Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Wrath and Repentance

Reflections on Leviticus

In Leviticus 26, the Lord lays out the rewards for obedience and the punishments to be expected for disobedience. The former section is short and to the point; the latter is longer and complicated, and it reveals something important about God’s wrath.

V14: “If you will not listen to me and carry out all these commands,” then A.
V18: “If after all this you will not listen to me,” then B.
V21: “If you remain hostile to me and refuse to listen to me,” then C.
V23: “If in spite of these things you … continue to be hostile to me,” then D.
V27: “If in spite of this you still do not listen to me,” then E, F, and G.

The pattern this chapter lays out shows that God’s wrath was meant to be restorative. God punished to bring them to repentance. If after A they repented, they were done. If they persisted, then they could move on down the road toward F-G (namely, exile and foreign rule of Israel).

Even at that point, though, if they would repent, God says, “I will remember my covenant” (v42).

We’re not part of the covenant with Israel, but that doesn’t mean that God doesn’t still do this. Everything that goes wrong in our lives isn’t necessarily because of sin (c.f., John 9:3), but some of it is (c.f., John 5:14, 1Cor 11:30).

If things are going badly for you, God may not be punishing you or trying to call attention to your sin, but a good first step is to stop and carefully examine yourself. Look for any unconfessed sin.

If you find something that needs to be dealt with, do so quickly – while you’re still at “A.” The Lord does not desire to punish people; He would rather they “turn from their ways and live” (Ez 18:23).

If you can’t find anything, or if you repent and nothing changes, perhaps you’re not being punished; God uses pain in our lives for many things (c.f., Rom 5:3, James 1:2-4). But the search for sin in your life is always worthwhile.

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