Be mindful of the schemes against you, but also of God’s love for you.
Billy Budd, Sailor
In his final novel, Billy Budd, Sailor, author Herman Melville tells a tale of the triumph of evil over good. The story focuses on a young sailor, Billy Budd who is pressed into the British Royal Navy. He is forcefully taken from his merchant ship, The Rights of Man, and made a crewmember of the HMS Bellipotent.
Abandoned as a child, Billy had to earn a living from a very early age. Yet despite his troubled childhood, Billy has grown to be a genuinely kind, optimistic, and innocent young man. Although his new shipmates initially try to cure his naïveté, they eventually embrace him in their hearts. He is strikingly handsome, his only apparent defect being that he sometimes stammers. His stammering becomes much worse when he is agitated or provoked. But his inherent goodness make him exceptionally popular with the crew.
Yet it is this goodness and popularity that earns him the jealousy and hatred of the ship’s master-at-arms, John Claggart. Claggart is extreme opposite of Billy Budd. This sadist is hated and feared by the crew. His cruelty and capacity for evil knows no bounds. He so intensely hates Billy Budd that he conceives a scheme to destroy him.
Claggart takes advantage of the paranoia of mutiny among officers. He brings charges of mutiny against Billy to the captain, Edward Fairfax Vere. Captain Vere summons both Claggart and Budd to his quarters for a private confrontation. To Billy’s innocent face John Claggart accuses him of the most diabolical conspiracy to commit mutiny and murder.
Of course Claggart doesn’t believe a word of what he speaks with such conviction. He’s a superb actor and a bold-faced liar. He knows Billy is innocent. In fact, Claggart actually counts on his goodness. For he knows that Billy’s inherently good nature will react with shock and outrage at the accusations. In fact, knowing of Billy’s stammer, Claggart hopes to so rattle him so as to evoke a violent reaction.
It works. Filled with so much outrage that he cannot speak, Billy strikes Claggart with his fist and sends him to the floor. Claggart, looks back at Billy with a smile—and then dies.
Tragically, though Billy has done the ship’s crew a great favor, he must die for his deed. The story ends with Billy’s execution by hanging. Billy’s last words are, “God bless Captain Vere.” His words of forgiveness—and an attack by a French ship—help save the ship from a violent rebellion by the embittered crew.
What’s Old Is New Again
That scene comes to mind every time wicked and evil men in our government and media have used the same tactics against the righteous. In order to shock and unsettle the righteous, they hurl the most poisonous accusation against them. The wicked know the accusations are false. But they also know that the accusations will effectively serve their purpose. The shocking accusations will not only smear the righteous and poison the minds of the audience. Those heinous accusations will so rattle the righteous that they will be unable to adequately respond. The wicked actually count on the righteous being tender-hearted and sensitive toward evil. The wicked actually view it as a weakness within the righteous.
But, we as believers, need to be mindful Satan’s schemes. These tactics began with him and he has taught them to his slaves. He still uses this “shock treatment” against us. Ever since the fall of humanity, the devil has been trying to overwhelm us and knock us off balance with his poisonous lies. He does this to incite us to do evil. He will bombard our minds with such accusations and lies that we’ll believe that all is lost, that we are hemmed in by troubles on every side. He’ll mischaracterize us and make us so horribly misunderstood that we will crave vindication.
But don’t lose sight of Jesus or of the promises of His word. Jesus was attacked. Ridiculous accusations were heaped upon Him and he was literally crucified for them. Where was His vindication? It was in heaven, when all of heaven proclaimed to the glory of the Father that Jesus Christ is the LORD God (Phil. 2:5–11). Your vindication is in heaven as well. God knows your cause is just. He sees your struggles on His behalf. He also sees your exaltation and glorification in Heaven. No matter how painful things may get down here, our first few minutes in heaven will so reward and satisfy us that we will wish we had borne our cross with far greater enthusiasm and faithfulness.
But while we are down here on earth, keep looking unto Jesus—the Author and Perfecter of our faith (Heb. 12:2). “Consider Him,” we are told, “who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and lose heart” (Heb. 12:3).
Remember also the saints of old, how God proved Himself faithful to them and delivered them from the schemes and accusations of the wicked. Joseph, the son of Jacob, was slandered by the wicked and suffered imprisonment for it. Imagine how he must have yearned for vindication. And though that vindication was delayed, it finally came according to God’s timeline—at a pivotal moment (Gen. 37, 39–50).
The same was true of Mordecai and the Jewish people in the Book of Esther. The diabolical Haman hemmed them in on ever side to ensure their annihilation. But Haman’s evil plans came into conflict with God’s. And in such a conflict there can only be one outcome—God’s plans prevail. Haman was overthrown, Mordecai was exalted, and the Jewish people were victorious over their enemies (Esth. 3–9).
Trust in Christ’s sovereignty, wisdom, and love. Pray without ceasing (1 Thess. 5:17). The people of God rule the world through their prayers. Keep yourself unstained by the world and do not become embittered by its turmoil. The battle will not be long. Be faithful to Jesus until death and you will inherit the crown of life (Rev. 2:10).
Dear Father in heaven, please help me to rest in Your sovereignty, wisdom, and love. Day after day, bring my thoughts back to Your holy Son, Jesus Christ who endured every injustice and slander of the wicked, yet who is now exalted in the heavens. Keep me, O God, faithful to You until death. Amen.