Did you ever push the boundaries when you were a child growing up? I certainly did. Even though I was a bit afraid of my mother and her paddle, I would still “sass back” and try to get my way. Looking back, being the oldest had its drawbacks. I watched my younger brother get away with a lot of the same things I had gotten scolded for!
On the parental side, I know how frustrating it is to watch our children test and learn. I also know how difficult it can be to employ the discipline called for or expected. In our reading today, we see the Israelites falling back into the same evil trap of following other gods and angering our one, true God. It seems that God has finally had enough!
Sometimes it does take some “tough love” to get our point across. People are less likely to change if they know they are going to be rescued. The Cambridge Dictionary defines “tough love” as, “a way of dealing with someone who has a problem in which you do not show a lot of kindness so that they try to solve it themselves.” By this definition, it seems God is going to give this a try. How are the Israelites going to get themselves out of this one?
God said, “I will not rescue you anymore. Go and cry out to the gods you have chosen! Let them rescue you in your hour of distress!” We know those other gods will be useless in terms of rescue. Do you think the Israelites had gotten too “spoiled” by having God rescue them no matter how “naughty” they had been?
I can remember trying to get back on my mom’s good side after having angered her to the point where she told me to “get out of her sight!” As a young child, that message was frightening. I’m sure the Israelites were fearful as well. It seems the Israelites were now trying to get back on God’s “good side.” They admitted they were wrong. They pleaded with God. They even “put aside their foreign gods and served the Lord.”
What was God’s response? “He was grieved by their misery.” Was it too late, or would God reconsider and send a deliverer after all? We’ll find our answer in the upcoming readings. For now, God is letting them stew a little bit in their own misery.
While a pity party is not at all festive, it can be life changing. When we find ourselves stuck in a low point feeling separated from God, it can do us good to reflect on what caused the mess in the first place. Sin. That’s usually the reason. We can almost always track our dilemma back to some sinful behavior or attitude.
What’s important to remember is that God never leaves us. Deuteronomy 31:6 says, “So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.” God may not always be pleased with our choices, but he always loves us. He is always waiting for us to turn to him.
When we’re stuck in an unpleasant spot, look for the teachable moment. What does God want us to learn from this? Take time today to ask yourself that question. “What does God want me to learn from what I’m going through today?”
Let’s pray …
Lord, thank you for loving me no matter what. Forgive me for those times when I fall into sinful behaviors that are not pleasing to you. Show me what it is you have for me this day. Equip me and move me. Help me to learn from each life circumstance and situation. In Jesus’ name. Amen.