I was reading in Judges, and was struck by these verses (2:11-13):
“Then the sons of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD and served the Baals, and they forsook the LORD, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods from among the gods of the peoples who were around them, and bowed themselves down to them; thus they provoked the LORD to anger. So they forsook the LORD and served Baal and the Ashtaroth.”
It can be horrifying to really consider God’s wrath as it was frequently revealed in the Old Testament (and, incidentally, as it will be revealed again at the end of time). But let’s not lose sight of why God poured out his wrath and judgment: he was provoked.
Consider some of the many synonyms for “provoke”: aggravate, anger, chafe, enrage, exasperate, incite, inflame, infuriate, madden, offend, rile, vex.
My point is this: Israel wasn’t generally well-meaning but committing an occasional “oops.” God didn’t have a short fuse that they managed in all innocence to set off. They were deliberately, consistently, flagrantly engaging in sins that were evil to the “nth” degree. They were provoking the Lord to anger. Over and over and over and over and over and over again. Until finally, they got what was coming to them.
Here’s the takeaway: God is still God, and people are still people.
If we - as individuals, as local churches, as communities, as businesses, as countries - provoke the LORD to anger, then we shouldn't be surprised when he responds accordingly.