For the week of October 26, 2002 / 20 Heshvan 5763
Torah: Bereshit / Genesis 18:1 - 22:24
Haftarah: 2 Kings 4:1-37
No More Chances
Then the LORD rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah - from the LORD out of the heavens. Thus he overthrew those cities and the entire plain, including all those living in the cities - and also the vegetation in the land (Bereshit / Genesis 19:24,25).
I recently went with one of my children to see the new Veggie Tales movie, Jonah. The movie does a pretty good job communicating one of the themes of the book of Jonah: God's mercy and compassion. This is expressed by saying that God is a God of second chances. Unlike Jonah, whose heart was cold towards the people of Ninevah, God didn't really want them to be destroyed. God's motivation behind the warning of judgement was a desire to see the people turn from their wickedness, thus avoiding the predicted penalty.
As we read the Scriptures we indeed see that God is a God of second chances. In fact he is a God of third, fourth, and fifth chances. God is always ready to forgive if we sincerely and humbly turn to him.
Now some may think that because God is always so ready to forgive our wrongdoings, then it really doesn't matter how we live or what we do. But the story of Jonah doesn't teach that God doesn't care or notice our sin. On the contrary, God takes our sin very seriously. While his heart is not to destroy us, the warning of judgement is most real.
The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah as recounted in this week's portion reminds us that God is also a God of judgement. Here we see that there were no more chances available for these people. They were not even warned. We don't know for sure why that was, but it appears that God knew they were beyond the point of turning back. Unlike the people of Ninevah, they would not have heeded the warning even if one was given them.
We might wonder when that point is reached. How far can a person or a people group go before there are no more chances available?
To ask that question is to miss the lesson. This is not about our figuring out how far we can go in our neglect of God and his ways before we no longer have the opportunity to turn to him. Knowing that God is a God of second chances is not for the person counting on third, fourth, or fortieth chances. The knowledge of God's mercy and compassion is for those who are ready to turn to him. When you are ready to turn to God, you should never think that he is not ready to receive you. But if you are counting on his mercy and compassion so that you can continue in your wrong doing, you will likely find yourself beyond the point of turning back.
Judgement is coming. The warnings have been heard. If God is giving you one of those chances now, then now is the time to turn to him. Soon there will be no more chances.
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