Wednesday, August 17, 2016
The people are like the dead branches of a tree, broken off and used for kindling beneath the cooking pots. Israel is a foolish and stupid nation, for its people have turned away from God. Therefore, the one who made them will show them no pity or mercy. Yet the time will come when the Lord will gather them together like handpicked grain. One by one he will gather them—from the Euphrates River in the east to the Brook of Egypt in the west. In that day the great trumpet will sound. Many who were dying in exile in Assyria and Egypt will return to Jerusalem to worship the Lord on his holy mountain. Isaiah 27:11-13(NLT)
"Punishment Island" is a feature documentary about a tiny island in remote Uganda where women were abandoned for getting pregnant before marriage.[ii] The premise of why this place exists is heartbreaking; not only are the women abandoned, but obviously so are their unborn children. It is an ignorant and harsh punishment.
But can we lump all “punishment” into that category? There are some forms of consequence that belong with aberrant behavior. Murder is a prime example; there must be some consequence, otherwise the import of that victim’s life is blunted. Theft robs both the victim of his property and the thief’s self-respect. The need for recompense and turning things right-side-up is immutable.
I unearthed the notes I saved from my very first sermon ever preached. It was for evening worship at a little Baptist Church on June 7, 1978. The title was “Chastisement”. (I do have a copy of the audio, but hardly have the nerve to listen to it!)
While most of the sermon was a cross between a topical Bible study and an apology for taking up people’s time, there was actually a little meat to be had for understanding one of the elephant-in-the-room questions: WHY? Why must we be held accountable for our actions and disciplined?
It’s certainly much easier to describe WHAT discipline looks like – a rule gets made, broken, and recompensed. There is punishment, discipline. That’s legalism.
But, WHY must it be this way? Why can’t we just forget about it all? That is a question that moves past the legalism of what must be done, and travels into the realm of WHY God does what only God does…LOVE!
The apostle Paul gives us the redemptive reason behind all God’s judging:
Yet when we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned along with the world. 1 Corinthians 11:32(NLT)
God’s purpose in chastising, disciplining, even punishing is to save us from ultimate condemnation – the death of our souls.
In a children’s time message this past week I showed the children my old house slippers, broken and worn-out. And I showed them the rubber soles which could be recycled. Even if the shoes were past useable for me, they were not past having a purpose. And then we ended with this statement:
Remember in those times when you feel broken and used-up, you don’t have to stay that way; let God recycle you.
Even when you feel like you’ve been abandoned to Punishment Island, God is right in the middle of your circumstances. Keep praying; His hand may be heavy at the moment, but His love is still working.
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