Why Would God Hand Over His People to Hardship?

By Mark D. Roberts

September 25, 2017

Who handed Jacob over to become loot,
and Israel to the plunderers?
Was it not the LORD,
against whom we have sinned?
For they would not follow his ways;
they did not obey his law.

Isaiah 42:24


A person handing over a peach.Isaiah 42:24 acknowledges that the Lord himself “handed Jacob over to become loot.” The original Hebrew of this verse speaks of God as “giving up” Jacob to the looter and Israel to the plunderers. Though the Lord did not directly harm his people, he did allow them to be hurt.

Why? Why would a loving God allow his people to suffer? We can’t find a full answer to this question from one small verse of Isaiah. Indeed, the question of suffering is one of the toughest questions that Christians face, not to mention Christians who are presently suffering or sharing in the suffering of others. But Isaiah 42:24 suggests one small facet of an answer. In this case, God “handed over” his people to suffering because they had sinned against him, repeatedly rejecting him as their God, consistently failing to return to him no matter how much he sought to bring them back.

So, one reason we suffer is because of our sin. This does not mean, of course, that every bad thing that happens to you and me comes as a direct result of our own personal sins. We are caught in a sinful, fallen world, and we often experience its brokenness independent of our particular sins.

Though God does hand over his people to hardship at times, he does not do so forever, but only for a season. When we dishonor God, there are often painful consequences to our behavior. Yet God “hands us over” so that we might realize the folly of our ways and return to him. His desire for us cannot be quenched by our sin. Indeed, in his mercy, God does not wait for us to return to him, but pursues us when we are lost, and rejoices when we are found (Luke 15:4-7).


Have you ever experienced God’s “handing you over” in your life?

If so, what happened? What was the result?

Have there been times in your life when the pain caused by your sin has turned you back to the Lord? How did that work out?


Gracious God, I must admit that I’m not especially happy about the “handing over” part of your relationship with us. I love the picture of you as the good shepherd seeking the lost sheep. But the idea that you let us get ourselves lost sometimes is not a happy one. Of course, it isn’t happy for you either!

Dear Lord, I am reminded today that my actions have real consequences. You have allowed my choices and deeds to matter. So, if I do things that put distance between us, and if I fail to heed your invitations to return to you, then you may very well “hand me over” for a season. You allow me to experience what life apart from you is like, so that I might come back to you once again.

How grateful I am, gracious God, that you don’t “hand me over” forever! Though you allow me to feel pain for a while, you don’t turn your back from me. Because Christ was forsaken on the cross, you will never forsake me. How I thank you!

Help me, dear Lord, to live in such a way that you have no need to “hand me over.” May my heart be ever near yours. May my thoughts and deeds glorify you in all things. Amen.


Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online commentaryWhere Shall I Go? Psalm 139 and Luke 15 Sermon Notes

Mark D. Roberts

Senior Strategist

Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders,...

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