February 5: Why Does God Punish People?
Exodus 11–13; John 2:13–3:25; Song of Solomon 2:1–3
In regard to why a good God would punish people, I recently heard one homeless man wisely tell another, “You wouldn’t want to live in a world where God didn’t punish injustices and just freely forgave sin—without any request for someone to choose the salvation He offers back. Imagine a place where injustice was never punished and people never recognized their sin and need for salvation. That would be terrible and painful.”
We all want justice to reign. For a good God to be truly good, injustice must be punished. This is why it makes complete sense that Jesus had to die. There must be a payment for the evil we inflict on the world and one another. Jesus’ death epitomizes God’s mercy and justice—and it all happened in one act.
This also makes sense out of the Passover event (Exod 12:1–31). I usually hear this preached about as a saving act, which indeed it was, but it was also brutal: God kills firstborn sons in an act of justice against the people of Egypt for the suffering they inflicted on an innocent people. (It’s important to note that the plagues that came before Passover gave Pharaoh more than ample warning.)
Following this, evil finally loosens its grip, and God’s people are freed (Exod 12:33–40). None of us truly wants to have justice fall upon us because we know that true justice would cost us our very lives. We have all done wrong against a good God, bringing evil into the world. Thus, we all deserve to be wiped out. Instead, God offers grace. But He does so only after the wages of our sin are paid with Jesus’ life. Jesus makes this incredibly clear: “For God did not send his Son into the world in order that he should judge the world, but in order that the world should be saved through him” (John 3:17).
Jesus goes on to explain that salvation requires choosing God back: “The one who believes in him is not judged, but the one who does not believe has already been judged, because he has not believed in the name of the one and only Son of God” (John 3:18). Before we believe, we’re judged—we are regarded to be dead in our sin. After we believe, we escape that judgment. God’s faithfulness, shown in Jesus’ death and resurrection, allows for that. I want to live in a world of people freed in Christ through His mercy and grace; I’m sure you want to as well. Thus, we should no longer ask, “Why judgment?” but instead, “Why not?”
In what ways are you misjudging God’s motives? How can you change that perspective?
JOHN D. BARRY
- Now the Lord has said unto Moses, yet will I bring one plague more upon Pharaoh, and upon Egypt, after that, he will let you go hence: when he letteth you go, he shall at once chase you hence. Speak thou now to the people, that every man require of his neighbor, and every woman of her neighbor, jewels of silver, and jewels of gold. And the Lord gave the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians: and Moses was very great in the land of Egypt, in the sight of Pharaoh’s servants, adn in the sight of the people. And Moses said, Thus saith the Lord, About midnight will I go out into the midst of Egypt. And all the firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of Pharaoh that sitteth on his throne, unto the firstborn of the maid servant, that is at the mill, and all the firstborn of beasts. Then there shall be a great cry throughout all the land of Egypt, such as was never none like, nor shall be. But against none of the children of Israel shall a dog move his tongue, neither against man nor beast, that ye may know that the Lord putteth a difference between the Egyptians and Israel. And all these thy servants shall come down unto me, and fall before me, saying, Get thee out, and all the people that are tat thy feet, and after this will I depart. So he went out from Pharaoh very angry. And the Lord said unto Moses, Phraoh shall not hear you, that my wonders may be multiplied in the land of Egypt. So Moses and Aaron did all these wonders before Pharaoh: but the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he suffered not the children of Israel to go out of his land. Then the Lord spake to Moses and to Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying, This month shall be unto you the beginning of months: it shall be to you the first month of the year. Speak ye unto all the congregation of Israel, saying, In the tenth of this month let every man take unto him a lamb, according to the house of the fathers, a lamb for an house. And if the household be too little for the lamb, he shall take his neighbor, whic is next unto his house, according to the hnumber of the persons: every one of you, according to his eating shall make your count for the lamb. Your lambs shall be without blemish, a male of ayear old: ye shall take it of the lambs, or of the kids. And ye shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month: then all the multitude of the congregation of Israel shall kill it at even. After, they shall take of the blood, and strike it on the two posts, and on the upper doorpost of the houses where they shall eat it. And they shall eat the flesh that same night, roast with fire, and unleavened bread: with osour herbs they shal leat it. Eat not thereof raw, boiled nor sodden in water, but roast with fire, both his head, his feet, and his purtenance. And ye shall reserve nothing of it unto the mourning: but that, which remaineth of it unto the morrow shall ye burn with fire. And thus shall ye eat it: Your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staves in your hands, and ye shalll eat it in haste: for it is the Lord’s Passover. For I will pass through the land of Egypt the same night, and will smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast, and I will execute judgment upon all the gods of Egypt, I am the Lord. And the blood shall be a token for you upon the houses where ye are: so when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destruction, when I smite the land of Egypt. And this day shall be unto you a remembrance: and ye shall keep it an holy feast unto the Lord, throughout your generations: ye shall keep it holy by an ordinance forever. Seven days shall ye eat unleavened bread, and in any case ye shall put away leaven the first day out of your houses: for whosoever eateth leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel. And in the first day shall be an holy assembly: also in the seventh day shall be an holy assembly unto you: no work shall be done in them, save about that which every man must eat: that only may ye do. Ye shall keep also the feast of unleavened bread: for that same day I will bring your armies out of the land of Egypt: therefore ye shall observe this day, throughout your posterity, by an ordinance forever. In the first month and the fourteenth day of the month at even, ye shall eat unleavened bread unto the one and twentieth day of the month at even. Seven days shall no leaven be found in your houses: for whosoever eateth leavened bread, that person shall be cut off from the Congregation of Israel: whether he be a stranger, or born in the land. Ye shall eat no leavened bread: but in all your habitations shall ye eat unleavened bread. Then Moses called all the Elders of Israel, and said unto them, Choose out and take you for every of your households a lamb, and kill the Passover. And take a bunch of hyssop, and dip it in the blood that is the basin, and strike the lintel, and the door cheeks with the blood that is in the basin, and let none of you go out at the door of the house, until the morning. For the Lord will pass by to smite the Egyptians: and when he seeth the blood upon the lintel and on the two door cheeks, the Lord will pass over the door, and will not suffer the destroyer to come into your houses to plague you. Therefore shall ye observe this thing as an ordinance, both for thee and thy sons forever. And when ye shall come into the land, which the Lord will give you, as he hath promised, then ye shall keep this service. And when your children ask you, What service is this ye keep? Then ye shall say, It is the sacrifice of the Lord’s Passover, which passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt, when he smote the Egptians, and preserved our houses. Then the people bowed themselves and worshipped. So the children of Israel went, and did as the Lord had commanded Moses and Aaron: so did they. Now at midnight, the Lord smote all the firstbon in the land of Egpt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh that sat on his throne, unto the firstborn of the captive that was in prison, and all the firstborn of beasts. And Pharaoh rose up in the night, he, and all his servants, and all the Egyptans: and there was a great cry in Egypt: for there was no house where there was not one dead. And he called to Moses and to Aaron by night, and said, Rise up, get you out for among my people, both ye, and the children of Israel, and go serve the Lord as ye have said. Take also your sheep and your cattle as ye have said, and depart, and bless me also. And the Egyptians did force the peole, because they would sen them out of the land in haste: for they said, We did all. Therefore the people took their dough before it was leavened, even their dough bound in clothes upon their shoulders. And the children of Israel did according to the saying of Moses, and they asked of the Egyptians jewsels of silver and jewels of gold, and raiment. And th Lord gave the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians: and they granted their request: so they spoiled the Egyptians. Then the children of Isarel took their journey from Rameses to Succoth about six hundred thousand men of foot, besides children. And a great multitude of sundy sorts of people went out with them and sheep, and beeves, and cattle in great abundance. And they baked the dough which they brought out of Egypt, and made unleavened cakes: for it was not leavened, because they were thrust out of Egypt, neither could they tarry, nor yet prepare themselves vittles. So the dwelling of the children of Israel, while they dwelled in Egypt, was four hundred and thirty years. And when the four hundred and thirty years were expired, even the selfsame day departed all the hosts of the Lor out of the land of Egypt. It is a night to be kept holy to the Lord, because he brought them out of the land of Egypt: this is that night of the Lord, which all the hildren of Israel must keep throughout their generations. Also the Lord said unto Moses and Aaron, This is the Law of the Passover: no stranger shall eat thereof. But every servant that is bought for money, when thou hast circumcised him, then shall he eat thereof. A stranger or an hired servant shall not eat thereof. In one house shall it be eaten: thou shalt carry none of the flesh out of the house, neither shall ye break a bone threeof. All the Congregation of Israel shall observit. But if a stranger dwell with thee, and will observe the passover of the Lord, let him circumcise all the males, that belong unto him, and then let him come and observe it, and he shall be as one that is born in the land: for none uncircumcised person shall eat thereof. One laws shall be to him that is born in the land, and to the stranger that dwelleth among you. Then all the children of Israel did as the Lord commanded Moses and Aaron: so did thye. And the selfsame day did the Lord bring the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt by their armies. And the Lord spake nto Moses, saying, Sanctify unto me all the firstborn: that is, every one that first openeth the womb aong the children of Israel, as well of man as of beast: for it is mine. Then Moses said unto the people, Remember this day in the which ye came out of Egypt, out of the house of bondange: for by a mighty hand the Lord brought you out from thence: therefore no leavened bread shall be eaten. This day come ye out in the month of Abib. Now when the Lord hath brought thee into the land of the Canaanites, and Hittites, and Amorites, and Hivites, adn Jebusites, (which he sware unto thy fathers, that he would give thee, a land flowing with milk and honey) then thou shalt keep this service in this month. Seven days sahlt thou eat unleavened bread, and the seventh day shall be the feast of the Lord. Unleavened bread shall be eaten seven days, and there shall noleavened bread be seen with thee, nor yet leaven be seen with thee in all thy quarters. And thou shalt show thy son in that day, saying This is done, because of that which the Lord did unto me, when I came out of Egypt. And it shall be a sign unto thee upon thine hand, and for a remembrance between thine eyes, that the Law of the Lord may be in thy mouth: for by a strong hand the Lord brought thee out of Egypt. Keep therefore this ordinance in his season appointed from yoar to year. And when the Lord shall bring thee into the land of the Canaanites, as he sware unto thee and to thy fathers,a nd shall give it thee, Then shalt thou set apart unto the Lord all that first openeth the womb: also everything that first doth open the womb, and cometh forth of thy beast: the males shall be the Lord’s. But every first foal of an ass, thou shalt redeem with a lamb: and if thou redeem him not, then shalt thou break his neck: likewise also th efirstborn of man among thy sons shalt thou buy out. And when thy son shall ask thee tomorrow, saying, What is this? thou shalt then say unto him, With a mighty hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. For when Paraoh was hard hearted against our departing, the Lord then slew all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of man even to the firstborn of beast: therefore I sacrifice unto the Lord all the males that first open the womb, but all the firstborn of my sons I redeem. And it shall be as a token upon thine hand, and as frontlets between thine eyes, that the Lord brought us out of Egypt by a mighty hand. Now when Pharaoh had let the people go, God carried them not by the way ofthe Philistines’ country, though it were nearer: (for God said, Lest the peope repent when they see war, and turn again to Egypt). But God made the people to go about by the way of the wilderness of the red sea: and the children of Israel went up armed out of the land of Egypt. (And Moses took the bones of Joseph with him: for he had made the children of Israel swear, saying, God will surely visit you, and ye shall take my bones away hence wiht you.) So they took their journey from Succoth, and camped in Etham in the edge of the wilderness. And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud to lead them the way, and b night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might go both by day and by night. He took not away the pillar of the cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night from before the people.Exodus 11–13
- For the Jews Passover was at hand. Therefore Jesus went up to Jerusalem. And he found in the Temple those that sold oxen, and sheep, and doves, and changers of money sitting there. Then he made a scourge of small cords and drove them all out of the Temple with the sheep and oxen, and poured out the changers’ money, and overthrew their tables. And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence: make not my fathers house, an house of merchandise. And his disciples remembered, that it was written, The zeal of thine house has eatn me up. The answered the Jews, and said unto him, What sign showest thou unto us, that thou doest these things? Jesus answered, and said unto them, Destroy this Temple, and in three days I will raise it up again. Then said the Jews, Forty and six years was this Temple a building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days? But he spake of the temple of his body. As soon therefore as he was risen from the dead, his disciples remembered that he thus said unto them: and they believed the Scriptures, and the word which Jesus had said. Now when he was at Jerusalem at the Passover in the feast, many believed in his Name, when they saw his miracles which he did. But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew them all. And had no need that any should testify of man, for he knew what was in man. John 2:13–3:25
- I am the rose of the field, and the lily of the valleys. Like a lily among the thorns, so is my love among the daughters. Like the apple tree among the trees of the forest, so is my well-beloved among the sons of men: under his shadow had I delight, and sat down: and his fruit was sweet unto my mouth. Song of Solomon 2:1–3