Then were assembled unto me every one that trembled at the words of the God of Israel, because of the transgression of those that had been carried away; and I sat astonished until the evening sacrifice. Ezra 9:4
When I was young there was a famous aftershave commercial. In the commercial a young man had just finished shaving. He would put some of the aftershave in his hands and then slap his face. He would then say, “thanks, I needed that.”
The point, of course, was that even though the slap in the face hurt, and the aftershave stung, it was just what he needed. In the end, he felt better after experiencing discomfort.
In the Old Testament, one of the most noteworthy events is the Jewish exile to Babylon. Many verses in the Bible tell us that the main reason the Jews experienced these dark days was because of their idolatry. They had adopted the worship of other gods and fell into all kinds of sin as a result.
God sent His people into exile in order to discipline them of their sin. Involved in that discipline was the need to rid His people of idolatry. I have been told that after the exile, the Jewish people never again succumbed to the sin of idolatry. They learned their lesson. Even though the exile to Babylon was dark and painful, in the end, it was just what they needed. Imagine the depths of sin and corruption they would have experienced as a people if God had not used the exile to purge them of their rebellion. As painful as that period in their history was, they could say, “thanks, I needed that.”
We see a glimpse of what God accomplished through the exile in this verse in Ezra. After many Jews had returned to their country after the exile, many of them had married foreign women. The problem with this is that such marriages were a major cause of their ancestors fall into idolatry. The Jews had started worshipping the gods of the foreigners they had married.
One of the people who returned with the Jews was the Jewish priest Ezra. When he heard what was going on, he called the people together and reminded them of their history. The passage says that Ezra tore his clothes as a sign of the danger they were in. In the book of Ezra we see that the people responded properly. They stopped the practice of marrying those who worshipped other gods. They responded that way because they had learned their lesson.
The lesson for us is that God can use bad things to get the attention of His people. Sometimes these things are necessary to get them to see things they currently do not see or don’t see as being a problem.
As I write this, we are in the midst of a presidential election. One of the issues that is playing a part in the election is the moral climate of our country. Many of the older generation of Americans feel that our culture is changing for the worse. Many leaders in the Christian community are weighing in on how Christians should respond to these things.
There is also a feeling of foreboding among many believers. They feel that these things will result in dark and painful days for our country and for their children and grandchildren.
If the Lord does not return first, such feelings may indeed be warranted. However, if that is the case, we can learn something from the Jewish history in the Old Testament. God loves and cares for His people, even during difficult times. Perhaps what we are seeing is God bringing to our attention the depths of sin around us that we are not even aware of. Perhaps He is showing us through these things how we have become too much like the world, or at least how we have become too comfortable with it.
Whatever things happen as a result of this election and the future of our country one thing is certain. If we trust in the Lord through these future days, and ask the Lord to live through and teach us in the midst of them, we will say, “thanks Lord, I needed that.”