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Lasting Consequences

by Tim O'Hearn

Decisions have consequences. Often these consequences are more far-reaching than anyone could imagine. After World War I, two things had disastrous consequences few could have foreseen. The first of these was the Treaty of Versailles. The first part of the treaty established the League of Nations, but other provisions arguably led to World War II. As part of the treaty, significant tracts of land were taken from Germany. The German army was limited to 10,000 men. (They were smart enough to top-load their limited military with experienced leaders so that when another war did come, they had the superior force.) The Germans were ordered to pay billions of dollars in reparations to nations harmed by German aggression. When a worldwide economic depression hit, the perception of the German people that these terms were inordinately harsh helped a man named Adolf Hitler to seize control of the government. The second action was the refusal by the American senate to ratify the Treaty of Versailles, primarily because of apprehensions about the portions establishing the League of Nations. These apprehensions, coupled with a new isolationism, kept the United States out of the League, thus reducing what limited enforcement power the League possessed. When Germany began taking back the land they had surrendered by the Treaty, the world was powerless to stop Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party.

King Saul of Israel made a decision that may have had long-term consequences to himself and his nation. God demanded that he destroy the Amalekites entirely.

And he took Agag the king of the Amalekites alive, and utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword. But Saul and the people spared Agag, and the best of the sheep, and of the oxen, and of the fatlings, and the lambs, and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them. (1 Sam 15:8-9)

This decision to disobey God had an immediate impact upon Saul. Although he did kill Agag when confronted by Samuel, he lost his kingdom. After his death David would reign rather than one of his sons. The significance of his decision may have actually come hundreds of years later.

The nation of Judah (including the tribes of Simeon and Benjamin) had been taken into Babylonian captivity, but allowed to retain their identity. After Babylon fell, a king named by the Jews as Ahasuerus ruled. He married a Jewess named Hadassah (Esther). His prime minister, for personal reasons, decided to eliminate the Jews in the empire. That minister was Haman the Agagite. According to Jewish historian Josephus, he was an Amalekite, and either a descendant or a subject of the Agag whom Saul had spared (probably through a line that had escaped the annihilation). Thus Saulís decision not to destroy the Amalekites led to the threat of total destruction of the Jews. It was only through Godís intervention through Esther that the Jewish nation was saved.

The holiday of Purim (which begins the evening of February 28 in 2018) is generally considered a celebration of the salvation of the Jews. Thus it involves wild parties, costumes, and general merriment. In another sense, though, it can be looked upon as a celebration of God overcoming bad decisions. Our choices to sin may not threaten millions of people around the world. Nevertheless, we can take some comfort that although we make bad decisions, God can counteract the consequences. Mostly, God can counteract sin in ourselves. That is something worth celebrating.