It is very hard to recognize the value of punishment when it is happening to you. Especially if that punishment is not one just designed to teach you a lesson, but the sort of vengeful punishment that human beings generally dish out to each other.
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God, on the other hand, punishes us without malice or anger, although we can tick him off now and then. When God punishes us, it is because we deserve it, yet he always tempers his temper, so to speak, with mercy.
“What’s so merciful about killing 250 high-ranking members of the tribes, as well as having the ground swallow Abiram and Datan, with their entire families, down to Sheol?” (Numbers 16)
“What’s so merciful about allowing the Philistines to constantly raid and harass the people all during the time of the Judges, and throughout the kingdoms that came afterward?”
“What’s so merciful about having the Assyrians kill thousands of Northern Kingdom people, destroy property, and sell survivors into slavery throughout the Diaspora?” (1 Chronicles 5)
“What’s so merciful about letting the Babylonians raze Jerusalem and destroy the temple while bringing hundreds or more of God’s people into slavery in a foreign land?” (2 Kings 25)
“What’s so merciful about allowing the Romans to not just totally destroy the temple and the walls protecting Jerusalem, but to rename Judea- the land God gave us- after our ancient enemies, the Philistines?” (Circa 70 CE)
“You call that ‘merciful’?”
Yes, I do.
“How can you say that is showing mercy?”
Simple: despite all that, we are still here.
And not just still here in the world, but now we are back in the Land, and we are not just surviving- we are thriving!
Have you ever been in a fight? Not a verbal battle, but a swing the fist, hit the body, and hurt someone fight? It isn’t like what you see in the movies, where the fighters hit each other, kick each other, throw each other around but constantly get up and continue.
That’s not real life. Let me tell you about real life, having been a student of martial arts for a number of years in my youth: all you need to make you think twice about fighting is to get the wind knocked out of you once. You can’t breathe, you can’t even stand, and while you are turning blue the only thought going through your mind is “Will I die?”
When God punishes us, it is so that we stop everything we are doing, stop thinking of whatever we were thinking of, and fall to our knees with the wind knocked out of us thinking only one thing: “Will I die?”
That is why when God has to resort to punishment, it can seem so terrible; you see, we make it necessary for him to do that because our stubborn, self-centered, and sinful desires are so strong that God needs to get our attention.
He will do so gently at first, giving us little hints, helping us to see the light, but when we refuse to accept what we are doing is wrong, he will turn up the juice. And, after he has given us all the time in the world to repent, that’s when God will drop the hammer.
And even then, he is merciful in that despite the pain we feel, it isn’t going to kill us.
Well, wait a minute… I stand corrected: there are many thousands who have died suffering from God’s punishment, as we have noted earlier, but their death isn’t necessarily eternal death. There have been many righteous people over the centuries who have died as collateral damage when God punished the nation, but dying to the world isn’t the death that we should be afraid of.
There is one thing I want to mention before finishing: too often I have heard people say they are under attack or being punished by God because things are going badly for them. Now, it may be true; the Enemy may be harassing you if you are doing something wonderful for God’s kingdom, or God may be making life difficult if you are on the wrong path (remember I said he starts off gently letting us know we are going the wrong way?), but in most cases, I believe people are just having a bad day or a bad week, and that is all there is to it.
God sees and knows all that we do, and he cares, but being in charge of everything doesn’t mean always doing everything. I believe many times God just lets things happen, and if I am right, I think that is a good thing.
It allows us to learn to use what God teaches us in the Bible and is a way we can test ourselves in how we handle tsouris, which is inevitable because we live in a cursed and fallen world.
So if you feel you are being punished by God, check yourself against the Torah and what Yeshua said about loving each other. Take a long look in the mirror and see who is looking back at you.
In Judaism, we say the Torah should be like a mirror: when you look into it, you see yourself. This is very much what Yeshua meant when he said that when we see him, we see the Father (John 14:9): this is too often misunderstood because Yeshua wasn’t saying he is God, he was saying he is the mirror image of God in that he did and said what God wanted him to do and say.
That is why God tells us to be holy, as he is holy- we can never be God, and we can never be as holy as God is, but we can be like God in how we treat others and by living in accordance with the instructions God gave us in the Torah.
We will all be punished, sooner or later, either for our own sins or as collateral damage to the nation. It is inevitable, but don’t let that bother you. Remember that what happens on the earth is temporary, and we who believe in God and accept Yeshua as our Messiah aren’t to worry about what happens temporarily because we are focused on eternity.
God’s punishment, even when mercifully administered, is terrible. But it is temporary, and so long as you do your best to worship and treat others as God said to do, then you can get through it and look forward to eternal peace.
Thank you for being here and please share these messages with everyone you know, subscribe to both my website and YouTube channels, buy my books, join my Facebook group called “Just God’s Word”, and “Like” my Facebook page.
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That’s it for today, so l’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!