The Grace of Warning
Day: 10 | Plan: 1-2 Kings
Today's Reading: 1 Kings 9
1 Kings 9:6-7 (NIV) "But if you or your descendants turn away from me and do not observe the commands and decrees I have given you and go off to serve other gods and worship them, then I will cut off Israel from the land I have given them and will reject this temple I have consecrated for my Name. Israel will then become a byword and an object of ridicule among all peoples."
It's hard to receive a warning well. One of my favorite examples of this is found in the story of Beauty and the Beast. While he is still young and handsome, a prince receives a warning not to be deceived by appearances. Dismissing the warning, the prince is turned into a beast.
The prince was shortsighted and prideful. But there was another egregious fault in the prince. He lacked the humility to receive a warning well. He ignored the grace that was being offered to him, which would have saved him years of pain.
Israel ignored their warnings as well. They were the blessed people God had chosen to inherit the Promised Land and live in the light of His presence. In 1 Kings 9, God offers them the privilege of His glorious presence in the temple Solomon has built. This was a promise God had made before and reconfirmed it. But there was a warning they needed to heed.
God longed to dwell with His people. In order for that to happen, Solomon and his descendants must keep God's commands and decrees, and worship the Lord only. If that didn't happen, God promised to "… cut off Israel from the land I have given them and will reject this temple I have consecrated for my Name" (1 Kings 9:7a).
Because God chose to dwell in the temple, this consequence would have devastating effects on the Israelites. They would no longer be able to enter God's presence, and although God still cared deeply for His people, His involvement in their lives would change.
Sadly, we'll learn as we keep reading 1 and 2 Kings that like the prince, and often like you and me, Israel didn't listen to God's warning. So much of what we read in the Old Testament is a repetitive circle. God warns His people. His people ignore His warning and do the very thing He warned them not to do. God punishes His people.
Warning. Rebellion. Punishment.
That seems like a sad, desperate story, doesn't it? I think that's why for so many years, I avoided the Old Testament. It was hard to read the passages where God "threatened" to punish and bring down curses on His people. That kind of truth didn't seem very gracious to me.
But the truth is, the gospel is there all throughout the Old Testament. We don't often see it because we are so, so much like Israel.
Warnings are laced with grace. God wanted to spare His children years of consequence and pain. He wanted them to remain faithful to Him. But when they did exactly what we have done, and ignored and rebelled against Him, He followed through on His warning.
What tender, compassionate love of the Father to discipline His children. Every judgment Israel endured was meant to restore them to a right relationship with God. Their failures magnified their need for a Savior. God isn't petty. He is magnificently weaving a beautiful story of redemption. That's the story of the Old Testament. Warning. Rebellion. Punishment.
As always is the case with a story about Israel, there is so much for us to learn. I don't want to ignore the grace of warning. God knows where my selfish heart will lead me. I'm praying, pleading with Him to give me the humility to heed His gracious warning.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, what a sweet and yet hard reality to see myself in the pages of Scripture. Today's passage reveals my stubbornness. I confess I often see warnings as harsh or hard. Oh God, soften my prideful heart. Help me to see and respond to the grace tucked in Your tender warnings. In Jesus' name, amen.
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