The LORD, the God of their fathers, sent [word] to them again and again by His messengers, because He had compassion on His people and on His dwelling place;
2 Chronicles 36:15
The book of Chronicles winds down in chapter 36 and concludes with a sequence of compassion-rebellion-compassion. This verse is the first “compassion” in that cycle. The Bible, OT and NT, speak of the discipline of the LORD and this is an example of that discipline.
See, we all had parents of some stripe. Whether our biological parents gave us a good upbringing or just our DNA is a separate concern, but everyone has had someone in their lives who tried to guide us on what they considered the “right” path in life. Discipline, in my experience, followed a very specific pattern. First, I was given a verbal warning. Maybe more than one, it depended on the infraction. Second, I was punished. This could mean having something taken away or being sat in the corner or having my mouth washed out with soap (all natural, of course) or being grounded or receiving corporal punishment. I know that corporal punishment is out of vogue with social leaders and psycho-what’s-its, but I am living, breathing, well-adjusted proof that corporal punishment — judiciously administered — can produce its desired result. Third, I was reminded that the discipline cycle, in its entirety, is because my parents (or the appointed disciplinarian) love me. No one disciplines a child they detest. Human nature rails against the notion of putting in any more effort than is strictly necessary. Fourth and finally, I was restored — as much as possible — to the pre-infraction state. When my time of grounding was over, all privileges were restored. When I had proven I could handle it again, the thing taken away was returned. When the (nasty) taste of soap faded (hours later) and the lingering tingle of swats wore off (it didn’t take long), I was allowed to go back to what I had been doing that was not in violation of the rules.
God often employs that very same pattern. He warns His people through The Bible; through prophets; through speaking directly to the people. He inflicts a punishment on the people that is in keeping with what they have done wrong. Israel wanted to be like other nations, so they got to be captives in another nation — a nation that tried to impose their culture on the Israelites (see the book of Daniel for details). Israel never gave the Promised Land its allotted rest — its Sabbath years — so God took the people out of the land until all those Sabbath years had been made up. God reminds His people, even in their captivity, that He loves them and wants only good for them. While captivity does not seem good to, well, anyone, it produced a hunger for the things of God and a longing to be back in the Promised Land. And during that captivity is when the books of Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, and Daniel all take place — books filled with God’s favor and miraculous ability to save and preserve. When the discipline was done, God returned Israel to the land.
There is another thing I see here. It is less to the order of Formalism (keeping only to what the text says) and more interpretive in scope. John1 speaks of the incarnation; of Jesus becoming a human being. In that chapter, John writes that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. The gospels speak of Jesus being “sent” by the Father. This is interpretive and is likely not to be supported by this text, but I enjoy the metaphor anyway, as it is does not contradict sound doctrine. The metaphor; the meaning I see here is that God the Father sent Jesus Christ, the Word, to us because He had compassion on us. He is mindful that we are but dust and His compassion moved Him to send His Son to us.
Am I ignoring a warning from God today? I need to search myself and see, because the process is repeated throughout scripture and in my own life (Thank you, mom and dad, for giving me a Godly framework for what discipline looks like). If I ignore the word, I will receive the punishment phase of discipline. I’d rather listen.