The Doctrine of Recompense
Dr. Joe Temple


We have been studying in the book of Proverbs for quite some time, and we have been noticing the Proverbs which are noted as being The Personal Proverbs of Solomon , that section of the book that begins with chapter 10 and carries on through to chapter 22, verse 16. We studied the personal proverbs of Solomon to begin with from the standpoint of noticing a certain principle and then gathering the various proverbs around that principle which would amplify it and explain it to us. Having done that, we came to a series of proverbs that did not lend themselves to that kind of discussion; rather, we referred to them as selective texts , and many of them did represent the great texts, the great verses of Scripture that ministers of the Word of God have used down through the ages to declare spiritual truths which we all need to hear, the remarks related to them not being exclusively found within the book of Proverbs itself.

I want to think with you about the subject suggested in chapter 20, verse 22. If we were to give it a title we might use the words Leave it to the Lord , or we might speak to you concerning the doctrine of recompense. Notice the words in verse 22:

Proverbs 20:

22 Say not thou, I will recompense evil; but wait on the LORD, and he shall save thee.

Because the words are brief, we want to read them again that they might be fixed firmly in your mind. Notice again:

Proverbs 20:

22 Say not thou, I will recompense evil; but wait on the LORD, and he shall save thee.

I dare say that every one of us realize that the suggestion the Spirit of God is making in this portion of the Word is contrary to nature. It is contrary to our fallen natures to refuse to recompense evil and leave the whole matter with the Lord. Though this suggestion is contrary to nature, I would like to remind you it is by far the safest suggestion to follow. Individuals who have not learned to follow this suggestion are individuals whose hearts have been filled with bitterness and their lives oftentimes ruined.

I recognize that what I have been saying to you is real because it is just as hard for me many times to leave it with the Lord as it is for you; but if we examine this verse of Scripture somewhat in detail, perhaps we will be better able to leave it with the Lord.

The first thing that I would like to call to your attention is something about the word evil . You notice that our text says, “Say not thou, I will recompense evil…” There are a number of words in the Hebrew which are translated by our English word evil , but this one comes from the Hebrew word ra , which could better be translated by the word injury . That makes the verse a little clearer to us. What is God saying to us? “Say not thou, I will recompense an injury which has been done to me, but I will wait on the Lord and He will save me.” With the risk of repetition, let me say that the natural inclination of any of us is to get even. We somehow or other can't take things lying down, so it would be well for us to notice this word recompense and recognize that it comes from the Hebrew word shalam . That is somewhat like the word peace , and it is interesting to notice that the spelling and the pronunciation are somewhat alike. If you don't listen carefully you might think that I said shalom , but I didn't. I said shalam , which is recompense .

The word that is translated recompense here is also translated by the two words give again . We have a little colloquial phrase that we use often when we say, “Give him as good as he sends.” If he says something mean about you, say something mean about him. Give him as good as he says. That is recompense , but I would like for us to notice a number of passages of Scripture in which this word shalam is translated by other English words, and perhaps noticing the words in their setting will help us to understand a little more clearly what we are talking about when we talk about a recompense. Turn to II Samuel, chapter 16, verse 12, and notice how this word shalam is used. We read:

II Samuel 16:

12 It may be that the LORD will look on mine affliction, and that the LORD will requite me good for his cursing this day.

Notice the word requite . It is the translation of our Hebrew word shalam . The story back of this word is familiar to some of you. Absalom, the son of David, had usurped his father's throne. David was fleeing for his life. Some of his friends were with him, but he was pretty much alone. As he was fleeing, a man by the name of Shimei cursed David; that is, he made fun of him and said a lot of evil things against him. Shimei was a descendant of Saul, and he was bitter because Saul had died and David had taken his place. Shimei said, in verse 8 (paraphrased), “You are getting what is coming to you. The blood of Saul is resting upon you.” Then Abishai, one of the attendants of the king, said, “King, let me kill him. He has no right to talk to you that way. You are the king. Let me recompense.” David said, “No. I don't want you to do that, Abishai. It could be that God wanted him to do that. Let him alone for the LORD hath bidden him.” Then you will notice in verse 12, he said, “It may be, though he is cursing me, the LORD will look on mine affliction and that the LORD will requite me good for his cursing this day.” You see what it means to recompense. Yes, David could have ordered Abishai to kill Shimei, but he didn't. He said, “Let's leave it with the LORD.”

Turn with me to another portion of the Word, back to the book of Proverbs, chapter 13, and notice another use of the word shalam in verse 21:

Proverbs 13:

21 Evil pursueth sinners: but to the righteous good shall be repayed.

You noticed I placed the emphasis on the word shall . “To the good shall be repayed.” No, this is not suggesting that you earn goodness, but it does suggest that the Lord makes up to you what you miss here. When evil is done to you and you have no way of straightening the thing out, the Lord is able to repay.

Another Illustration of Recompense

Turn back to the book of Psalms and notice Psalm 38, verse 20, for another illustration of what we are talking about when we are talking about a recompense. Notice:

Psalm 38:

20 They also that render evil for good are mine adversaries; because I follow the thing that good is.
21 Forsake me not, O LORD: O my God, be not far from me.
22 Make haste to help me, O Lord my salvation.

You notice what he is saying: “They that are my adversaries are rendering evil for good. When I do a good deed, they return it with an evil deed.” Did you notice the Psalmist did not try to make plans as to how he might get even? He said, “Oh LORD, make haste to help me.”

The very fact that I have made suggestions to you that these folk at whom we have looked did not recompense evil indicates that there is an alternative that all of us can follow if, by God's grace, we will. You will notice what I am saying to you: if, by God's grace, we will. I think it will take His grace.

Let Evil Be Overcome with Good

I would not suggest to you that these are all of the alternatives. You understand what I mean. You either are going to recompense evil for evil or you are going to follow one of these alternatives I am suggesting. I wouldn't suggest that these are all of the alternatives which are possible for you to follow, but there are some. Turn, please, to the book of Romans, and notice in chapter 12 the exhortation of the Holy Spirit in the paragraph which begins with verse 17:

Romans 12:

17 Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men.
18 If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.
19 Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.
20 Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.

Let me pause here to say that this verse of Scripture is misused and misquoted when it is used in a national sense. This does not mean that the United States should take medicine to North Vietnam, as some folk who are not standing on the Word of God would have you believe. We are talking about personal relationships. If you have an individual who has personally done you harm and you feel that he is your enemy, or perhaps he feels that way, feed him. If he thirsts, give him drink, for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. It is summed up in verse 21:

Romans 12:

21 Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.

You see, Beloved, when you let your heart fill with bitterness and hatred, and you lie in wait to get even, to repay, to recompense, then you have been overcome with evil, and you are the one who suffers. Oh, true, you may be able to repay your enemy. You may kill him. You say, “Well, I killed him.” Yes, you did, but you are the biggest sufferer for it. Don't be overcome of evil; rather, let that evil be overcome with good. Refuse to surrender to one of the biggest snares of Satan—namely, to recompense in your own way.

Pursue God

Turn, please, to I Thessalonians, chapter 5, as I suggest that you notice the second alternative that is left to you. We express it with, “Follow that which is good.” In I Thessalonians, chapter 5, verse 15, Paul was giving advice:

I Thessalonians 5:

15 See that none render evil for evil unto any man;[here is the alternative] but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men.

If you pursue good your heart won't have time to be filled with bitterness. It is the same thing that Paul had in mind when he wrote to the Phillipians: “Whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are of good report, whatsoever things are lovely, think on these things.”

Have Compassion for One Another

Slip over to I Peter, chapter 3, and notice yet another alternative, as we suggest to you that these alternatives could be any or all. Some might work sometimes and others might work at others. Notice verse 8:

I Peter 3:

8 Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous:
9 Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing [That is what we are talking about; that is the natural inclination, but what is the alternative?]: contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing.

In place of evil for evil and railing for railing, a blessing. How can you do that? Because you know that in the final analysis, you, as a believer, are slated for a blessing, and nothing that anybody can do to you can in any way change God's plan and purpose for your life.

I think that it is significant that that paragraph is preceded by the sentence, “…be pitiful, be courteous.” The man who deserves your pity is the man whom the world says you should get even with, the man who could do you an injury.

Be Willing to be Defrauded

Let's go back the other way to I Corinthians, chapter 6, and notice the last suggestion that we would like to bring to your attention. You have an alternative, and I have left it for last because it is the hardest one to do. Paul was writing to the Corinthian believers about a number of things that were in error in their lives. One of them was that they were going to law with one another as Christians. Let me say at the outset that this does not mean that you don't ever need to hire a lawyer. You may have to hire a lawyer for any number of legal disputes in which you become involved in this world in which we live; but if two Christians, particularly in the same assembly, have a dispute, instead of going to law before the unsaved and asking an unsaved man to settle a dispute between Christians, you ought to be willing to be defrauded. It might be presented before Christians because we are taught that very definitely in the Gospel of Matthew. Notice verse 7:

I Corinthians 6:

7 Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another. Why do ye not rather take wrong? why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded?

Do you see what he is saying? There might come a time when you are involved with another Christian in a dispute, and he won't do what he ought to do. He knows what is right, and you have the evidence, but he won't do it. You could take him into court, and you could air all the dirty linen that crops up between two believers in public. You could have the world, who is always looking with a great deal of interest on Christians and their failures, to talk and say, “That's a bunch of Christians for you. Just look how they hate each other.” Or you could say, “Well, Brother, I wish you would do what is right, and you know that I have the authority to make you, but I am not going to make you. I am going to take this wrong. I am going to be defrauded.”

I am going to tell you something that a lot of preachers won't tell you. A lot of preachers will tell you, “Oh, well, God will work it out, and you won't be defrauded in the end.” That isn't always true. You may have to go ahead and be defrauded. You may have to suffer wrong until the day you die. It may never get straightened out on this side of the Jordan; but you suffer wrong because you are a believer and because you are going to follow the exhortation in Proverbs, chapter 20, that you yourself will not recompense evil, but will wait on the Lord, as we read in verse 22:

Proverbs 20:

22 Say not thou, I will recompense evil; but wait on the LORD, and he shall save thee.

Wait on the Lord

I ask you to read the text with me again because there is the other alternative that I want you to notice. It is in the text itself: “…wait on the LORD…” Those of you who have been sitting under the ministry of the Word here at Abilene Bible Church for some time probably will recall that I have pointed out to you that there are at least seven Hebrew words which are translated by our English word wait . This particular one comes from the Hebrew word qavah , which, as far as its pictorial representation is concerned, is collecting things or twisting things together. If you have a stick that you want to support some weight on, and it is not strong enough, you get another stick and tie it to it and lift the weight.

We have pointed out to you that while you wait, you don't just mark time; you follow the example of the Psalmist and wait on the Lord and hope in His Word. This word lends itself very readily to the suggestion that the way to wait on the Lord is to collect the promises of the Word of God, twist them all together in a strong support and lean upon the promises, not upon the injury. Yes, that injury will hurt. You know, if you break a limb you can always tell when the weather changes, no matter how long it has been since you broke it. The injury is there, and it is lasting. Of course, if you lean on the injury you are just going to be hurt that much more; so instead of leaning on the injury, you wait on the Lord in the sense that we are suggesting to you. Collect the promises of the Word of God, tie them together and make a support that will be sufficient for you.

Wait Patiently

This word wait involves not only the idea of waiting, but if you will turn to Psalm 40, it involves the idea of patience as well because in Psalm 40, verse 1, the Psalmist gives the testimony:

Psalm 40:

1 I waited patiently for the LORD; and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry.

Those two words waited patiently are the translation of this one word. You have to wait patiently a great many times, but not without hope. Turn, please, to the book of Isaiah, chapter 8, and notice another suggestion about the way this one particular word qavah might be translated. Isaiah is talking here in chapter 8 about his two boys who were born at God's command so that there might be a sign with which that generation in Israel might live, a constant reminder of their disobedience to God. Isaiah, in the midst of all of this, said, in verse 17:

Isaiah 8:

17 And I will wait upon the LORD, that hideth his face from the house of Jacob, and I will look for him.
18 Behold, I and the children whom the LORD hath given me are for signs and for wonders in Israel from the LORD of hosts, which dwelleth in mount Zion.

Notice the last statement of verse 17: “…I will look for him.” The word look here is this Hebrew word qavah . So when you are talking about waiting for the Lord, you are talking about a spirit of expectancy. You are talking about looking for someone. Who was Isaiah looking for? The same person for whom you and I ought to be looking when our injuries hurt us. When we feel that we have suffered about all that we can suffer, that we have been mal-treated just about to the limit, we should look for Him.

Turn with me, please, to II Thessalonians, chapter 1. The Apostle Paul, in writing to the Thessalonian believers, in verse 4 mentions the persecutions and the tribulations which they were enduring. He said that he trusted they would be counted worthy to suffer for His name's sake, but he didn't leave them without hope. Notice what he said:

II Thessalonians 1:

4 So that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure:
5 Which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer:
6 Seeing [now notice] it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you;
7 [Then he has a special message] And to you who are troubled rest with us…

Beloved, that is what you need to do when you have been hurt and you have been injured and wrong has been done to you. What you need to do is rest. How can you do that? Notice again in verse 7:

II Thessalonians 1:

7 And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels,
8 In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ:
9 Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power;
10 When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day.

You can look for the coming of the Lord and ask Him to straighten things out. That is the reason I said to you that the injuries may not ever be righted in this life; you may still have to go about waiting on the Lord to recompense the injury that has been done to you.

The Lord is Able Defend You

Look again at our text in Proverbs, chapter 20, verse 22:

Proverbs 20:

22 Say not thou, I will recompense evil; but wait on the LORD, [now notice this last statement] and he shall save thee.

I cannot tell you when the salvation will come. All that I can tell you is that it will come. I would like for you to look at that word save because we have different words in Hebrew translated by our English word save . This particular one comes from the Hebrew word yasha , and as you can see, it has a number of different translations related to it. We are not going to take the time to turn to all of these passages of Scripture, but in Judges, chapter 10, verse 1, this Hebrew word yasha is translated by the word defend . Israel was being attacked by the enemies. Tolah was the judge, and God said to Israel, “Don't be concerned. Tolah will defend you,” and He used this very same word.

Do you feel like sometimes your reputation needs defending? Do you feel like you need to go about straightening things out? The Lord can defend you. Years and years ago, before I knew any better, I felt that every time someone repeated something to me that wasn't true about me and that didn't sound good, I had to go straighten things out. Then the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart one day, and I came to the conclusion that if I could trust my soul's eternal welfare to the Lord, I could trust my reputation to Him, too. I don't mean that I go about deliberately trying to offend people, but I never try to straighten things out any more. I just leave it with the Lord. He is able to defend my reputation, and He is able to defend me.

In Judges, chapter 10, verse 12, another incident when Israel was being attacked by the enemy, God said, “The judge will be able to deliver you, and when your enemies surround you and you are being injured and you feel like there is no real hope for you, just remember the Lord is able and the Lord will deliver you.”

In II Samuel, chapter 10, verse 11, two captains in David's army were facing an enemy, and they said one to the other, “You take this point. If things get rough for you, I will come and help you,” and he replied, “If things get rough for you, I will come and help you.” That word help is a translation of this word, so when you are talking about God's saving you, talking about God's helping you in relation to the injury of the person that is involved.

In II Samuel, chapter 8, verse 6, this same word is translated by our English word preserve , and some of us need that preservation because sometimes the going gets pretty rough. Sometimes you are not only misunderstood occasionally, you are misunderstood constantly. We are injured all the time, and we would despair of life if it were not for the fact that our Lord preserves us even in the midst of the attacks from our enemies.


In Psalm 98, verse 1, this word yasha is translated by the word victory . It is a reference to our mighty God who is going to recompense evil for evil, take care of the matter all by Himself so that you don't have to do it. The Psalmist said:

Psalm 98:

1 O sing unto the LORD a new song; for he hath done marvellous things: his right hand, and his holy arm, hath gotten him the victory.

The phrase, “gotten victory,” is the translation of this one Hebrew word. You see, when you read back here in Proverbs, chapter 20, verse 22, that our God will save you, it means that He will give you the victory. Once again, I want to emphasize that it doesn't mean that your enemy will come and apologize to you. It doesn't mean that he will pay you the money that he owes you. It doesn't mean that you will be able to say, “I'm right, aren't I? I was right all the time, wasn't I?” You may never be able to say that, but you will have the victory; and you know, that is the marvelous thing to me about this promise—that God will give us the victory so that when we see the person who has done us wrong, when we see the person who has done us injury, we will have such victory we will feel sorry for them. This is what God is promising.

You may believe me, and you may not believe me; but I suggest that you believe the Word, and if you have never tried this, try it and watch how it works.

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