This Cannot Be Happening

This Cannot Be Happening

At midnight the LORD struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the captive who was in the dungeon . . . Exodus 12:29

There are two kinds of people I meet in jail – those who’ve been there before and those who’re first-timers. The ones who’ve been there before aren’t happy about it, but it’s not a shock. Then, there are those who sober up to find themselves in jail for the first time and they are freaking out. This can’t be happening. I don’t belong here. But they do. They got drunk, did something terrible, and now they’re trying to wrap their heads around it.

I didn’t sit in jail, but I’ve felt like that. Growing up, I just had this naive sense of youthful invincibility that I’d never do anything really bad. If you’d have told me in high school that I’d one day lose my job over an addiction, I’d have laughed at you. I was the square kid who never drank. Additionally, because of my faith, I believed that God would miraculously protect me from any colossal failures. I simply couldn’t become addicted. Then, when I did get addicted and faced the possibility of terrible consequences, I thought that my faith should have shielded me from those consequences. I’m forgiven. I’m a Christian. Things like this can’t happen to me.

As a Christian, I’ve always liked the New Testament Jesus, who is all about mercy, grace, and compassion. When I fail, I like to think of God as a kindly old grandfather, who just couldn’t stay mad at me. Today’s passage though, reveals a side of God that has kept me awake at night. In the story, Egypt faced their 10th plague – the death of every firstborn child. For his refusal to let God’s people go, Pharaoh invoked God’s wrath. In his anger, God came, not as a loving father, but as the destroyer (Exodus 12:23), striking dead the firstborn child in every home.

This is a terrifying picture of God – one that none of us ever wants to see. We like a warm, fuzzy God who comforts us in our failures. This though, is the God who’s had enough of our rebellion and who is now going to discipline us. We want to believe that we can’t really fail that badly – That we can’t go to jail, that we can’t wreck our marriages, and that we can’t cause permanent damage. Today’s passage is a reminder though, that if we insist on going our own way, we can incur God’s wrath, suffering painful and permanent consequences. Some failures cannot be undone. Some consequences are unfixable. If we desire to avoid this side of God, then daily, we must abandon our way to follow his. God will never lead us to self-destruction.

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