God Used Creativity in Dealing out Consequences
God had some creative ways of punishing His people.
Sometimes entire families were buried alive because of the sins of the fathers. Sometimes He allowed captivity to come as well as diseases because of the sins of individuals. He also used people to carry out punishments. King Darius had not only the jealous men, but their wives and children fed to the lions. (Yes, this makes me sad, but it happened.) This was punishment for the conniving the men did against Daniel. You can read about that in Daniel 6:24. At times, His people became captives because of their sin.
The Babylonian captivity was one such time. Every seven years the land was to rest. God gave the command to Moses. They were to do this to their land, their vineyards, and their olive groves. This was so that the poor among them could gather food during that year. It was also so that animals could find food. They were to work for six days and then rest on the seventh day. This seventh year and seventh day was considered a sabbatical year and sabbath day. A sabbath is a period of rest from normal, daily work.
Why did they stop doing this? Did they get out of practice when wandering the wilderness for forty years? Were they worried they wouldn’t have enough? Who knows.
God promised them that He would provide enough food in the sixth year to give them plenty for the seventh year. He had already proven Himself by doing this with manna. During their 40-year wandering in the wilderness, God has provided manna for the multitude. For six days, they gathered manna. On the seventh day, they ate what they had procured on the sixth day, and it was ample. He helped them remember not to gather extra on any other day, for if they did, it began to stink and worms took over. With that type of reminder, who needed any other?!
Years prior to that, Joseph was placed second in command in Egypt; for seven years, the land produced an over-abundance and Joseph stored the excess food so that, when the seven years of famine came, Egypt was prepared. You would think the people might have remembered and considered that when they made the choice to ignore God’s command in letting their ground lay fallow in the seventh year. He provided food and grain while they were in Egypt; He provided manna on their 40-year journey. He still provides, but we sometimes act like He doesn’t.
For whatever reason, the Israelites failed to follow this command. (It was not just a suggestion or an idea; it was a command.)
For seventy years, they had failed to keep that ruling. Is that the reason why the Israelites were in captivity in Babylon for seventy years? God chose the amount of time they would be in captivity – as well as the why.
They had years to repent of their sin. When they didn’t, God came up with a plan and He carried it out. Kings and armies came in and swept them into captivity. The people were duly warned and chose not to repent. God dealt out the consequence.
It’s a good lesson for us today. How many times do we fail to follow what He says we should do? How many times have we suffered because of our own willful neglect?
It’s a lesson for parents and for all of us. There should be consequences for sinful, willful disobedience. Certainly our God is a God of mercy and of grace. He abundantly pardons. He surely grants mercy when we don’t deserve it. He withholds turmoil when He has every right to give us our due. Yet, there are times when He says, “You did not obey; therefore this is the consequence.”
I find it interesting that the number of years in captivity correlates to the number of years they chose to ignore God’s command about letting the soil lay fallow. ‘Pretty creative way of parenting, wouldn’t you say?!
A Way to Follow Through in Discipline
As adults, we do well to remember that principle when we are considering whether or not we should “follow through” with discipline. It will help our children understand that justice will be served come judgment day.
You can use the number game that God used, too. It will help children understand the misdeed when the consequence correlates with their actions. Allow them to “pay back minutes” they took from you. Add “interest” if they complain or poke around. You can read more about that here, here, or here.
When our kids get more leniency than justice, when they can beg and cajole and finagle their way out of their own misdeeds, we are not teaching them that life has consequences. When we look the other way because it’s not worth the hassle or we’re tired of the fight, we’re not helping them see the big picture. [Oh, my. I have been there!]
I’m all for extending mercy and grace. I’m also all for teaching our kids that what God has said, He will do. We can model that for them. We can follow through on what we have determined are consequences for defiant behavior. It’s the best preparation we can give our kids for choosing who they will serve.
The choices our children make today will not only determine consequences in this life, but in the life to come.