Does God PUNISH us ‘IMMEDIATELY’ when we SIN?
March 15 Bible Reading: Judges Chapters 10-12
"Then the children of Israel again did evil in the sight of the Lord, and served the Baals and the Ashtoreths, the gods of Syria, the gods of Sidon, the gods of Moab, the gods of the people of Ammon, and the gods of the Philistines; and they forsook the Lord and did not serve Him. So the anger of the Lord was hot against Israel; and He sold them into the hands of the Philistines and into the hands of the people of Ammon. From that year they harassed and oppressed the children of Israel for eighteen years..." (Judges 10:6-8)
The above passage describes the happenings in Israel during rule of judges, which was towards the end of the twelfth century (around 1125 B.C.). This was a time when it was relatively quiet and peaceful from wars and internal turmoil. When there were no battles to fight, the Israelites took their blessings for granted, which sadly led them to committing sin exactly as Moses had warned earlier (see Deut. 8:7–20).
In fact, the people of Israel had now lapsed into unrestrained idolatry as they forsook Jehovah God and began to worship not only the gods of Canaan but also the gods of their surrounding enemy nations. The list of idols that they worshipped indiscriminately include: the demon gods of Canaan Baal and Ashtoreth (Lev. 17:7; Deut. 32:17; 2 Chr. 11:15; Psalms 106:37); the gods of Syria Hadad and Rimmon (2 Kings 5:18); the gods of Sidon, which were the Canaanite gods listed earlier; the gods of Moab including Chemosh; the gods of Ammon including Molech (1 Kings 11:7); and the gods of Philistine Dagon (16:23) and Baal-Zebub (2 Kings 1:2, 3).
It is therefore not surprising that God became very angry with the Israelites, and immediately brought in a two-fold judgment simultaneously: the Philistines from the west (see 13:1–16:31) and the Ammonites from the east (see 10:9–12:7). Israel became powerless before both the Philistines and the Ammonites because they had abandoned the worship of Jehovah and had served the gods of these heathen (vv. 6-7). By worshiping these foreign idols, the Israelites had broken their covenant with Jehovah; and, until they truly repented, could no longer expect His blessing as well. So, for the next 18 years the Ammonites oppressed Israel so severely that the people cried out and called upon Jehovah to deliver them out of their misery (vv. 8–15).
When we relate these events to our lives, a good question to ask ourselves is: Does God punish us immediately when we sin? In order to answer this question, we first need to distinguish between punishment and discipline. For us, who are believers in Jesus, all our past confessed sins have already been punished on the cross. We will never be punished for the sin that Jesus has already borne on our behalf as “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). Because of the sacrifice of Christ, God sees only the righteousness of Christ when He looks at us. Our confessed sins (1 John 1:9) have been nailed to the cross with Jesus, and we will never be punished for them…ever!
However, the sins that remain in our lives, however, do sometimes require God’s discipline. If we continue to sin and not repent from that sin, then God, as our loving heavenly Father, will discipline us at certain times (see Heb. 12:7-13). In these cases, through His discipline God lovingly attempts to turn us from rebellion to obedience so that our eyes are opened more clearly to God's perspective on our lives. Then, we will confess and repent of sins we have not yet dealt with, so God’s discipline is meant to cleanse us as well. Finally, God’s discipline presents us with the opportunity to learn and to conform ourselves to the image of Christ (Rom. 12:1-2). Thus, discipline is good for every believer to grow in Christ!
Let us also remember that we not only have to deal with God's discipline for our disobedience, but also have to deal with the natural/societal consequences resulting from our sins. But God works even through those consequences in order to increase our faith upon Him thereby making us able witnesses for Him so that He gets all the glorify. Let us fear God today and obey His commandments so that we can glorify Him every day of our lives.