Have you ever done something you knew was wrong, and then got punished for it? Maybe your mom found out you were out past curfew last night. Or maybe your dad caught you watching TV when you were supposed to be doing your homework. Do your parents just “let it slide” when you repeatedly and purposely disobey them? No. They use negative reinforcement to teach you not to do it again. And if you don’t learn from that, then my dog is smarter than you.
In the same way, God cannot let your sins slide! Some Christians believe that God does not punish sin, because he is merciful. They are partly right. Yes, God is merciful. Remember in Exodus 16, God has just saved his people from the Egyptians, and then when things got a bit tough, they suddenly suffered from a case of selective memory loss. The Israelites had just seen God miraculously free them, and now they were complaining again. “Did you bring us all this way just to die in the desert?” they whined. If it were you or me “playing God”, we would have snapped our fingers and said, “Ungrateful brats, why don’t I let you starve to death?!” But God didn’t do that. Instead, out of mercy, God sent a type of bird to the Israelites for dinner. The birds, called quail, would simply sit on the ground and let the people catch them! In the morning, God gave them manna that fell from the sky. So, even though the Israelites were whiners, God still loved them and showed mercy to them.
That’s pretty cool, huh? So, if you do something wrong, you just get blessed, right? Wrong! Then you’d keep doing wrong things, and God would not approve.
To look at it from a different angle, God is a just God. In Numbers 16 (we’re still traveling with the Israelites), a man named Korah learned of God’s justice the hard way. He didn’t like how Moses was leading the people – he thought he could do a better job. Korah and 250 men told Moses that they were sick of him. Numbers 16:3 says, “They came as a group to oppose Moses and Aaron and said to them, ‘You have gone too far!’” Well, when they were dissing Moses, they were actually dissing God! (Because God had appointed Moses as their leader.) What happened do Korah and his men? “They went down alive into the grave, with everything they owned; the earth closed over them …” (Numbers 16:33) Imagine you were Moses, standing in front of them. Suddenly, the men and their families and everything they owned fell into a crack – alive! It was like they never existed!
God clearly tells us, “For the wages of sin is death.”
So, that’s it? We die? After all, we’ve sinned a BUNCH! Nobody’s perfect, but God requires perfection. God can’t stand sin. So we can’t be with him, right?
Stay tuned for part 2!