There is a general rule with the young people in my community that is called “lash them back.” Basically this means that any time someone does anything to you (particularly hitting) you are required to gain vengeance. This usually results in hitting or striking them a lot harder than they did you. I recently saw a brother and sister who were play fighting, when she got a bit too rough, he responded by throwing a stone at her.
While adults don’t go around throwing stones at one another, you still see them carry out the “lash them back” rule in more subtle ways. Such as refusal to forgive someone, gossip, or doing everything they can to make a persons life miserable.
In Nehemiah 4:4-5 We see Nehemiah respond differently to injustice with prayer instead of vengeance.
Nehemiah when faced with mocking from his enemies Sanballat and Tobiah (4:1-3) instead of reacting with anger prayed to God. This wasn’t because he was a passive person, things such as injustice (5:5-12) and failure to obey God (13:7-8) always brought a response of anger. Nehemiah’s prayer itself also shows anger because he begged God not to forgive their sins (4:5).
So if Nehemiah was angry why would he pray to God. I can think of at least two reasons:
- Our justice is often sinful
- And God’s justice is much better than ours
Our Justice is often sinful
When someone has wronged us, we often focus only on the pain that we have experienced. This means the goal of our justice is to make them suffer the same way we have suffered (and often suffer more than we have). This is a very selfish form of justice that in the end doesn’t care too much about what is right, but cares about our feeling better. As long as we feel justice is done, thats all that matters.
Our justice can also be blinded by rage. Instead of reciprocating in a way that fits with their injustice towards us, we hit them back “ten times harder” like the brother who pelted his sister with a stone.
Finally the justice that we seek usually doesn’t bring a peaceful resolution. Instead it begins a vicious cycle of both sides claiming their own “justice” in more and more extreme ways. Nehemiah knew this would not glorify the name of God. So instead of taking matters into his own hands, he responded with prayer.
God’s Justice is better than ours
The second (and I believe more important) reason why Nehemiah did not respond to the verbal attack of Sanballat and Tobiah is he trusted in the Holiness of God. He knew that a Holy, Righteous God would not allow men like to attack and hinder the work or rebuilding a wall around Jerusalem. So Nehemiah pointed out their sin (placing his trust in the lords Holiness) and went about his work.
The Holiness of God doesn’t just promise He will punish sin, but it promises His justice will be much better than our own
- The justice of God brings glory to Him instead of ourselves
- The justice of God is complete
- The justice of God cannot be escaped
- And the justice of God while punishing sin, honors those who trust Him
Scripture tells us that Christ will judge “the living and the dead” and will administer the final judgment for sin at the Great White Throne. Though the punishment of injustice may not come when we want it to, that punishment will indeed come in a perfect way.
It’s never easy to show patience and calmness when we are attacked. But a clear understanding of Gods Holiness and Righteousness allows us to take a step back, and let Him be the judge.