(January 22, 2015)
There seems to be a constant refrain in the scriptures and the words of the prophets whereby there is a distinction drawn between weakness and failure on the one hand and outright rebellion on the other. Neither is acceptable before the Lord, and each brings with it severe negative consequences, but weakness precedes chastening and adversity while rebellion precedes destruction.
There is no better contrast between these two, in my opinion, than in comparing the destruction that was imminent at the time of Jeremiah and the adversity and chastening that was a constant presence at the time of the Exodus and wandering. The people of Moses were at times rebellious, but their primary problem was weakness – after being held as slaves for so long they needed to develop the capacity to be a people capable of worshipping the Lord. Thus we see their trials both before and after entering the
The people, by the time of Jeremiah, were no longer weak but rebellious. Thus instead of chastening, the Lord brought their destruction. While it may be seen as a matter of degree to some people, in my mind it is a matter of quality as well as quantity.
Of course, this is only an intellectual argument and does not justify any disobedience – whether we classify it as weakness or rebellion. Adversity can be plenty powerful and uncomfortable, though prompting of growth, and it is far better to obey than to fail because of weakness.