October 30, 2015

Disobedience, punishment, and amazing grace

Daniel 9:1–10:21, 2 Thessalonians 2:1–17, Job 42:1–9

Most parents want their children to obey them. When the child rebels, those parents warn them of the consequences. If disobedience continues, the wise parent may even use those consequences to build an attitude of willing submission. This is not tyranny, abuse, or because the child is annoying them, but a wise decision made by a loving parent.

Why then do many people resist and are even angry about the idea that God is a heavenly Father who wants obedience from His children? He also might use the consequences of disobedience to train His children. This is for our good and not because He is riled.

Daniel was one of the few heroes of the Old Testament who understood that discipline is not a mean retaliation but a mercy.

In Daniel’s prayer of confession, he says: “To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against him and have not obeyed the voice of the Lord our God by walking in his laws, which he set before us by his servants the prophets. All Israel has transgressed your law and turned aside, refusing to obey your voice. And the curse and oath that are written in the Law of Moses the servant of God have been poured out upon us, because we have sinned against him. He has confirmed his words, which he spoke against us and against our rulers who ruled us, by bringing upon us a great calamity. For under the whole heaven there has not been done anything like what has been done against Jerusalem. As it is written in the Law of Moses, all this calamity has come upon us; yet we have not entreated the favor of the Lord our God, turning from our iniquities and gaining insight by your truth. Therefore the Lord has kept ready the calamity and has brought it upon us, for the Lord our God is righteous in all the works that he has done, and we have not obeyed his voice.” (Daniel 9:9–14)

Repeated disobedience brought a calamity. After seventy years in captivity, Israel did learn one thing; they abandoned idolatry and obediently worshiped God only.

Job was not rebellious but he did challenge the wisdom of God. After the Lord spoke to him about what He alone can do, Job answered and said: “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. ‘Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you make it known to me.’ I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:1–6)

Then the Lord turned to Eliphaz, one of Job’s ‘friends’ who accused him of sin. He said, “My anger burns against you and against your two friends, for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has. Now therefore take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and offer up a burnt offering for yourselves. And my servant Job shall pray for you, for I will accept his prayer not to deal with you according to your folly. For you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.” (Job 42:7–8)

It is God’s prerogative to judge and punish sin. He tells parents to bring up their children in that same “nurture and admonition” but does warn the rest of us to be careful about making judgments. If what we say is not true, then we are in league with “the accuser” of God’s people, the lawless one.

Paul warned about unrighteous judgment also. He said, “For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming. The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” (2 Thessalonians 2:7–12)

There are people who love their sin more than God, and don’t care about the consequences. Daniel and Job were not in that group. Neither are those who have yielded their lives to Jesus Christ. Of them, Paul writes, “Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.” (2 Thessalonians 2:16–17)

The well-known song, Amazing Grace, says, “Once I was lost, but now am found, blind but now I see . . . .” the way to this blessing is to follow Daniel and Job in their prayers of repentance and submission, knowing and believing the truth and desiring to be obedient to our Heavenly Father, yet the only reason we are able to think or act this way is because of the amazing grace of our God.

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