Tuesday, October 4, 2011

discipline & judgment

Thus says the LORD: "For three transgressions of Judah, and for four, I will not revoke the punishment, because they have rejected the law of the LORD, and have not kept his statutes, but their lies have led them astray, those after which their fathers walked. So I will send a fire upon Judah, and it shall devour the strongholds of Jerusalem."
Amos 2:4-5

At this point all the oracles of judgment in the book of Amos have focused on the historic enemies of the Jews. It is quite possible a certain smugness set in with the original audience of these prophecies. That is, until the same prophetic formula ("...for the three transgressions... and for four, I will not revoke the punishment) was directed at Israel and Judah. Then God's judgment got very serious. This was not a glib message with commercial vitality: "Three Ways to Find Success". No, it was a stern reminder of how God deals with unrepentant sin.

The sin of Judah that God points out is one of neglect and deliberate disobedience. They neglected the scriptures, in particular the law of God. God had given His Word to guide the nation. And they had let it fall to the ground. Instead, the leaders of Judah told lies, and the nation followed. And just like their forefathers, they had begun to practice idolatry. Abandoing God's truth led to disobedience to God's commands. And God promised fiery judgment, starting with the leadership in Jerusalem.

The power behind these indictments is the reality of judgment. Scripture will go on elsewhere to describe the eventual fall of Jerusalem. Eventually the total abandonment of the law of God would lead to judgment that resulted in the nation being led away captive to Babylon. There, in the discipline of their God, the Jews would return to loving God and obeying Him. A new respect for His law would re-emerge.

Although I take no joy in contemplating God's judgment on His people, I do take care to note that His justice is bound to His holiness. he does not take retributive vengeance. He gives lovely, holy discipline. This is shown in the manner in which He revealed this discipline to His people. The oracles of Amos are a demonstration of the merciful purposes in God's discipline. The Jews knew that God was going to do this. He loved them enough to warn them of the consequences of their sin and the nature of His disciplining and refining judgment.

- Prepare your minds for action.
1 Peter 1:13

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