It can be difficult to follow God over the long haul.
Just look at the people of Israel.
They always seemed to forget God when things were going well. When they were rich, and there was peace in the land. When enemies were far away, and life was humming along "status quo."
The entire era of the judges shows what happens in God’s heart when His people repeatedly reject Him.
Today’s "Bible Pick ‘Ems" gives us a window on that…
"But the Israelites pleaded with the LORD and said, 'We have sinned. Punish us as you see fit, only rescue us from our enemies.' Then the Israelites put aside their foreign gods and served the LORD. And he was grieved by their misery." (Judges 10:15-16)
I’ve read this portion of the Bible so many times. But today, that one particular phrase just jumped out at me – "And he [GOD] was grieved…"
I was so intrigued by this thought, that I looked it up in a few other translations:
"And His soul could no longer endure the misery of Israel."
(New King James Version)
"And God took Israel’s troubles to heart." (The Message)
"He could bear the misery of Israel no longer." (New American Standard Bible)
"Finally, there came a time when the LORD could no longer stand to see them suffer." (Contemporary English Version)
"So he felt sorry for them when he saw their suffering." (New Century Version)
This is an incredible thought to me.
That my behavior, that the state of my heart could actually AFFECT the Almighty God of the Universe! Just as a loving parent feels rejected when a child rebels, so God feels great rejection, He feels grieved, when we ignore or neglect Him.
We act just like those pesky Israelites when we go about our daily lives, focusing on them and leaving God out of the center of them.
But despite being rejected by His own people, God never failed to rescue them. He never fails to rescue us either. That was the whole point of sending His Son, Jesus – who was the Ultimate Savior. God sent His Son when we were still sinners, still in rebellion against Him.
He did it to restore our relationship with Him.
God’s love is more powerful than His wrath, and His compassion surpasses His indignation. However, God’s love does not negate His justice.
One of the translations of today’s passage says this:
"…and he became impatient over the misery of Israel."
(English Standard Version)
There comes a time when God’s patience runs out. In today’s verses, that time had come.
What’s the history behind today’s passage?
It’s interesting – and it speaks volumes to the universal condition of the human heart.
Jair is the current judge of Israel. And again, the people had slid into apostasy. As the Scriptures put it, they again "did evil in the LORD’S sight…They abandoned the LORD and no longer served him at all."
Oh, boo hoo, we’re in trouble.
The LORD, who "burned with anger against Israel," had allowed crushing oppression to come to their land. The Israelites were in great distress. THEN, they turned to the LORD – verse 10 says, "Finally, they cried out to the LORD for help…"
God told them to go to their foreign gods for help. Cry out to their idols. Let them rescue you!
Have you ever had someone say they’re sorry for the SAME thing over and over again? After awhile, you stop believing that they mean it. It rings false. How sorry can they be if their behavior never changes?
This is my other incredible thought – do I really want to test God’s patience?
It was only by ridding themselves of their foreign gods (who were powerless to help them), and by submitting themselves to the LORD’S justice, that the Israelites had any hope of rescue…
Only AFTER they put aside all other things, and returned to Him with a repentant heart – only THEN did God again act to redeem them.
I can grieve the heart of God, and I can test His patience.
And yet, He still loves me.
"The LORD is merciful and compassionate, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love." (Psalm 145:8)
We should strive to stay close to God, and worship ONLY Him, rather than see how far we can go before His judgment comes…
"Come close to God, and God will come close to you." (James 4:8)
Are you following Him wholeheartedly – or are you grieving His heart?
Are you serving Him completely – or are you testing His patience?
“When in doubt, search God out.”