Among the best books I have ever read is Escape from the Deep: The Epic Story of a Legendary Submarine and Her Courageous Crew by Alex Kershaw. It tells the tale of the World War 2 submarine named the U.S.S. Tang, a vessel that sank a total of 33 Japanese ships. Its own demise came by the rather unusual (though not unheard of) circumstance of one of its own torpedoes malfunctioning and running in a circular course back to the sub. It hit, sinking the boat in 180 feet of water, killing all but nine men who made an unprecedented escape to the surface, one by one, using a Momsun lung device.
Also in World War 2, a British vessel named the HMS Trinidad was making an attack run upon some German destroyers, who were unsuccessfully firing torpedoes toward the British ship. As the Trinidad was closing in to finish off a crippled destroyer in flames, a torpedo came directly toward the cruiser. The captain is reported to have looked over the bridge at the approaching “fish” and said, “You know, that looks remarkably like one of our own!” It was. The explosion damaged the boat severely, ripping a hole in the side and killing 32 sailors.
Sin is a lot like a circular-running torpedo. It comes back to cause the most damage to the sinner himself.
In literature or art, a situation irony is when something occurs that is opposite of what was actually expected to happen. For example, a professor might despise a certain student in his organic chemistry class and have him fail, thus resulting in the student flunking out of medical school. Twenty years later the professor has a dreadfully rare disease and goes to see the one doctor in the world who has become a specialist in dealing with the ailment. And the prof finds out it is the very student he failed years before, who went to another school and became an accomplished physician.
Situational irony is seen in other Scripture passages. For example, Joseph — the hated younger brother of Jacob’s family — is sold into slavery, only to eventually rise to power in Egypt and become the one who saves the family from extinction.
Such a story is especially powerful in the hands of an omnipotent and providential God, who delights in displaying His power through the weak, disenfranchised and despised.
And so we see the irony of this evil man Haman, who conspires for the death of his hated rival Mordecai, only to see his entire plan take twists and turns that come back upon himself.
12 Afterward Mordecai returned to the king’s gate. But Haman rushed home, with his head covered in grief, 13 and told Zeresh his wife and all his friends everything that had happened to him.
His advisers and his wife Zeresh said to him, “Since Mordecai, before whom your downfall has started, is of Jewish origin, you cannot stand against him—you will surely come to ruin!” 14 While they were still talking with him, the king’s eunuchs arrived and hurried Haman away to the banquet Esther had prepared.
It may often be that in a fallen and sinful world, it will appear to the righteous that they are in danger on every front, abused and maligned by those who appear to get away with it. Yet there is a just and sovereign God who often only appears at the last moment to avert a severe injustice. And even when injustice does prevail, as it sometimes does, there is a truer and final justice that is to be found in the greater reality that is life eternal beyond this world. And we will begin to talk about that tomorrow.