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When God Calls Do We Answer? When He Speaks Do We Listen?

Punishment May Await Us If We Fail to Listen to God

Isaiah wraps up his lengthy prophecy talking about judgment. He prophesies that God has destined the people for death. That they will be slaughtered. There will be consequences.

Why would a loving God want to kill his people? Through the mouth of Isaiah, God explains why. He says that when he calls his people, they don’t answer. It would be like you and me passing each other on a path. You say, “Hi,” but I ignore you. That would be rude. It would disrespect you. And that’s exactly what God’s people do to him. They’re rude and disrespectful.

And to make sure we don’t miss his point, God rephrases it. He adds that when he speaks, his people don’t listen, either. That would be like you telling me, “Wait! Don’t step into the road.” But I ignore you, walk into traffic, and blam! A car hits me. So it is with God’s people. He tries to warn them, but they don’t listen.

Our Actions Have Consequences

Instead of answering, instead of listening, they do the exact things that God says are evil. They intentionally do what displeases him. That’s premeditated disobedience. They may figure they’re free to ignore what God says because they don’t think it matters or because they assume there will be no consequences. At least they haven’t seen any consequences for a long time.

But God’s patience is at its breaking point. He says, “Enough is enough; your time is up. You ignored me and disrespected me long enough. You’re about to enter the punishment phase,” all because they didn’t listen to God.

When God calls, we better answer. When God speaks, we better listen. Click To Tweet

We may have a similar view of God, perhaps not directly but indirectly. We may choose to ignore God because we think it doesn’t matter, that we’ll still get into heaven. We may assume there will be no consequences because we haven’t seen any yet. However, just because God loves us and will forgive us doesn’t mean our wrong actions won’t have negative outcomes.

When God calls, we better answer. When God speaks, we better listen.

[Read through the Bible this year. Today’s reading is Isaiah 64-66, and today’s post is on Isaiah 65:12.]

Read more about the book of Isaiah in For Unto Us: 40 Prophetic Insights About Jesus, Justice, and Gentiles from the Prophet Isaiah available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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How Often Do We Blame God When Bad Things Happen?

Just Because God Can Do Something Doesn’t Mean That He Does

Most people know the story about Joseph and his multicolored coat. Of how his brothers resent his behavior and how their father indulges his favorite son. To get rid of him, the brothers effectively imprison him and sell him as a slave to some traveling merchants. Joseph is gone. Problem solved.

Not really. First they need to concoct a story to tell their grieving dad. Then they must live in guilt for what they did. And their guilt doesn’t go away. It stays with them for a long time.

Payback

A dozen or so years later, not knowing Joseph’s fate, his brothers travel to Egypt to find food. There’s a severe famine, and they want to buy grain to keep their family from starving. They unknowingly encounter Joseph, but he keeps his identity hidden from them.

Joseph messes with them, accusing them of things he knows aren’t true and harassing them. Maybe this is to test them and see if they changed. Or perhaps it’s a bit of payback for what they did to him. Regardless, his rough treatment scares them.

They conclude that their predicament of him accusing them of spying and imprisoning them for a few days is payback for what they did to Joseph. They perceive it as just punishment. What goes around comes around.

God’s Punishment

After Joseph hassles them for a few days he lets them return home, but in their sacks of grain is the money they paid for the food. It looks like they stole it. Devastated, the Bible says, “their hearts sank,” and they blame God for their predicament. “Why is God done this to us?”

The reality is that God isn’t doing this to them, Joseph is.

God has the power to punish us, but sometimes our difficulties come from other sources. Click To Tweet

The Source of Punishment

So it is when bad things happen. Though the first impulse of many is to blame God when bad things happen, the truth may be quite different.

Sometimes our predicaments are a result of bad decisions that we have made. Other times it’s the actions of others that are the source of our problems. Last, the world that we live in can be another source of difficulties.

This isn’t saying that God never punishes us, because the Bible shows us otherwise. However, we’re smart to acknowledge that when bad things happen to us it may not be God’s doing. God has the power to punish us, but often our difficulties come from other sources.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Genesis 42-44, and today’s post is on Genesis 42:21, 28.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

Do What Is Just and Right

Do God’s Instructions to the King of Judah Apply to Us Today?

It’s dark times indeed for God’s people. The prophet Jeremiah is his mouthpiece to speak truth. God sends Jeremiah to the king of Judah with a message. This message begins with some commands and ends with a promise for obeying and a threat for disobeying.

The Commands

Through Jeremiah, God tells the king to do what is just and right. Then he breaks it down. First, don’t wrong or hurt foreigners, orphans, and widows. This isn’t the first time or the last that God shows his heart for foreigners, orphans, and widows. Perhaps the first mention is in Deuteronomy 10:18.

Later Paul testifies that his purpose is to bring God’s good news to his own people and to the Gentiles, that is non-Jews, which would be foreigners (Acts 26:23). And James tells us to look after orphans and widows (James 1:27). Yes, foreigners, orphans, and widows are important to God, so they should be important to us too.

Second, God says don’t kill the innocent. This command to not murder appears in the ten Commandments (Exodus 20:13). And Jesus models it with the woman caught in adultery when he releases her from a lawful execution, of her being stoned to death (John 8:10-12).

The Outcome

Then God gives the king a promise if he obeys, future kings will continue to rule—implicitly success. However, if the king disobeys, the palace will be razed—implicitly failure.

The right and proper treatment of foreigners, orphans, and widows must start with the king. When he models it, the people will follow. And if he fails to act, the people will follow his inaction.

We will do well to help foreigners, orphans, and widows. This pleases God. Click To Tweet

Help Foreigners, Orphans, and Widows

We can easily extend God’s command to the king of Judah to us today, because we see these principles supported in the rest of Scripture. However, the promise for obedience and threat for disobedience, may or may not apply to us.

Regardless if there are rewards for obedience or punishments for disobedience, we will do well to help foreigners, orphans, and widows. This pleases God and allows us to bless others in his name.

[Read through the Bible this year. Today’s reading is Jeremiah 21-22, and today’s post is on Jeremiah 22:3-5.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Judgment and Punishment Will Come

God Doesn’t Give Empty Threats; He Will Do What He Says He Will Do

God has expectations for his people. The Old Testament of the Bible covers this. The first five books of the Bible, often called the Law of Moses, details God’s expectations. He tells the people what to do and what not to do. If they obey, they’ll receive rewards and favor. If they disobey, they’ll face judgment and punishment.

Then we witness a recurring cycle in the Bible. The people turn from God and face difficulties. Then they turn back to him, and he embraces them. We first see this cycle repeated in the book of Judges, and it carries forward throughout the rest of the Old Testament.

The prophets continue to address this. They call God’s people to turn toward him. If they don’t, judgment and punishment will follow. But the people don’t listen. Eventually God has had enough.

Their list of failures is long:

  • they worshiped other gods
  • they secretly did what they weren’t supposed to do
  • they built places of worship to other gods and burned incense to them
  • they made and worshiped idols
  • they didn’t trust God
  • they rejected God’s commands and covenant
  • they worshiped stars
  • they worshiped Baal
  • they sacrificed their children
  • they practiced divination
  • they sought omens (enchantments or magic spells)

Judgment and Punishment

After centuries of disobeying God and rejecting him, judgment and punishment finally falls on them. The Assyrians invade Israel and plunder the land. They exile most of the people. The nation of Israel is no more. Only the tribe of Judah remains.

You’d think the people of Judah would see this and learn what will happen if they don’t give God their all. His warnings of judgment and punishment are for real. The prophets’ warnings aren’t empty words.

And for a while, the people of Judah do avoid God’s judgment and punishment. Yet they continue in the same cycle of turning from God and facing difficulties. Then repenting and embracing him—for a while.

Just as the prophets warned, judgment and punishment will come upon the people of Judah too. Babylon will conquer them and disperse them. They’ll get a seventy-year timeout, scattered throughout the nation of Babylon. But then a remnant of the people will return, and they’ll get another chance.

Thank God for second chances. Click To Tweet

Thank God for second chances. Thank God for delaying judgment and punishment to give us every opportunity to turn to him and put him first.

Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is 2 Kings 17-19, and today’s post is on 2 Kings 17:7-20.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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We Must Listen to God and Do What He Says

God Promises Rewards for Obedience and Punishment for Disobedience

As we read through the book of Leviticus, which is a struggle for most of us, we read instruction after instruction of what God expects from his people. With precise detail, his commands come forth one after another. Then, in chapter 26, the book begins to wrap up.

Here we see the prior chapters put into perspective. The key concept here is that we must listen to God and follow him.

The chapter opens with a detailed list of rewards for those who listen to God, follow his decrees, and obey his commands. He promises favor, peace, and fruitfulness. Isn’t this a life we all want to experience?

But then the tone of the chapter changes. The word “but” signals a transition. For those who refuse to listen to God, don’t carry out his commands, and reject his decrees, he adds a list of threats (Leviticus 26:14-16) that contrast to the comforting promises in the first half of the chapter.

He talks about terror, disease, and enemy oppression. We all want to avoid these things.

God doesn’t want to punish us. He wants us to turn to him. Click To Tweet

However, these aren’t to punish us but to get our attention.

After a few verses he says, “If after all this…” It’s like he’s taking a breath and giving his people—and us—a second chance. We must grab this opportunity. Because if we don’t, more punishment will follow, with dire repercussions.

What follows in the rest of the chapter is a series of chances: a third chance, a fourth chance, a fifth chance, and so on.

God doesn’t want to punish us. He wants us to turn to him, follow him, and obey him. His message is clear. We must listen to God and do what he says. Then we will receive the rewards he wants to give us.

And this all starts when we listen to God.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Leviticus 25-26, and today’s post is on Leviticus 26:14-16.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Consider God’s Punishment

God Had a Purpose for His People and They Let Him Down

God established Jerusalem as the center of all nations. This suggests he intended them to set an example and be a global leader, showing everyone how to live right and pointing them to him. But this isn’t what they did.

In their wickedness, they rebelled against him, even more so then everyone else. They rejected God’s ideals. In their disobedience they were worse than all the countries around them (Ezekiel 5:5-8). Talk about an epic fail.

Finally, God had enough. Punishment will come. Here’s what he’s going to do:

He Will Turn Against Them

The idea of God turning against us is a horrific thought. As an all-powerful being, he can do whatever he wants, whenever he wants. Though we hope he will use his vast power for our benefit, it’s not guaranteed.

If we turn against him, don’t we realize he has every right to turn against us?

Just as this applied to God’s chosen people thousands of years ago, by extension doesn’t it apply to us today? Click To Tweet

He Will Punish Them Openly

God says he will discipline his people for what they did. More frighteningly, he says he will inflict punishment on them. And this won’t happen privately, it will occur publicly for all to see, heaping embarrassment upon their penalty.

He Will Do Something Unprecedented

And this punishment he plans to inflict upon them will emerge as something so intense that it’s unfathomable. It’s something he’s never done before and will never do again. This suggests how angry he is with his people for not living up to his expectations.

What is this vast punishment God plans for them? Though it’s hard to write, they’ll resort to cannibalism—of their own family members (Ezekiel 5:9-10).

What About Punishment for Us?

Ezekiel directs this punishment at Jerusalem, but as the political center of the nation, Jerusalem is a metaphor for the whole country. The nation doesn’t do what God expects of them: to advance his kingdom and influence the world.

The result is severe punishment. Just as this applied to God’s chosen people thousands of years ago, by extension doesn’t it apply to us today?

[Read through the Bible this year. Today’s reading is Ezekiel 5-8, and today’s post is on Ezekiel 5:5-10.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.