Why do you cry out over your wound, your pain that has no cure? Because of your great guilt and many sins I have done these things to you.Jeremiah 30:15
God takes the full responsibility for what happens to Israel. He says,
I have done these things to you. It is as though he stands with his hands on his hips and says to them,
Look, I'm responsible. Any questions? He says that it is because of their sins, their flagrant sins.
We do not want to read this as though it is something remote from us. If you are inclined to say only,
Oh, it's such a pity what's going to happen to Israel, remember that this is your story, too. This is the way God works. He deals with Israel this way because this is the way he deals with everybody. There is a scriptural principle reflected here which all too often we forget. Just because judgment does not fall immediately upon people, they think they have gotten by. But Paul says,
Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction... (Galatians 6:7-8a). That is inevitable. God does not cancel that out by the forgiveness of sin. That is part of what we call the natural consequences of evil, the temporal judgment of God. It is never canceled out, any more than the rest of what Paul says is canceled out:
...whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. (Galatians 6:8b) This is God's promise for now — not just in heaven some day but now. The joy and glory of life will come to us if we walk in the Spirit, and that is inevitable. But so is the judgment for our sin, the inevitable consequences of our own selfish choices.
This means, of course, that ultimately a recompense comes to us in life now for the evil in which we have indulged our flesh — whether it is blatant, open, sensual evil, or whether it is inward — spiritual pride, bitterness, and all the other sins of the spirit. It makes no difference. Evil brings its own results. As someone has well said,
You can pull out the nail driven into the wall, but you can't pull out the nail hole.
God reminds us here that there will be pain and heartache and trouble because of the evil of our past. The sins of our youth will catch up to us — usually in middle age! And there is no escape. As Kipling has said,
The sins that they did two by two, they pay for one by one. God says this is inevitable. It is inevitable for his people Israel; it is inevitable for us as well. Yet even in that trial, God is present in His mercy and grace.
Thank you, Lord, for the lesson I learn as I sometimes must walk through the consequences of my own poor choices. But thank you that your grace is still sufficient even for these things.
Are we surprised by the inevitable consequences of our sins? Are we also surprised by joy when the Spirit produces good fruit through our walk with Christ? Do we recognize both as aspects of God's sovereign initiative?