering prayer.
It was Christ Himself who put into that mother’s heart the persistence which
would not be repulsed. It was Christ who gave the pleading widow courage and
determination before the judge. It was Christ who, centuries before, in the
mysterious conflict by the Jabbok, had inspired Jacob with the same persevering
faith. And the confidence which He Himself had implanted, He did not fail to
He who dwells in the heavenly sanctuary judges righteously. His pleasure is
more in His people, struggling with temptation in a world of sin, than in the host of
angels that surround His throne.
In this speck of a world the whole heavenly universe manifests the greatest
interest, for Christ has paid an infinite price for the souls of its inhabitants. The
world’s Redeemer has bound earth to heaven by ties of intelligence, for the
redeemed of the Lord are here. Heavenly beings still visit the earth as in the days
when they walked and talked with Abraham and with Moses. Amid the busy
activity of our great cities, amid the multitudes that crowd the thoroughfares and
fill the marts of trade where from morning till evening the people act as if
business and sport and pleasure were all there is to life, where there are so few
to contemplate unseen realities–even here heaven has still its watchers and its
holy ones. There are invisible agencies observing every word and deed of human
beings. In every assembly for business or pleasure, in every gathering for
worship, there are more listeners than can be seen with the natural sight.
Sometimes the heavenly intelligences draw aside the curtain which hides the
unseen world that our thoughts may be withdrawn from the hurry and rush of life
to consider that there are unseen witnesses to all we do or say.
We need to understand better than we do the mission of the angel visitants. It
would be well to consider that in all our work we have the co-operation and care
of heavenly beings. Invisible armies of light and power attend the meek and lowly
ones who believe and claim the promises of God. Cherubim and seraphim and
angels that excel in strength–ten thousand times ten thousand and thousands of
thousands–stand at His right hand, “all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister
for them who shall be heirs of salvation.” Hebrews 1:14.
By these angel messengers a faithful record is kept of the words and deeds of
the children of men. Every act of cruelty or injustice toward God’s people, all they
are caused to suffer through the power of evil workers, is registered in heaven.
“Shall not God avenge His own elect, which cry day and night unto Him,
though He bear long with them? I tell you that He will avenge them speedily.”
“Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompense of
reward. For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye
might receive the promise. For yet a little while, and He that shall come will come,
and will not tarry.” Hebrews 10:35-37. “Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the
precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early
and latter rain. Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts; for the coming of the Lord
draweth nigh.” James 5:7, 8.
The long-suffering of God is wonderful. Long does justice wait while mercy
pleads with the sinner. But “righteousness and judgment are the establishment of
His throne.” Psalm 97:2, margin. “The Lord is slow to anger;” but He is “great in
power, and will not at all acquit the wicked: the Lord hath His way in the whirlwind
and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of His feet.” Nahum 1:3.
The world has become bold in transgression of God’s law. Because of His
long forbearance, men have trampled upon His authority. They have
strengthened one another in oppression and cruelty toward His heritage, saying,
“How doth God know? and is there knowledge in the Most High?” Psalm 73:11.
But there is a line beyond which they cannot pass. The time is near when they
will have reached the prescribed limit. Even now they have almost exceeded the
bounds of the long-suffering of God, the limits of His grace, the limits of His
mercy. The Lord will interpose to vindicate His own honor, to deliver His people,
and to repress the swellings of unrighteousness.
In Noah’s day, men had disregarded the law of God until almost all
remembrance of the Creator had passed away from the earth. Their iniquity
reached so great a height that the Lord brought a flood of waters upon the earth,
and swept away its wicked inhabitants.
From age to age the Lord has made known the manner of His working. When
a crisis has come, He has revealed Himself, and has interposed to hinder the
working out of Satan’s plans. With nations, with families, and with individuals, He
has often permitted matters to come to a crisis, that His interference might
become marked. Then He has made manifest that there is a God in Israel who
will maintain His law and vindicate His people.
In this time of prevailing iniquity we may know that the last great crisis is at
hand. When the defiance of God’s law is almost universal, when His people are
oppressed and afflicted by their fellow men, the Lord will interpose.
The time is near when He will say, “Come, My people, enter thou into thy
chambers, and shut thy doors about thee: hide thyself as it were for a little
moment, until the indignation be overpast. For, behold, the Lord cometh out of
His place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity; the earth also
shall disclose her blood, and shall no more cover her slain.” Isaiah 26:20, 21.
Men who claim to be Christians may now defraud and oppress the poor; they
may rob the widow and fatherless; they may indulge their Satanic hatred because
they cannot control the consciences of God’s people; but for all this God will bring
them into judgment. They “shall have judgment without mercy” that have
“showed no mercy.” (James 2:13.) Not long hence they will stand before the
Judge of all the earth, to render an account for the pain they have caused to the
bodies and souls of His heritage. They may now indulge in false accusations,
they may deride those whom God has appointed to do His work, they may
consign His believing ones to prison, to the chain gang, to banishment, to death;
but for every pang of anguish, every tear shed, they must answer. God will
reward them double for their sins. Concerning Babylon, the symbol of the
apostate church, He says to His ministers of judgment, “Her sins have reached
unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities. Reward her even as she
rewarded you, and double unto her double according to her works: in the cup
which she hath filled fill to her double.” Revelation 18:5, 6.
From India, from Africa, from China, from the islands of the sea, from the
downtrodden millions of so-called Christian lands, the cry of human woe is
ascending to God. That cry will not long be unanswered. God will cleanse the
earth from it moral corruption, not by a sea of water as in Noah’s day, but by a
sea of fire that cannot be quenched by any human devising.
“There shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation
even to that same time; and at that time Thy people shall be delivered, every one
that shall be found written in the book.” Daniel 12:1.
From garrets, from hovels, from dungeons, from scaffolds, from mountains
and deserts, from the caves of the earth and the caverns of the sea, Christ will
gather His children to Himself. On earth they have been destitute, afflicted, and
tormented. Millions have gone down to the grave loaded with infamy because
they refused to yield to the deceptive claims of Satan. By human tribunals the
children of God have been adjudged the vilest criminals. But the day is near
when “God is judge Himself.” (Psalm 50:6). Then the decisions of earth shall be
reversed. “The rebuke of His people shall He take away.” Isaiah 25:8. White
robes will be given to every one of them. (Revelation 6:11.) And “they shall call
them the holy people, the redeemed of the Lord.” Isaiah 62:12.
Whatever crosses they have been called to bear, whatever losses they have
sustained, whatever persecution they have suffered, even to the loss of their
temporal life, the children of God are amply recompensed. “They shall see His
face; and His name shall be in their foreheads.” Revelation 22:4.