Deserving

“Then the king sent and called for Shemei, and said to him, ‘Build yourself a house in Jerusalem and dwell there, and do not go out from there anywhere. For it shall be, on the day you go out and cross the Brook Kidron, know for certain you shall surely die; your blood shall be on your own head.’ And Shemei said to the king, ‘The saying is good. As my lord the king has said, so your servant will do’ ” (1 Kings 2:36-38 NKJV).

There are few ideas which are more frequently abused in modern society than that of entitlement. Commercials bombard us with luxury and leisure, persuading us that we all deserve such. Leaders of third world countries speak before global venues, demanding that those in better circumstances provide the help that is owed by them to the poor of the world. Millions of the poor everywhere expect governments to provide for every need (and for many things they simply desire). “We deserve it” has become the universal creed, without regard for any responsibility on the part of the one making the demand.

Thoughtful readers of the Bible have learned not to ask God for what they deserve. The fact is, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23), and “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). If God were to give all of us exactly what we are owed, we would all be lost in sin and condemned to eternal destruction. I do not want what I deserve. I want God’s grace instead (Ephesians 2:8-9).

King David of Israel was once cursed and insulted by a man of the tribe of Benjamin named Shemei. When Shemei apologized, David promised not to take vengeance upon him. But when Solomon became king, David instructed him to see that Shemei was brought to justice (2 Samuel 16:5-13; 19:18-23; 1 Kings 2:8-9).

Solomon did not immediately execute Shemei, but rather confined him to Jerusalem, under penalty of death if he did not remain in the city. Shemei understood and agreed to those terms. However, after some time, a need arose and Shemei left Jerusalem temporarily. Upon his return Solomon called him to account, and his sentence was enforced – Shemei was put to death (1 Kings 2:39-46).

Note the king’s statement when Shemei was first warned, “Your blood shall be on our own head” (1 Kings 2:37). Shemei would be accountable for his own actions. His death would not be (and was not) Solomon’s or David’s fault. He knew the conditions that prevailed. He accepted responsibility. Yet, when he had cause, he ignored his peril and therefore he paid the price.

It is popular today to argue that a loving God could not and will not punish sinners with eternal condemnation. Surely he will forgive us and save us. Such statements ignore our own responsibility. If we are lost, it is not because God does not love us (John 3:16). It is not because he is a vengeful, angry God, looking for any excuse to do us harm. The very opposite is true:

“But God demonstrates his own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

“The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

Our heavenly Father is filled with love, grace, and mercy. He wants us to spend eternity with him in heaven. But we still have responsibility. We are accountable to his laws and his will (Matthew 7:21). If we are lost in Hell, it will be because we do deserve it (2 Corinthians 5:10). If we are saved in heaven, it will be by his grace (Titus 3:4-7).

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Michael Brooks

Since 1988 Mike and his wife Brenda have been involved in foreign missions in South America, Africa, and South Asia. Beginning in 1999 they devoted full time to missions, primarily in Bangladesh and Nepal.

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