Psalm 103:8-10 - The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. He will not always chide, nor will He keep His anger forever. He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities.
Over the years, it has been my privilege to run into the occasional family whose children seem to have turned out better than "all right." They may not have all been perfect, but they were young men and women of integrity. They didn't go along with the crowd unless they thought the crowd was going in the right direction.
I have made it a habit to ask the parents of these children two questions: "What did you do right?" and "What did you do that other parents don't." Most of the time, parents said Jesus was part of the day-to-day workings of the family.
The other thing all these parents said was this: "We were consistent. We said what we meant; we meant what we said." These parents didn't make threats, or promises, that they weren't ready to keep.
On the positive side, when they said, "We're going to the movies," they went to the movies. On the discipline side, they didn't exaggerate or overemphasize a promised punishment. These parents didn't say, "If you don't behave I'm going to give you a time out that will last until you're old enough to vote." There were no bribes, no bargaining.
To be honest, my job as a pastor would be easier if God worked the way those parents did.
People might take the Lord more seriously if He punished certain sins with immediate consequences. Think about it.
Suppose every time you went ten miles over the speed limit, God gave you a flat tire. You'd watch your speedometer more closely.
Suppose, every time you spoke evil about somebody your taxes went up? There's no doubt in my mind that you would be careful about what you said about others.
Well, God doesn't always work that way. He doesn't always punish us immediately, and because He doesn't punish us immediately, many disregard Him, disdain Him, feel free to disobey Him. Since God's punishment isn't always obvious and instant, many folks wrongly and dangerously conclude that God isn't serious about what He says. They think they can negotiate with Him. They think He doesn't care, and some even conclude He isn't there at all.
It is a frightening thing to mistake God's grace for indifference, to confuse His mercy with disinterest, to assume that His long-suffering patience is the same thing as apathy. Sure, Scripture records times when sin "A" received punishment "B" and when disobedience was immediately met by God's discipline. After all, Adam and Eve weren't given 30 days to vacate the Garden of Eden after they ate the forbidden fruit.
Yes, the job of a pastor, a priest, a prophet, would be much easier if God wasn't so patient. On the other hand, I guess we shouldn't be too surprised that the same Father in heaven who sent His Son to redeem humanity would also want to give lost sinners the time for the Holy Spirit to call them to repentance and eternal life through our Savior.
THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, I rejoice that You are consistent and unchanging. While the final judgment is being delayed, may the lost of this world be brought to a realization of their sins and the Savior. This I ask in Jesus' Name. Amen.
In Christ I remain His servant and yours,
Pastor Ken Klaus
Speaker emeritus of The Lutheran Hour®
Lutheran Hour Ministries
Today's Bible Readings: Psalms 73, 85 1 Corinthians 11:17-34
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