But as soon as they were at rest, they again did what was evil in your sight. Then you abandoned them to the hand of their enemies so that they ruled over them. And when they cried out to you again, you heard from heaven, and in your compassion you delivered them time after time.Nehemiah 9:28
What a marvelous picture of the patience of God! He lets us taste the results of our evil. He gets our attention sometimes by letting disaster strike. But it is only in order that we might hear what He is saying and be delivered. He warns us in order to keep us free.
One evening the president of the Gay People's Union of a university was invited to come and speak to a church's group of young people on what the Bible says about homosexuality. The group gave him the opportunity to defend the position that the Bible endorses homosexuality as an alternate lifestyle. Although this man was the president of his university's debating club, he struggled as he tried to present his case. He went all through the Bible trying to prove his cause, but he floundered and could not get anything together.
The group leader made an agreement with him that when he finished, one of the church's pastors would speak on the same subject. The pastor graciously opened the Scriptures and pointed out that when God forbids something it is not because He wants to limit us or narrow our lives. It is because He is protecting us from something that we cannot handle, something so devastating it will ruin us. He demonstrated from the Word how homosexuality destroys human beings and turns them into something God never intended them to be. Eventually those embracing a homosexual lifestyle would be locked into pain, hurt, misery, loneliness, and death.
Out of that episode came opportunity for members of this church to reach out to those who were struggling with homosexual tendencies. A great number of these people were delivered by the mercy and grace of God. That is what this passage describes--the tough love of God, who will not let ruin overtake us without adequate warning.
The closing paragraph, beginning with verse 32, connects the history of earlier generations with the present generation. Here we find a change of pronouns from they and them to we and our as the Israelites begin to look at their own generation.
This is where we find ourselves today. Our cities are torn with violence and strife of such intensity that people hardly dare to go outside their homes. The only recovery is to do as these people did--confess our wrongdoing to God and praise Him for His compassionate mercy.
Notice how specific the Israelites are.
You have acted faithfully, but we did wrong. There is no
if in true confession. You say,
Lord, I did it. I walked in my own willful way. Then God hears, forgives, and restores.
Lord, thank You for Your promise that as I confess my sin, You are faithful and righteous to forgive and restore.
How do we respond to God's tough love in others' lives as well as our own? Are we able to recognize and be thankful for the tough love of God?