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When the Lamb opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. Then I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them. And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer, and he was given much incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar before the throne, and the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel. Then the angel took the censer and filled it with fire from the altar and threw it on the earth, and there were peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake. – Revelation 8:1-5
The two key elements when pondering my question are silence and prayer. Let’s take a look.
Silence – Being silent directs my attention to the source and nature of justice—the Lord. Exodus 14:14 teaches that the Lord will fight for you, and your job is to be silent. Silence does not mean you are to be passive because Moses had to lift his staff, and the people had to march forward through the Red Sea.
The silence provides you with the time to clarify who is the source of justice. It will give you the space to stop talking so you can reorient your mind on the God of justice. Silence is hard work; you must train your mind to tune out the thoughts that build strongholds that take you captive.
Prayer – God is the “source and nature of judgment,” and prayer is the catalyst where we cooperate with Him in His work in His world. Just because you’re not the source (cause) of judgment on those who hurt you, it does not imply that you’re a passive spectator in what must happen to them if they don’t allow Christ to accept their punishment (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Revelation 8:1 is a scene that describes a “moment of silence” before the Lord unleashes His judgment on the earth. After He opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for thirty minutes. It was a long pause before wrath. And the wrath of God did come.
Key Idea – When bad things happen to you, there can be a quick call for justice. In nearly all cases, it will go badly for you, even if the meting out of punishment has a form of satisfaction. Here are three examples:
All three of these scenarios make the problems big and God small. The most vital thing that needs addressing in these situations is the individual’s lack of understanding of how God operates in a fallen world. It’s not that justice shouldn’t happen; it will happen. But the person who brings judgment must never be a problem-centered individual.
When something terrible happens to you, the most critical thing to do at that moment is to be quiet. But it’s not a passive pause where you have no obligations. It is active silence, as you reorient your soul and fixate your focus on the Lord—the one who will bring justice (2 Peter 2:23).
Another critical passage to think about in this matter of praying grace for your enemies while resting in the sure judgment of God is in Romans.
Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. – Romans 12:19-21
Paul is teaching that there is a short-range and long-range aspect to our responses to evil. The short-range is not you or me dispensing our judgment on evildoers. Contrariwise, we are “loving our enemies” (Matthew 5:44) by doing good, and extending grace. The long-range aspect is that God will punish all evil deeds; nobody will ever commit any sin that the Lord will not punish (Revelation 8).
There should not be any tension about (1) providing grace and (2) resting in God’s judgment on evildoers. The key for you when bad things happen is to be silent so you can reorient your soul and reestablish your mind on the nature and source of judgment, who is the Lord of all judgments.
Are you reactionary? When someone close to you does wrong, are your responses impulsive? Is it hard for you to be silent because you have trained yourself by repeatedly dwelling on the horrific things that have happened to you?
When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly (1 Peter 2:23).