They were given over. God let them loose. Whether it was the Israelites or Gentiles, God let them loose.
The world is a very bad place. People hate. People steal. People lie. All sorts of things and behaviors are just wrong. God let it be.
When Paul writes to the Romans there is obviously an echo of God’s words to the Israelites (via Ezekiel). “Okay. Have it your way. There is an open offer of the good life, just come with me.”
In our current culture, there is a heightened response to Romans 1:26—27. However, the True and harsh reality is that this is only a piece of the puzzle. It only a square on the twisted and sin-filled quilt that makes up humanity. Look at all the other issues. Are you guilty of none of these?
Yet, despite being freed to do wrong (to ourselves, others, and God), there is still an open door. Even when God tells the Israelites, “fine, go,” there is something more. They—not bulls, not goats, not sheep, not lamps, not doves, not wheat, not wine, not incense—will be God’s pleasing aroma. So much of the sacrificial system had “pleasing aroma” attached to it that this is not insignificant.
The Israelites would one day return to God in relationship, even though they willingly walked away. God calls each of us, too, the same way.
1) Why did God let people go do what they wanted?
2) Most parents would not willingly allow their children to go astray. Why do you think God appears to? Does God really willingly allow this?
3) In general, freedom is poorly misunderstood and poorly used. How do you see that reality around you?