Moses warned the people of the tribes of Reuben and Gad half the tribe of Manasseh of the danger of their choice when they wanted to remain on the east side of the Jordan while the rest of Israel was poised to cross over and occupy the land on the west side. Moses was fearful that if this was allowed these people would not want to help their brethren to fight the battles and face the hardships required to obtain the whole land. He warned them that if they did not help in the conquest that would be sin against God and they could be sure that they could not avoid the consequences of their sin. (See Numbers 32).
Theirs was a dangerous choice. They had seen the land they chose as being suited to their lifestyle of tending flocks and herds. They chose a portion of land that lay between the pagan idolaters and their brethren who would occupy the land that God had promised them. The danger was of not helping their brethren in their need. Should they fail they would be held responsible for their sins. God said to them, “…be sure your sin will find you out.” (Numbers 32:23).
Aside from the immediate concern of Moses, there was the danger to the faith of these people. This was an in-between land. A land that held the danger of compromising their faith through the influence of the pagans around them. They were near the pagans and separated from their brothers in the rest of the land. Isolation from other believers is not good for faith.
This principle is stated in different words throughout the Bible. Perhaps the best known to us is the principle of sowing and reaping.
“Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:7-9).
“The sins of some people are conspicuous, going before them to judgment, but the sins of others appear later.” (1 Timothy 5:24).
God, through the prophet Hosea, put it in a colorful way. He said of the consequences of Israel’s idolatry… “For they sow the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind.” (Hosea 8:7).
Different people have expressed it in religious or colloquial terms. The Hindu belief in Karma – or as popularly expressed, “What goes around comes around” is one such attempt. Although this does not carry the idea of personal accountability, it does recognize that there are consequences of one’s actions. The folk adage about one’s chickens coming home to roost is another.
While the principle of divine retribution for sin in the final judgment is certain, it is also true that in many ways there is a price to be paid for sin in this life. Paul observes this in the first chapter of Romans when he writes about the devolution of morals as a result of men rejecting the knowledge of God. The culmination of that slide into immorality, as he describes it, is that…
“…God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.” (Romans 1:26-27).
How do people who commit this particularly reprehensible sin “receive in themselves the due penalty for their error?” I do not take this to mean that the penalty spoken of here is a direct judgment from God. Rather, it is the natural result of a life of disregard for God’s moral law. There are physical and moral consequences of such a lifestyle. Venereal disease, physical injuries with high risk of infection. Moral degeneracy allows anything one desires with the attendant consequences of those risky choices.
We can see the same thing in association with other sins. Those who give themselves to alcohol and drugs do grave injury to their minds and bodies, often dying an untimely and often painful death. And before death, there is the enslavement to desire that is never satisfied. The losses due to addictions are numerous and significant. There is the loss of employment, money, property, family, friends and self-respect. There is the loss of time that could have been spent in useful and productive pursuits. All this to say nothing of the loss of one’s soul.
Consider also the consequences of adultery. Today, marital infidelity is looked upon lightly – even as a joking matter. But in the sight of God, adultery is a very serious offense. Think of the damage that is done. The one who violates the marriage vows breaks a trust. Vows and the integrity of character of one who keeps his/her vows are valued by God. When vows are broken, one has sinned against the one to whom the vows were made. They place trust in the violator and their trust has been betrayed and their hearts are broken. People who are betrayed may find it difficult to trust anyone else because of the hurt they have suffered.
Then there is the damage the offender does in other ways. The adulterer shows more concern for one’s own selfish interests than for the needs of the offended spouse and his family. This concern is the kind of love that would have kept their marriage together in the first place but they think more of the romantic or physical concept of love than of the love that is like the love of God. People who break solemn vows prove themselves to be untrustworthy. They break up a home and do irreparable damage to children. They undermine the very foundations of society because good, solid, moral, loving families instil the character in children that is necessary for those children to grow into respectable, responsible adults.
But that is not all. As the adage we referred to earlier says, our chickens are coming home to roost. This nation is reaping what we have sown now for years. One of the greatest contributing factors in the moral decline of this nation and the present political and economic crisis along with many of our elected officials flirting with socialism can be laid at the doorstep of those broken marriages and wrecked homes. When a generation grows up having not been taught the basic concept of responsibility for one’s own actions, as so often is true in broken or dysfunctional homes, they will naturally blame someone else. When they have been made wards of the social welfare system as has been the case in so many of those single parent/broken homes, they know nothing other than to rely on that same system to provide for them their entire lives.
When a political system develops where the dominant thinking is that it is government’s responsibility to provide for all the needs of their citizens, that government takes over all aspects of the lives of the people. The politician who promises the most benefits for the most people is the politician who gets elected to office and who is most under pressure to provide what he has promised. When any nation goes down that path it will not be long until it comes crashing down in disastrous ruins.
Can the whirlwind of destruction be stopped? Can the chickens be headed off before they get into the coop? That remains to be seen. There is only one thing that will prevent divine judgment against men or nations that leave the principles of responsibility and accountability and that is repentance. We know that people can repent – and they must do so not only to avoid the consequences of their selfish, lustful choices, but to restore themselves back to a place of respectability and responsibility. Nations also can repent. Nineveh did at the preaching of Jonah. America can and must if we wish to avoid the coming calamity.