Summary: It is so easy to want to take revenge against those who wrong us. Should we?
Vengeance Belongs to God: An Exposition of the 94th Psalm
Everyone is a victim. Everyone has been done wrong by someone. Every group of people have suffered victimhood at some time or another to one degree or another. People want vengeance for the wrongs they have suffered. Some try to avenge themselves for the wrongs of others, but often, they do not have the power to avenge themselves. So they look for a higher power to avenge them and make reparations. People look for advocacy groups, militant groups, or the power of government to make things right. There are those in power who will exploit these desires to their own advantage and by this make the aggrieved a double victim.
Everyone has also done others wrong, whether this be individuals or a group of people. Paul tells us that “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” We need to affirm this as well. When is it right to seek vengeance and how. To answer this question, let us look to Psalm 94.
The Hebrew text of the psalm does not state and author, but the Greek translation called the Septuagint says that it is a Psalm of David to be sung on the 4th Sabbath. We cannot be sure of the accuracy of the statement, but it does give us a clue how it was used in the time just before Christ came. Like many of the psalms, we don not know the occasion for its writing. Rather than trying to find an original context other than a generic one that it is Scripture and that it was written in the context of the writer of the psalm being aggrieved for wrong being done to him.
The psalm begins with a parallel statement. We notice the repeat of “O God to whom vengeance belongeth.” We also see that “Yahweh” and “show thyself” are not repeated. The English translations I have read place the Yahweh with the first mention of God. However, Yahweh appears between the repeats and could go with the repeat of the line rather than at the beginning. Literally in Hebrew it reads: “God of vengeance, Yahweh, God of vengeance, show yourself.” I prefer placing the Yahweh with the repeated phrase, rendering “God of vengeance; LORD, God of vengeance, show yourself.” This gives emphasis that Yahweh and not some other god is the God of vengeance. Yahweh is a covenant name for the God of Israel. As a covenant between a suzerain and subject involves a promise for the king to come to the help of his subjects, invoking the name of Yahweh, God of Israel, is a call for Him to do His duty to provide aid and comfort. The vassal also had an obligation to keep the covenant and the stipulations addressed to him as well.
I feel the King James gives a good rendition of the verse when it translates it: “O LORD God to whom vengeance belongeth; O God to whom vengeance belongeth shew thyself.” This takes the phrase “of vengeance” and translates it as a possessive genitive. When read against the verse that says “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” It renders the idea that vengeance in this covenant relation belongs solely to Yahweh. The believer is to trust in Yahweh to right wrongs rather than to try to take personal revenge or to seek the aid of some other authority. As Christians, we are in a covenant relationship with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. This means that the Christian must address his grievances to God rather than a secular power or advocacy group. If all vengeance belongs to God in a global capacity as creator, how much more does this ring true for the Christian?
The psalmist now calls upon Yahweh to avenge the wrong as He is judge of all the earth. It is Yahweh who will judge the proud. The call is for Him to act speedily on his behalf. The wicked seem to be winning the day. They were persecuting His people and scattering them. Believers are the heritage of the LORD. By defaming them, they were also defaming the LORD. Our opponents say that God is either deaf or dead. They call upon us to abandon our hope in Him. Christians are being persecuted and killed all over the earth, and the rulers are fearless in their evil pursuits. The psalmist now responds by saying that God does both see an hear what is going on. We also must think upon the truth and justice of our God. God who has created the ears to hear can certainly hear Himself. He is the creator of knowledge, so certainly He must know Himself. He will both chastise the nations as well as His people. All human thought apart from God is futility. This is echoed in the 2nd Psalm: “Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things? The 2nd Psalm sees this as a conspiracy between the nations and the leaders of Israel against the LORD’s anointed. We are also reminded in this psalm that they shall be shattered even as a clay pot.