Let me start by saying I don’t really understand how or why God works. As I study His Scriptures in my daily Q.T. and my weekly Bible studies, I get glimpses into what God is possibly like. Yeah. I’m using a lot of qualifiers here, because I do not pretend to know the mind of God except in a few narrow and specific areas.
In 2 Kings 3 we are told that Ahab’s successor son was evil but not as bad as his father and mother. A couple of reasons are given:
“. . . he got rid of Ba’al’s standing-stone [“sacred pillar of Baal” (NASB)] which his father had made” (CJB, verse 2). [A good thing]
“. . . he clung to the sins of [Jeroboam] . . . with which he had led Isra’el into sin; he never turned away from them” (CJB, verse 3). [A bad thing]
The good thing was he attempted to stop the worship of Baal by tearing down the throne made for it in the land of Israel, which called for the people to worship god(s) besides Jehovah. The bad thing was he failed to have the people stop worshiping the golden calf, which was a graven image of Jehovah God. It seems like a fine line. That’s because it is. The resulting punishments from God were definitely different.
So how do we know which sins are worse than others? I say, we cannot know for certain. However, throughout the Old and New Testaments, there are examples where God punishes by gruesome death, sometimes immediately (Ananias and Saphira, Acts 5:3-10) and sometimes during the next generation (David’s descendants). Other times God’s punishments are less drastic (removal from kingships for instance, i.e. Saul, or loss of closeness with God, i.e. Peter’s denials). It is not possible for men to determine accurately who gets what, even in our times. I’m leaving the judgments to God.
My Bible study partner and I discussed the reality of different punishments for different students that we have taught. What might make an impression on one student may have no effect on the next. Different students may have both done wrong – even sinned – but in God’s eyes they each “missed the mark.” I have also experienced this same dilemma with my own children. Confining one to their room and being separated from the rest of the family affected one child greatly. Meanwhile, the other one preferred to be in their room so sending them there gave them great pleasure. And, different misbehaving required different discipline based on severity.
I’m so glad that in God’s world we are not the judges for appropriate disciplines per each incident of missing the mark. Some situations are more severe in our eyes, and may receive harsher punishment, but I’m leaving things like life or death punishment in His just hand.