“I gave you empty stomachs in every city and lack of bread in every town, yet you have not returned to me,” declares the Lord (4:6 NIV).
Last time, we saw that the women of Israel had sinned in wayward lust, in oppressing the poor, and in by being enslaved to alcohol. Next, the prophet Amos pointed out other sins of all the people.
They sinned in their acts of worship (4:4-5). Probably there is no wrong indicated by “leaven” (cf. Leviticus 7:13). By the way, beware of simplistic interpretation that assumes that every occurrence of a symbol or figure of speech must mean the same thing in every context, as this example illustrates. The problem of Israel was their religious pride. They were involved in religious rituals and gloried in them. Contrast Galatians 6:14.
Two actions that demonstrated the waywardness of the people. Bethel, which was the place of “Jacob’s ladder”, but which also had become the place of one of Jeroboam’s golden calves, was their favorite place of religious perversity. Gilgal, which was the place of Israel’s first camp in the Promised Land (cf. Ho 9:15), had become another place of rebellion against the Lord. Past experiences in special places cannot provide grace. God deals with us in the present tense. Is he changing you now?
They sinned in spite of corrective judgments (4:6-11). Notice the recurring refrain or chorus: “yet you have not returned to me”. It is used five times. We might expect judgments to change people. We ought to respond positively to correction, but often we do not. Grace changes people, and not harsh experiences.
The judgments recorded here are just what God said he would do if Israel sinned and departed from him. This is in agreement with the principle asserted in 3:7. Let’s look at these judgments in the light of God’s previously announced threat of judgment (Deuteronomy 28:15ff).
- Empty stomachs – Deuteronomy 28:53; 2 Kings 8:1
- Withheld rain – Deuteronomy 11:17; 28:23; 2 Chronicles 7:13
- Blight and mildew – Deuteronomy 28:22
- Locusts – Deuteronomy 28:38, 42; 2 Chronicles 7:13
- Plagues – Deuteronomy 28:22,27-28,35,59-61; 2 Chronicles 7:13
Here are important truths to put to our hearts:
- What God says, God does. Do not put God to the test.
- We should look for God’s hand in everyday events. In daily events we should seek God and ask, “Is there something I should be learning?”
- Every believer is a “snatched one” (4:11; cf. Zechariah 3:2). It is important to keep this in mind to prevent spiritual pride. We are not here because we are better than others, but only because of God’s free and sovereign grace (1 Corinthians 4:7; 15:10).
The verdict announced to them because of their sin (4:12-13).
Israel must face God. There would be no escape (4:12). We must listen to God’s warnings while there is hope (Proverbs 29:1; Isaiah 55:6-7). Compare the situation in Exodus 19:15-16, where they were told to prepare to receive God’s law.
Israel must have a proper concept about the God they would face (4:13). They needed to consider God from what he does. The Lord is Creator, Revealer, and Preserver. They must turn immediately to God in repentance and faith. And they must consider God properly from his name. It proclaims his ability to do what he says. He is the Lord God Almighty. We must properly revere God’s name. It reveals all that he is. He is able to speak and to do.
The serious situation of Israel was that they would not return to the Lord, in spite of all that he had done to correct them. They would not stop and think. We should. God gave Israel harsh judgments, but they refused to repent. Has God done anything like that in our days. What about the Covid-19 pandemic? Yet people have refused to repent and to ask the Sovereign God for mercy. This has been a strong warning from God to whom we must give account. Lord God, give us grace to learn from what you are now doing in our world, so that we will turn toward you!
Grace and peace,