God goes into great detail regarding the punishments that will be inflicted on Israel if they turn away from Him. It is NOT pretty! But…
God is not talking about bringing this punishment down on Israel for little slips in behavior. He is speaking of the systematic and gross turning against Him. We ALL sin but the sin God is warning against is LARGE and overwhelming.
He also doesn’t go from zero to a hundred in one second. He attempts to correct their behavior when it is in its infancy and KEEPS trying until it is CLEAR that they are NOT going to turn back. But even when things are at their worst, HE STILL LOVES THEM.
Reading these punishments brings to mind examples of them in action. The first one that strikes me is when Elijah shut up the heavens so there would be no rain. For 3 ½ years it did not rain. Crops didn’t grow. Trees didn’t give their fruit. The people starved! Many starved to death during this time. This wasn’t because Elijah had control over the skies or because he was powerful but because he was doing the will of God in disciplining God’s children. GOD made the rain hold off in response to Elijah’s prayers. And those prayers were directed by God.
God used Babylon and Assyria to rule over His rebellious people. The people were carried away into captivity not because they fought poorly or didn’t have a good strategy but because they turned their backs on God. This was part of their discipline.
One of the most poignant stories to me that comes right out of our reading is when God says “You shall eat the flesh of your sons, and you shall eat the flesh of your daughters” (verse 29). We see this exact event come to pass in 2 Kings 6:24-31. The city is Samaria is being besieged by Ben-hadad to the point that there is NOTHING left to eat. Two women decide to keep themselves alive by eating their children. The first mother surrenders her son to the pot on the first night but the second mother hides her child. The first mother then complains to the king about this injustice. Instead of taking action against the women the king is determined to give the enemy the head of Elijah to end their misery. In other words, instead of repenting and for asking God’s mercy he tries to throw the one man God is using to turn them around out to the enemy. There is PLENTY of proof that God could have dealt with this situation if they would have listened.
When things are at their worst and all sees lost God still hears Israel cry out. He isn’t moved by cries of “That’s not fair” or “It wasn’t our fault.” What His ears are listening for is “I’m sorry Lord. I have sinned against You. Please forgive me.” His ears are so sensitive to THIS cry that He hears it EVERY time.
The scattering of Israel to the corners of their world, the famine and desolation of the land, the oppression and destruction of their people are ALL consequences of their turning away from the ONE TRUE God. I believe their continued struggle is due to their rejection of God’s Son.
“Those I love, I rebuke and discipline” (Revelation 3:19). This is as true today as it was in the Garden of Eden. God doesn’t give up on us but neither does He give in to our bad behavior. Under the Law or not, God is STILL calling us to an exclusive relationship with Him as our Lord and Master. He WON’T share His throne with another. And He will do what it takes to get our attention to that fact. Personally, I prefer to learn this lesson the FIRST time but I can’t say I always do. My stubbornness has gotten me into trouble on more than one occasion. Fortunately God never stopped listening for my cry either.
Father God, THANK YOU for bring me back from captivity! Thank You for reminding me Whose throne is in my heart. Forgive me for all the times when I let something else sit on it. Help me remember all the lessons of the past and NOT need a refresher course. I want to walk in Your ways and keep my heart GLUED to Your side! Help me as I rein in my appetite again and don’t let food and body issues take Your place again.