Monday, January 11, 2010

Punishment vs Consequences

Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and cry to her that she has served her term,
that her penalty is paid,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand
double for all her sins.
Isaiah 40:1-2
I was reading for Disciple today. The two verse above were the first two verse of our reading for the day.

I didn't like them.

Of course, I like the idea of hope and comfort for Israel, but I don't like the idea that they have paid double for their sins. Does that sound like God has punished them twice as much as is fair?

And what about this idea of punishment from God, anyway? It was a block for me as I read last week's lessons. Consequences (which was the theme) are one thing. I believe that our sinful actions will create consequences. But punishment? Does God punish people?

It seems to me that we are pretty good, all on our own, of creating our own punishment -- negative consequences.

Image: quilted cross from Burlington chapel



Blogger bob said...

I believe the Jewish people would equate punishment with love( Spare the rod spoil the child). Therefore double the punishment equals double the love.

4:21 AM  
Blogger John Meunier said...

Word studies may not help, but the etymology of the word "punishment" goes back to ideas of payment of fines or atonement for wrongs. Here is the etymoogy.

It may not have meant the same to us. Punishment was the price paid for wrongs done, not a form of suffering with only incidental connection to the error that leads to it.

8:02 AM  
Anonymous bthomas said...

First of all recognize that one does not read poetry through a literal lens. Isaiah is using language to stress that the punishment of Israel's sin was complete and finished.

Also consider that punishment is the consequence of sin. It is not simply that sin produces negative consequences. It is that sin is judged and punished in the same way that faithfulness is rewarded.

10:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't have a login so, even though anonymous, I am Rick. I believe the double punishment that Jerusalem received was analogous of her 'double portion' of inheritance, that is, recognition of her as God's first-born of faith.


12:32 AM  

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