Burning Coals

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If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink, for you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you (Pr 25:21-22 ESV).

Love for one’s enemy is a biblical theme that runs from Genesis to Revelation. In this Proverb eat and drink are commands; enemy and heap are participles. It is a fact that we will deal with enemies in this life, but when we heed the command of giving our enemy bread to eat and water to drink we will continuously heap burning coals on the head of our enemy. The concept of heaping coal’s on an enemy’s head is one of pain and shame. The verb reward is related to shalom which is more than just peace, it is the state of being whole.

Paul confirms this when he says, “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” (Ro 12:20.) As in Proverbs 25:21-22 feed and drink are commands. But the motive of Paul is different: “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'” (Ro 12:19).

When we allow the Lord to deal with our enemies and we trust Him by loving our foes, He will take care of us. This is a mark of the true Christian. “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Ro 12:21). Paul commands us to not be overcome by evil as well as to overcome evil with good. This is by no means easy! But we can rest assured that God is indeed a God who wages war on His enemies. While this is NOT popular today, it is true. From Genesis 3 to Revelation 20, there is a theology of holy war in the Bible.

Each day is one day closer to the return of Christ, as such believers need to start practicing what it looks like to love their enemies now. Hostility for Christians is growing by the day. As Philip Ryken says, “The law always reveals the character of the lawgiver” (P. Ryken, Exodus: Saved for God’s Glory,2005, p. 525). As to the character of the lawgiver, “It must also be noted that Jesus’ instruction on the love of enemies (Matt 5:43–47) be read in light of this proverb and that the love of enemy is originally an Old Testament idea that was both enacted and commanded by Jesus” (Duane A. Garrett, Proverbs, Ecclesiasties, Song of Songs, 1993, p 209). The more that we love our enemies and overcome evil with good the more we will be transformed into the image of Christ.

Leviticus, Deuteronomy, Proverbs, Matthew, Romans we are given commands to love God, be holy as God is holy, love our neighbor and to let the Lord take vengeance for His Name’s sake and for the sake of His people. Again, I do not claim this is easy; however, may we start obeying God and His commands. The more that we love our enemies, overcoming evil with good, the more we will be transformed into Christ’s image.

Lord God, it is not easy to love our enemies. I am thankful Lord that loving our enemy does not go hand and hand with reconciliation. Lord God, give us wisdom and discernment when it comes to handling difficult relationships and people. Lord God, help Your Church. Help us to be a people who live in Your strength and not our own. Lord God, may we NEVER forget that You are both a God of Wrath and a God of Love. May we NEVER forget that You are Just, Jealous and Compassionate. May we NEVER take Your mercy and grace for granted. Lord God, it is time for Your called out, set apart, holy people to live LESS like this world and MORE like citizens of Heaven. Lord Jesus, You know I get this wrong ALL the time, I am a sinner saved by grace and I praise You for the gift of salvation daily. Lord God, thank You for this reader. Lead them and guide them as they navigate living in a world that is rapidly changing. Keep this reader connected to You Lord and in all things may they seek You more than the things of this world. In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.