Why do you continue to invite punishment? Must you rebel forever? Your head is injured, and your heart is sick.Isaiah 1:5
Tom Sawyer’s cousin, Sid, “had no adventurous, troublesome ways.”1 He went quietly about his business, did his chores, and caused no ripples. Tom, however, was different. He had a nose for trouble. Occasionally, very occasionally, he “stumbled into obedient conduct,” much to the delight of his long-suffering Aunt Polly. But even then things were not always as they appeared.
It is impossible to imagine a book called The Adventures of Sid Sawyer. Who would want to read about a good kid who never got into trouble, never rocked a boat, never finagled his way out of a fix? We prefer the escapades and scrapes of an adventurous rascal. But as appealing as these characters are, their mischievousness can be disruptive.
Why do some people seek out trouble and home in on it like a heat-seeking missile? Perhaps it’s the thrill of matching wits with authority. Maybe it’s an indication of a restlessness of spirit that seeks a satisfaction not found in legitimate activities.
In the days of Isaiah the prophet, God asked his chosen people, “Why do you continue to invite punishment? Must you rebel for ever?” (Isa. 1:5). The people’s rebellion and unacceptable behavior were inviting God’s punishment. In fact, the Lord was so disgusted by their behavior that he even told them that the donkey and ox recognize and appreciate their master, but his people’s behavior didn’t even reach the standard of those servile animals!
God is the one who defines acceptable and unacceptable behavior, and he is the one who metes out the appropriate punishment when his laws are contravened. If we doubt the reality of judgment by God, or if we question whether a man should concern himself with the eternal consequences of his actions, a brief reading of God’s dealings with Israel will show the facts. God displays his righteousness by dealing rightly with his people. That includes ensuring that they live with the consequences of their actions.
But the question remains. Why do people continue to invite punishment? Why do we persist in rebelling against God? The answer is found in Isaiah’s statement. We invite punishment when we take from God all he provides but do not “appreciate his care.” We invite trouble when, after years of instruction, we “still do not understand.” We continue to rebel when, prompted by our wicked hearts, we willfully turn “away from the Lord.” We behave like God’s ancient people when we cut ourselves off “from his help” (Isa. 1:3-4).
People who persist in rebelling and inviting God’s punishment are asking for trouble. And there’s nothing appealing about that!
1. Mark Twain, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.