“For though I were righteous, I could not answer Him; I would beg mercy of my Judge (Job 9:15).”
Ethan Couch, the so-called “Affluenza teen,” has been found in Mexico but still not returned to the U.S. to face his day in court.1 Couch was convicted of a drunk driving charge in 2013 that killed four people. During the sentencing phase it was argued that he suffered from being the coddled only child of affluent parents and was therefore not responsible for his actions as he had never been held accountable by his wealthy parents. A judge bought it and the “Affluenza teen” received a probated sentence for the four homicides rather than jail time. The terms of his probation specified that he could not drink alcohol. When a video surfaced of Couch drinking at a party, he and his mother fled to Mexico to escape punishment for the violation of the court order. Many are watching this case to see if he will now receive a more harsh punishment for breaking the terms of his probation.
Shimei had cursed King David and threw stones at him (2 Samuel 16:5-6). Upon his death David charged his son Solomon to judge Shimei for his guilt (1 Kings 2:8-9). But Solomon exercised mercy and granted a reduced sentence to the condemned; remain in Jerusalem and not depart and be spared death (1 Kings 2:36-38). Shimei even agreed that the sentence was a good one. But one day he left the city and broke the terms of his sentence. Solomon reminded him not only of his breech of their agreement but of his former guilt and put him to death.
After more than 400 years God judged the peoples of Canaan and gave that good land to the Israelites (Genesis 15:16, Exodus 12:40). But He issued terms of their inheritance of that land (Deuteronomy 12:28-30). If they remained faithful to Him they would be blessed and could keep the land forever. But if they strayed and behaved as the Canaanites they would be expulsed (2 Kings 17:16-18, 21:13-15). By violating the terms of their covenant, even the people who were the apple of God’s eye (Deuteronomy 32:10) suffered great punishment.
Jesus told of a servant who owed His master a great debt that he could never repay (Matthew 18:23-35). Mercifully, his master forgave his entire debt and pardoned him from an awful fate. But this same servant went to a fellow and showed him no mercy. When the master learned of his cruelty he delivered the pugnacious parolee to torturers.
Since that fateful day in Eden we all live in a land of a probated sentence. Death is the penalty for sin (Genesis 2:17, Romans 6:23), of which we are all guilty (Romans 3:23). God is a merciful judge – but He is a just judge and does not wink at wrong doing (Exodus 34:6-7) as sin must be punished. But in His mercy God has allowed Jesus to suffer the penalty of our sins (Hebrews 2:9, 1 Peter 2:24). In this He satisfied both mercy for the guilty and justice for those who were offended (Romans 3:26). But for all who spurn His grace after receiving it there remains no escape from His righteous judgment (Hebrews 10:26-29).
None of us want to get what we truly deserve nor should we want to see others receive their everlasting just deserts. Like Ethan Couch, Christians have received mercy and have been spared the punishment we deserve. As condemned men the world should understand that no one can run from God’s justice. The only course is to run to His mercy at the cross and never let go.
“How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord (Hebrews 2:3a).”