I often wonder about the nature of 'punishment' in the bible and of the extent to which God actively wills and directly inflicts 'punishment' on people and groups & the extent to which he has built consequences into the fabric of our existence....
If you tell a child not to put its hand in the fire because to do so is dangerous & painful - but the child foes it anyway - is the 'getting burnt' (which is an inevitable consequence) also 'punishment enough'?
We can try and answer that question on a number of levels, but, for me the most important level is ' what would a good parent do?' I am fairly certain that, having seen the child clearly disobey , to their own detriment, and in pain you would gather them to yourself, probably indicate that you warned them this would happen but primarily you would comfort them in their pain..... And probably use this as a very practical example of why not to 'play with fire'
A built in consequence is also a warning and a painful reminder of a truth ignored.
In Psalm 78 we read:
So he ended their days in futility and their years in terror. (Psalm 78:33 NIVUK)
Is there a consequence built into the fabric of existence that those who repeatedly ignore God, who repeatedly ignore the 'love motivated' pleas of a good Father, will ultimately lose any sense of a His presence, lose a sense of their own purpose, lose the security of knowing Him - and tend towards feelings of futility and fear?
Is this inevitable consequence both the warning and the 'punishment' ? If so, know this, it need not ever be the punchline to anyone's life - there is always a living Father ready to wrap you in His arms and take you back to Himself.