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The Lord of Recompense

By Pastor Courtney Hall

What does it mean when God says that He will repay, as in Deuteronomy 32:35 and Romans 12:19? Chapter 51 in the book of the prophet Jeremiah provides some illumination. Jeremiah 51 culminates an extended judgment oracle aimed against Babylon during the times following the fall of Judah (i.e. the Southern Kingdom of Israel) to that dominating empire (chronicled in brief again in the next—and concluding—chapter of Jeremiah, chapter 52). As that conclusion reminds the reader, God used the trauma of their Babylonian exile to discipline His people (an act of His love [cf. Jer 30:11; Prov 3:12; Ps 94:12; 118:18; Heb 12:5-11]). The LORD God of Recompense (YHWH EL GEMUWLAH in Jer 51:65) used Babylon’s imperial siege against Jerusalem to repay Judah’s leaders with distress and destruction in response to all their evil done in the full view of His own eyes (Jer 52:2-4).

The Jewish exiles then removed to Babylon were tempted to despair that their God the righteous judge had abandoned them to the cruel oppression of their idolatrous Babylonian captors. But the Lord spoke through His prophet Jeremiah to assure them that the God of Israel is not only her Judge but also her Redeemer (Jer 50:34). He who had repaid Judah’s idolatrous insolence with disciplining judgment through the onslaught from Babylon would also ultimately repay Babylon for all her own idolatry, pride, insolence, and brutality against God’s people Israel.

In light of such assurances, Jeremiah had also issued the exhortation of the Lord to the Jewish exiles to live in peaceful submission to their Babylonian overlords (Jer 27:17; cf. the New Testament epistles urging similar peaceable submission by the early Christians toward their Roman imperial leaders, e.g. Rom 13:1-7; Heb 13:17; 1 Pet 2:13-25). Such obedience demonstrates one’s faith and trust in God. For as in the case of the ancient Jewish exiles and likewise the early Christians receiving Biblical encouragement to show respect to the very authorities often seeking to put them to death for their faith, so today the Word of God still calls us to pray for and submit to governing authorities, and to show love to those who persecute us.

This is not to say we’re called to approve of unrighteous actions or the policies of wicked or foolish leaders, but rather that we are called to trust the Higher Power of the Lord God of Recompense who reigns above those leaders and policies. Where there is wrong, “Vengeance is Mine,” says the Lord, “and I shall repay. [The] foot [of the wicked] shall slip in due time….and the [judgment] to come shall hasten upon them” (Deut 32:35). Therefore, as the Apostle Paul wrote in referencing this verse, “Repay no one evil for evil, but [rather] If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all…. [N]ever avenge yourselves, but leave it to…God…. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Rom 12:17-19, 21).

So, what does it mean that God carries the title of “The LORD God of Recompense”? It means that no matter what our present circumstances may look like in the moment, we are to trust in God and remember that He rules over all, He is watching, and He will judge rightly (cf. Gen 18:25; John 8:16; Rev 19:2). “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will they also reap. For the one who sows to their own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. So let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap a reward, if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:7-9).

Numbers 14:18 reminds us that “The LORD is slow to anger & abounding in steadfast love, forgiving iniquity & transgression, but He will by no means let the guilty go unpunished…” Therefore, we should “Seek the LORD while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near; let the wicked forsake their way, and the unrighteous one his thoughts; let them return to the LORD, that He may have compassion on them, and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon” (Isaiah 55:6-7). Jesus says in Matthew 10:32-33, “everyone who acknowledges Me before others, I also will acknowledge before My Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies Me before people, I also will deny before My Father who is in heaven” (cf. also Luke 12:8-9). And this same Jesus who is indeed the Lord of Recompense says, *“Behold, I am coming soon, bringing My recompense with Me, to repay each one for what they have done,” and **“whoever comes to Me I will never cast out.

Courtney Hall


*Revelation 22:12

**John 6:37

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