Back to the Old Testament for a bit, I think!
I’ve always found this an odd response to God calling his people to repentance. He tells them there is great calamity on its way because of their sinfulness, calls them to come together and fast, but then tells the priests to weep and ask God to spare the people to protect his own reputation.
Imagine you see a mother and child out shopping. The child is running wild, disobeying everything the mother says, wreaking havoc, shouting, screaming, kicking old ladies, pulling things off shelves… The mother finally snaps and says ‘If you don’t stop that this instant I’m going to beat you with this stick.’
If the child turns round and says, ‘No, don’t beat me! People will think you’re a bad parent!’ a) You wouldn’t think the child was really repentant, just that he had been temporarily quelled by the threat of pain; and b) You might well have already concluded she wasn’t a great mother by observing the conduct of her child to that point.
This idea that God’s rule, reign and authority would only be questioned by outsiders if his people were subjected to famine, not by the fact that they seemed happy to go their own sweet way and ignore him most of the time seems very odd.
‘The nations’ – those around us in the world today, watching how Christians act and speak and interact, judge whether God is real or not by the fruits of our lives. When we go wrong, surely our response should be ‘I’m sorry I have brought dishonour to your name’, not ‘Please don’t reject me, because that would bring dishonour to your name’?
Is this a cultural difference, do you think? Or have I got my analogy wrong and there’s a better way of understanding this?