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Unbearable punishment

I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.  (Hebrews 13:5)

I once read an article from a preacher belittling what he called, “B&B prayers.”  He thought it was a mark of spiritual infancy that people would ask God to bless and be with (that’s the “B&B” Get it?  Get it?) their loved ones.  It wasn’t made clear in the article what else people should be praying, but I can tell you this: If I could be granted just one wish for the people I love, I’d ask God to be with them and bless them.

It’s hardly necessary, though I’ll do it anyhow, to show that God’s promise of being with us is one of the greatest blessings the believer is given.  You may recall Jacob’s miserable night on the run from Esau, walking like a homeless man to a country hundreds of miles away.  If you can imagine walking alone across the north side of Uzbekistan without a map or a friend or even a gun, you may understand Jacob’s plea a little better: If God will be with me and will keep me in this way…  (Gen 28:20)

This was God’s promise to Joshua, as he had been with Moses, so would he be with Joshua. (Josh 1:5)  And of course the greatest boast the host of believers can make is that God is with us and in our midst. (Psa 46:5-7)  The birthright of the New Testament saint is that we have Immanuel, God with us.  He has sent us his Spirit to dwell in our hearts by faith (Eph 3:17), and the text cited at the top of the article is his promise, quoted first in Joshua and then repeated to us with a whole new meaning: I will never leave you or forsake you.  Paul ended every epistle with a blessing, praying that God would be with his people, or that his grace would be with them.  The glory of Christ’s returning is that we will thereafter be with the Lord forever. (1 Thess 4:17)

Jesus describes the godless man when he assures his disciples, “I will not leave you orphans.” (John 14:18 NKJV)  Get the picture of the orphans’ condition in the ancient world.  With no family nor anyone to care for them, no wealth, no power to get money or defend it, no relief, no charity, no agencies to undertake for them, no relatives, no hope of kindness, they are nothing but a pest and a burden to the strangers around them.  To this day, orphans in third world have two choices, death by starvation or slavery without hope.  That pathetic fate changes only if somebody comes in Jesus’ name to make a difference, to invite them into a family and to be with them.

I’ve heard lots of curious speculation about Cain’s punishment, some of it merely weird and some of it a rationale for people’s pet prejudices.  There’s really no reason to wonder about it.  From Cain’s own complaint we have this:  From thy face shall I be hid. (Gen 4:14)  To be cast out of God’s presence was a punishment greater than Cain could bear.  Suppose you could be told, and you knew it was true, that God would never be with you again, never give his blessing, never hear your prayer, never give the slightest heed to you again.  Would this not be hell in advance?  The Bible describes hell as a place where people are driven out of God’s presence (Matt 7:23), and it’s out of that presence where you find outer darkness (Matt 25:30) and everlasting silence from heaven (Pr 1:28).

The longer I live the Christian life, the more the value of B&B praying becomes evident to me.  If you really want to bless somebody, ask that they be granted the presence of God Almighty.

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