9th Sunday after Pentecost 11.8.19 Punishment
If the people will not repent there will be trouble. This message, in various words, forms the essence of many prophecies, of biblical and more recent times.
God reserves the right to punish His people, if they will not listen to His word and act on it.
In the Epistle today we are reminded that God punished the Jews of Moses’ time; and in the Gospel, more than a thousand years later, Our Lord foresees another punishment for the Jews of His time.
And our time is similarly addressed in terms of punishments - which have happened, such as World War II (prophesied at Fatima) - and which might still happen if the people do not repent.
It seems that people do not like repenting, in any age. The allure of sin is strong.
And there are ways of avoiding the issue.
1) In an age that trusts too much to science, events such as cyclones, floods, fires, earthquakes are considered merely ‘natural’ events which cannot be avoided; they have nothing to do with ‘religion’, it is said.
If there had never been sin we would still have Eden-like conditions. Nature would obey Man and would never harm him. As it is Nature rebels because Man rebels against God.
Even more so the destruction caused by man against man is the direct result of alienation from God. People without God will certainly seek to harm each other.
2) Then, there are people who say that God would not punish anyone. He is too forgiving for that.
But punishment is not the same as refusing mercy.
The Lord punishes to direct His children back to the path whereby they can receive mercy.
He will forgive anyone who is sincerely contrite.
The idea of punishment is to lead the guilty party to a clearer understanding of what is happening.
Why cannot God just keep forgiving? Because there has to be an attitude change in us, a real sorrow for our sin.
He teaches us the value of restraint, honesty, self-sacrifice – all the things which are better for us than gluttony, self-indulgence, theft, and all the wrong things.
God blasts away the false gods, and replaces them with His true self, and order is restored.
This is all to give us something better than we had before. He is preparing us for Heaven.
3) What sort of God would punish? A loving and wise God, who can see all the details near and far, who can work for the best interests of His people.
4) What about good people, those trying to do the right thing? Why should they suffer? Well, no one is totally good, and we all need purifying of some sort; but even if we were totally innocent, we can still grow in love of God, and help atone for the sins of others.
As we come to love God more we are moved by a desire for right order to prevail; that God be honoured for who He is.
At first we do not want pain, but we come to see the larger view and are prepared again by God's grace to take our part.
We are happy to take some of the pain of this earth, in rebellion against its Creator and Saviour. We do this to help settle that rebellion, and remove the need for further punishment, which simple obedience will achieve.
Nothing compares with God, and the possession of Him is paramount. It all comes back to this point.
Once we grasp this, sin loses its hold on us. Then the happy prophecies can unfold such as: The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them. (Is 11,6).