You Did Not Return

“I gave you cleanness of teeth in all your cities,
    and lack of bread in all your places,
yet you did not return to me,”
declares the Lord.
“I also withheld the rain from you
    when there were yet three months to the harvest;
I would send rain on one city,
    and send no rain on another city;
one field would have rain,
    and the field on which it did not rain would wither;
so two or three cities would wander to another city
    to drink water, and would not be satisfied;
yet you did not return to me,”
declares the Lord.
“I struck you with blight and mildew;
    your many gardens and your vineyards,
    your fig trees and your olive trees the locust devoured;
yet you did not return to me,”
declares the Lord.
10 “I sent among you a pestilence after the manner of Egypt;
    I killed your young men with the sword,
and carried away your horses,
    and I made the stench of your camp go up into your nostrils;
yet you did not return to me,”
declares the Lord.
11 “I overthrew some of you,
    as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah,
    and you were as a brand plucked out of the burning;
yet you did not return to me,”
declares the Lord.
12 “Therefore thus I will do to you, O Israel;
    because I will do this to you,
    prepare to meet your God, O Israel!”
13 For behold, he who forms the mountains and creates the wind,
    and declares to man what is his thought,
who makes the morning darkness,
    and treads on the heights of the earth—
    the Lord, the God of hosts, is his name!

Amos 4:6-13
In the passage above, we find the prophet Amos in the midst of delivering his “Oracle of Doom” to the Northern Kingdom of Israel around the middle of the 8th Century B.C. As we are told in the opening of the book, Amos was a shepherd. Later in the book, we hear that he was no “prophet, nor a prophet’s son”, but “a herdsman and a dresser of sycamore figs.” Amos 7:14 He was no professional orator, nor did he come from a line of “professional prophets.” Despite his lack of credentials, the Lord called Amos to prophesy, even in the face of the false prophets who told him not to do so. His obedience was to the Lord, regardless of the opposition.

In these verses from his prophecy, we read of five distinct opportunities that the LORD gave Israel to repent, yet they did not do so. First, we see that He withheld food from them, as indicated by clean teeth and lack of bread. Second, we read that God withheld rain, particularly three months prior to harvest, a time when rain would’ve been most needed in order to have a quality harvest. Here, in this longer refrain, however we also see God extending His mercy by allowing rain in one city, but withholding it from another, yet again Israel sought no opportunity to return to their God. Third, we see that God sent a blight, mildew, and locust for the purpose of destroying those gardens and vineyards that were producing. Whereas the second “plague” was to prevent a quality harvest, this one destroys those agricultures that were producing, leaving them with nothing in the present and nothing to look forward to in the future. Fourth, we find that God sent infectious disease and war, yet once again Israel did not repent and return. Fifth, and finally, we see that God brought a partial overthrow of Israel and uses Sodom and Gomorrah as the comparison. Yet again we see God’s mercy on display in preserving a remnant of them. However, again Israel sought no repentance and return to God.

Israel (and Judah) is THE Scriptural example that God used to reveal how He orders and rules His creation, particularly and perhaps especially, His own people. Often, the prophets of God focus on the coming judgments for Israel/Judah and then give oracles of judgment to surrounding nations. However, in Amos, the focus seems to stay upon the people of God. Through what might have been dismissed as natural disasters or consequences of life, God was not arbitrarily nor purposelessly allowing these events to take place. They were ordained by Him for the purpose of bringing repentance, particularly in Israel.

Often it’s easy to look back on Israel, or Adam, or any of the other examples given us in Scripture and resolve that we would’ve responded differently had we been in the same situation. The best description of this mentality is pride, simply overconfidence in oneself and a failure to recognize the depravity of one’s own heart. The reality is that God often, down to this very day, uses “natural” events to communicate His purposes, which are often to bring about repentance and reform.

Earlier this year, I wrote several posts attempting to examine God’s providential dealings through the pandemic and concluded that while we may not know the true means or the intended ends, we can rightly view it as a call to repentance and return to God, which is usually accompanied by reform of some kind. Now, almost nine months after those original posts we find our year marred by COVID-19 and it’s related responses of lockdowns, mandates, and financial losses, followed by race riots, autonomous zones, talk of “Global Resets”, heightened political divisions (and for that matter among professing Christians as well) which are culminating in major election questions and a predictable end of more chaos. Any one of these alone might be found as an opportunity for God’s people to repent, yet alone collectively. Unfortunately, the response from evangelicalism and the majority of Christians in the U.S. to repent does not seem to be called for. Instead, its more of the status quo – a desire to return to normal and settle back into the routines and rhythms of life.

In my own area, I have repeatedly called for church elders I know to repent and lead their people in repentance, which has been met with pushback, more status quo, and statements denying that God is in any way pronouncing judgment through recent events. I am not a prophet nor the son of a prophet but I can guarantee there will not be a return to normal. Given all that has gone on and the response, or lack of responses that have taken place, it is very difficult not to see us falling into the pattern that Amos called out in his prophecy, that of ignoring the warnings of God’s judgments, failing to repent and return to Him, and ushering in a greater, more painful discipline.

About the author

Christian saved by grace through faith.

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