In a world of freedom of choice, some choices inevitably lead to bad results.
Actions yield consequences. We know we reap what we sow, but we don’t realize the source of that saying—the Bible (Galatians 6:6-7 Galatians 6:6-7 6 Let him that is taught in the word communicate to him that teaches in all good things.
7 Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatever a man sows, that shall he also reap.
American King James Version×). Thousands of years ago one of the friends of Job—no stranger to suffering-observed that “those who plow iniquity and sow trouble reap the same” (Job 4:8 Job 4:8Even as I have seen, they that plow iniquity, and sow wickedness, reap the same.
American King James Version×).
Centuries later the Hebrew prophet Hosea looked at the sad spiritual condition of the kingdom of Israel. Idolatry, violence and immorality were commonplace (Hosea 2:1-23 Hosea 2:1-23 1 Say you to your brothers, Ammi; and to your sisters, Ruhamah.
2 Plead with your mother, plead: for she is not my wife, neither am I her husband: let her therefore put away her prostitutions out of her sight, and her adulteries from between her breasts;
3 Lest I strip her naked, and set her as in the day that she was born, and make her as a wilderness, and set her like a dry land, and slay her with thirst.
4 And I will not have mercy on her children; for they be the children of prostitutions.
5 For their mother has played the harlot: she that conceived them has done shamefully: for she said, I will go after my lovers, that give me my bread and my water, my wool and my flax, my oil and my drink.
6 Therefore, behold, I will hedge up your way with thorns, and make a wall, that she shall not find her paths.
7 And she shall follow after her lovers, but she shall not overtake them; and she shall seek them, but shall not find them: then shall she say, I will go and return to my first husband; for then was it better with me than now.
8 For she did not know that I gave her corn, and wine, and oil, and multiplied her silver and gold, which they prepared for Baal.
9 Therefore will I return, and take away my corn in the time thereof, and my wine in the season thereof, and will recover my wool and my flax given to cover her nakedness.
10 And now will I discover her lewdness in the sight of her lovers, and none shall deliver her out of my hand.
11 I will also cause all her mirth to cease, her feast days, her new moons, and her sabbaths, and all her solemn feasts.
12 And I will destroy her vines and her fig trees, whereof she has said, These are my rewards that my lovers have given me: and I will make them a forest, and the beasts of the field shall eat them.
13 And I will visit on her the days of Baalim, wherein she burned incense to them, and she decked herself with her earrings and her jewels, and she went after her lovers, and forgot me, said the LORD.
14 Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfortably to her.
15 And I will give her her vineyards from there, and the valley of Achor for a door of hope: and she shall sing there, as in the days of her youth, and as in the day when she came up out of the land of Egypt.
16 And it shall be at that day, said the LORD, that you shall call me Ishi; and shall call me no more Baali.
17 For I will take away the names of Baalim out of her mouth, and they shall no more be remembered by their name.
18 And in that day will I make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field and with the fowls of heaven, and with the creeping things of the ground: and I will break the bow and the sword and the battle out of the earth, and will make them to lie down safely.
19 And I will betroth you to me for ever; yes, I will betroth you to me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in loving kindness, and in mercies.
20 I will even betroth you to me in faithfulness: and you shall know the LORD.
21 And it shall come to pass in that day, I will hear, said the LORD, I will hear the heavens, and they shall hear the earth;
22 And the earth shall hear the corn, and the wine, and the oil; and they shall hear Jezreel.
23 And I will sow her to me in the earth; and I will have mercy on her that had not obtained mercy; and I will say to them which were not my people, You are my people; and they shall say, You are my God.
American King James Version×, Hosea 4:1-19 Hosea 4:1-19 1 Hear the word of the LORD, you children of Israel: for the LORD has a controversy with the inhabitants of the land, because there is no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land. 2 By swearing, and lying, and killing, and stealing, and committing adultery, they break out, and blood touches blood. 3 Therefore shall the land mourn, and every one that dwells therein shall languish, with the beasts of the field, and with the fowls of heaven; yes, the fishes of the sea also shall be taken away. 4 Yet let no man strive, nor reprove another: for your people are as they that strive with the priest. 5 Therefore shall you fall in the day, and the prophet also shall fall with you in the night, and I will destroy your mother. 6 My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because you have rejected knowledge, I will also reject you, that you shall be no priest to me: seeing you have forgotten the law of your God, I will also forget your children. 7 As they were increased, so they sinned against me: therefore will I change their glory into shame. 8 They eat up the sin of my people, and they set their heart on their iniquity. 9 And there shall be, like people, like priest: and I will punish them for their ways, and reward them their doings. 10 For they shall eat, and not have enough: they shall commit prostitution, and shall not increase: because they have left off to take heed to the LORD. 11 Prostitution and wine and new wine take away the heart. 12 My people ask counsel at their stocks, and their staff declares to them: for the spirit of prostitutions has caused them to err, and they have gone a whoring from under their God. 13 They sacrifice on the tops of the mountains, and burn incense on the hills, under oaks and poplars and elms, because the shadow thereof is good: therefore your daughters shall commit prostitution, and your spouses shall commit adultery. 14 I will not punish your daughters when they commit prostitution, nor your spouses when they commit adultery: for themselves are separated with whores, and they sacrifice with harlots: therefore the people that does not understand shall fall. 15 Though you, Israel, play the harlot, yet let not Judah offend; and come not you to Gilgal, neither go you up to Bethaven, nor swear, The LORD lives. 16 For Israel slides back as a backsliding heifer: now the LORD will feed them as a lamb in a large place. 17 Ephraim is joined to idols: let him alone. 18 Their drink is sour: they have committed prostitution continually: her rulers with shame do love, Give you. 19 The wind has bound her up in her wings, and they shall be ashamed because of their sacrifices.
American King James Version×). Within a few years the mighty Assyrian Empire would sweep in from the east and lay the kingdom waste, slaughtering thousands of its inhabitants and enslaving Israel’s survivors. God revealed to Hosea what was coming and why. “They sow the wind, and reap the whirlwind” (Hosea 8:7 Hosea 8:7For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind: it has no stalk; the bud shall yield no meal: if so be it yield, the strangers shall swallow it up.
American King James Version×). “You have plowed wickedness; you have reaped iniquity. You have eaten the fruit of lies . . .” (Hosea 10:13 Hosea 10:13You have plowed wickedness, you have reaped iniquity; you have eaten the fruit of lies: because you did trust in your way, in the multitude of your mighty men.
American King James Version×). It was inevitable that the people’s sins would catch up with them.
When thousands die in natural disasters—hurricanes, typhoons, tornadoes and droughts—people blame God. Yet, as God told the ancient Israelites, He would bless them with favorable weather only if they obeyed Him (Leviticus 26:3-4 Leviticus 26:3-4 3 If you walk in my statutes, and keep my commandments, and do them;
4 Then I will give you rain in due season, and the land shall yield her increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit.
American King James Version×; Deuteronomy 28:12 Deuteronomy 28:12The LORD shall open to you his good treasure, the heaven to give the rain to your land in his season, and to bless all the work of your hand: and you shall lend to many nations, and you shall not borrow.
American King James Version×). Most chose not to obey. That decision affected not only their own lives but the lives of their children, who fell victim to their parents’ foolish choices. The innocent often suffer for the sins of others. That is one of the tragic consequences of wrong choices.
When we analyze suffering, we can learn a great deal if only we will trace the circumstances back to their cause. Proverbs 22:3 Proverbs 22:3A prudent man foresees the evil, and hides himself: but the simple pass on, and are punished.
American King James Version×warns us to consider the long-term consequences of our choices: “A prudent man foresees evil and hides himself, but the simple pass on and are punished.”
When we look for the major causes of suffering, we often need look no further than ourselves. In one way or another sin is the underlying cause of most suffering.