2 Samuel 6:6-7 6 When they came to the threshing floor of Nakon, Uzzah reached out and took hold of the ark of God, because the oxen stumbled. 7 The Lord’s anger burned against Uzzah because of his irreverent act; therefore God struck him down, and he died there beside the ark of God.
Numbers 20:11-12 11 Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank. 12 But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.”
1 Samuel 15:26-29 26 But Samuel said to him, “I will not go back with you. You have rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord has rejected you as king over Israel!” 27 As Samuel turned to leave, Saul caught hold of the hem of his robe, and it tore. 28 Samuel said to him, “The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today and has given it to one of your neighbors—to one better than you. 29 He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a human being, that he should change his mind.”
For many, these three passages seem to show a harsh God who punishes those who do not follow His commands. Throughout the Bible there are examples of swift and strong consequences for those who made a choice to follow human direction instead of God’s. However, I ask, “Is this punishment or is it consequence…or some of both?”
I would say some of both. However, we need to know something about the above consequences and their connected punishment. In each case, there were some clear guidelines set out before each man took action. No one was to touch the ark of God. Moses was to speak to the rock instead of striking it. Saul was to kill everything (man, woman, child, animals). Each man made a choice to do something different than was commanded. Albeit, Uzzah acted impulsively, yet he acted out of a lack of faith in God. He still made a choice. Each man could have chosen to obey, keep the agreement, and/or follow what God had laid out.
Our choices have consequences. Some consequences are desirable and positive. Some consequences are punishing and negative. However, we make the choice. One of the things I have tried to do through my life is to apply scripture to my life wherever possible. Along with that application, I have tried to answer the question, “Why?” both for myself and for others. I have often looked at what God is guiding me to do and what the consequences would be if I do not. In many cases, there are natural consequences that God knows will occur yet we do not see as we act…hence the reason for some of His commands.
Our consequences not only affect us but also others. In the case of Uzzah, David was so distressed by the instance, that he sent the ark away. Saul’s choice affected his family. Jonathan, who was much like David could have been king. Moses’ choice cost Israel a continuation of his leadership. My choices affect my family, my co-workers, and others in my realm. God knows that our choices affect those around us. That is part of the reason why God gives us the guidelines in His word.
We must own and take responsibility for our choices. Notice how when Samuel pointed out to Saul that God was taking the kingdom from him, Saul was more worried about his image than losing the kingdom. Saul also deflected responsibility for his action to a false sense of servant hood. Saul acted as if he thought he had done the right thing to keep some of the animals for sacrifice. Samuel points out that God required obedience. On the converse side, David has a contrite heart when he had sinned with Bathsheba. David took responsibility for his sin and understood the consequences as they would unfold for the rest of his life.
So, as I close this week out; I realize that sometimes God seems harsh in His dealings with His people. However, if I look back on the commands and standards that God set in motion, I realize that it is the choices that His people make that places them in the situation they deal with. When I begin to blame others or my situation, I need to take a step back and look at what choices I can take responsibility for. I need to repent for sin, and ask God to walk with me as I deal with the consequences. The consequences may be harsh, but God is the loving Father helping me learn and grow and heal.
1. Do you see God as harsh in these passages? Why or why not?
2. Describe another Bible story where God’s consequences were somewhat severe?
3. Where have you blamed God or others for your choices?
4. Describe a choice you made that you have struggled to take responsibility for.
5. This week, pay attention to your choices and consequences. Notice where God is in these. Notice where you want to blame. Take ownership and see what God has for you.
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