Crime and Punishment

Clear Water 1

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

When a crime is not punished quickly, people feel it is safe to do wrong. Ecclesiastes 8:11 NLT

Several years ago I was studying with a family and the wife’s father was in the hospital. I went to see him, and arrived literally moments after he had passed away. The family asked me to join them in the family room as they met with doctors. A son said he probably would not have died if they would not have let him add that room onto the house. That extra work is what did him in. The daughter suggested he would still be alive if they had gotten him to his current hospital before taking him to the closer, smaller hospital. Everyone chimed in with their explanations on why the elderly gentleman had just passed away. As they talked, I listened quietly, while I thought to myself, he died because the wages of sin is death. Romans 6:23

Satan works with us over a lifetime, getting us to compromise here and there, and disobey. Time goes by, and we think we are getting away with sin. Then at the end of the line, sin brings us to the grave, which is the reward of sin, and Satan says, “thank you for playing my game.”

While Hosea is chock- full of pleas of mercy from God, and forgiveness for transgressions, let’s not fool ourselves into thinking that sin does not have consequences, even when there is forgiveness and redemption. We do not want to use fear as a motivation for obedience, because we rightfully want to focus on God’s love and mercy. We don’t obey for rewards or to avoid punishment. We obey because we love Jesus. That being said, I will never forget hearing a preacher on the radio telling everyone, “God may be loving, merciful, and forgiving, but Hell will still be hot!”

I don’t know that I would use his exact same approach, but he was right! Satan’s lie in the garden, “you shall not surely die” was more than about spiritualism. He was also insinuating there would be no dire consequences for sin. Today, as we stand over the grave of a loved one, we realize Satan is a liar. Even the repentant thief, who asked to be remembered in Christ’s kingdom, accepted his death as his just due. This is one sign that his repentance we genuine. He did not make any pleas for Jesus to deliver him from the consequences of his sin. The repentant thief was sorry for his sin, and not just the consequences. Even though forgiven and promised eternal life, he still had to pay the consequences.

People point to David, and say “look at what David did, and God still forgave Him.” True. God did forgive David, and He will indeed forgive us. Still, there are two lessons we can take from David’s sin and repentance.

  1. Even though David was forgiven, he still had to reap the consequences of his son dying, and also the influence it reaped on the rest of the family. One son committing rape, and another committing murder. Not exactly the legacy God wanted His nation’s first family to be passing along. Even though David was forgiven, it would have been far better had he never made those choices.

Even so, David’s repentance was sincere, in that He did not lament the personal consequences of his sin, but rather that He broke God’s heart.

“Against you, and you alone have I sinned.”   Psalms 51:4 NLT

2.The good news is we don’t see David going back and making the same mistakes over and over.

While Israel kept falling back into apostasy we don’t see David making the same mistake, possibly because unlike Israel as a nation kept making promises and resolutions they could not keep, David instead, clings to God’s promises.

Instead of promising God He would be pure He asks God to purify him.

“Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me and I will be whiter than snow.” Psalms 51:8 NLT

Instead of trying to rehabilitate himself, David asks God to just recreate his heart.

“Create in me a clean heart, O God.” Psalms 51:10 NLT

Hosea, and the rest of the Bible teach us there is a God who forgives and saves us. He loves us unconditionally. Still, let’s not lull ourselves into a false sense of security, like those Solomon talks about in Ecclesiastes 8:11, who think because sin is not quickly punished that there are no real consequences.

You may study this week’s SS lesson on Hosea here.

Try a Little Love and Tenderness

CW Again

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

This week’s Sabbath School lesson is about Hosea and the relentless love of God. To me, one of the key verses is Hosea 2:14,

But then I will win her back once again.
I will lead her into the desert
and speak tenderly to her there.

I am so thankful for parents who understand this. I wish all parents understood this is the way to win their children’s loyalty to God and to themselves.

Several years ago I was preaching for Father’s Day, and I had a few people, young and old tell us what they liked about their Fathers. One young man, about 12 years old, gave a powerful, heartfelt tribute to his dad, even saying “nobody reminds me of Jesus more than my father.”

That same Sabbath morning, the son was offered some cookies in his Sabbath School class which he gladly took. His father saw him eating the cookie and starting publicly berating him and telling him how sinful it is to eat in church! (News to me!) The son could not hide his hurt and humiliation. The son definitely was not trying to be a hard-hearted rebel by taking a cookie just like everyone else. I know the Father meant well too, but you don’t have to be a parent to know that publicly embarrassing and humiliating your child is not the way to go. Remember, Jesus worked His first miracle, turning water into wine for no other reason than to save the host from public embarrassment. It would not have killed them to just drink water, but Jesus is a Savior from public humiliation and embarrassment. It is not one of His tools.

Not long after this the father called me up, and wanted me to lecture his son because he was becoming defiant. I came to their home as requested, but the talk did not actually go the way the father expected. The father was accusing the son of being disrespectful. With father and son both present, I asked the son about the beautiful tribute he gave to his father. Both agreed that was very nice and respectful. I then asked the son how he felt when later, his father publicly berated him for eating a cookie just like everyone else. He said it was very hurtful and you could see the hurt in his eyes as he said that. I shared Hosea 2:14 with them both and asked the father if he thought he could be a little more tender when correcting his Son. I was not asking him to change his standards, just his approach. Though I did share with the father that I was unaware of any Bible teaching against eating a cookie in church. Being a father is a very sacred calling, and I did not want to distract from that or appear to try to trump him. However I did encourage him to follow 2 Timothy 3:16  and be sure to correct his son according to Scripture.

Tears were in the son’s eyes by now as I explained to the father how much his son loved him, and how hurt he was, when publicly humiliated for doing something, he thought was totally innocent, with no rebellious intentions. I assured the father, the son would not have written such a loving tribute if he did not deeply love and respect him. His son nodded in agreement with tears still in his eyes.

I thought the father was going to turn on me now for not ganging up with him on his side, but instead he actually thanked me! I know the father had a good heart and really cared about his children. Why else would his son write that no one reminded him more of Jesus than His father?

Parents please be tender with your children. You may not think they love, appreciate and respect you, but at school and church I hear them say things you may never hear. I always tell kids, your parents love you more than you think they do, and I say the same to parents. Your children love you more than you think they do. As a third party observer, I know this for a fact.

If you don’t want to take it from me, take it from God,

But then I will win her back once again.
I will lead her into the desert
and speak tenderly to her there.