Q: “I have heard that we are to rejoice over the death of the wicked, but in another Scripture we are told not to rejoice when our enemies fall. This seems a contradiction to me. Can you explain?”
A: This is a good question and there is an explanation. We are told in Proverbs 11:10-11, “When it goeth well with the righteous, the city rejoiceth: and when the wicked perish, there is shouting.” If you notice this Scripture has to do with those in government. Keep in mind God holds all government officials and religious leaders to a greater level of accountability because they have been entrusted with much.
When the righteous are overseeing a city, God is able to bless it because righteous practices are in place and fair justice is being executed. However, when the wicked are in charge, God’s blessings will be profaned or quenched and people will find themselves oppressed, while such wicked people abuse their power by robbing from whoever, as well as killing what stands in the way, and destroying what is pure and just.
Needless to say, when wicked leaders are brought down, people shout with joy. I have seen this in my lifetime. I remember after the fall of a communistic regime, the leader along with his wife were led to face a firing squad that was televised to the world. Upon his death some people sighed, many shouted, and the rest tried to swallow the last of the bitter pill of death, destruction, and despair that this wicked husband and wife team had forced them to swallow for decades. Likewise, when Iraq fell, we watched the people of that country rejoice and tear down the statue of Saddam. The truth remains so that the people never mourn the fall or death of a wicked, unjust, tyrannical leader because of the great wave of destruction they have left behind.
In Proverbs 24:16-20 we are told, “For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again: but the wicked shall fall into mischief. Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth, and let not thine heart be glad when he stumbleth: Lest the LORD see it, and it displease him, and he turn away his wrath from him. Fret not thyself because of evil men, neither be thou envious at the wicked; For there shall be no reward to the evil man; the candle of the wicked shall be put out.”
There are some simple truths in the above scriptures. Concerning leaders, they affect many people’s lives and ultimately the only one who brings leaders down is God, but in Proverbs 24, it is talking about a personal enemy who falls into sin and will come under judgment. It can be hard to watch an enemy get away with various things without paying any real consequences. It is natural to become angry at our enemy, bitter towards them when there are no apparent consequences, and desire vengeance when they seem to be blessed, but the Lord makes some sound principles clear.
The first one is that the wicked will fall into mischief. In other words, they will naturally do wrong and as a result they will eventually come under judgment. The second thing we must notice is that we must not concern ourselves with whether the wicked man gets his just reward here, nor should we be envious of worldly blessings for in the end they will receive their just reward.
This brings us to God’s concern about our attitudes towards personal enemies. We are called to a higher way of looking at our enemy. We need to be an example and witness before them. Our relationship with our enemies will test and expose our character. As Christians, we are to care for their soul as the Lord cared for our soul when we were His enemy, pray for them that they will see their need for Jesus, and do not wish their destruction or rejoice over their fall because that would point to a type of vengeful spirit on our part. Such a spirit reveals one as having a wrong attitude. Judgment always begins in the house of God, with God’s people and there are times we stand in the way of God dealing with our enemies because our attitude is wrong about them (Matthew 5:16, 43-46; James 4:4; 1 Peter 4:17). The truth is God sometimes puts off judging our enemy in order to avoid judging us for what would be clearly unscriptural and unacceptable to Him.
The wicked will always be what they are, but as Christians we can’t be any less than what we are being called to be as far as having a right spirit, displaying an upright attitude, and responding in honorable conduct towards everyone, regardless of whether they are family, friend, or foe.