I was in my 20’s when I saw Pulp Fiction for the first time; it was about 5 years after it first released. Samuel L. Jackson had one of the coolest lines in the entire movie. Standing in a room with some guys that he and John Travolta had taken hostage, guns loaded, tension high, Samuel L. Jackson (Jules Winnfield) gives his vengeance speech:
“The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he who in the name of charity and goodwill shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness for he is truly his brother’s keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers and you will know my name is the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon thee.”
When he finishes his speech, the two main characters open fire and pompously take what they came for, leaving the room as if they were acting on the Lord’s command. Man, I love that movie.
Inside the film, the characters discuss the source of Jackson’s quote: Ezekiel 25:17. In the KJV, that verse reads like this,
“And I will execute great vengeance upon them with furious rebukes; and they shall know that I am the Lord, when I shall lay my vengeance upon them.”
The precursors to that verse make it obvious that the writers embellished Scripture just a smidge[i]. Then again some theories suggest Jackson and Travolta were working for Satan. If that’s true taking Scripture out of context is one of the deceiver’s greatest tricks. But this post isn’t really about Pulp Fiction.
Background: Where did this idea come from
Three months ago, my family and I began going through challenge after challenge. There were legitimate lay-off scares, ICU visits, financial woes and more. We confided some uncertainties to those closest to us, but most of our friends and family knew nothing of the situation. Or, if they did, it was a superficial gloss-over; we never really let on how scary the situation was.
It was somewhere in the middle of the struggles that I pulled my wife aside, sat down next to her, and shared the calm I felt in the turmoil. I said to her, by all rights, this should be our most difficult time in life. But, God is good. I shared, I cannot explain it, but everything is going to be ok. Then my wife replied something unexpected, “I know. Me, too.”
Don’t hear me wrong, the days were long and hard. There were a lot of travel and tears (and coffee!). Carey and Nate helped cover my lacking ACL posts; mom and dad watched the kids so we could visit out-of-town family; and even amidst the uncertainties at work, both our bosses understood and supported the process.
I am very thankful to report all family members are home and well, work is going very well, and I’m still allowed to write for Clear Lens (personal thank you to each of you for the prayers and support!).
The more I sit and reflect on this time, the more I can see God in the process. I don’t mean to say that God answered our prayer because everything worked out—that’s a topic for another post. I mean to say, that in the middle of it all, we had: peace, love, patience, kindness, gentleness, and an unseen certainty.
The Tie-In: How does this relate
It really got me thinking about Pulp Fiction and the story of Ezekiel: and you will know that I am the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon you…
I think there is a lot of truth in that statement.[ii] Matthew Henry’s Commentary explains it like this:
Though one event seem to the righteous and wicked, it is vastly different. Those who glory in any other defense and protection than the Divine power, providence, and promise, will, sooner or later, be ashamed of their glorying. Those who will not leave it to God to take vengeance for them, may expect that he will take vengeance on them. The equity of the Lord’s judgments is to be observed, when he not only avenges injuries upon those that did them, but by those against whom they were done.[iii]
See, where Pulp Fiction twists the Scripture is not just in its blatant rewording, but in the understanding of what is being said. God isn’t saying His vengeance is proof of his awesome and unlimited power. As a matter of fact, He is not boasting of his furious vengeance. Ezekiel is writing to the Jewish people who are watching the world collapse around them. There are wars and rumors of wars; mighty nations are moving to the South and North of their location.
Ezekiel is writing to them to say that those who have wronged God will get what is due to them—we all will. Vengeance is God’s not ours. But what is even more important than that, is the promise that in the midst of vengeance, you will know God. Ezekiel is saying, when pain and suffering comes—and it will come—you can find yourself cast down by the guilt and pain of carrying your own burdens, or you will bow before the Lord in reverence of His will.
I share this piece with you because I really did experience God through these last several months. I want to hear from you; when things get hard, do you see a vengeful God reigning down his furious anger, or do you experience His peace? Leave a comment below and let me know—let’s talk.
[ii] Duh! It’s scripture