He is twisting that which is holy into something dark and purposeless. He is a Champion of Darkness. – Captain Starbuck to the crew of the Pequod
What does vengeance look like? I recently watched the 1956 Gregory Peck version of Moby Dick. Now there’s a story about vengeance! Starbuck’s line, quoted above, is what I understand about vengeance and the two associated words, revenge and avenge.
Captain Ahab puts the Pequod on a mission of revenge (seeking to avenge what he considered a criminal act against him), satisfying his lust for vengeance, bringing death and destruction to all but shipmate Ishamel, as prophesied. Some might consider Melville’s novel the definitive guide to actions spurred by vengeance.
Does vengeance and the family of words akin to it look and mean something different when the Spirit is the author?
Psalm 94:1-2 NRS Psalm 94:1 O LORD, you God of vengeance, you God of vengeance, shine forth! 2 Rise up, O judge of the earth; give to the proud what they deserve!
God of vengeance? Hmm, yes and no. It seems the Spirit uses often and interchangeably the above mentioned family of like-but-unlike words to describe God or God’s actions: vengeance, revenge, avenge. Point is, when I come across any of them in Scripture I am unable to read past them without pausing to say to the Spirit, “Really?”.
I have some recollection that Melville had written Moby Dick based upon one of the psalms so when I encountered today’s with the opening, God of vengeance, I guessed that this might be the Moby Dick psalm (it isn’t; read Psalm 18).
The pause took me down my proverbial theological bunny trail. I thought about how the words we use to describe God and to know God, (theology) and the words that are used by the Spirit to REVEAL God are
- polar opposites
- all variations in between and beyond
God of vengeance? A God of revenge? A God who avenges? Yes. Yes. Yes. A God of distance? A God of forgiveness? Yes. Yes.
Both-and, all of the above, whether we like it or not, whether we understand it or not, and whether or not on our own journeys we experience God in all the ways He is revealed.