JEHOVAH MAKKEH – THE GOD WHO SMITES
Last time we saw how the Israelites had allowed bitterness to pervade their lives, and and how their subsequent behaviour was causing God to have to teach them and reveal to them how much He wanted to heal them and be their provider. He did provide, time after time, but their grumbling and moaning grew and grew until, having given them all they wanted, they came to a place where God could not condone their behaviour any longer.
They were now settled in the Land of Promise, they had all they needed and yet they disobeyed God again and again. God sent the prophets, and they largely ignored them and mistreated them. They followed their own ways, worshipped pagan gods, turned their backs on God and did their own thing. God gave them Judges who ruled the land, some good, some bad, and so the people swayed one way then another according to the leading of these men. The bible tells us that they all did what was right in their own eyes. Then came the Kings. Everything seemed to be okay at first, then Saul fell from grace, followed by David who was a man after God’s own heart and ruled in the wisdom of God. But after David everything went downhill and apart from a few Godly kings who led the nation well, the rest brought the country down to rock bottom and God was forgotten, put to one side, just remembered when desperation set in. By this time of course, the kingdom was divided into Israel in the north and Judah in the south. In Israel every one of the kings was corrupt, and Judah apart from the reigns of the kings who tried to rule according to God’s ways was just as bad.
God had warned them time and time again of the consequences of their foolish disobedience, yet still they carried on until God had to act and carry out the promises He had made if they failed to worship and follow Him.
This is what He warned through His prophet Ezekiel;
Ezekiel 7 :9
“My eye will not spare, nor will I have pity; I will repay you according to your ways, And your abominations will be in your midst, Then you shall know that I am the Lord who strikes. I am the Lord who strikes, or I am the Lord who SMITES”.
God doesn’t smite easily. His patience and long-suffering are unending, but His wrath is just and certainly we can see that Israel deserved all that came upon them.
But for all God’s fury, His heart was for His people and a faithful remnant remained.
“Yet I will leave a remnant, so that you may have some who escape the sword among the nations, when you are scattered through the countries. Then those of you who escape will remember Me among the nations where they are carried captive, because I was crushed by their adulterous heart which has departed from Me, and by their eyes which plays the harlot after their idols; they will loathe themselves for the evils which they committed in all their abominations.”
Even among all the wickedness there were those who remained faithful to God, and He saved them. When God strikes or smites, He always does so for a good reason, and He withholds His fury for as long as He can.
In the people of Israel we see the eventual decay and rot that comes from a deliberate refusal to deal with bitterness and resentment. They fester and grow and turn into pride, wickedness and Godlessness. But God will not allow it to continue, because it contaminates. Then He has to reveal Himself as the God who smites. It doesn’t seem very loving or gracious does it? But it is because of His love and grace that he acts in the way He does.
For instance we read in Proverbs, “Spare the rod and spoil the child!” That doesn’t mean don’t spank your child, just allow the child to do whatever he wants. We all know where that ends.
No, it means that children who are not properly disciplined, but allowed to have all they want, and to do what they want, will grow up, at the very least, as irresponsible adults. We discipline our children in love and grace because we care about how they grow up, and we know what can become of them if we don’t.
So it is with God, His discipline or smiting is part of His loving grace.
Jehovah Makkeh says, “I’ve got to discipline you in order to correct your ways, otherwise you are headed for trouble.”
So it was for Israel and Judah. God sent them into captivity into the nations whose gods the people were serving already. Israel was taken to Assyria and later Judah to Babylon. Why did God act so harshly? Why did He smite them so hard? All He wanted from them was repentance! All He wanted was to pardon and restore His people. He hit them hard to wake them up, to heal them, to bring them back to faith in Him; to peace and to joy instead of shame and confusion.
It is interesting to note that God began His judgement at the Sanctuary.
Ezekiel 9:3-6 “Now the glory of the God of Israel had gone up from the cherub, where it had been to the threshold of the temple. And He called to the man clothed with linen, who had the writer’s ink horn at his side; and the Lord said to him, ” Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and cry over all the abominations that are done within it. To the others He said in my hearing, “Go after him through the city and kill; do not let your eye spare, nor have any pity. Utterly slay old and young men, maidens and little children and women; but do not come near anyone on whom is the mark; and begin at My sanctuary.” So they began with the elders who were before the temple.”
But note that first a mark was placed on the foreheads of those who did not go along with the majority, and they were saved from God’s judgement. This reminds us of 1 Peter 4:17
“For the time has come for judgement to begin at the house of God, and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?”
Judgement always begins with the house of God, and rightly so, for the people of God should know better. We can see the same situation in the larger church today, things which are against the word of God, abominations and perversions being permitted in the very place where such things should never happen. We need to be so careful in our walk of faith, remembering that we are all sinners saved by grace, and remembering too that we can be deceived if we forget the word of God and go along with the world in the church.
Do not forget, only dead fish go with the flow!
We have to be so careful how we live our lives before God. We are living in dreadfully wicked and lawless days, and we see the evil around us more and more clearly as things get worse. We want to be those people of God who have His mark on our foreheads, working and living for Him in the midst of a depraved and Satan driven world.
Briefly turn your minds to Jonah. His disobedience to God’s command led him to run away. He went ‘down’ to Joppa, found a ship going to Tarshish and went ‘down’ into it, and when the storm broke Jonah went ‘down’ into the bottom of the ship to sleep. Three times Jonah went ‘down’ and the third time he was asleep to what God was saying to him. So God had to smite him by sending him ‘down’ once more into the depths of the sea where the great fish swallowed him. Jonah was bitter and resentful that God would choose to save the people of Nineveh who were pagan idol worshippers, so he chose to go down and down and down till God sent him down. In the belly of the fish, Jonah repented and did what God had told him to do and the people of Nineveh were saved from God’s judgement as they repented of their sins.
It is a great pity that Jonah, although he reluctantly did what God had asked of him and thereby saved the lives of thousands of people, still sulked and stamped his feet at what God had done, and even wanted to die believing that he was right to be angry with God.
Can you see how resentful and bitter Jonah had become? God had to judge him and deal harshly with him because he was only thinking of himself and not the thousands of people who might have died. We don’t know how Jonah responded to God ultimately because the Bible doesn’t say, but I hope he was chastened and repentant and obedient to God thereafter.
But you see why Judgement has to begin with the house of God? He will smite where He needs to in the desire to bring us back to Him, closer than before, like a loving father who smacks his child. He hates to do it, but if his child is repentant, grieves and learns respect for his father because of the punishment then it has served its purpose and the child can be received into his father’s loving embrace.
Hebrews chapter 12:5-11 tells us that we are not to despise His chastening, or smiting, or ignore it. It is for our own good, to help us to grow and learn. Everything we go through should bring us closer to Him, strengthening our faith always bearing in mind that Jehovah Makkeh is our loving Heavenly Father who did not spare the rod of correction from His own Son who was smitten by God for us.
Jesus took the punishment that we deserved. We have no excuse for bitterness, for complaining, for disobedience, for unlike the Israelites and Jonah, we know that Jesus is our Saviour and Lord, we have the completed truth in Him. So praise God in all circumstances, good, bad or indifferent, for every rebuke, every chastisement, every chastening brings us one step closer to Him as long as we are ready to change and be changed.