“Divine Retribution” These words are the concept with which Job and his friends wrestled. His friends claimed that Job had sinned and therefore deserved punishment. They claimed that his sin put him in the awful place in which he found himself.
Job, on the other hand, was convinced that he had not sinned so as to deserve the depth of punishment that her was receiving. He was so convinced of this that he demanded an audience with God in order to “prove his innocence.” Imagine that–taking God to court!
They were all wrong. Divine retribution whether it is punishment for sin or reward for righteousness is not how this world works and it’s not the kind of relationship we would want with God.
First, I am too great a sinner to ever have a righteous leg to stand on. My proving anything to God as far as my innocence would be a futile attempt. Second, God is too loving a God to play games with us like this. Our covenant relationship is not a “God-gives-because-I-didn’t-sin-today” relationship. It is all dependent upon Him. The good things He gives us are not rewards like I give my puppy when he performs for me. I say “sit” and if he does he gets a treat and a pat on the head if not there’s no treat.
Do you ever play those games with God? I have. Last week was one of those weeks. Danielle hurts and I lash out at the one who can heal her. My thinking process went like this. “I am your servant. I am a good husband, an OK preacher (my thoughts not necessarily the thoughts of my church family), I am a pretty good father who takes up time with his kids and tries, feeble as it is, to teach them about You. DANIELLE DESERVES A BREAK HERE!” Then I begin to defend her to God. She’s just an innocent child who wants to feel better. Give her a break. And so on and so on.
I’m sure that none of you have ever struggled like this, but here are some things that I am learning.
1. If God could be manipulated by the good that I do, He would then become like me. The same would be true for you. God would be a puppet on each of our strings. We could make Him do whatever we wanted. God doesn’t owe me anything.
2. I am learning that God does care even when we are in the struggle. I know it doesn’t feel like it, but I have to stop lashing out at Him and start reaching out to Him. It is not right for me to think that God has turned against us or is ignoring us. He is right here with us in the struggle working to our good something for our future.
3. I am learning that God’s blessing are not always packaged in ways that I can recognize. We are, in a sense on, a new road. Our problem is that we have using old road signs to travel on this road. The teaching of divine retribution is one of those old road signs I’m having to replace with trust. We must just continue to trust and see where it is that God is taking us through this journey.
4. The fact that Danielle is suffering is not a sign that He has forsaken us. He is with us and our focus must still be on Him. He knows what we need much better than we know ourselves.
I hasten to say that I am still learning these things. Our life is like a story and we are in the middle of it not at the end. I hope that we can enjoy the ride in a way that even in the midst of hard times we can find that peace the surpasses all understanding and live in the genuine joy of God’s love. All the while we trust Him to work in us all that is His will for our lives.