"What has happened to us is a result of
our evil deeds and our great guilt, and yet, our God, you
have punished us less than our sins have deserved and have
given us a remnant like this."
(Ezra 9:13-14 -- emphasis mine)
The setting is Jerusalem. The
people of Jerusalem have been robbed of their homeland, many of them
have been slaughtered with the sword or have died of famine or
pestilence. And now, though a remnant has been allowed to return to
Jerusalem and rebuild the temple, the Jewish nation is still
under the authority of pagan kings. They are still
suffering from fierce opposition from the peoples around them. And
in the midst of all of this, even while looking back on years and
years of horrible atrocities suffered by his own people,
Ezra the priest has the audacity to say, "and yet, our God, you
have punished us less than our sins have deserved . . ."
Wow. When you look at the
extent of the punishment that has been dished out, how on Earth
could Ezra say that they had been punished less than they
But let's look at it from a different perspective. The punishment
given to the Jewish people was the result of hundreds of years of
defying God, worshiping other gods, persecuting those who stood up
for the Living God, committing all kinds of atrocities directly
against the God of Heaven, "spitting in God's face" so to speak for
the mighty blessings He do longed to pour out upon the people. The
people of Israel had been given chance after chance after chance.
But still they persist in defying God through idolatry.
Yes, perhaps if we look at it
from this perspective, the punishment does look a little
more just, doesn't it? And the fact that God preserved a remnant
people out of the Babylonian exile does seem a bit more
generous -- like perhaps they people had indeed received
less punishment than their sins deserved!
So where is the lesson in this
for us? Some of us might be tempted to point a finger at ancient
Israel, but those who do are merely picking at specks out of the
eyes of the ancient civilization, while ignoring the logs in their
own eyes (Matt. 7:3-5)! We, too, have committed atrocities against
the Lord, and and sometimes we are forced to suffer the consequences
of those atrocities! When this happens, do we look at our
circumstance and say, "Lord, how can you be allowing all of this
terrible stuff to happen to me! I thought you were a God of love!"
Or, like Ezra of old, do you look to your own actions, the same ones
that caused the consequences you now suffer, and say, "and yet,
our God, you have punished us less than our sins have deserved"?
The Bible tells us that the wages of any sin is death. Death is
what we all deserve. That is the just punishment. But by the grace
of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, we do not have to suffer the
punishment for our sin! Any consequence of our own actions that we
suffer is indeed, "less than our sings have deserved"!
The next time you find yourselves in the middle of bad
circumstances, why not try praising God from within the midst of
them? Praise God for His mercy and grace. Praising God that you
are NOT suffering the punishment you deserve. Thank Him for the
"break" He has given you in not forcing you to suffer the rightful
punishment for your sin! Remember, nothing that we suffer here on
Earth is equal to the eternal punishment that is our just due!
"What has happened to us is a result of our evil deeds and our great
guilt, and yet, our God, you have punished us less than our
sins have deserved and have given us a remnant like this."