In today's study we learn how much God wants us to seek Him. We also see how much it pains God when His justice and holiness demands we pay the consequences for our wrong choices.
In verses 19-20, God lays out the consequences of obedience and disobedience. He is very straightforward and simple. There are no hidden agendas with God. I have heard people complain about how the God of the Old Testament is so harsh. Verses like this may appear to support such claims. Here's the kicker no one wants to accept:
Of course not! Since obedience to God means doing good and avoiding such things while disobedience to God means doing or delighting in those who do such things, then God is absolutely right to deny entry into Heaven to those who are disobedient to Him. God is not a bully who wants to punish anyone who will not listen to Him. Instead, if I am not listening to God, then by definition I am not doing good. And if I am not doing good, what am I doing?
Am I hurting God?
Verses 21-23 tell me that I hurt God when I sin. He only wants good for me, and so it pains Him when I do wrong. Any parent understands that pain. When all you want is for your child to excel and you are watching that child make choices that will damage that child's future, you are screaming on the inside.
God tries again and again to reach Israel, to help them turn around to making good choices, but they refuse. Ultimately, they have to pay the price for their choices. They have to face the future that they have created. That fact makes me wary of what kind of future I am creating for myself. Am I rebelling against what is good and acceptable?
Am I truly being obedient to God?
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Verse by Verse Commentary:
1-6 God is crying out to the children of Israel, asking, "Why do you not know me? Don't you see that you are broken because of your sins? Why won't you come back to me?"
7-9 God continues with the consequences of their sin. He has quit pleading with Israel. Now He is trying to make Israel see:
10-15 God, still trying to make Israel see the truth of their condition, calls Israel Sodom and Gomorrah. (See Revelations 11:8 for a similar comparison.) God is saying that if you are in sin, you will not be accepted before Him. Even if you are going through the motions of obeying the Law and offering sacrifices to God, your sin makes you unacceptable. He even goes so far as to say that Israel's offerings trouble Him; God hates the festivals offered to Him. Why? Because their hands were full of blood.
16-17 God calls Israel to repentance. In I Samuel 15:22, Samuel tells King Saul that to obey is better than sacrifice. God wants us to put away evil and learn to do good.
18-20 God lets Israel know that He will help them to do good. He does not leave us alone to figure out life. He wants to reason together with us until we are reconciled to Him. He then simply explains the consequences of obedience and disobedience.
21-23 God laments the state of Israel. He is grieved that they have fallen into sin.
24-25 Israel's sins have made them an enemy to God! The justice of God demands that He punish Israel, and His mercy allows Him to purge Israel, leaving a remnant.
26-31 God is making it clear that He does not want to hurt Israel. He promises to restore blessings to them. But first, they must be purged. God's justice and holiness demands that He only accepts what is good and right. He emphasizes this point by declaring what will happen to those who forsake Him and choose to do evil.
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