Retribution, in the sense of reaping what one sows, or “With the froward God will show Himself froward” is not a lower, or base response. The wicked learn through retribution. Breaking the potsherds with an iron rod is a part of a process that not everyone needs to experience, because not everyone is persistently predatory or deeply and persistently perverse. If the wicked has a forehead of flint he may be met with a forhead of stone.
If you look at the judgments of God upon Israel, as they fell away, you can see progressive levels of corrective action. First the Lord allowed raiders to plague them, to get their attention as they began to stray. As they began to worship foreign gods and sacrifice in high places and engage in temple prostitution He allowed major incursions by enemies. By the time they were sacrificing children in the fire to Milcom… well, by then he was bringing their works upon their heads in a way that I would call retribution and even vengeance…
God gets angry, but His anger is never closed. It is open ended and remedial… but sometimes it will manifest in the beginning of the remediation as payback to the persistently and egregiously wicked person, city or nation, so they may learn the awe and reverenceof the Lord.
For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea; 2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea; 3 and all ate the same spiritual food; 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ. 5 Nevertheless, with most of them God was not well-pleased; for they were laid low in the wilderness.
6 Now these things happened as examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved. 7 Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink, and stood up to play.” 8 Nor let us act immorally, as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in one day. 9Nor let us try the Lord, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the serpents. 10 Nor grumble, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer. 11** Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. **12 Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall. 13 No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.
14 Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. 15 I speak as to wise men; you judge what I say. 16 Is not the cup of blessing which we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ? Is not the bread which we break a sharing in the body of Christ? 17 Since there is one bread, we who are many are one body; for we all partake of the one bread. 18 Look at the nation Israel; are not those who eat the sacrifices sharers in the altar? 19 What do I mean then? That a thing sacrificed to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? 20 No, but I say that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons and not to God; and I do not want you to become sharers in demons. 21 You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. 22 Or do we provoke the Lord to jealousy?** We are not stronger than He, are we**?
Retribution is that which disabuses the “strong” of his opinion of himself. Veangeance is that which brings him face to face with God in the light of his actions against God and men.