When I was really little, my mom taught me about lying. She said that if you ever tell a lie, you must ask not only God but also the person you lied to for forgiveness. Else, she said, “be sure your sin will find you out”.
The lesson stuck. Any lie I told bothered me until I confessed it. I remember writing secret notes to confess lies I had told over a year in the past. I still hate lying.
But what I remember the most about that conversation is that somewhat ominous reminder: “Be sure your sins will find you out”. It sounds superstitious. It sounds false. People get away with stuff all day, every day.
But Judges 9 would beg to differ. It’s a story whose beginning, middle, and end is just murder with a side plot of revenge. So where is God in all this?
Doomed from the start
Gideon, the latest judge of Israel to wrestle them free from oppression and lead them, has died. He’s left behind seventy sons born from several different wives, and one more son, Abimelek, the son of a sidepiece.
Ever since his father’s death, Abimelek has been dreaming of leading, just like his father. But he knows that as an illegitimate son, his options are limited.
So he starts small – the town of Shechem, where his mother grew up. He uses that family tie as an advantage and gets the Shechemites to agree to crown him their king. But there’s still the problem of his seventy brothers, who might take over and force him to step down.
Abimelek solves this problem by murdering his brothers. His new subjects help him finish the job.
That’s a lot of blood to have on your hands. That’s a lot of lives to have taken with your own strength. How did Abimelek sleep at night? Did he have nightmares? Did he regret it? Or did he sleep peacefully in his cushy palace?
God doesn’t leave that question hanging for too long. What follows in the rest of this chapter is, in a word, chaos.
Abimelek’s reign is troubled by infighting and murder plots. Eventually, he tries to kill his people before they kill him. In the end, he burns a bunch of them alive and they crack his skull open with a stone.
It’s grisly. It’s awful. And it’s the will of God.
“Thus God repaid the wickedness that Abimelek had done to his father by murdering his seventy brothers. God also made the people of Shechem pay for all their wickedness.”verses 56-57
Abimelek’s sin found him out. The Shechemites’ sins found them out. And in the process God sent a message to the Israelites, and to you, and to me:
All the arrogance, violence, nepotism, wealth, power, and luck in the world will not protect us from the consequences of our sins. Because while humans might be smart, God is all powerful.
“Vengeance is mine, and I will repay.”Romans 12:19
“Revenge is my job. I will repay all evil.”
God isn’t trying to scare us. He is trying to get our attention. Because it’s not just murderers and other likewise terrible people that don’t get away with their sins – it’s you and me, too.
From the words we say to the things we do, from the thoughts we think to the desires we cherish, from the big sins to the little sins, God knows about all of it. And our options are simple: ask forgiveness and repent, or be paid the wages of sin.
And although God is patient with us, and lovingly works on our hearts, our time will run out.
This can cause us to fear or it can give us hope. The God we serve is just and fair and righteous. He sees what we see and He feels what we feel. Every unfair thing, gross outrage, upsetting injustice we see happening in our world – God already has it marked down. He knows all about it, the ins and outs of it, and He has promised to take care of it.
He has promised to repay that evil.
He has promised to destroy evil.
So instead of fear or anger or frustration or indignation, let this promise give us faith and hope and determination. When we fight evil in our world, we fight alongside our Father. When we fight evil in ourselves, we fight with the strength of our Father.
And one day, when all evil is finally repaid, our reward will be sweet. And that sweetness will last an eternity.
What do you think? When have you seen God repay evil?