Evil for Good
“If a man pays back evil for good, evil will never leave his house.” Proverbs 17:13
Obeying God brings blessings; disobeying Him brings curses. Sometimes a specific consequence is given for a specific disobedience. Evil never leaving your house is the specific and serious consequence of returning evil for good.
“House” means “household—a family”, for instance, when the Philippian jailor asked Paul and Silas what he must do to be saved: “They replied, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved--you and your household.’" Acts 16:32 If a man pays back evil for good, evil will never leave his household or family. Another verse giving the same idea: “If a man denounces his friends for reward, the eyes of his children will fail.” Job 17:5
If we really understand the seriousness of returning evil for good, there will be change in our lives. What else does the Bible say about returning evil for good or evil never leaving your house?
*DAVID RECEIVES EVIL FOR GOOD
David knew what it was like to have a large portion of his life under the influence of one who paid back evil for good. Because of his jealousy, the care and respect that David gave Saul as King of Israel, did little to keep Saul from trying to kill him.
God anointed David king of Israel by the hand of the prophet Samuel in the presence of David’s family when he was still a youth (1 Samuel 16). Since he wouldn’t acquire his kingship for several years, God provided just enough people to be present to allow for confidentiality, but also to provide a reliable witness to his anointing. Then David returned to being a shepherd for his father.
Later, after killing Goliath of the Philistines, David served in King Saul’s army and played the harp in his palace. Saul became jealous of him because he realized that God favored David and that David would become the next king of Israel. The women sang: “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands.” 1 Samuel 18:7 Saul tried to kill David several times and David ran from Saul for years.
When David was fleeing from King Saul he roamed Israel with a group of men who were loyal to him. While they were in the desert of Moan, they protected the sheep of a rich man named Nabal during sheep-shearing time. Although there had been no agreement, David expected some kindness from Nabal in return, as was the custom. Instead, Nabal insulted the messengers David sent. David would have killed every male in Nabal’s household because “...He has paid back evil for good.” 1 Samuel 25:21, except that without Nabal’s knowledge, his wife, Abigail, intervened and kept David from taking revenge. However, Nabal’s heart failed him when Abigail told him all that had happened and “...ten days later, the Lord struck Nabal and he died.” 1 Samuel 25:38
Nabal returned David’s kindness with insult and the consequence was that God killed him.
David obeyed God after the correction of Abigail: “Do not take revenge my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.” Romans 12:19 God did repay Nabal: “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” Hebrews 10:31
Although culture sometimes determines the details, such as in the case of Nabal and David, receiving serious consequences for returning evil for good is a principle. Death is a consequence of returning evil for good--dramatically or in small ways. For instance, “A fortune made by a lying tongue is a fleeting vapor and a deadly snare.” Proverbs 21:6 and “Ill-gotten treasures are of no value, but righteousness delivers from death.” Proverbs 10:2 When we make money by cheating, manipulating or in any way that is not pleasing to God, He cannot give us the wisdom to spend our money wisely, hence a “fleeting vapor” or of “no value”. In fact, that money will bring us harm, “a deadly snare” or “death”. Could that be why so many that earn money deceitfully spend it on alcohol and drugs?
Borrowing and purposely not repaying, “The wicked borrow and do not repay…:” Psalm 37:21 is returning evil for good, and will affect our family. For instance, a man borrowed money from several people and did not pay them back. He would give money to his son so his son could have all he wanted. But doing this took away his son’s motivation to work, and the son often spent the money on alcohol or drugs. Letting his son experience the consequences of his wild life would have been the kindest thing the man could have done. Was it because this man was returning evil for good that he could not receive the wisdom from God to understand that what he was doing was destroying his son?
“…the Lord hates…a laying tongue…” Proverbs 6:16-17 Several times a woman did not pay the full amount of money she had promised to a young teenage girl for babysitting. Was this one reason her child was rebellious and disrespectful?
Saul’s family experienced the consequences of his disobedience to God (1 Samuel 13:14; 15:23), which included his returning evil for good to David. King Saul and three of his sons died in battle (1 Samuel 31). Even his righteous son Jonathan died because of his father’s sin (Jonathan was well aware that David, not he, would be the next king and rejoiced in that fact (1 Samuel 20:13-17). Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan, became crippled when his nurse who was carrying him fell while running for safety upon hearing the news of this same battle (2 Samuel 4:4) However, David showed kindness to Mephibosheth when he became king because of his friendship with Jonathon. No descendants of Saul are listed other than from the line of Jonathon (1 Chronicles 8:29-39; 9:35-44).
In Psalm 38 David mentions repaying evil for good: “...’Do not let them gloat or exalt themselves over me when my foot slips.... those who hate me without reason are numerous. Those who repay my good with evil slander me when I pursue good.” Psalm 38:20-21 They had been treating him unfairly: “A lying tongue hates those it hurts...” Proverbs 26:28 They slander him when he pursues good and has done them no harm.
Realizing that this burden is much too heavy for him David asks God to not forsake him and to come quickly to help him (Psalm 38:21-22).
Psalm 35 is almost entirely about how David deals with one aspect of those who pay back evil for good.
"Ruthless witnesses come forward; they question me on things I know nothing about. They repay me evil for good and leave my soul forlorn. Yet when they were ill, I put on sackcloth and humbled myself with fasting. When my prayer returned to me unanswered, I went about mourning as though for my friend or brother. I bowed my head in grief as though weeping for my mother. But when I stumbled, they gathered in glee; attackers gathered against me when I was unaware. They slandered me without ceasing. Like the ungodly they maliciously mocked, they gnashed their teeth at me. O Lord, how long will you look on? Rescue my life from their ravages, my precious life from these lions. I will give you thanks in the great assembly; among throngs of people, I will praise you." Psalm 35:11-18
“They repay me evil for good and leave my soul forlorn.” Nothing hurts the soul so deeply as realizing that someone to whom you have been kind has done evil to you. This is especially true when a friend, to whom you have done continuing kindnesses, turns against you. David writes of such a time: “All my enemies whisper together against me; they imagine the worst for me, saying, ‘A vile disease has beset him; he will never get up from the place where he lies.’ Even my close friend, whom I trusted, has lifted up his heel against me.” Psalm 41:7-9
In Psalm 55 David writes:
"If an enemy were insulting me, I could endure it; if a foe were raising himself against me, I could hide from him. But it is you, a man like myself, my companion, my close friend, with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship as we walked with the throng at the house of God...My companion attacks his friends; he violates his covenant. His speech is smoother than butter, yet war is in his heart; his words are more soothing than oil, yet they are drawn swords." Psalm 55:12-21
David treated those that repaid evil for good with love and asked God for protection, promising to give God praise when his prayer was answered.
We are not to take revenge. Instead, we are to pray for those that return our good with evil, perhaps even doing them some kindness. Jesus wants us to be kind to everyone--even to our enemies: “...Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” Matthew 5:44
“For we know him who said. ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ and again, ‘The Lord will judge his people.’ It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” Hebrews 10:26-31 Only God is wise enough to know what to repay. God will repay, and for those who do not repent, it will be severe.
Right after the words, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:21 Paul explains one way that justice may be done: “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established...For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.” Romans 13:1-4
It is ironic that David, who had suffered such injustice under the authorities, should himself become the authority. As God testified about David: “I have found David son of Jesse a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.” Acts 13:22 God saw David’s heart and knew David loved Him and would obey Him. Then, through the many trials and persecutions of a man that returned evil for good, He trained David to be king: “For we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him...” Romans 8:28
Prayer is the first step in dealing with having been returned evil for good. Trust in God, forgiveness, love and patience are other needed steps.
* DAVID RETURNS EVIL FOR GOOD
It is characteristic of human nature that we do not learn from our own mistakes or the mistakes of others. David, who experienced so much of being returned evil for good, should have known better.
Shortly after the death of Saul and his son Jonathan, David became king of the tribe of Judah. Later, David became king of all Israel (2 Samuel 5:4-5).
One spring evening, when David should have been fighting with his army (2 Samuel 11:1) he noticed, from the roof of his house, a beautiful woman bathing. He found out that she was Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite, one of the men in his army. He sent for Bathsheba and slept with her. Soon she wrote saying she was pregnant. In order to hide his sin, David sent for Uriah and tried to trick him into sleeping with his wife. Uriah would not respond because he chose not to enjoy himself while the rest of the men were out in battle.
David wrote a letter to Joab, the commander of the army, and sent it back with Uriah. He wrote, “Put Uriah in the front line where the fighting is fiercest. Then withdraw from him so he will be struck down and die.” 2 Samuel 11:15 After Uriah was killed, David waited for Bathsheba to mourn her husband’s death before marrying her.
David did not recognize the seriousness of his sin until Nathan the prophet confronted him. Uriah, the Hittite, faithfully served in David’s army and fought battles for the king. He was a man of the utmost loyalty and integrity. When David committed adultery with Uriah’s wife and had Uriah killed, he was paying back evil for good to an extremely serious degree. Any disobedience to God brings punishment, but the specific punishment that David received was, in part, a consequence of paying back evil for good:
“Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite as your own.”
This is what the Lord says: “Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity upon you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will lie with your wives in broad daylight. You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel.” 2 Samuel 12:10-12
David confessed his sin and the Lord forgave him--he did not die. Death was the just punishment prescribed by the law: “If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife--with the wife of his neighbor--both the adulterer and the adulteress must be put to death.” Leviticus 20:10
However, David had to face the consequences of his actions: “...God cannot be mocked. A man sows what he reaps.” Galatians 6:7 God called David “...a man after my own heart...” Acts 13:22 David knew God well enough not to blame Him for the events that had happened or the consequences of those events. Even though David was a man after God’s own heart “...God does not show favoritism” Romans 2:11 Actually, because he was the king of God’s people he was judged more strictly. This is the same principle set out in James 3:1 “Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.”
The first consequence was the death of the son conceived as a result of David and Bathsheba’s sin. David’s response shows his knowledge of God: “While the child was alive, I fasted and wept. I thought, ‘Who knows? The Lord may be gracious to me and let the child live.’ But now that he is dead, why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.” 2 Samuel 12:22-23 He understood the mercy of God, but accepted His righteous judgment. This passage also shows other important truths. One is, that every child that dies before he is born or before he understands good and evil goes to heaven (Psalm 139:13-16 Deuteronomy 1:39).
One of the laws given to Moses concerning a ruler of God’s people states that they were not to have many wives: “He must not take many wives, or his heart will be led astray.” Deuteronomy 17:17 David disobeyed this law by having several wives (2 Samuel 3:2-5; 5:13-14 1 Chronicles 3:1-9). Although, his heart was not led astray, his son Solomon’s heart was, as a result of his example. Jesus says that God’s ideal for marriage was one woman for one man: “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” Matthew 19:5 Mark 10:7 This was a first indication that David, in this respect, was not right with God.
David’s second wife, Ahinoam of Jezreel (1 Samuel 27:3) was the mother of Amnon, David’s firstborn. Amnon was completely godless and the first indication that “...the sword will never depart from your house...” 2 Samuel 12:10 It seems that David, who knew the Lord so well, had little contact with this son. If David had been concentrating on teaching his children godly principles, his heart would have remained close to the Lord and he would not have fallen into such a great sin.
Amnon lusted after Tamar, the daughter of David by his fourth wife, Maacah. He pretended to be ill and requested that Tamar make bread for him in his presence. After getting rid of the servants, he raped Tamar and, then, drove her from his presence (2 Samuel 13). David was furious, but he did nothing about this crime. It is difficult to judge fairly when we are guilty of the same crime we are to judge.
Two years later, Absalom, whose mother was also Maacah, murdered Amnon as revenge for raping Tamar. Absalom fled to Geshur for three years where his grandfather lived. David then allowed Absalom to return, although he did not allow his son to come into his presence.
David never punished Absalom accept through rejection, which is not a suitable punishment. Punishing Absalom would have been even more difficult for David than punishing Amnon--not only was murder a sin he had committed when he had Uriah killed, but it was also his own failure to punish Amnon that had caused this crime. Also time had made the crime seem less serious: “And the spirit of the king longed to go to Absalom, for he was consoled concerning Amnon’s death.” 2 Samuel 13:39
After two years of living in Jerusalem David forgave Absalom (although Absalom never repented) and reinstated him in the royal family.
Absalom was now the first in line for inheriting his father’s kingdom. He made plans to acquire the kingdom before David’s death and after four years requested that he be allowed to visit Hebron, the site of an important sanctuary, saying he had made a vow to the Lord. Absalom used David’s love for the Lord as an excuse to trick David. David told him to go in peace. While there, Absalom sent secret messengers throughout the tribes in Israel to say that as soon as they heard the sound of the trumpet, they were to say, “Absalom is king in Hebron.” 2 Samuel 15:10
When David heard a report of this he fled Jerusalem with his officials in order to avoid a bloodbath. He took his entire household, leaving ten concubines to watch the palace.
A wise and respected counselor of David’s, Ahithophel, appears to have secretly aligned himself with Absalom in the planning stage of the revolt. Since Ahithophel was Bathsheba’s grandfather (2 Samuel 11:3; 23:34), perhaps this was also the result of David’s treatment of Bathsheba and Uriah. Ahitophel gave Absalom the advice to lie with the ten concubines David left in Jerusalem. This was to show all Israel that “you have made yourself a stench in your father’s nostril, and the hands of everyone with you will be strengthened.” 2 Samuel 16:21 Absalom followed this advice fulfilling Nathan’s prophecy:
"This is what the Lord says: ‘Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity upon you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will lie with your wives in broad daylight. You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel.’” 2 Samuel 12:11-12
When Ahithophel’s further advice was not followed, he, realizing that the rebellion would not be successful, hanged himself (2 Samuel 17:23) His suicide, plus the twenty thousand men that died in battle between David’s men and Absalom’s men (2 Samuel 17:7) were a result of David’s sin.
When Absalom was killed in battle, David wept, “O my son Absalom! My son! My son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you--O Absalom, my son, my son!” 2 Samuel 18:33 Sin had a tremendous price. Perhaps adding to David’s grief was the knowledge that his own sin was one cause of Absalom’s death.
More consequences would follow. Adonijah, the next in line for the kingship, got chariots with horses and fifty men to run ahead. He conferred with Joab and several others to acquire the kingship and planned a great feast. David was very old at this time. Nathan, the prophet, asked Bathsheba to remind David of his promise to put her son Solomon on the throne and to tell David of Adonijah’s intentions. When she did this, Nathan arrived and confirmed what she had said. David made Solomon king. Solomon pardoned Adonijah.
However, when Adonijah asked Bathsheba to request of Solomon if he could marry Abishag, Solomon realized that he was, in fact, requesting the throne. Abishag had cared for King David at the end of his reign. Although she was a virgin, the people would regard her as belonging to David’s harem--possession of the royal harem signified the right to the throne. Solomon had Adonijah, Joab, commander of the army, and Abiathar the priest who had given Adonijah support, put to death.
Finally, Solomon, so wise and spoken to directly by God twice, turned away from the Lord because of his many wives (1 Kings 11:1-13). He did not understand the severity of the sin of having many wives partly because of the example of his father, David.
“Can a man scoop fire into his lap without his clothes being burned? Can a man walk on hot coals without his feet being scorched? So is he who sleeps with another man’s wife; no one who touches her will go unpunished.” Proverbs 6:27-29 We take the sin of adultery so lightly today. God does not.
God’s punishment is the consequence of the sin we commit, although “he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.” Psalm 103:10 The consequences of David’s sin had already been set in motion when he chose to sin. His children, whom he should have been instructing in the fear of the Lord, were neglected to their destruction.
The wives he had chosen did not teach them about God, although Abigail, his third wife, was a godly woman. Her son Kileab (2 Samuel 3:3) or Daniel (1 Chronicles 3:1) appears to have died because his name is mentioned only in the genealogies, and he would have been in line for the throne after Amnon.
Partly because of the guilt and shame of having returned evil for good, David could not see clearly to raise his family properly. David corrected his mistake of neglecting his sons and spent many hours instructing Solomon in the things of the Lord (the majority of the book of Proverbs was written by Solomon). David appears never to have realized his sin of having many wives.
If your child deliberately, against your warning, touches something hot and is badly burned, you might tell him what to expect, what he would have to suffer. But you would wish, with all your heart, that he had not disobeyed and would have to face the consequences. That is something like what God felt. He must have wished with all His heart that David had not sinned. He would not want several of David’s children to perish in everlasting torment.
However, God has established a standard; His Law must be obeyed. When Adam chose to disobey (Genesis 3), the authority given to him by God to rule the world was given to Satan, the devil. The Bible shows that Satan had the legal authority to control the world by Jesus' acceptance of what Satan said when he tempted Jesus: “The devil led him to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, ‘I will give you all their authority and splendor, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to.” Luke 4:5-6. Jesus chose not to sin and by His death could pay the penalty for the sin of mankind.
To a certain extent Satan has to legal right to control any situation in which we choose to sin. If we do not chose to sin, Satan cannot harm us; we are under God's protection:. “Like a fluttering sparrow or a darting swallow, an undeserved curse does not come to rest.” Proverbs 26:2 If David had not sinned, evil would not have been able to touch his house in the same way that it did because he chose to sin.
Although David was not the father he should have been, his children had a more than average opportunity to know God. Each individual is judged on his own merit: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad." 2 Corinthians 5:10
God’s punishment is always redemptive; He always punishes for His glory and our good. There is a difference between punishment and consequences. Using the analogy again of your child touching something hot after you have warned him, the consequences would be the pain he experiences from disobedience. You would probably not punish him because there would be no need; he would have learned his lesson without any need of punishment. Were the terrible results of David’s sin consequence or punishment? Only God knows the full answer.
Even though there were terrible consequences of David’s sin, God used it to teach us many truths. Because of his sin of adultery and murder, David wrote Psalm 51. This psalm is a masterpiece on the character of God and His dealings with man. God is “proved right when you speak and justified when you judge.” David realized his sin was first and foremost against God--his sin had severed the closeness between God and himself: “Against you, you only, have I sinned.” He realized he “was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me” (a truth we need to know to combat the heresy that man is basically good). He realized “you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place” (God had a high purpose for allowing this whole experience--“For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son” Romans 8:29).
Like all of us, if David had understood the consequences of sin and had known God better, this would have been avoided. And David knew God well. That is why we need a Savior--Someone to pay for the sins we do commit.
The Bible records that Joseph, grandson of Abraham, had to deal with evil that was returned for good several times during his life.
Jacob, Joseph’s father, loved his second wife, Rachel, more than his first wife, Leah. Because Rachel had two sons, Joseph and Benjamin, in his old age, Jacob loved these sons more than the other ten. The ten older sons were jealous of Joseph (“Anger is cruel and fury overwhelming, but who can stand before jealousy?” Proverbs 27:4), so when the opportunity came, they planned to kill him.They decided instead to sell him as a slave to Ishmaelites who were going to Egypt. They were returning good for evil because Joseph had done them no harm, and was, in fact, on his way to bring them news from home.
Joseph was sold to Potiphar, one of Pharaoh’s officials. The Lord was with Joseph and he was put in charge of all of Potiphar’s possessions. Because Joseph’s desire was to please God, he refused the advances of Potiphar’s wife, telling her, “...My master has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are is wife. How could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” Genesis 39:9 She falsely accused him and Potiphar had him thrown into prison. Again, Joseph was only doing good and evil was returned to him. Again, Joseph did not become bitter. He knew God.
The Lord was with Joseph in prison, and he was given a position of leadership there, also. While in prison, Joseph correctly interpreted the dreams of two men who were in the king’s service. He had to wait two full years until one of the men remembered what he had done, and Joseph was called upon to interpret the dreams Pharaoh was given. God wanted Pharaoh to know what the future held for Egypt. When Pharaoh saw the wisdom and discernment of Joseph and realized God was with him, Joseph went immediately from prison to palace. He was put in charge of all Egypt, storing up grain during the seven abundantly fruitful years in preparation for the seven years of famine.
When Joseph’s ten older brothers came from the land of Canaan to Egypt to buy grain they did not recognize him. He pretended he did not believe they were honest men. In order to prove their honesty, they were to bring their brother, Benjamin, back with them if they ever returned. Needing more grain forced them to return. Joseph treated them kindly, but when they were about to leave, unknown to them, he had his steward put his silver cup into Benjamin’s sack of grain:
"As morning dawned the men were sent on their way with their donkeys. They had not gone far from the city when Joseph said to the steward, ‘Go after these men at once, and when you catch up with them, say to them, “Why have you repaid good with evil? Isn’t this the cup my master drinks from and also uses for divination? This is a wicked thing you have done.’ Genesis 44:3-5
Joseph deceived them into believing his brother Benjamin stole from him. They were accused of repaying evil for good because of stealing Joseph’s cup after having been treated kindly in his home. This is one way of returning evil for good--stealing from someone who has been kind to us.
A Christian woman stole from the house where she was a guest. Could this be one reason her family, who at one time had accepted Jesus as Savior, are not serving the Lord?
A man for many years was borrowing without returning and stealing from people that were kind to him. Could this be the reason his family is separated from him?
Joseph could accuse supposed strangers from a different land of returning evil for good knowing they would understand. It seems in the time Joseph lived returning evil for good was a commonly understood concept. Have our consciences become so seared that we do not recognize when we return evil for good?
Perhaps the reason Joseph went through a long process in revealing his identity to his brothers was because he wanted to know the condition of their hearts. Because they repented, Joseph treated them kindly even through they had treated him cruelly. He said, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” Genesis 50:20
Joseph’s brothers repented, and so were released from the curse of evil never leaving their house. In fact, the twelve tribes of Israel will be honored throughout eternity. We, too, will be released from many of the consequences of returning evil for good if we truly repent.
Even though Joseph was treated unfairly, he remained faithful to God. Because he had returned good for evil (the opposite of returning evil for good) in many circumstances throughout his life, he was put in a position where he could save many lives. Joseph, in his hatred of sin, his act of forgiveness and his understanding of God’s ability to use all things according to His purpose, proved that he knew God.
God appointed Jeremiah as a prophet to Judah. Jeremiah faithfully proclaimed God’s approaching judgment if the people did not repent. They did not repent, taking some of their hostility out on Jeremiah.
God gave advice to Jeremiah near the beginning of his ministry that would be good for us to remember: “If you have raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses? If you stumble in safe country, how can you manage in the thickets by the Jordan?” Jeremiah 12:5 If we cannot stand the persecution of easy times, how can we stand the persecution of hard times? “If you falter in times of trouble, how small is your strength!” Proverbs 24:10
Jeremiah complains of those who have returned evil for good: “Listen to me, O Lord; hear what my accusers are saying! Should evil be repaid for good? Yet they have dug a pit for me. Remember that I stood before you and spoke on their behalf to turn your wrath away from them...” Jeremiah 18:19-23 He suffered greatly because of their sin. However, he knew the Lord was with him:
"...I am ridiculed all day long; everyone mocks me. Whenever I speak, I cry out proclaiming violence and destruction. So the word of the Lord has brought me insult and reproach all day long... But if I say, ‘I will not mention him or speak any more in his name,’ his word is in my heart like a burning fire, shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot. I hear many whispering, ‘Terror on every side! Report him! Let’s report him!’ All my friends are waiting for me to slip, saying, ‘Perhaps he will be deceived; then we will prevail over him and take our revenge on him.’ But the Lord is with me like a mighty warrior; so my persecutors will stumble and not prevail..." Jeremiah 20:7-11
Jeremiah was severely persecuted. He was “beaten and put in the stocks” Jeremiah 20:2. The scroll he had written, similar to the final book of Jeremiah, was destroyed by King Jehoiakim: “Whenever Jehudi had read three or four columns of the scroll, the king cut them off with a scribe’s knife and threw them into the firepot, until the entire scroll was burned in the fire. The king and all his attendants who heard these words showed no fear, nor did they tear their clothes.” Jeremiah 36:23-24
This was the opposite of what the godly King Josiah did when he heard the Words of the Law less than thirty years before. Josiah tore his robes, sent officials to inquire of the true prophetess, Huldah, about God’s response to their disobedience and then destroyed much of what was defiling the Jewish nation (2 Kings 22-23 2 Chronicles 34-35).
Jeremiah “was put in a vaulted cell in a dungeon, where he remained a long time.” Jeremiah 37:16 and later “…They lowered Jeremiah by ropes into the cistern; it had no water in it, only mud, and Jeremiah sank down into the mud.” Jeremiah 38:6
However, Jeremiah’s persecutors were destroyed and Jeremiah was released. Nebuzaradan, commander of the Babylonian Imperial guard, released Jeremiah:
"He had found Jeremiah bound in chains among all the captives from Jerusalem and Judah who were being carried into exile to Babylon. When the commander of the guard found Jeremiah, he said to him, ‘The Lord your God decreed this disaster for this place. And now the Lord has brought it about; he has done just as he said he would. All this happened because you people sinned against the Lord and did not obey him. But today I am freeing you from the chains on your wrists. Come with me to Babylon, if you like, and I will look after you; but if you do not want to, then don’t come. Look, the whole country lies before you; go wherever you please.’ Jeremiah 40:1-4
How much more will be the difference in the destiny of Jeremiah and his persecutors when God judges them?
Daniel proved faithful to God in adversity. For a young Hebrew boy to be taken from his homeland and undoubtedly made a eunuch for service in the palace of Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, must have been a devastating experience. But we hear of no complaints from Daniel--only of absolute trust and obedience.
When Daniel was an old man, another king, King Darius, of the Medes and Persians, was reigning in Babylon. King Darius planned to promote Daniel to rule over the kingdom because Daniel had “so distinguished himself...with his exceptional qualities” Daniel 6:3 The governors and satraps wanted to find something of which to accuse Daniel. They were jealous of Daniel and also knew that if he were put in charge they could not dishonestly acquire possessions (suggested by “...The satraps were made accountable to them so the king might not suffer loss” Daniel 6:2). They tricked King Darius into making a law that could not be repealed where no one could pray to any god or man except himself for thirty days. Daniel continued his practice of praying three times a day in front of his open window facing Jerusalem. To the king’s distress Daniel had to be thrown into a den of lions. God saved Daniel and the men, who had falsely accused Daniel, along with their families, were thrown to the lions.
Daniel was treated with evil for the good he had done. He had done no harm and probably treated the administrators and satraps with the same fairness and kindness with which he treated others. God knew Daniel would react in this way when he was shown evil for good. Because the administrators and satraps had accused Daniel of something involving his God, the glory God received because of Daniel’s obedience was great.
A striking example of paying back evil for good was when Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus. Judas had been with God in the flesh for over three years. He had been shown special kindness, heard the teaching from the Master’s lips and seen the Lord’s example.
Judas was in the habit of betraying his friends. When Mary poured a pint of expensive perfume on Jesus feet, Judas objected. He thought the perfume should have been sold and the money given to the poor: “He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.” John 12:6 He had become so skilled in deceit that when Jesus said, “one of you will betray me” Matthew 26:21 None of His disciples expected it was Judas: “They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, ‘Surely not I, Lord?’” Matthew 26:22
Jesus had said, “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.” Matthew 6:24 Judas had chosen to serve Money.
The love of money was a root element in the character of Judas: “People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money s a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” 1 Timothy 6:9-10 The Bible is not clear whether Judas never believed that Jesus was God or if he believed, but walked away, choosing Money over God.
Judas had a seared conscience: “Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron.” 1 Timothy 4:2 Judas had been stealing so long that he was no longer convicted when he sold the Son of God for thirty pieces of silver. He had even gotten to the place where he could betray Jesus while pretending to show affection: “but Jesus asked him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?” Luke 22:48
After seeing that Jesus was condemned, Judas realized that he had sinned and tried to return the money:
"When Judas, who betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was filled with remorse and returned the silver coins to the chief priests and the elders. ‘I have sinned,’ he said, ‘for I have betrayed innocent blood.’ ‘What is that to us?’ they replied, ‘That’s your responsibility.’ So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself. Matthew 27:3-5
Remorse or sorrow is not the same as repentance. God knew his heart. Judas never repented: “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.” 2 Corinthians 7:10
Jesus said about Judas: “But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him of he had not been born.” Matthew 26:24 Mark 14:21
After the death of Judas, the apostle Peter made two statements about him, quoting the Old Testament: “May his (their) place be deserted;” Psalm 69:25 Acts 1:20 and “May another take his place of leadership.” Psalm 109:8 Acts 1:20
Psalm 69, from which Peter quoted, could be a prophecy about Jesus at the time of His death and about His enemies. His enemies include the forces of hell and those that are controlled by the forces of hell, including Judas.
Psalm 109, also from which Peter quoted, is about those that repay evil for good: "They repay me evil for good, and hatred for my friendship.” Psalm 109:5 Some say is a prophecy about Judas. A curse in put upon the children of the one who repays evil for good:
"May his children be fatherless and his wife a widow. May his children be wandering beggars; may they be driven from their ruined homes. May a creditor seize all he has; may strangers plunder the fruits of his labor. May no one extend kindness to him or take pity on his fatherless children. May his descendants be cut off, their names blotted out from the next generation." Psalm 109:9-13 How terrible is their fate.
Judas is the ultimate example of one who returned evil for good. We are like him if we do not except the gracious gift God has given us and live under the lordship of Jesus.
Are we like Saul who, because of jealousy and fear, are cruel to people who are faithful to us? Are we like Nabal who because of pride and selfishness do not show expected kindnesses to those that have been kind to us? Are we like David, and commit some form of sexual immorality, and still expect our children to live blessed lives (they can if we sincerely repent or because each individual has a free will)? Or commit some form of murder to those loyal to us and live with a guilt that clouds our judgment? Do we commit seemingly small acts of returning evil for good and not recognize them--they would have understood clearly in Joseph’s day. Returning evil for good, even in small matters, brings consequences because it goes against the most basic aspect of love: “...Love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 22:39 Are we ready to face a time ahead when we will perhaps face serious persecution for our faith from those who return evil for good as did Jeremiah and Daniel? Are we like Judas who because of the love of money return evil when so much good has been given us from God and others? “For a man’s ways are in full view of the Lord, and he examines all his paths.” Proverbs 5:21 Let us learn to see things as God sees them and change our ways where necessary.
DAVID RECEIVES EVIL FOR GOOD
1. How did Saul repay evil for David's good?
2. How did David handle this?
3. How did Nabal return evil for good?
4. How did David react to this? What was the significance of Abigail's actions?
5. According to Psalm 41:7-9 and Psalm 55:12-21 how did David react to receiving evil for good?
6. How should we react to receiving evil for good?
DAVID RETURNS EVIL FOR GOOD
1. Discuss why don't people don't learn from the mistakes of others.
2. How did David return evil for good?
3. What kind of a man was Nathan, the prophet?
4. What were the consequences of David's sin?
5. How did God use his situation for David’s good and our good?
1. How was Joseph returned evil for good?
2. Why was Joseph returned evil for good in each case?
3. How must he have felt when he was returned evil for his good? How did he handle it?
4. What did God give him because of his reaction to his difficulties?
5. How did God use Joseph’s situation for good?
1. What kind of a man was Jeremiah?
2. Why was Jeremiah returned evil for good?
3. How was Jeremiah returned evil for good? How was he persecuted?
4. How did he react to his situation?
5. What was Jeremiah's fate compared to his persecuters?
1. How was Daniel returned evil for good?
2. Why was he returned evil for good?
3. How did he handle it?
4. What good came from Daniel's reaction?
1. How did Judas return evil for good?
2. Why did Judas return evil for good?
3. Where was the betrayal of Jesus prophesied?
4. When did God plan the betrayal of Jesus? Why did He plan it?
5. What events show that Judas had a free choice in whatl he did? How much control did God have over his life? How much control does God have over our lives?
6. Why wasn't Judas's sorrow over what he did true repentance? What could he have done if he was truly repentant?
"...Your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done. At every point you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter. 2 Corinthians 7:9-11
1. Discuss why people are not aware of the seriousness of returning evil for good.
2. Give examples (real or hypothetical) of returning evil for good.