21 When the Canaanite, the king of Arad, who lived in the [a]Negev, heard that Israel was coming by the way of [b]Atharim, then he fought against Israel and took some of them captive. 2 So Israel made a vow to the Lord and said, “If You will indeed deliver this people into my hand, then I will [c]utterly destroy their cities.”3 The Lord heard the voice of Israel and delivered up the Canaanites; then they [d]utterly destroyed them and their cities. Thus the name of the place was called [e]Hormah.
While this is the beginning of a very bloody chapter, something interesting stands out to me here. You may have heard the verse that says something like “‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay’, says the Lord”. The implication is that vengeance is not ours to pursue, we leave that up to God.
However, this certainly seems like the Israelites getting their revenge at first glance. In verse 2, we see that they didn’t just go chase after Arad right away. They turned to God first, to see what he would have them do. Rather than just rushing off half-cocked, they looked to God first.
The Israelites were not always the best at turning to God first, but in this case, I think they got it right. Now, that’s not to say when we want vengeance, we should just ask God for permission to go destroy someone. But we should certainly turn to him, and ask for his peace in our lives. The desire for revenge is very real, and can get us into a lot of trouble. When we seek God first though, things turn out very differently.