You Did Not Return

        “‘I gave you cleanness of teeth in all your cities, and lack of bread in all your places […] I also withheld the rain from you […] I struck you with blight and mildew […] I sent among you a pestilence after the manner of Egypt […] I overthrew some of you […]; yet you did not return to Me,’ declares the LORD.” (Amos 4:6-11)

            The prophet Amos had a difficult job. Like all the other prophets, he was sent to warn his people of God’s impending wrath, urging them to repent and go back to obeying God with a whole heart. But Amos’ audience was stubborn. They trusted in their own righteousness, convinced that they were doing all they needed to do. One of the priests even ordered Amos to stop prophesying in Israel. God was sending them all kinds of warnings, but they simply would not listen. Their hearts were hardened to the messages of their God.

            For years, God had been calling to the people of Israel, urging them to return to Him. He had sent disaster after disaster upon them, hoping that their desperation would convince them to turn to Him for help. But nothing worked. Even when Amos connected the dots for the people, showing them how each of these disasters had been part of God’s judgement, they would not give up their sinful ways. They were in trouble, but they wouldn’t see it. Offering sacrifices was surely enough to appease God’s wrath. And so, as they continued to live in their religious apathy, they waded further and further into judgement.

            God’s tactics haven’t changed over the years. When He wants to get people’s attention, He still uses things like famine, disease, and war to bring normal life to a halt. In these times, He is calling out to the world, reminding them of Who He is, His power and glory and justice. He wants to show everyone His mercy, which He offers freely to all who come to Him. But so often, the world turns a deaf ear to God’s calls. They turn to everything except Him in an attempt to make life better. Eventually, God will do what He warned: He will execute the judgement He has prepared. And in that day, the fault will be entirely our own. God told us what would happen, and we refused to listen. Israel’s punishment was exile; the God Who judged them is the same God Who judges us.

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