After reading the title, you’re probably anticipating a post on lakes of fire with a dash of brimstone. But what if I told you there’s a punishment worse than that? What if God’s greatest punishment is…. wait for it…
Giving you exactly what you ask for!
Preposterous, you say. But as we pick up where we left off in 1 Samuel, let’s see if there’s any merit to my suggestion.
The people of ancient Israel have asked for a King (see “Just Like Other Nations…”). God tells Samuel to sternly warn them what life will be like under a human King, but the people insist. And God sees this as rejection from God’s chosen people (read the whole story in 1 Samuel, chapter 8).
You’d think God would be furious, right? If I’m in God’s position I’m thinking it might even be time for a good “smiting” (there’s a great Biblical word that you just can’t hear enough of). So what does God do?
“So Samuel repeated to the LORD what the people had said, and the LORD replied, “Do as they say, and give them a king.”” (1 Sam 8:21–22 NLT)
God gives them exactly what they want. Take that, you rebellious and ungrateful people!
But watch what unfolds as we fast forward through a few hundred years of Ancient Israel’s history. Power transitions to King David and people come together and “solve” some of the problems they had been facing. Then King David has a son named Solomon, and Solomon takes the Kingdom of Israel to it’s greatest heights… so much so that people come from all over to marvel at the Kingdom of Israel and the wisdom of Solomon.
This is working well, right?
You don’t have to peel back the layers very far before you see the seeds of devastation. David’s family is a hot mess, with plotting to take over the throne and even rape and murder going on between his children. And David himself ends up breaking just about every one of the 10 commandments by the time he’s done with the Bathsheba affair.
But Solomon, who prays for wisdom, will make things better, surely. This same Solomon ends up introducing foreign religions to the nation (it probably has something to do with trying to please his 700 wives… talk about God’s greatest punishment! Just kidding… no emails please!).
In fact, very soon after Solomon’s passing, the Kingdom undergoes a split. And not too long after that, both the Northern and Southern Kingdoms fall to evil empires while the best and brightest of Israel are either brutally murdered or carted off into captivity. And what was once the marvel of the world lies in ruins.
This is working well, right?
We can trace this great collapse back to that pivotal point, where God says, “Do as THEY say… give them a King.”
What if God’s greatest punishment is giving us exactly what WE want?
It begs two important questions:
1. How do we prevent this punishment, and
2. How do we get to the point of God’s reward, instead of God’s punishment?
Do you agree or disagree that God’s greatest punishment might be giving us what we want? How might we make what we want pleasing to God? Join in the discussion!