Ananias and Sapphjra found out that it was not wise to lie to God in Acts 5.
Act 5:1 But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession,
Act 5:2 And kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it, and brought a certain part, and laid it at the apostles’ feet.
Act 5:3 But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land?
Act 5:4 Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God.
It seems to be the case that there was something more significant going on here because the husband and wife lied. I think about tithing. God wanted the people to return 10% of what they have been blessed with. Therefore, it does not make sense that Ananias and Sapphjra would so harshly treated in this situation if that was the only offense. After all, because they could have held on to some of the money and donated whatever percent of it to the church, and all would’ve done well. They could have fulfilled that requirement.
Peter points out the problem. They lied about what they were donating. They said they gave it all, but they really didn’t. Maybe they felt like it was more prestigious to say they donated everything. Maybe they had some other motivation, but the bottom line is that they ultimately lied, and that was why they were punished.
Beyond the obvious application that we should not lie, it also seems to be the case that there are consequences to sin. People think they can sneak one around God. Maybe they thought God did not realize they put some of the money aside, but God knew. Therefore, as we operate in our daily lives, we ought to live like we understand that.
We have come to the third gospel, and I think it is appropriate to show the way that Luke begins his account.
Luk 1:1 Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us,
Luk 1:2 Even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word;
Luk 1:3 It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus,
Luk 1:4 That thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed.
What do we learn from this introduction from Luke to Theophilus? We first of all learn that other people had a tradition. This was not something that Luke all of a sudden made up to explain who Jesus Christ was. Rather, many people had established a tradition that began with the eyewitnesses. The people who had seen Jesus passed along what they knew about Him, and our author here was writing within the lifetime of the eyewitnesses. As a result, Luke apparently thought it was a good idea because he had studied these things and had an understanding of what had taken place to write down the tradition for his friend Theophilus.
Why is this significant? It is a very popular tactic to that to write off the Jesus of miracles as a late embellishment. Sure, most people will agree that Jesus was a real person, and they will affirm that He did teach many wise sayings, but kind of like Thomas Jefferson, they decide that those miracles have to go. Luke challenges that right up front. As we will read through his gospel, there are miracles. The eyewitnesses that Luke was able to interview as he explained in verse two gave him his material, and that material included miracles and of course the great miracle of the resurrection.
The generally accepted dating of Luke is somewhere around 80 A.D. (although I would say it is earlier based on the fact that it is clearly a prelude to Acts which does not mention the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D. and probably would have merited inclusion in the Acts narrative as a confirmation of Jesus’ prophecy about the temple being destroyed). For the sake of argument though, in 80 A.D., there would have been people that could have either affirmed or denied his claims. Luke said that these traditions have been in circulation from the beginning, and these eyewitnesses could have easily shot down his conclusions or said that he had misunderstood what had been passed so to him.
These types of checks and balances are very important.
In Joel 2, we have a mighty army coming at the people of Israel, and they are going to do damage. There is no way that the people can theoretically stop them by themselves. However, there is something that can be done.
Joe 2:12 Therefore also now, saith the LORD, turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning:
Joe 2:13 And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil.
I find it interesting because God is rather clear with the people of Israel throughout the Old Testament. You can live in His way and reap the benefits of that, or you can live in opposition to Him and have to handle the consequences. It really is not the most complicated system, and this is another instance of what had been going on for the people of Israel.
I think that we face a very similar choice now. I don’t know that the consequences are always as severe as they were for the people of Israel, but we are faced with dilemmas all the time. We can either do what we know God wants us to do, or we can go it on our own.
Certainly, there are times where what we want to do lines up with what God wants us to do. I know that is possible. However, I also know that there are times where we know that the Bible specifically tells us certain things, and we willfully do other things. We’re all guilty of it.
Our response needs to be the same. We need to turn to God. He is gracious and merciful. He will forgive. Just like the people of Israel, we need to turn away from the wrong. I know it is easy to say and much more difficult to do, but it seems to be what we need to work towards.
Hosea 13 is a difficult chapter. It lays out consequences for not following God. For example, the consequences for Samaria are brutal.
Hos 13:16 Samaria shall become desolate; for she hath rebelled against her God: they shall fall by the sword: their infants shall be dashed in pieces, and their women with child shall be ripped up.
This is a popular attacking point for skeptics. However, please keep in mind that it is not God who is doing this. Rather, this is a consequence of living a life that is contrary to God.
Samaria is becoming desolate because she has rebelled against God. Therefore, these things will happen as a result of that decision.
This is kind of a parallel to Israel earlier in the chapter although it is interesting that Israel is going to be punished by God while Samaria is going to be punished as a consequence of departing from God.
Hos 13:9 O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself; but in me is thine help.
Israel has destroyed itself, and Samaria has destroyed itself. This can happen to us as well. We can make many bad decisions that have severe consequences for not only ourselves but also the people around us.
However, we can’t forget the end of verse nine and the greater context of this passage which extends through verse 14. There is help in God. We do make bad decisions, and God knows that. It is rather obvious that He is aware of that because He knowingly gave His Son to be the Perfect Sacrifice.
Despite all of the problems, God is still our help and can rescue us from ourselves. It is an interesting worldview change. The world is always time is that we need to find out who we are to find contentment, but from our Christian worldview, we need to find out who Christ is and become more like Him.
Ezekiel 39 presents us with a pretty good summary of why the people of Israel had gone into captivity.
Eze 39:23 And the heathen shall know that the house of Israel went into captivity for their iniquity: because they trespassed against me, therefore hid I my face from them, and gave them into the hand of their enemies: so fell they all by the sword.
Eze 39:24 According to their uncleanness and according to their transgressions have I done unto them, and hid my face from them.
There is a bit of a combination effect going on here. The people of Israel sinned against God, and as a result, God took away His unique protection of them at least as a national state. It is not that He had stopped loving them, but He allowed them to experience the consequences of being separated from God.
I think about it kind of like what happens when we individually sin. When I do something wrong, I have made a decision to rebel against the law that God has laid out. There are times where God allows us to have to deal with the consequences of our sometimes poor choices. It is not that He doesn’t love us, but it does wake us up.
Think about Israel and the Babylonian captivity. It took that kind of eye-opening experience for the people to eventually come to the place where Nehemiah could lead the people back to rebuild Jerusalem.
There are certainly times when God allows us to escape from certain consequences. Many people have some type of experience where they look back and realize that God must’ve had a hand protecting them because something bad really could have happened based on perhaps an unwise decision.
God is certainly a God of mercy, so I don’t mean to discount that trait whatsoever, but as seen by the people of Israel and experientially through our own lives, there often times that we need to face the consequences of our decisions. God allows that to happen, and we need to make sure that we understand the ramifications of what we do.
In Lamentations 4, Jeremiah talks about the perception of other nations in regards to this downfall that was happening in Judah.
Lam 4:11 The LORD hath accomplished his fury; he hath poured out his fierce anger, and hath kindled a fire in Zion, and it hath devoured the foundations thereof.
Lam 4:12 The kings of the earth, and all the inhabitants of the world, would not have believed that the adversary and the enemy should have entered into the gates of Jerusalem.
God’s people had been blessed for years. They were given many miraculous victories. In the not-too-distant past, David and then Solomon sat on the throne. They ruled a large kingdom through the grace of God. David was obviously a man after God’s own heart, and Solomon had been blessed with wisdom from God. Solomon had built the temple to glorify God. This was not that far in the past, but when you look at the way that the people of Judah were acting, you would have thought that that was ancient history. They had come so far from where they had been.
As a result, God was angry. God brought the consequences that He always said would come when the people drifted too far away from where God told them to be. Think about the end of Deuteronomy where Moses is talking about the blessings of following God or the curses of not following God.
It is interesting in verse 12 that the other people of the world would not believe that that the people of God had fallen. Again, given that miraculous history, it seemed impossible that there would finally be time where they failed. However, they did not fail because God failed to protect them; they failed because they lost touch with God and were exposed to the consequences of their actions.
I think that we have to be careful about this kind of thing in our everyday lives. God has blessed us in so many ways, but if we start to drift from God, He does not always take away the consequences of our actions. If we do drift, all I can say is that we do so at our own risk and need to recognize that.
At the end of the book of Jeremiah, we finally get a summary of all that went wrong with the people of Judah, and even though it took 52 chapters to describe entirely, it really was rather simple.
Jer 52:1 Zedekiah was one and twenty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem. And his mother’s name was Hamutal the daughter of Jeremiah of Libnah.
Jer 52:2 And he did that which was evil in the eyes of the LORD, according to all that Jehoiakim had done.
Jer 52:3 For through the anger of the LORD it came to pass in Jerusalem and Judah, till he had cast them out from his presence, that Zedekiah rebelled against the king of Babylon.
The people of Judah had done evil for so long that God finally allowed them to fall. It was the ultimate consequence to all of their actions. It seems as if it was kind of like getting your hands closer and closer to fire. Every time gets a little bit warmer, but when it burns, you feel the consequences. That is kind of like this situation.
Obviously God had not caused people of Judah to fall every time that there were problems. Even under King David there were problems, but by this point, the offenses had grown so great that the consequences had to come.
It is also worth pointing out on this front that while the suffering was certainly awful for the people of Judah, when you think of the larger picture, it did accomplish the purpose of getting the people to come back to God. Under the leadership of Nehemiah, the people did come back to Jerusalem, and there was a return to faith.
It seems as if that a lot as a response to adversity. When all that you have on earth seems to fall apart, we have to go back to what you have in your base, and when you have God in your base, you come back to what is really important. Your eyes opened to all that was going wrong before. Because of that kind of foundation, you end up with people like Nehemiah who are able to then rebuild nations and do it in the right way.
In Jeremiah 21, the King of Judah, Zedekiah, called on Jeremiah to pray for the people as the Babylonians put them under siege. They wanted God to protect them from this imminent threat, but part of me has to wonder if the leadership was entirely oblivious because here is the response of Jeremiah.
Jer 21:3 Then said Jeremiah unto them, Thus shall ye say to Zedekiah:
Jer 21:4 Thus saith the LORD God of Israel; Behold, I will turn back the weapons of war that are in your hands, wherewith ye fight against the king of Babylon, and against the Chaldeans, which besiege you without the walls, and I will assemble them into the midst of this city.
Jer 21:5 And I myself will fight against you with an outstretched hand and with a strong arm, even in anger, and in fury, and in great wrath.
Throughout this entire book, Jeremiah has been talking about how wrong the people had been and how they needed to come back to God. You have to wonder if the leadership disregarded everything that Jeremiah had ever said. It is possible. After all, don’t we all kind of disregard news that we don’t agree with?
I think there is an important lesson here though. The people of Israel and Judah were the people of God, but they were not immune from sin. God, being a God of justice, gave them the consequences of their actions. They did not get some kind of free pass because they were the chosen people.
I think that we can develop a similar attitude today as Christians. We live however we want, and we think that we can come to God whenever we want and all of the consequences to our actions will disappear. I am not saying that God will not forgive us because God will forgive anyone of anything when they come to him with sincere repentance. However, let’s say that I was addicted to gambling, and I really hit rock bottom. I am entirely out of money, and I realize that what I had been doing was wrong. God would forgive me, but God did not be obligated to put all kinds of money back into my bank account. I would still have the consequences of my actions while simultaneously receiving forgiveness.
I think that this is a hard concept for many people because we just want to say sorry and move on. We want to be like Zedekiah and come to God when we need Him to take away our consequences. It doesn’t quite work that way though, and because God is a God of justice, we might have to deal with the issues that we have created ourselves.
It is a very difficult thing to know that your judgment is coming but be entirely powerless when it comes to stop it. In Jeremiah 6, we hear about the remnant of Jerusalem and the people particularly of the tribe of Benjamin who will remain faithful. However, that doesn’t make up for all of the problems in Israel.
Jer 6:22 Thus saith the LORD, Behold, a people cometh from the north country, and a great nation shall be raised from the sides of the earth.
Jer 6:23 They shall lay hold on bow and spear; they are cruel, and have no mercy; their voice roareth like the sea; and they ride upon horses, set in array as men for war against thee, O daughter of Zion.
Jer 6:24 We have heard the fame thereof: our hands wax feeble: anguish hath taken hold of us, and pain, as of a woman in travail.
Jer 6:25 Go not forth into the field, nor walk by the way; for the sword of the enemy and fear is on every side.
Jer 6:26 O daughter of my people, gird thee with sackcloth, and wallow thyself in ashes: make thee mourning, as for an only son, most bitter lamentation: for the spoiler shall suddenly come upon us.
It pretty much seems as if sorrow was the only option left. As we had talked about previously, God already knew the future and knew that the people would not return to Him. Therefore, there was really nothing else that could possibly happen. The people had made their choice; they had decided that they were not going to follow God. That also meant that they had chosen conquering.
I think that we can stumble into this as well. We want to pick and choose what we want. We want to make certain choices, but we don’t want the consequences. I am sure that that would have been the response that Jeremiah would have gotten from the people of Israel. He would have proclaimed the aforementioned passage, and we know that the people would not have changed their actions. However, I am positive that some of those people would have tried to rationalize their behavior in their heads and affirmed that God would never allow His chosen people to face judgment. There is no Biblical backing for that position, but I think that is what we try to do far too often. We think that we can do whatever we want and avoid the consequences of our actions. The world doesn’t work that way.
The application I took away from this is that I don’t want to end up in a situation where I make decisions that lead me into bad circumstances like this. If the people had been doing what they should have been doing, this wouldn’t have been a problem. Following the will of God will put you where you need to be.
1 Samuel 28 is a pretty weird passage to say the least. Saul was really concerned that he was not able to talk to God anymore. Without that source of advice, he had to reach out to someone else, so he went to a medium even though he had outlawed all people of that sort from Israel.
She asked him who he wanted to see, and he said Samuel. That’s kind of an odd choice, but here is what he heard.
1Sa 28:15 And Samuel said to Saul, Why hast thou disquieted me, to bring me up? And Saul answered, I am sore distressed; for the Philistines make war against me, and God is departed from me, and answereth me no more, neither by prophets, nor by dreams: therefore I have called thee, that thou mayest make known unto me what I shall do.
1Sa 28:16 Then said Samuel, Wherefore then dost thou ask of me, seeing the LORD is departed from thee, and is become thine enemy?
1Sa 28:17 And the LORD hath done to him, as he spake by me: for the LORD hath rent the kingdom out of thine hand, and given it to thy neighbour, even to David:
1Sa 28:18 Because thou obeyedst not the voice of the LORD, nor executedst his fierce wrath upon Amalek, therefore hath the LORD done this thing unto thee this day.
1Sa 28:19 Moreover the LORD will also deliver Israel with thee into the hand of the Philistines: and to morrow shalt thou and thy sons be with me: the LORD also shall deliver the host of Israel into the hand of the Philistines.
I am sure that that is not what Saul wanted to hear. However, I am not sure what else he would have expected. He must have had some realization that he was doing something wrong, but if you read verse 15, it seems that he really had no idea. He knew all of the consequences, but he did not understand the source.
On one level, I know that if he would have simply repented and demonstrated that he wanted to work for God, God would have taken him back since God is the God of forgiveness. He could have had it on a personal level.
However, given the tone that Samuel used, it seemed as if the consequences were inevitable. Sometimes, it seems that sin creates consequences that we have to live with. For instance, when Samson repented and asked for the strength of God one more time, God gave it to him, but it did not prevent his own death. Certain earthly consequences were already in place.
I hope that none of us ever get to that point. By avoiding this sin, we can then avoid the consequences.