Perhaps there are no greater examples of the consequences of disobedience in the Old Testament than the captivity of God's people, fully by Babylon over Judah in 586BC and Assyria over Israel in 722BC.
Focusing specifically on Babylon, here is what the Bible records:
2Ki 25:1-11 And it came to pass in the ninth year of his reign, in the tenth month, in the tenth day of the month, that Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came, he, and all his host, against Jerusalem, and pitched against it; and they built forts against it round about. 2 And the city was besieged unto the eleventh year of king Zedekiah. 3 And on the ninth day of the fourth month the famine prevailed in the city, and there was no bread for the people of the land. 4 And the city was broken up, and all the men of war fled by night by the way of the gate between two walls, which is by the king's garden: (now the Chaldees were against the city round about:) and the king went the way toward the plain. 5 And the army of the Chaldees pursued after the king, and overtook him in the plains of Jericho: and all his army were scattered from him. 6 So they took the king, and brought him up to the king of Babylon to Riblah; and they gave judgment upon him. 7 And they slew the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes, and put out the eyes of Zedekiah, and bound him with fetters of brass, and carried him to Babylon. 8 And in the fifth month, on the seventh day of the month, which is the nineteenth year of king Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, came Nebuzaradan, captain of the guard, a servant of the king of Babylon, unto Jerusalem: 9 And he burnt the house of the LORD, and the king's house, and all the houses of Jerusalem, and every great man's house burnt he with fire. 10 And all the army of the Chaldees, that were with the captain of the guard, brake down the walls of Jerusalem round about. 11 Now the rest of the people that were left in the city, and the fugitives that fell away to the king of Babylon, with the remnant of the multitude, did Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard carry away.
The king of Babylon starved the people, destroyed the temple, leveled the city, and carried off what remained of God's people in Judah captive. This terrible event was actually prophesied beforehand. Here it is from the New Living Translation:
Jer 25:1-11 This message for all the people of Judah came to Jeremiah from the LORD during the fourth year of Jehoiakim’s reign over Judah. This was the year when King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon began his reign. 2 Jeremiah the prophet said to all the people in Judah and Jerusalem, 3 “For the past twenty-three years—from the thirteenth year of the reign of Josiah son of Amon, king of Judah, until now—the LORD has been giving me his messages. I have faithfully passed them on to you, but you have not listened. 4 “Again and again the LORD has sent you his servants, the prophets, but you have not listened or even paid attention. 5 Each time the message was this: ‘Turn from the evil road you are traveling and from the evil things you are doing. Only then will I let you live in this land that the LORD gave to you and your ancestors forever. 6 Do not provoke my anger by worshiping idols you made with your own hands. Then I will not harm you.’ 7 “But you would not listen to me,” says the LORD. “You made me furious by worshiping idols you made with your own hands, bringing on yourselves all the disasters you now suffer. 8 And now the LORD of Heaven’s Armies says: Because you have not listened to me, 9 I will gather together all the armies of the north under King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, whom I have appointed as my deputy. I will bring them all against this land and its people and against the surrounding nations. I will completely destroy you and make you an object of horror and contempt and a ruin forever. 10 I will take away your happy singing and laughter. The joyful voices of bridegrooms and brides will no longer be heard. Your millstones will fall silent, and the lights in your homes will go out. 11 This entire land will become a desolate wasteland. Israel and her neighboring lands will serve the king of Babylon for seventy years.
William MacDonald writes, "Jeremiah had warned all the people of Judah for twenty-three years; other men of God had not ceased to call them to repentance. Because they would not listen, they would be taken captive by God's servant, Nebuchadnezzar, and remain in exile for seventy years."
Our loving and patient God had persistently warned His people. He loved them with a love that is hard to understand. He said:
Deu 7:6-8 For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God: the LORD thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth. 7 The LORD did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people: 8 But because the LORD loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers, hath the LORD brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.
Oh how great is God's love for His people! Scripture declares, "He found him in a desert land, and in the waste howling wilderness; he led him about, he instructed him, he kept him as the apple of his eye. As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings: So the LORD alone did lead him, and there was no strange god with him." Deu 32:10-12
Nevertheless, despite the great love of the LORD, eventually, there were brutal consequences for Israel's rebellion. I personally believe God's discipline is always administered with more than wrath, but also with love and deep sadness. We can discern this in other passages. Like Hosea taking backsliding, adulterous Gomer back into his house, God continually received His wayward bride back into His good graces, "For Israel slideth back as a backsliding heifer: now the LORD will feed them as a lamb in a large place." Hos 4:16
This sort of love is AMAZING...
Jer 3:12-14 "Go and proclaim these words toward the north, and say, Return, thou backsliding Israel, saith the LORD; and I will not cause mine anger to fall upon you: for I am merciful, saith the LORD, and I will not keep anger for ever. 13 Only acknowledge thine iniquity, that thou hast transgressed against the LORD thy God, and hast scattered thy ways to the strangers under every green tree, and ye have not obeyed my voice, saith the LORD. 14 Turn, O backsliding children, saith the LORD; for I am married unto you: and I will take you one of a city, and two of a family, and I will bring you to Zion."
What mercy! Instead of being cast away forever because of spiritual adultery, God desired to bring them to Zion...to His special and treasured city! Of course, Jesus is the ultimate expression of the Father's love, sent first to Israel (Matt 15:24), then preached to all the world (Matt 28:18-20). "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." Joh 3:16 Hallelujah!
My point in this post, however, is to drive home the truth that consequences were real then and to posit that perhaps they are real now. Could this idea of consequences be manifest in the New Testament, and subsequently, now in the church?
More next time!