You Want To Be Happy?

-It Begins With Your Relationship With God!

So, we’ve spent the last few posts talking about being happy! And, about what that looks like through the grid of Scripture! According to Psalm 1, God’s word says that your level of happiness is directly related to the depth of relationship you have with Him! Let’s look a little deeper at that Psalm! The writer, inspired by God’s Spirit to write these exact words, says that your happiness also depends on what you meditate on! It says in v.2, “…his delight is in the Lord’s instruction, and he meditates on it day and night.” The happy person is happy, in part, because he meditates on God’s word at all times throughout his day!

-Meditating On God’s Word!

In the original language, that word we have translated “meditate” means to speak or to mutter! So, the writer says that meditating on God’s word means that you speak to yourself; or, you mutter the words of God to yourself all day! You wanna be happy? You find happiness when you chew on the word of God! When you speak & mutter the word of God to yourself day & night! There is no end to the applications we can make from God’s word! His word is eternal in its depth of wisdom! It’s impossible to plumb the depths of it in this lifetime. 

-The Fruit Of Your Life!

The writer of this Psalm also gives us one more significant point to mull! Your happiness, he says, depends on the fruit your life bears! He sums it all up here! The person who rejects the advice of the world; who delights in God’s Word; and, who meditates on it day and night, “…is like a tree planted beside streams of water that bears its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers” (v.3).  Every life bears fruit! In this Psalm, the writer points to 2 different kinds of people who have 2 different ways to live their lives; and, who bear 2 different types of fruit! So, choose wisely who you listen to!

-Two Different Kinds Of Fruit!

The Apostle Paul picks up on this theme in his church letter to the Galatian believers. He writes that one way produces the fruit of the flesh:  “… sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies and things like these” (Galatians 5: 19-21).  While the other way produces the fruit of the Holy Spirit:  “…love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness & self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).  The Psalmist concludes with the end; or, the resulting fruit from the 2 different ways to live your life:  “…the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; for the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish” (Psalm 1:5,6).

-Judgment Day Is Coming!

In this life, the way of the righteous & the way of the wicked may appear to run parallel! The way of the wicked often looks pleasant & fun! But, there is coming a judgment; a day of reckoning when those who took their advice & counsel from God’s word; and, delighted in it; and, meditated on it, will be gathered into a glorious congregation around the Throne of God! Forever they’ll enjoy eternal happiness! While, the wicked will face the Great Judge of all the earth; who will give them what they always wanted—an eternity without God! The Lord watches over you if the advice you follow & the things you take delight in & the content of your meditation bear the fruit of God’s Holy Spirit! If you don’t have this, you need help! Jesus said: “You will know the truth & the truth will set you free” (John 8:32). That delivers happiness!

Experiencing True Happiness!

-Everyone Wants To Be Happy!

I’ve spent the last couple of posts breaking down Psalm, chapter 1. And, we’re not finished! There’s so much to glean from this text of Scripture.  The writer tells us that the more consistent we are in adhering to his counsel, the happier our lives will be! And, since everyone wants to be happy, everyone should follow his advice. Beginning with the 1st verse, he says that your happiness depends on where you get your advice:  “How HAPPY is the man who does not follow the advice of the wicked or take the path of sinners or join a group of mockers.”

-Who’s Your Source For Advice?

I think it’s significant that he doesn’t say,  “Don’t be wicked; or, don’t sin; or, don’t mock!” It seems that the contrast, he wants to draw on, is our receiving advice from one source vs. our advice from a competing source. We are shaped by the advice we receive! So, take great care, he says, that you’re not getting advice from sinners! That word that’s translated “advice”— or, some of your versions translate it “counsel”— is referring to persuasive words or ideas that someone shares intending to get you to go in a specific direction that they recommend! The “advice” is meant to change your thinking in such a way that your behavior is altered; and, the very course of your life is modified!

-Taking The Path Of Sinners!

When you listen to the advice of wicked people, the Psalmist says, you take the path that sinners take & you become a mocker! There’s a progression here. Based on the advice you receive, your thinking affects your actions affects your character! So, turn your ears away from the advice of the wicked— whether that’s friends, people, books, music, TV, video games, websites, or social media platforms! Choose wisely who you listen to because your happiness depends on it! The writer is saying that your life will only be happy or blessed or fulfilled when you turn a deaf ear to the advice of the wicked!

-Who Are The Wicked?

And, who are the wicked? They are everyone on the path of sin, he says! Everyone who is disobedient to God’s Word & mock anyone desiring to obey God’s Word! Don’t be fooled by their deceitful, enticing words! Notice, in v.2, that the Psalmist says your happiness also depends on what you delight in:  “Instead, (or, in contrast to accepting bad advice from the wicked) his delight is in the Lord’s instruction.” Don’t let the wicked; or, the scoffer influence the way that you think; or, you’ll begin to “delight” in their ways! It starts by looking at & listening to all the stuff the world produces; until you think about it so much you begin delighting in it!

-Delight In God’s Instruction!

Beware, the text says; because you’ll find no happiness there! The genuinely happy person does NOT do something; DOES do something— the happy person does NOT take advice from the wicked; and, DOES delight, instead, in God’s instruction; or, the “Law of the Lord.” The Apostle Paul warned the Church of Rome:  “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” Rom. 12:2.  That word “conformed” carries the idea of being pressed into a mold— ”Don’t let the world press you into its MOLD with all of its wicked advice & counsel.”  Instead, delight, Paul says, in God’s instruction so that your thinking is transformed! Test the advice you receive by comparing it against the grid of God’s Word!

Your Greatest Happiness!

-Right Relationship With God!

Your greatest happiness will come only when you are in the right relationship with God, your Creator! You were created for Him! And, only in Him will you find your ultimate fulfillment! If you’ve cracked the Bible, you may have noticed that the book of the Psalms takes up quite a chunk of space in the Bible. The word for “Psalms” in the original Hebrew language means “praise”; and, most of the Psalms were poetic “Songs Of Praise” to Yahweh; although, one-third of the Psalms are prayers! So, it contains both songs & prayers that Israel used in their worship! Also, most students of Scripture believe there’s significance to the order in which they were placed.

-Psalm 1: The Stage Setter!

So, Psalm 1 is meant to be understood as an introduction to the rest of the Psalms. It’s like the “stage setter” because it vividly points out the radical difference between the “believer” and the “unbeliever.” According to the writer of the Psalm, your life will be blessed or happy if you live it sincerely for God; and, it will prove to be miserable & unhappy if you rebel against God! Those are your only 2 options! It’s funny how the world sees the life, that follows Jesus, as boring & blasé! I think even many believers suffer from some big-time misconceptions about the Christian life.

-Earthly Hedonists!

It’s been my observation that many believers just endure the Christian life! Secretly, they still pine for the pleasures & fleeting happiness that they think the world enjoys. In their heart, they’re earthly hedonists! They’re like the children of Israel, during the Exodus, still looking back with longing for the old life they left behind in Egypt. Somehow, we’ve come to the erroneous conclusion that life’s just not going to be fun or happy as a Christian; but, we put up with it because, well, we get heaven in the end! But, the 1st Psalm debunks the notion that the life that follows Christ & adheres to the Scriptures is boring! What this Psalm says is quite the opposite.

-Setting The Record Straight!

The writer sets the record straight— we don’t just endure the Christian life, putting in our time here until we get to heaven & hang out with Jesus forever & ever! No! This Psalm tells us that it’s the life that submits to God & His word that provides us with the greatest fulfillment & the most happiness possible in this life! Happiness & prosperity in this life & eternity follows only the God-centered life; not, the life that is centered & focused on the stuff of this world! Does it surprise you that God is concerned with your happiness? Some believers even debate between “joy” & “happiness.” Joy is the fruit of the Spirit, they say; and, that’s what we should concern ourselves with!

-Is Happiness Fleeting?

Joy sounds more spiritual than happiness, doesn’t it? Happiness seems like it’s dependent on circumstances! It comes & goes! Joy is based on the eternal, the argument goes! But, this 1st Psalm seems to play the contrarian:  “How HAPPY is the man who does not follow the advice of the wicked or take the path of sinners or join a group of mockers! Instead, his delight is in the Lord’s instruction…” (vs. 1-2). It seems like we don’t have to choose between joy & happiness! Instead, life in Christ offers us both— JOY & HAPPINESS! But, there is a caveat. Genuine happiness, in life, is contingent on some things! That’s where we get the idea that happiness is dependent on circumstances. But it’s not so much that happiness comes & goes as much as it is that our walk with God is inconsistent! That’s what we’ll talk about next week!

Live Happily Ever After!

-Do You Want A Happy Life?

Who wants to live a happy life, raise your hand? That’s something everyone wants, isn’t it? We may pursue different things in our attempt to find happiness; but, everyone wants a happy, blessed & fulfilling life! No one sets out to live an unhappy, unfulfilling life! And, yet, it happens, doesn’t it? People, who never planned to live an unhappy life end up living one; and, most of them thought, at the time, that they were making choices that would make them happy! But, in fact, it was those very choices that brought them unhappiness instead of happiness!

-A Guaranteed Happy Life!

So, what if I could guarantee you a happy life? Do you think that if I wrote down the formula, to a happy life, in a book & guaranteed it— or, your money back— that it would sell? You’d think that maybe 7 billion people, on this planet, might buy it, right? Surprisingly, that’s NOT the case! The truth is, THAT book has already been written! An author has already been inspired to write down the formula to a happy and fulfilling life; but, it’s been ignored by the majority of people in the world!

-What Happy Looks Like!

Here’s what that author wrote:  “How happy is the man who does not follow the advice of the wicked or take the path of sinners or join a group of mockers! Instead, his delight is in the Lord’s instruction, and he meditates on it day and night. He is like a tree planted beside streams of water that bears its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.” Many of you recognize those words, don’t you? Where are they found? They’re found in the Bible, right? Specifically, in the book of Psalms—the 1st Psalm! You wanna live happily ever after? Here it is! Here’s the key! Here’s the formula for happiness in this life!

-What The Unhappy Life Looks Like!

In fact, the writer also goes on to describe what the unhappy life looks like:  “The wicked are not like this; (i.e the WICKED are NOT HAPPY!) instead, they are like chaff that the wind blows away. Therefore the wicked will not survive the judgment, and sinners will not be in the community of the righteous. For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked leads to ruin.” The writer, of this Psalm, divides the world into 2 categories! Only 2— those who are happy & those who are not happy! You can divide everyone, in the world, up into 2 columns! The happy & the unhappy! The righteous & the wicked! The believer & the unbeliever! The spiritual & the worldly! The follower of Jesus & those who don’t follow Him! That’s eventually what it all comes down to!

-It’s Not About Stuff!

Ultimately, your happiness is not determined by the stuff you’ve acquired or the places you’ve gone or the activities you’ve enjoyed! Your happiness is dependent on the relationship you have— or, don’t have— with your Creator! Your level of happiness is directly related to the depth of relationship you have with God, your Creator! I’ve been involved in church ministry for more than 40 years! I’ve worked specifically with the junior & senior high & young adult ages! I’ve watched them try to find happiness in popularity & boyfriends or girlfriends! I’ve seen them use alcohol & drugs & sex; and, while some of it brought them temporary pleasure, it mostly left them unfulfilled and ridden with guilt & shame! Your greatest happiness will only come through a right relationship with your Creator! Only in Him will you find fulfillment!

No More Excuses!

-Lacking Spiritual Boundaries!

14 years after Ezra led the Jewish exiles to rebuild the Temple, in Jerusalem, Nehemiah shows up to lead in the rebuilding of the walls. Children had been born during this time. In fact the oldest would be approaching their teen years! And, because the walls & many of the houses had been leveled by Babylon, during the siege, these kids had been raised among the ruins of Jerusalem. There were no boundaries between Israel— the people of God— and, the people of other false gods that surrounded them. So, God sent Nehemiah to help!

-Nehemiah’s Inspection!

After inspecting the city, he met with the priests, nobles & other officials; and, said to them:  “…You see the trouble we are in. Jerusalem lies in ruins and its gates have been burned down. Come, let’s rebuild Jerusalem’s wall, so that we will no longer be a disgrace” Nehemiah 2:17.  He was concerned over what the broken wall represented— that God’s people were blending in with the local population & they were losing their distinctness as God’s people! God couldn’t glorify Himself through a people that were no longer holy! A people who were not set apart to Him!

-God’s Word Exposes Sin!

In Nehemiah, chapter 8, the Word of God is read aloud to the people; and, as He always does, the Holy Spirit uses the Word of God to point out their sin & to bring them deep conviction over it. So, in chapter 9, they’re found weeping and confessing their sin to God.  Remember, that, to “confess” our sin means that we agree with God about it! So, they’re making no more excuses! They confess! They agree with God that what they’ve done is sin against Him! And in chapter 10, Nehemiah leads these Jewish exiles to make 3 promises!

-Three Promises!

These are “back to the book” kind of promises! Promises to obey 3 commands that God had given Israel way back under Moses. First, they promised to no longer intermarry:  “We promise not to give our daughters in marriage to the peoples around us or take their daughters for our sons” (v.30).  Second, they promised to keep the Sabbath:  “We will not buy from the neighboring peoples on the Sabbath or on any holy day” (v.31).  And, third, they promised to maintain the temple:  “…we will not neglect caring for the house of our God…” (vs. 32-39). Great promises, right? They have great intent, don’t they? But, they illustrate how fragile our decisions, for God, typically are; because, chapter 13 reveals their failure to keep those promises!

-Broken Promises!

They were intermarrying with the unbelievers around them:  “...In those days I saw men of Judah who had married women from Ashdod, Ammon and Moab…” (vs.23-28). They were breaking the Sabbath:  “…men from Tyre were…selling…in Jerusalem on the Sabbath to the people of Judah…” (vs. 15-22). And, they were neglecting the Temple (vs. 6-13). So, Nehemiah said:  “…I rebuked the officials; and, asked them: ‘Why is the house of God neglected?””  (v.11).  All of which leads me to ask, “How does that happen? How can they renege on their promises to God so quickly; even, with the best of Godly leaders to follow?” The answer? Even the best of men cannot liberate people from the cause of their bondage! Only God can do that! The cause of their bondage was sin! A brokenness they share with us! We are totally depraved! We cannot depend on a pastor; or, church programs to deliver us! Only God can liberate us from our bondage to sin!

The Fallacy Of Human Logic!

-God’s Priority!

In my last post I mentioned how both Ezra and Nehemiah came out of Israel’s 70-year exile with a different purpose! Ezra came first; and, he purposed to rebuild the Temple according to God’s leading! Nehemiah followed him about 13 years later & God commissioned him to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem! Now, at first glance that seems backwards & counter intuitive, doesn’t it? Human logic would tell us to rebuild the walls 1st for their own protection, right? But, God led the exiles to rebuild the Temple first. Clearly, God prioritized the rebuilding of Israel spiritually!

-God Offered Greater Protection!

He had always told Israel that if they were faithful to Him that He would go before them & fight their battles for them! And, He wanted Israel to have faith that God Himself offered greater protection, for them, than any wall or military ever could!  But, that took faith; and, Ezra was the one to bring Israel back to the centrality of God & His Word & the law! In fact, according to Ezra’s account, he actually leads the people to build an altar so they could sacrifice to God BEFORE they had even built the Temple! And, only then, after the place of worship was finished, does God work in Nehemiah’s heart & lead him to leave the Persian fortress city of Susa; and, return to Jerusalem to organize the rebuilding of the wall!

-Right Relationship With God!

Now, there’s a spiritual parallel here for us, isn’t there? Do you see it? They had the projects in the right order because worship & a right relationship with God is of greater importance than anything else we could accomplish in life! But, we tend to get these turned around in our lives don’t we! Leaning on our human logic, we often prioritize the building of our “walls” first. We take care of all the outside stuff first— our work & our play & our entertainment & our sleep! And, then, if we have time we’ll do the “spiritual” stuff— reading our Bibles, prayer, ministry!

-We All Have Time!

By the way, we all have the time! We all have 24 hours in a day! And, we determine what we get done based on what we give priority to! The parallels and the application are painfully obvious, aren’t they? We focus on the “walls” & only rebuild our “temple” if we have time, don’t we? That’s how our human logic works! Listen, God has created the same amount of time in all of our lives to rebuild our “temples.” To take proper care of our spiritual lives! Our problem isn’t about the time! We’ve set up the wrong priorities in our lives! We haven’t given God first place! That’s why God leads Ezra to set the spiritual tone first!

-Better Than Human Logic!

God’s ways are always superior to our human logic!  It’s been 70 years since Babylon took Israel into captivity! That’s like 2 or 3 generations later! There were a few old timers returning home; but, the vast majority of these Israelite refugees were born in a province of Babylon. So, they had never see the original Temple. They had never set foot in Jerusalem. They weren’t part of Israel’s disobedience & idol worship that led to God’s judgment & exile! So, even as God judged Israel’s unbelief, when they came out of Egypt at the Exodus; and, He would not permit them to enter the promised land until that generation had died off; God also waited until most of the exiled generation had died off in Babylon before He arranged for a new generation to return! And, like Moses previously, God raised up Ezra to lead them spiritually!

Only God Can Do That!

-The Lord Put It In His Mind!

The Old Testament book of Ezra opens with these words:  “In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, the word of the Lord spoken through Jeremiah was fulfilled. The Lord put it into the mind of King Cyrus to issue a proclamation throughout his entire kingdom and to put it in writing.” Ezra, under the inspiration of God’s Holy Spirit, shares 2 significant details— First, that Jeremiah’s 70-year prophecy, of the length of Israel’s exile, was now completed in Cyrus’ first year of reign in Persia; and, second, that it was God who “…put it into the mind…” of Cyrus to issue a proclamation!

-God Is Sovereign!

This points, clearly, to God’s ultimate Sovereignty over all human affairs! Cyrus wasn’t in control! Nor was Persia in control! God put it in Cyrus’ mind:  “This is what King Cyrus of Persia says: ‘The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and has appointed me to build Him a house at Jerusalem in Judah. Whoever is among His people, may his God be with him, and may he go to Jerusalem in Judah and build the house of the Lord, the God of Israel, the God who is in Jerusalem’”  Ezra 1:2-4. That’s what God put in Cyrus’ mind! The book of Proverbs says:  “A king’s heart is like streams of water in the LORD’s hand: He directs it wherever He chooses” (21:1).  And, it’s not just kings that God leads!

-Everyone God Motivated!

Ezra continues, “So the family leaders of Judah and Benjamin, along with the priests and Levites—everyone God had motivated—prepared to go up and rebuild the Lord’s house in Jerusalem” (1:5).  Look closely at that! Who was preparing to leave for Jerusalem to rebuild the temple? What does it say? “…EVERYONE that God had motivated…” So, GOD was in King Cyrus’ proclamation & GOD motivated those He wanted to go! There’s an important principle here; and, that is that humanity simply cannot fulfill God’s agenda! We’re broken! We’re depraved & incapacitated by our sin to accomplish God’s will without God’s help!

-Only God Can Do That!

I see that as the backdrop to the Bible stories of Ezra & Nehemiah. Here are 2 great, godly men; who, like Moses, just cannot deliver God’s people without God’s help! Even the best of men cannot liberate people from the cause of their bondage! Only God can do that! And, that is so counter-intuitive to our human psyche! And, it’s a real stumbling block for many! The natural man wants to feel important; like, he has something to contribute! But, God’s word even asks the question, “WHAT do you have that you’ve not received?” 1 Cor. 4:7.  Whatever we may have to give has actually been given to us by God!

-Men & Women Of Greatness!

So, even men & women of greatness— as WE count greatness— like Ezra & Nehemiah were not capable of delivering the Jewish people from their exile! God had to step in! And, He gave these 2 men, each, a different purpose as they came out of the exile! Ezra was 1st; and, he purposed to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem! Nehemiah followed him about 13 years later; and, he was commissioned to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem! Now, humanly speaking, that seems backwards at first glance! Human logic would tell us to rebuild the walls 1st for our own protection, right? But, God led the exiles to rebuild the temple first! Clearly, God intended to “rebuild” Israel spiritually, first! That was the priority because God had always told Israel that if they were faithful to Him that He would fight their battles for them; and, God, Himself, offered them greater protection than any wall or military ever could! Israel would come back to the centrality of God and His word!

The Return Of The Exiles

-The Life Of A Refugee!

We see the pictures on the nightly news or our online news sources; and, though pictures may be worth a thousand words, they can never adequately portray what it’s like to be exiled from your native land & to flee as a refugee to a foreign nation! The stories are horrific! The greatest fear, as a parent, is to be separated from your children in such a setting; although, in some cases, where the conditions are brutal enough, parents willingly hand off their children to someone else with the hope that they might survive & have a better life! Most of us, living in this country, simply have no point of reference or experience to draw on when it comes to living like an exile or a refugee!

-Israel’s Refugees From Babylon!

And, while some of the world’s current refugee crisis has similarities to the time of Israel’s exile— as recorded at the end of 2 Chronicles— there are many differences! The majority of exiles today are leaving war-torn nations by their own will, seeking refuge in a safe, neighboring country. Israel’s exile occurred against their own will when, the foreign nations of Assyria; and, then Babylon, swept in like a flood & plundered their homeland; and, then exiled them off to serve as slaves! For Israel, their exile was the more bitter because they had no one to blame but themselves.

-Israel Broke Covenant!

God had covenanted with them to bless them in the land—that He gave them—if they would obey Him & keep His commandments! But, He had also promised a curse if they broke covenant with Him; and, that’s exactly what they did! They abandoned Yahweh & chased after other gods; until, finally, Yahweh abandoned them! The 137th Psalm was written as a lament by those who endured the exile, the slavery & the human trafficking in that day:  “By the rivers of Babylon,” they cried, “there we sat down and wept when we remembered Zion. There we hung up our lyres on the poplar trees, for our captors there asked us for songs, and our tormentors, for rejoicing:  ‘Sing us one of the songs of Zion.’ they mocked.  “How can we sing the Lord’s song on foreign soil?” That’s how the book of 2 Chronicles ends!

-Exiled To Babylon!

It reads that King Nebuchadnezzar, of Babylon, “…deported those who escaped from the sword to Babylon, and they became servants to him and his sons until the rise of the Persian kingdom. This fulfilled the word of the Lord through Jeremiah and the land enjoyed its Sabbath rest all the days of the desolation until 70 years were fulfilled” 2 Chronicles 36:20-21.  So, Israel was exiled to Babylon for 70 years; and, God’s prophecy, through Jeremiah, was fulfilled. It was during those 70 years that the Medo-Persian empire overpowered Babylon!

-The Lord Put It In His Mind!

From there, the book of Ezra picks up the story of the exiles:  “In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, the word of the Lord spoken through Jeremiah was fulfilled. The Lord put it into the mind of King Cyrus to issue a proclamation throughout his entire kingdom and to put it in writing” Ezra 1:1. That verse includes 2 significant details! First, that Jeremiah’s prophecy, of a 70-year exile, was completed in the first year of King Cyrus’ reign in Persia! And, second, that it was God who “…put it into the mind…” of Cyrus to issue a proclamation! I would encourage you to make a note in your Bible, right there, that says, “Here is an example of God’s Sovereignty over the world.”  Cyrus wasn’t in control! Persia wasn’t in control either! God was directing traffic here! He put it in Cyrus’ mind to issue the proclamation we’ll look at next week!

Don’t Dismiss God’s Warnings!

God’s Not Trying To Kill Your Fun!

God’s warnings are never designed to kill your fun! But, rather, to offer you greater blessings & more fun! Pure fun without the shame and guilt that the “pleasures of sin for a season” may offer us! Don’t forget this truth:  “It is because God is love that He punishes us to bring us to brokenness so He can redeem us.” He warns us because He has compassion on us! Because He loves us! And, how does God respond to His people when they confess their sin & return to Him? He restores them, doesn’t He? That’s what He did with Adam & Eve; with, Abraham & the patriarchs; and, with Israel on multiple occasions!  He would bring revival to their souls & their lives were blessed!

-God’s Patience Can Be Exhausted!

But, when individuals & nations continue in their rebellion, there comes a time— and, only God knows that time; so, don’t sin presumptuously, calculating how far you can go in your sin before God has had enough— there comes a time when God’s patience is exhausted; that, in order to accomplish His purpose, in your life, that He punishes! This is place where Israel’s sin had brought them in 2 Chronicles, chapter 36, “But they kept ridiculing God’s messengers, despising His words, and scoffing at His prophets, until the Lord’s wrath was so stirred up against His people that there was no remedy” (v.16).  Those are haunting words— there was no remedy! All that was left was God’s wrath! Only punishment!

-God’s Strange Work!

It was the only thing left that God could do to turn Israel around! There’s an incredibly revealing verse of Scripture in Isaiah that’s often overlooked; but, I think the message is powerful! Isaiah— one of the very messengers that 2 Chronicles 36 referred to— says, “For the LORD will rise up as He did at Mount Perazim. He will rise in wrath, as at the Valley of Gibeon, to do His work, His strange work, and to perform His task, His disturbing task” Isaiah 28:21. Inspired by God’s Holy Spirit, Isaiah says that God’s judgment is His strange work! His disturbing task! God, Himself, finds His judgment & punishment of sinners to be disturbing because it’s not His will that any would perish!

-Why Continue In Your Sin?

When you sin against God & His Word & you ignore His warnings, He will punish you because He is Holy & Just! But, know, that it disturbs Him to punish you for the great love & compassion that He has for you! So, why would you continue to turn against Him & go your own way? Why do you spurn His love for you & choose all the cheap substitutes that sin offers you? None of those things will satisfy! None will bring you joy & fulfillment!

-Forgiveness For The Prodigal!

Why endure punishment when God willingly offers all prodigal sons forgiveness! When prodigal Israel repents of her sin & returns to the Lord, to accomplish God’s purposes, He redeems them! Let me tell you what it means that God redeems them! There are at least 3 words, in the original languages of Scripture, that are translated “redeem.” in the Bible! One means “to buy or purchase”; and, it’s used in the context of a slave who is bought to be owned as property! At the time that God redeemed Israel, they were enslaved to Egypt. Here’s the point— we are all enslaved to somebody! We are either enslaved to sin, which is a cruel & destructive task master! Or, we are enslaved to a God who loves us with great compassion & willingly meets every need we have according to His will! But, once you’ve been redeemed by God, He will begin a work in you that’s redemptive! He reforms you to make you willing to obey Him & love Him!

God Punishes Because He Loves!

-God So Loved The World!

The most well known verse, in all of Scripture, is John 3:16. It says, “For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” In this way, God proved His love— He sent Jesus to atone for our sin by His death on the cross! That’s really the end of the argument against God! For all the doubters of God’s love, mercy & grace there is the One & Only “Exhibit A”— His Name is Jesus! And, He bore God’s judgment against sin so we wouldn’t have to! So that we could be saved!

-Brokenness To Openness!

But, it’s only as we experience our brokenness that we become open to God’s overtures to save us! And, punishment is often the tool He uses to expose our brokenness! So, ultimately, it is because God is love that He punishes us to bring us to the place of brokenness; where, He can redeem us! And, there is perhaps no better Biblical example of that than God’s judgment of Judah & Jerusalem as they are overrun by Babylon’s King Nebuchadnezzar; and, taken into captivity & exile! The Biblical narrative reveals that God first warned them; then, punished them; and, finally, in love, He redeems them! To accomplish God’s purposes in our broken world, He first warns!

-A Skirmish You Can’t Win!

Disobedience to God & His Word will never turn out well for you! When you fight against God, it’s a skirmish you can’t possibly win! When I was young & very foolish I loved to get into fist fights out on the school playground! But, I always sized up the other guy first! There were some guys that I just knew I couldn’t take! So, I would find a way to wiggle out of that fight! I was foolish; but, I wasn’t stupid! I would do everything I could to avoid getting into a fight I knew I couldn’t win! So, why would anyone ever pick a fight with God! You can’t possibly win against a God who is all-powerful! You can’t outwit a God who knows everything there is to know! And, you can’t run away from a God who is everywhere!

-They Despised His Warnings!

And, yet, the Biblical account shows that Israel tried multiple times & lost! So, God warned them & warned them & warned them again! In 2 Chronicles, chapter 36, God reminds them of this:  “But Yahweh, the God of their ancestors sent word against them by the hand of His messengers, sending them time and time again, for He had compassion on His people and on His dwelling place. But they kept ridiculing God’s messengers, despising His words, and scoffing at His prophets, until the Lord’s wrath was so stirred up against His people that there was no remedy” (vs. 15-16)

-God’s Compassion Toward Us!

Did you notice why God said He sent them prophets? Look at the end of v.15. It says He sent messengers to warn them, “…because He had compassion on His people…” God warns because of His great compassion toward us! He warns because He is Love! When you  disobey God’s word you expose yourself to great danger! Sin lies to you! It promises pleasure! But, it always delivers pain! Sin is a destroyer! It destroys lives, families & nations! Just go back and read God’s 10 Commandments; and, consider the pain and suffering that comes to those who break them! The one who steals will be incarcerated! The one who lies will never be trusted! The one who sleeps with someone they’re not married to destroys relationships & families & brings hatred & disease upon themselves! Listen when God warns!