And the Lord’s anger was kindled against Israel, and he made them wander in the wilderness forty years, until all the generation that had done evil in the sight of the Lord was gone. [Numbers 32:13 (ESV)]
Although my high school grand lives in a state where COVID-19 has necessitated remote schooling, I was pleased to learn that her school found a safe way for their students to take the SAT this week. On-line school would be cancelled that day, the school building would open, volunteer teachers would serve as proctors and monitors, desks would be safely spaced, and only ten students would be in any room. It seemed like a perfect solution. The reckless actions of my grand’s fellow students, however, changed all that when over 100 classmates attended an unsupervised house party over the weekend. Unfortunately, that massive gathering of teens created both a police situation and a public health nightmare. Since many of those attending were signed up for this week’s SAT, the test was cancelled. The school principal wasn’t going to put volunteer teachers and other students at risk because of the foolhardy and selfish actions of a few. Because several of those attending the party also were athletes, all sport team practices were cancelled for the next two weeks, as well.
Complaining that it’s unfair, many parents are angry at the police, school, health department, and governor when they should be mad at the thoughtless teens and careless parents who allowed such behavior. This took place in a state where COVID cases have more than doubled this week and the state is facing a public health crisis. Sadly, the students who followed the rules, abided by the protocols, and accepted the restrictions are suffering. Yes, it seems terribly unfair but it’s what had to be done.
When my daughter talked with her teen about this situation, I wonder if she mentioned Joshua and Caleb. They didn’t deserve any punishment when they returned from scouting Canaan. The two men pled with the Israelites to trust God and go forward into the Promised Land but the people rebelled and refused. As a result, the Israelites were sentenced to years of wandering the desert until the last of the rebellious adults died. Even though Caleb and Joshua weren’t sentenced to die from the plague as were the scouts whose words caused the people’s rebellion, having to wait so long when they were so close (and did nothing wrong) must have seemed incredibly unfair. Did the two men wonder why they and their families should be punished for the sins of everyone else? There’s no record of Joshua and Caleb arguing with God: “Hey, don’t punish us; we didn’t do anything wrong!” They didn’t question God saying, “Hey, what if we die in the meantime? Where’s our reward then?” They simply accepted God’s decision. Even though they were punished for the sins of others, they eventually got to the Promised Land.
Of course, Caleb and Joshua weren’t the only ones in the Bible to be unfairly punished. Think of Jesus! Completely sinless, He endured the punishment for our sins without complaint! He didn’t just miss the SAT and volleyball practice or spend forty years in the wilderness. He suffered on the cross, died and was buried for our sins. He didn’t endure that punishment so He could enter the Promised Land; Jesus did it so we could!
There was nothing fair about Jesus taking our punishment and us getting the reward! He was, however, God’s love and grace in flesh and blood. Jesus didn’t die to appease an angry God but to reveal a God who loves us enough to suffer for us. Thank you, Lord Jesus, for taking our punishment and giving us the gift of salvation and everlasting life in return.