The Retribution Principle

I know that many of us wonder why the righteous suffer while the wicked prosper. The Hebrews of the Old Testament wondered the same thing. They did not know of a time that would come when the righteous in God would be taken up into heaven and live with Him in paradise for eternity. Although it may seem at times that there is no vindication in this world, we have the blessed assurance of spending eternity with Jesus. I believe that when we have a better understanding of this principle, we can find peace in our time of suffering on earth. I urge you, brothers and sisters, to read this, gain understanding about it, and share this knowledge with those whom you know are suffering. In Joshua, God says, "I will never leave you nor forsake you" (Joshua 1:5, NIV). God has a purpose and His plan is above our thoughts and earthly perception. No matter what you may be going through, know that God is in charge and His ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts (Isaiah 55:8, NIV).

Proverbs expresses wisdom as something that should be learned as a way of life that is pleasing to the Lord. The “fear of the Lord” is what, how, and why wisdom is established and ordained in the life the believer. In this view, wisdom and righteousness are closely related to the point of almost being interchangeable. “I guide you in the way of wisdom and lead you along straight paths” (Proverbs 4:11, NIV). “Ultimately the way of wisdom is keeping to the path of righteousness, because only men and women of integrity will remain in the land” (HW 449). Proverbs expresses the retribution principle “in the Pentateuchal formulas of blessings and curses” (HW 448). “The Lord’s curse is on the house of the wicked, but he blesses the home of the righteous” (Proverbs 3:33, NIV).
Job expresses wisdom as a divine attribute of Yahweh. By this, wisdom is shown by God doing something because he knows what is best and can see the bigger picture. Wisdom in Job is not a matter of cause and effect but a matter of the Creator stepping into history and refining his creation by his own means. The focus is on omniscience (knowing everything) instead of infinite wisdom (HW 415). Job expresses the retribution principle as always being true. “One could then believe that if a person prospered, he must be righteous; and if a person suffered, he must be wicked” (HW 414). “Surely God does not reject a blameless man or strengthen the hands of evildoers” (Job 8:20, NIV).
Ecclesiastes expresses wisdom by offering an alternate worldview that puts God in the center of everything. This view on wisdom “is a responsible, optimistic integration of life and faith” (HW 464). The inference from this book is to not ask why but to live life knowing that all of it, the good and bad, is a gift from the hand of God. “As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things” (Ecclesiastes 11:5, NIV). Ecclesiastes expresses “an acceptance of the retribution principle in theory but a denial of its ability to predict how one might fare in life or to explain any person’s current situation” (HW 463). This view does not employ the retribution principle to determine that one is righteous or wicked based on life’s unexpected, uncontrollable circumstances. “God will bring to judgment both the righteous and the wicked, for there will be a time for every activity, a time for every deed” (Ecclesiastes 3:17, NIV).

A Survey of The Old Testament; Hill and Walton; 3rd Edition
New International Bible


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