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In this blog, there will be a variety of material: thoughts on Bible books, book reviews, historical characters, aspects of Scottish church history and other things.

Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Why does God send trouble? (Amos 4:4-13)

What would you say if you heard sarcasm in a sermon? The people of Israel heard Amos the prophet addressing them in a sarcastic manner when he urged them to go to Bethel and Gilgal and sin there (4:4-5). Those were the locations where false worship took place. More seriously, it was not only the prophet who was using sarcasm. In reality, he was only passing on the message God had given him to say. Surely it was very serious when the Lord spoke in such a manner to his people.

The Lord reminds the Israelites that they have not listened to his warnings in providence. He had sent famines (v. 6), droughts (vv. 7-8), destroyed crops (v. 9), allowed defeat in war (v. 10), and arranged sudden calamities (v. 11 -- as was the case when he destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah). Although the Israelites had gone through these devastating experiences, they had not returned to the Lord in repentance. One of those judgements should have been sufficient! Yet all of them had no effect on the Israelites. They were both blind and deaf to what was happening in God's providence.

Could things get worse? They were about to because God himself was going to judge them. He summons them to meet with him. Normally they would have been summoned to worship him, but now they are being summoned for a different reason. And when they meet with him they will experience the awesomeness of his power. After all, he is the One who controls creation (vv. 12-13). This was fulfilled when he arranged for them to be taken into exile.

This passage leads us to consider why God allows troubles to come. While we can never pronounce the reason for a particular situation, the passage reminds us that sometimes God sends trouble in order for his people to turn away from a sinful path. Of course, difficulties also come into the lives of those who are faithful to him. So wisdom is needed to discern why they are allowed by God. After all, we have to be mindful of the fact that we should be preparing for meeting with God one day, and heeding providence is part of that preparation.

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