Psalm 103:9–10 (NIV84)
9 He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever;
10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.
After they’ve threatened his father, the war hero shoots a corrupt policeman and the head of a crime family. After they’ve kidnapped his daughter, an ex-CIA agent finds the perpetrators and kills them. Al Pacino, Liam Neeson, John Wayne – it doesn’t much matter who the star of the film is. If someone’s been seriously wronged, moviegoers flock to see what sort of vengeance is in store for the bad guys. The more brutal the payback, it seems, the more pleased the audience. Of course, art is merely imitating real life. More than once you or I have been pleased when a criminal got what was coming to him, whether the payback was legal or not.
Yet what if the LORD should feel that way or act that way toward us? You’ve ignored the giver of every perfect gift. Shouldn’t the LORD pay you back by ignoring you? I’ve harbored bitter thoughts toward someone who wronged me years ago. Shouldn’t the LORD turn the tables and harbor bitterness toward me? At times, we’ve withheld forgiveness from someone who has wronged us. Doesn’t the LORD have the right to withhold forgiveness from us? Payback says the LORD should do those very things in this life and then top it off by casting us away from his presence forever. Indeed, justice says he has every right to do that.
During the season of Lent, we observe that God is different. He accuses with his holy law, and our many crimes against his name certainly anger him. But there’s no vengeance. There’s no payback. Rather, as the psalmist puts it, “he will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.” Indeed, the LORD directs his Servant Jesus to pay for our iniquities with his holy precious blood. He subjects his willing Son to the punishment our sins have deserved. He unleashes his angry justice against our Substitute, accusing Jesus in our place.
In his letter to the Romans, the apostle Paul puts you in God’s courtroom. If God desired payback, the future would be terrifying. If God had vengeance in mind, we would be destroyed. But God promises mercy: “Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen?” He announces what has actually happened. “It is God who justifies” (Romans 8:33). No payback. No vengeance. No accusations. No anger. Just a “not guilty” verdict and everlasting freedom. All for Jesus’ sake.
PRAYER: Heavenly Father, continue to be merciful. Be mindful of the verdict paid for by your Son at the cross and confirmed at his resurrection from the grave. For his sake grant us your peace. Amen.