He was an extremely cute two-year old, dark hair sticking up all round, big black eyes, crumpled Denver Bronco t-shirt with spots of drool on the front. He had only one flaw: his high-pitched, nonstop screech. He had planted himself in the middle of the grocery store aisle and was pitching a fit.
Further down the aisle his parents and older brother tuned him out. He increased his volume. His mother hesitated but still ignored him. He cranked it up again.
Suddenly his mother grabbed a box of Sugar Bomb cereal, spun around and offered them to him. He stopped howling, as if someone had hit his mute button, and ran to his mother for his reward. He deserved it. He had worked hard for it.
I had just witnessed something all too common, and not restricted to two-year olds, in our modern world: life without consequences.
Eugene C. Scott joins Mike in writing A Daily Bible Conversation twice a week.
TODAY’S READING (click here to view today’s reading online)
INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS
Jeremiah 51:1-53: This chapter calls for extensive study to understand the historical setting and the sins of Babylon. But in the first reading we can gain two insights. First, despite that God uses Babylon’s desire to conquer and destroy other nations to punish his people, Babylon too will incur the wrath of God for their murderous actions and for persecuting God’s anointed. Second, this oracle is filled with emotion. Even the tone seems to communicate God’s passion for his people and for justice.
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THE WORD MADE FRESH
It’s not just spoiled two-year olds who appear to live without consequences. Too many of us eat whatever we want, don’t exercise, and expect to look like body builders and live well into our 90s. Can’t we just take an anti-fat pill? Violent TV, music and movies proliferate and we argue about why violence grows in real life. Can’t we just blame someone else? As of this moment, the people of the United States are in debt to the tune of 13 trillion dollars. Can’t we just declare bankruptcy?
Live for today for tomorrow may never come, some say.
But tomorrow always comes. Or as Isaac Newton discovered, every action has an equal and opposite reaction.
Many of us don’t believe it, however, because many consequences are slow to come, or glance off. And spiritual consequences seem even more distant. Disobedience from God doesn’t lead to death, like God said it would, for many of us for many years. Israel and Babylon both ignored God for generations seemingly without consequence. As do we. God tells Jeremiah, “It is time for the Lord’s vengeance; he will pay her [Babylon] what she deserves.” When?
That’s the problem. God is patient and we take advantage of his long-suffering. This is a piece of God’s freedom. Imagine if God hit us with a lightning bolt every time we broke his laws of life or a law of nature. We would be frozen. Instead God allows us to defy everything from gravity to grace.
We even ignore good consequences. Paul reminds Titus, “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say ‘No‘ to ungodliness . . . and to live self-controlled, upright lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope.”
Except we don’t learn or wait. Maybe because heaven and hell seem so far away.
This is a strange thing. It’s as if God wants us to choose the good out of love not fear and he waits and waits to release our consequences until the last possible moment, hoping we will choose love freely.
Yet consequences do come, some more quickly than others. And God always gives us warning. “Like one who seizes a dog by the ears,” God says, is one who does not consider the consequences of his actions.
1. Which passage spoke most to you?
2. What did the four have in common?
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