Scripture: Deuteronomy 19:1-13, 2 Thessalonians 1:1-12
Psalms: 9A,9B,63C,94 (From RPCNA Psalter)
Early in the sacred record we have recorded for us the story of the fall, the fall into sin, and of the first murder. And this brings up the issue of the avenging of the innocent blood of Abel.
And He said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the ground. Genesis 4:10
And the LORD said to him, “Therefore, whoever kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.” And the LORD set a mark on Cain, lest anyone finding him should kill him. Genesis 4:15
These verses establish God as the prime avenger of blood…not only of Abel’s but also of Cain’s!!!
The Noahic Covenant
Before the Noahic Covenant God [personally avenged innocent blood and warned anyone from taking the law into their own hands in the case of Abel’s murder. But in the Noahic Covenant God authorizes man to put the murderer to death. This established the state as a minister of God. This established the state as God’s appointed avenger of blood.
“Surely for your lifeblood I will demand a reckoning; from the hand of every beast I will require it, and from the hand of man. From the hand of every man’s brother I will require the life of man. Whoever sheds man’s blood, By man his blood shall be shed; For in the image of God He made man. Genesis 9:5-6
The Apostle confirms this in his classic passage on civil government.
For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. Romans 13:3-4
As the following texts demonstrate God is still the prime avenger of innocent blood and of the transgressions of his law, but he has now delegated a portion of this authority to civil government, especially in the case of murder.
You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD. Leviticus 19:18
Vengeance is Mine, and recompense; Their foot shall slip in due time; For the day of their calamity is at hand, And the things to come hasten upon them.’ Deuteronomy 32:35
This brings us to a consideration of the Institution of the goel, the kinsman-redeemer, in the Old Testament:
The goel-redeemer in Old Testament Israel had three functions.
The Redemption of Persons: The redemption of persons from slavery by the goel is described in Leviticus 25:47-55 47And if a sojourner or stranger wax rich by thee, and thy brother that dwelleth by him wax poor, and sell himself unto the stranger or sojourner by thee, or to the stock of the stranger’s family: 48After that he is sold he may be redeemed again; one of his brethren may redeem him: 49Either his uncle, or his uncle’s son, may redeem him, or any that is nigh of kin unto him of his family may redeem him; or if he be able, he may redeem himself. 50And he shall reckon with him that bought him from the year that he was sold to him unto the year of jubilee: and the price of his sale shall be according unto the number of years, according to the time of an hired servant shall it be with him. 51If there be yet many years behind, according unto them he shall give again the price of his redemption out of the money that he was bought for. 52And if there remain but few years unto the year of jubilee, then he shall count with him, and according unto his years shall he give him again the price of his redemption. 53And as a yearly hired servant shall he be with him: and the other shall not rule with rigour over him in thy sight. 54And if he be not redeemed in these years, then he shall go out in the year of jubilee, both he, and his children with him. 55For unto me the children of Israel are servants; they are my servants whom I brought forth out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God. Leviticus 25:47-55
The Redemption of Property: The redemption of one’s inheritance by the goel is described in Leviticus 25:23-28
23The land shall not be sold for ever: for the land is mine; for ye are strangers and sojourners with me. 24And in all the land of your possession ye shall grant a redemption for the land. 25If thy brother be waxen poor, and hath sold away some of his possession, and if any of his kin come to redeem it, then shall he redeem that which his brother sold. 26And if the man have none to redeem it, and himself be able to redeem it; 27Then let him count the years of the sale thereof, and restore the overplus unto the man to whom he sold it; that he may return unto his possession. 28But if he be not able to restore it to him, then that which is sold shall remain in the hand of him that hath bought it until the year of jubilee: and in the jubilee it shall go out, and he shall return unto his possession. Leviticus 25:23-28
The Redemption of Blood: The role of the kinsmen redeemer as an avenger of innocent blood is found in the following texts. Time does not allow me to read these passages but I will give the summary of their contents.
Numbers 35 This passage states the law of the avenger of blood and of the cities of refuge.
Deuteronomy 19:1-3 In this passage the law of the avenger of blood and the cities of refuge is renewed.
Joshua 20:1-9 In this passage the execution of the plan and establishment of the cities of refuge is recorded. The confinement of the manslayer in the city of refuge until the death of the High Priest points toward the atonement of Jesus Christ our Redeemer for our sins and our deliverance from eternal confinement.
We can understand the first two functions…they make perfect sense. One would expect that a leading male relative would gather the family’s resources to redeem a brother from slavery. One might also expect that the same would be done to redeem a brother’s inheritance that has fallen into the hand of a stranger.
But why this institution of a kinsmen avenger of blood?
Originally this was forbidden if we remember God’s decree with respect to Cain? The practice of a family blood feud had developed in Near Eastern societies. But why would such a practice have been incorporated into the Sinaitic Covenant? Why would such seemingly barbaric practices be incorporated into the laws of Moses? We need to the following to understand why this was so.
The goel institution was under the regulation of the state: First of all it must be pointed out that all this was under the control, direction, and regulation of the state. The kinsmen-avenger was directed by the state. This was therefore not private vengeance. It was definitely not vigilante justice. It merely gave the victim’s family a legal right to participate in the administration of justice. The goel was in effect an instrument of the state in dealing with acts of homicide.
This was used to typify Christ: Israel was a nation under the ceremonial law. The ceremonial law was a schoolmaster to lead us to Christ. The Old Covenant abounded in shadows and types that prefigured Christ and were fulfilled by his person and works. (Have already noted the significance of until the death of the high priest.) It was to set forth fully the functions of the true Redeemer of God’s elect that this type was instituted in the law.
Christ as our kinsmen-redeemer-avenger
We tend to concentrate chiefly on the first function. This may be natural. A slave first concern is probably to obtain his liberty. After that he may be chiefly concerned with having his property restored to him. And finally be may be concerned about being avenged on those who mocked, scorned, persecuted and mistreated him while he was in a state of servitude. But all three are important. We need to examine all three very carefully
Christ as The Redeemer: Who is our Redeemer??? Who is our kinsmen-avenger-redeemer??? Christ, the second Adam, born of the woman and therefore our kinsmen is our kinsman redeemer! This was the faith of the Old Testament saints…
For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth. Job 19:25
Thus saith the LORD, thy redeemer, and he that formed thee from the womb, I am the LORD that maketh all things; that stretcheth forth the heavens alone; that spreadeth abroad the earth by myself. Isaiah 44:24
As for our redeemer, the LORD of hosts is his name, the Holy One of Israel. Isaiah 47:4
Thus saith the LORD, the Redeemer of Israel, and his Holy One, to him whom man despiseth, to him whom the nation abhorreth, to a servant of rulers, Kings shall see and arise, princes also shall worship, because of the LORD that is faithful, and the Holy One of Israel, and he shall choose thee. Isaiah 49:7
And the Redeemer shall come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob, saith the LORD. Isaiah 59:20
Christ as the Redeemer of our Persons: Wherefore say unto the children of Israel, I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will rid you out of their bondage, and I will redeem you with a stretched out arm, and with great judgments Exodus 6:6
Then sang Moses and the children of Israel this song unto the LORD, and spake, saying, I will sing unto the LORD, for he hath triumphed gloriously: the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea. The LORD is my strength and song, and he is become my salvation: he is my God, and I will prepare him an habitation; my father’s God, and I will exalt him…Who is like unto thee, O LORD, among the gods? who is like thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders? Thou stretchedst out thy right hand, the earth swallowed them. Thou in thy mercy hast led forth the people which thou hast redeemed: thou hast guided them in thy strength unto thy holy habitation. Exodus 15:1-2, 11-13
Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree. Galatians 3:13
To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. Galatians 4:5
In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace. Ephesians 1:7
Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. Hebrews 9:12
Christ as the Redeemer of our Inheritance: And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel. Genesis 3:15
For God so loved the world (cosmos), that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. John 3:16
Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. 22For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. 23And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body. Romans 8:21-23
And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful. Revelation 21:1-5
Christ as the Avenger of God’s Elect: This is the third, and the least understood function of Christ as our Kinsman-Redeemer.
Rejoice, O ye nations, with his people: for he will avenge the blood of his servants, and will render vengeance to his adversaries, and will be merciful unto his land, and to his people. Deuteronomy 32:43
That no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter: because that the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also have forewarned you and testified. 1 Thessalonians 4:6
What should our attitude be to these functions of Christ as the Redeemer of God’s elect? The attitude of some is deplorable. Some seem embarrassed by the notion of Christ being the avenger of the Lord’s people. Some seem to feel that this is inconsistent with the gospel and with their notions of Christian charity.
But what say the scriptures…
Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Romans 12:19
Vengeance is not wrong…it is just reserved to the Lord and to his duly appointed ministers.
Psalm 9: Especially verses 3-5, 9-12
3When mine enemies are turned back, they shall fall and perish at thy presence. 4 For thou hast maintained my right and my cause; thou satest in the throne judging right. 5Thou hast rebuked the heathen, thou hast destroyed the wicked, thou hast put out their name for ever and ever…9The LORD also will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble. 10And they that know thy name will put their trust in thee: for thou, LORD, hast not forsaken them that seek thee. 11Sing praises to the LORD, which dwelleth in Zion: declare among the people his doings. 12When he maketh inquisition for blood, he remembereth them: he forgetteth not the cry of the humble. Psalm 9:3-5, 9-12
Psalm 83: Especially verses 3-4,12 record the persecution of the saints, the people of God.
3They have taken crafty counsel against thy people, and consulted against thy hidden ones. 4They have said, Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation; that the name of Israel may be no more in remembrance…12Who said, Let us take to ourselves the houses of God in possession. Psalm 83:3-4, 12
And verses 9-11, 13-17 record the prayers of the saints for God to pour his vengeance on their enemies.
9Do unto them as unto the Midianites; as to Sisera, as to Jabin, at the brook of Kison: 10Which perished at Endor: they became as dung for the earth. 11Make their nobles like Oreb, and like Zeeb: yea, all their princes as Zebah, and as Zalmunna:… 13O my God, make them like a wheel; as the stubble before the wind. 14As the fire burneth a wood, and as the flame setteth the mountains on fire; 15So persecute them with thy tempest, and make them afraid with thy storm. 16Fill their faces with shame; that they may seek thy name, O LORD. 17Let them be confounded and troubled for ever; yea, let them be put to shame, and perish: Psalm 83:9-11, 13-17
And the scriptures instruct us, yea command us to sing these thoughts and join in these prayers. Hence they cannot be sinful but properly indicate God’s thoughts in this matter.
Judges 16:28 This records the prayer of Samson to be avenged on his enemies and how the Lord answered that prayer.
Then Samson called to the LORD, saying, “O Lord GOD, remember me, I pray! Strengthen me, I pray, just this once, O God, that I may with one blow take vengeance on the Philistines for my two eyes!”
Since God honored and answered this prayer and the Spirit returned to Samson and endowed him again with his great strength it is impossible to declare this a sinful prayer. A few additional verses that are instructive on how God’s people should think about these matters are…
Psalm 58:10 The righteous shall rejoice when he sees the vengeance; He shall wash his feet in the blood of the wicked.
Revelation 6:10 And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?
Now the latter reflects the prayer of the spirits of the fully sanctified saints in heaven. Can their prayer be thought of sinful? That would be preposterous and almost blasphemous. They love God and his law and their petition is for the perfect justice of God to be administered here on earth below.
We should take our attitude from the word of God and not from the opinions of men. We pray for the coming of Christ…Paul calls that the blessed hope of the church. But Luke calls those days the days of vengeance (Luke 21:22). And Paul describes the vengeance of God that will be displayed in those days in 2 Thess 1:4-10
4So that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure: 5Which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer: 6Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; 7And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, 8In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: 9Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; 10When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day. 2 Thessalonians 1:4-10
We have a great Redeemer. We have much to thank him for. Each day in private and every Lord’s Day in public we should thank him for his great salvation. We should continually be in remembrance that he has redeemed our persons. That he has redeemed us from sin and death and hell. But His work is not yet finished. One day he will return. Then he will lift the curse and bring in everlasting righteousness. There will be a new heaven and a new earth, “wherein dwelleth righteousness”. A that time he will redeem our inheritance. We , the meek, will inherit the earth. Christ will restore all that was lost by the first Adam when he sinned and was banished from paradise.
And Secondly Christ will yet fulfill his commission as the avenger of God’s elect. He will come to judge the living and the dead. All men will stand before his judgment seat to be judged according to their works. All judgment has been committed by the Father to the Son. And he will judge the world in righteousness. He will grant justice to all his persecuted saints. He will avenge all of his elect, who have trusted in him for their deliverance.
Let us rejoice in this. We of all people should love God’s law. Therefore we of all people should love justice. Therefore we should pray for justice. And vengeance is necessary part of justice. Therefore we should pray for the coming of Christ as the avenger of his people. We should long for the appearance of him who is both authorized and able to repay. He who will exact perfect justice. Who will make all things right.