The Expository Files

What Are You Ignoring?

Amos 4:6-12

Although every experience of life should direct us toward God ["the heavens declare the glory of the Lord;" (Ps. 19:1) we are "fearfully and wonderfully made;" (Ps. 139:14) and God established man and this creation in such a way that we might "seek Him and perhaps grope for Him and find Him." (Acts 17:27)] many people completely miss this point. Many live life either blissfully and ignorantly, or more likely purposefully and sinfully, ignorant of God's intents and purposes for mankind.

The sinful generations of Israel before it's fall to Assyria exemplify this attitude. God repeatedly sent them prophets whom they ignored. "Since the day that your fathers came out of the land of Egypt until this day, I have sent you all My servants the prophets, daily rising early and sending them. Yet they did not listen to Me or incline their ear, but stiffened their neck; they did more evil than their fathers." (Jer. 7:25,26) Since words alone were not working in moving the people to repentance, God caused the processes of the natural world to curse and not bless the people to admonish them and call them to repentance.

God first sent famine ("cleanness of teeth"). When nature withholds it's bounty to such an extent that people can no longer eat, people should realize their dependence on God. But sadly God reports, "Yet you have not returned to Me." (vs. 6) Then God sent such a severe drought that people staggered from place to place just to find water. (vss. 7,8) You can survive for quite a long time while starving, but not to long while dying of thirst. Thoughts and hearts should have turned immediately to God. It is one of the enduring memories of my childhood to see men and women gathered on the courthouse steps praying to God for Him to return the rain. But it was not like this in ancient Israel. So the Lord repeats, "Yet you have not returned to Me." (vs. 8)

Later still came blasting hot winds, mildew, and tree and crop destroying worms to afflict them. "Yet you have not returned to Me." (vs. 9) Then came an affliction that was comparable only to the plagues of Egypt. This disaster killed so many soldiers and horses that they could not all be buried and a stench from the bodies filled the entire camp. And again the refrain, "Yet you have not returned to Me."(vs. 10)

We might wonder how the nation even survived. That it did endure has led some to discount the descriptions of these horrors, reducing the language of Amos to mere hyperbole. But these folks did suffer afflictions so severe that it nearly ended them as a nation. That they did not fall is only attributable to the grace of God. They "were like a firebrand snatched from a blaze." (vs. 11) Their survival was only by God pulling them out of the fire and extinguishing them. If not for this they would have become like Sodom and Gomorrah. We would like to report that the people were shaken to the core by their close encounter with total destruction and as a result they repented. But of course they didn't. So again comes the declaration, "Yet you have not returned to Me." (vs. 11)

God's great patience and enduring loving kindness had finally and completely run through. So God moved to make an end of them by running them through the same type of judgments again, but this time not pulling back at the end. Now they are warned "Because I will do this to you, Prepare to meet your God, O Israel." (vs. 12)

Since stubbornness embedded deep in the heart is not unique to them, (Rev. 9:20,21; 16:9) it might do us well to consider if God still works with nations in this way today to bring them to repentance. We have every reason to believe that He does. Since we know that even the saints are chastened by God, (Heb. 12:4-7) why would we think that the sinners are exempt? (1 Pet. 4:17,18) Does this mean that every disaster or misfortune is a sign from God directed at the victim? No, Luke 13:1-5 refutes that idea. We know the cause of these things in ancient Israel because a prophet explained them. We don't have that kind of specific instruction today. But established for us is the principle of how God deals with sinful people. Thus, every incident can be instructive and consideration of the fact that God might be acting in this way cannot be dismissed out of hand.

These type of actions by God are rather blunt instruments to be sure. Disasters cannot convey the details (what sin, who sinned, when the sin was, etc.) but they can bring out one great truth - that God is not well pleased. Such a realization would then lead right thinking people to the book of God for specific answers.

But when such chastisements come on others, people automatically say (at least to themselves), "I wonder what they did?" But they never seem to apply the same logic to themselves and ask, "What might I have done?" Despite the continual exhortations of the scripture to examine ourselves, we still much prefer to examine others. This leads to spiritual blindness - the overlooking of many important lessons. Let us stop before we sink to the level of ancient Israel.

Let us again consider the nature and power of God, His hatred of sin and our own sin. Then ask, "What is it that I have ignored and 'Yet have not returned' to the Lord?"

By Jay Horsley
From Expository Files 8.3; March 2001