Glimpses of grace seen in the everyday

Posts tagged ‘punishment’

Divine Evacuation

Poor Lot!  He’s taken in a couple of strangers (actually angels in human disguise) who showed up in town needing a place to stay overnight.  And now at his door is a howling mob intent on gang-raping those angels. When Lot refuses to allow this, they accuse him of being intolerant and judgmental:  “…he dares to judge us!” (Does this sound familiar now?) God was about to destroy Sodom for their wickedness, but first He had to get Lot out of there.  So the angels grabbed Lot, his wife, and their two daughters by the hand and dragged them out of town before calamity hit.   (Genesis 19.)

And Noah—another divine evacuation.  “Yahweh observed the extent of human wickedness on the earth, and he saw that everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil. So Yahweh was sorry he had ever made them and put them on the earth. It broke his heart.” (Gen. 6:5-6) So He decided to wipe clean the earth and start from scratch.  But first He had to get Noah and his family to safety.  Once they were in the ark, God shut the door before calamity hit.

This earth is ripe for another catastrophe as human wickedness reaches the point of no return.  When will it happen?  Based on these two examples from Genesis, we can speculate about what might happen, and what will become of the godly minority.  Peter does have some appropriate words about this:

I want to remind you that in the last days scoffers will come, mocking the truth and following their own desires. They will say, “What happened to the promise that Jesus is coming again? From before the times of our ancestors, everything has remained the same since the world was first created.” They deliberately forget that God made the heavens by the word of his command, and he … destroy[ed] the ancient world with a mighty flood. 

And by the same word, the present heavens and earth …are being kept for the day of judgment, when ungodly people will be destroyed.…The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent. But the day of the Lord will come as unexpectedly as a thief…On that day, he will set the heavens on fire, and the elements will melt away in the flames. But we are looking forward to the new heavens and new earth he has promised, a world filled with God’s righteousness.

And so, dear friends, while you are waiting for these things to happen, make every effort to be found living peaceful lives that are pure and blameless in his sight.  (2 Peter 3:3-14 NLT)

God’s Self-Introduction

If God came to you in person and introduced Himself, what do you think he would say?  Incredibly, this actually happened to Moses, and those words re-echo through the pages of Scripture.

On Mount Sinai, Moses had seen powerful signs of God’s presence, including thunder, earthquake, fire, trumpet blasts, and more.  But still not satisfied, he begged God for the privilege of seeing His own glory.  God did not allow Moses to see His face but he did let him see his “back” as He passed by.  This was accompanied by a full introduction to His name and character:

The LORD passed in front of Moses, calling out,
“Yahweh! The LORD!
The God of compassion and mercy!
I am slow to anger
and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness.
I lavish unfailing love to a thousand generations.
I forgive iniquity, rebellion, and sin.
But I do not excuse the guilty.
I lay the sins of the parents upon their children and grandchildren;
the entire family is affected—
even children in the third and fourth generations.”

This foundational description of God’s character is cited at least seven more times throughout the Old Testament.  It is the way He wants us to remember Him.  (Numbers 14:18; Nehemiah 9:17; Psalms 86:15; 103:8; 145:8; Joel 2:13, Jonah 4:2) 

God’s primary nature is love:  compassion, unfailing love, faithfulness, forgiveness, mercy, patience.  But He is not a big teddy bear in the sky!  He is also holy and cannot tolerate sin and rebellion.  For more about God’s love and patience, Israel’s rebellion and then God’s response, read Psalm 78.  It’s quite a story! 

Divine Irony

Job is a drama in at least three acts.  An irony where poor Job, as well as his friends, are totally oblivious of the real drama behind the scenes.

First (after Job is introduced), Satan shows up in God’s throne room and makes a bet with God that he can make Job sin.  God consents, confident that his model child, will not fail.  (I wonder, would God bet on me?) 

Then the curtains close on the heavenly stage and our attention is redirected to the earthly stage where Job is hit with one tragedy after another.  He endures days and nights of grief and suffering along with wave after wave of harangue from his so-called “friends.”  Everyone is sure that they are right, and here’s why:

1.  Job’s perspective:  a)  He knows he hasn’t sinned.  b)  Good people are not supposed to suffer.  c)  God is in control of all that happens.

Job’s conclusion:  God is being unjust, so Job desperately seeks an audience with Him.

2.  Job’s friends’ perspective:  a) Job is suffering.  b) Suffering is always the punishment for sin, just as prosperity is always the reward for righteousness.  c)  God is just.

Their conclusion:  Job has sinned and needs to repent.

3.  God’s perspective:  a)  Job is the model of righteousness.  b) God is both just and wise, but not limited to human standards.  c) His purpose is beyond the knowledge of  the humans.  Then in chapters 38-41, God blows them all away from a whirlwind with a tour of His magnificent power in creation.  No answers for the questions they asked–just He Himself!!! 

In the third main part of this drama, Job gets the prize!  He has endured and won.  He receives restored health, double his original wealth, and another whole family, including 3 gorgeous daughters. 

But most of all, God is vindicated. 

How can this story help me when I look at what’s happening to me, those I care about, my nation, and the world around me?  In Job’s darkness, his expression of hope shines all the brighter:

But he knows the way that I take;
when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold.  (23:10)   Rainbow

Peace and the Prophet

God’s chosen nation was collapsing from the moral vacuum caused by rebellion against God and corruption in leadership. And on the outside, Nebuchadnezzar’s army was attacking.  God’s patience had finally run out.

Jeremiah was God’s man on the scene.  A dozen times in his book he debunks the false prophets’ repeated assurances that all would be well.  Like this in chapter 14:

13 Then I said, “O Sovereign LORD, their prophets are telling them, ‘All is well—no war or famine will come. The LORD will surely send you peace.’ ”

14 Then the LORD said, “These prophets are telling lies in my name. I did not send them or tell them to speak. I did not give them any messages. They prophesy of visions and revelations they have never seen or heard. They speak foolishness made up in their own lying hearts.

But there is hope of peace after the punishment has been endured and the hard lessons have been learned.  Peace on God’s terms necessarily involves cleansing from sin and rebellion.  But wow, the benefits are out of this world!

“The time will come when I will heal Jerusalem’s wounds and give it prosperity and true peace. I will restore the fortunes of Judah and Israel and rebuild their towns. I will cleanse them of their sins against me and forgive all their sins of rebellion. Then this city will bring me joy, glory, and honor before all the nations of the earth!  Jeremiah 33:6-8

What kind of peace are we looking for in our world and our lives? 
A fragile peace on this earth, IF nations and individuals can solve their differences and piece back together shattered economies? 
Or the true and lasting peace that comes only by turning to God and accepting it on His terms?

 

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