If anyone knows about being treated with contempt and the feelings it produces, it’s David. Anointed as Israel’s next king, time and again he felt the pain of being wronged. He was chased by Saul who was intent on killing David and his men, and insulted by Nabal, a wealthy property owner who was “harsh and evil in his dealings” (24:3) But instead of returning evil for evil, David who knew that revenge was for the weak, strove to do right in the eyes of God.
When someone wrongs us, it’s normal to want to retaliate. And David could have easily, and justifiably felt this way toward Saul. But such feelings can cause us to sin against God. And David understood this. While hiding out in a cave, who should wander in but Saul himself. Now David knew that God intended him to be king. So how easy would it have been for him to reach out, kill Saul, and claim his throne.
In fact, David’s men, knowing all that David had endured at the hands of Saul, urged him to do just that. But instead of shedding blood David said to his men, “Far be it from me because of the Lord that I should do this thing to my lord, the Lord’s anointed. (24:6) There was no way that David was about to dishonor God like Saul had done, and so he refused to lay a hand on the Lord’s anointed. He put his complete faith in God, trusting in His promises and perfect timing.
Of all the sayings about revenge the one that holds true is this, “the best revenge is a life well lived”. And how is a life well lived? By honoring God. That means instead of taking matters into your own hands, place your pain into His. Just like He delivered David from Saul, He promises to do the same for us. When we trust in the Lord, He will deliver us from our fears, our problems, and our enemies.
For as Paul says in Romans 12:17-19, “Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay’, says the Lord.” (Rom. 12:17-19)
There’s no way around it. It hurts when someone mistreats you. The world tells us to hurt them back, but God tells us, “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matt. 5:44) Not an easy task. But we can pray to God to give us a forgiving, loving, and obedient heart. And the same strength he gave to David who restrained from harming Saul, (25:34) God will freely give to us, for He is our rock, our fortress, and our deliverer. His grace will prevent us from saying or doing things that we will later regret. And keep us from wronging others, ruining relationships, and harming our own hearts.
Proverbs 11:17 says, “The merciful man does himself good, but the cruel man does himself harm.” We serve a loving God who gives all who love Him unmerited mercy and forgiveness through His Son Jesus Christ. And He wants us to do the same. Not only for the benefit of others, but also for ourselves. Revenge and retribution makes our hearts grow hard and bitter. It keeps us from experiencing God’s very best for our lives. Living a life that truly reflects His holy nature allows God to take us beyond the pain to a place of healing and growth. And one day we can look back and just like Joseph say, “You intended to harm me, but God used it for good to accomplish His plan in my life.” (Gen. 50:20)