I was reading In Jeremiah 44 this morning. And I was struck by two things, our rebellious hearts, and the fact that our own sin brings God’ sovereign punishment on our lives so that we can learn.
The context of Jeremiah 44 is that the Jerusalem and temple have been destroy. God has just punished Israel for her idolatry. Most of the people have been taken into exile. Yet what happened. Those that stayed then fled to Egypt, in rebellion to what God told them to do through Jeremiah. Then, in Jeremiah, 44, the people declare that they will continue to worship idols, specifically the “queen of heaven”, Asherah. What struck me was the cold blooded rebellion. They have been punished severely; and yet they still keep sinning, willfully saying my will be done. So often, we are the same way. We are incredibly rebellious. Even believers continually rebel against God, rather than serving him out of gratitude to his mighty salvation.
As we look on, we see the other shoe drop. For that rebellion, God says in verses 25-28, “This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: You and your wives have shown by your actions what you promised when you said, 'We will certainly carry out the vows we made to burn incense and pour out drink offerings to the Queen of Heaven.' "Go ahead then, do what you promised! Keep your vows! But hear the word of the LORD, all Jews living in Egypt: 'I swear by my great name,' says the LORD, 'that no one from Judah living anywhere in Egypt will ever again invoke my name or swear, "As surely as the Sovereign LORD lives." For I am watching over them for harm, not for good; the Jews in Egypt will perish by sword and famine until they are all destroyed. Those who escape the sword and return to the land of Judah from Egypt will be very few. Then the whole remnant of Judah who came to live in Egypt will know whose word will stand-- mine or theirs.”
What God says is, "for your rebellion, I will punish you." He is now going to be against those that have rebelled against Him, and bring harm on them for their rebellion.
What we see in this is that our sin brings God’s punishment. But it is not just punishment, it’s punishment to teach a lesson. Just as I punish my son to teach him, God punishes us so that we can learn. God says that this punishment comes for a reason, "then the whole remnant of Judah who came to live in Egypt will know whose word will stand-- mine or theirs".
In the New Testament, the writer of Hebrews tells us that the Lord chastises His children, like a parent are to chastise their children. He says through the writer of Hebrews, “Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:7-11)
If we are walking in sin, we should not be surprised when God does not bless us, and even makes life difficult. Do not be surprised when the blessings of the Lord are not seen in your life. God says here, if you rebel, I am working against you, punishing you for your sins. But I am doing it, to teach you a lesson. When you encounter hardships, when it seems like God has turned against you, examine your heart, see if there is any wicked way in you. Don’t foolishly blame God for your hardship, instead, ponder if there is something God is teaching you, as he works for your overall good.