When people repent of their sins and come to faith in God, their capacity for spiritual judgment and action changes. Scripture tells us that unbelievers are spiritually dead. But the corollary is that believers can discern good from evil, can understand consequences, and can make good choices. And so God expects that of us. When spiritual amnesia sets in and God’s people start to forget who they are and for whom they are working, God will sometimes allow hardships to come upon them—not to punish or destroy, but as an exercise in refreshing their memories.
The prophet Shemaiah once spoke to the Israelites to help them understand that God still loved them but was going to use the Egyptian Pharaoh Shishak as a schoolmaster for an important lesson: “When the Lord saw that they humbled themselves, this word of the Lord came to Shemaiah: ‘Since they have humbled themselves, I will not destroy them but will soon give them deliverance. My wrath will not be poured out on Jerusalem through Shishak. They will, however, become subject to him, so that they may learn the difference between serving me and serving the kings of other lands’” (2 Chronicles 12:7,8).
This is a big deal. As Bob Dylan once said, “You gotta serve somebody.” Other masters are cruel, unloving, abusive, expensive, and destructive. They promise everything and deliver nothing.
Wouldn’t you rather be serving God?