Shortage of labour and goods, supply chain disruption, inflation, rising energy costs as well as public health concerns. On both sides of the Atlantic and around the world there are multiple crises, one difficulty following another and frequently colliding. After decades of comparatively smooth globalisation and prosperity it may be that we are entering a period where disruption is the new normal. The political mantra of building back better is proving still more challenging. Others will have their views on geopolitics and other issues, but we need to take a spiritual perspective. Why are we in the midst of this? What can we learn?
Scripture tells us that when nations abuse their prosperity to exclude the voice of God, He will gain their attention in ways they cannot avoid. And when they refuse to seek Him in their troubles, they can only expect more. It is clear that as nations we have not been humbled by the events of God’s providence of the past two years, we have not heeded God’s voice but continued to reject Him yet further. We are only deepening our rebellion against Him. This is how it was with Israel and other nations. In Amos 5:18-20 we have such a context. Israel would not be allured by gracious offers nor would they be terrified with threatenings to seek the Lord. They were secure, trusting in various false pretences and presuming all would be well. The Lord shows these false confidences would not provide security for them and warns them so that they might be moved to repent.
He speaks to those who desire the day of the Lord, in other words they were scornful of God’s threatened punishments. They were such atheists that they did not acknowledge God or a providence, nor would they believe anything of approaching judgment. They were in effect saying scoffingly of divine judgment, “bring it on.” Some perhaps were also presumptuously thinking that God had not finished with them yet, He still had a purpose for them and favour towards them. They could not therefore believe that any such day would come as the prophet threatened, or that if it did it would be as dreadful for them as the prophets warned. They therefore with scorn desired to see that day they were so often threatened with (see Isaiah 5:19; Jeremiah 17:15; Ezekiel 12:22; 2 Peter 3:3-4). The Lord declares that this very attitude was an evidence of them being punished and that more would yet come. They were giving little consideration to what they were doing, that day would not only come but it would be full of perplexities and miseries, without any light or comfort (verse 18).
Many calamities would follow one after another, so that any who escaped one would fall in another (verse 19). It would be like someone running from a lion who then encountered a bear and finding refuge in a house recovering his breath leaned his hand on the wall and a serpent bit him. When God would deal with the nation in His justice it would certainly be a time of great misery, without any light of counsel or comfort (verse 20). We do not need to be apocalyptic and make rash predictions to learn from the way that God deals with nations so that we may watch and pray with faith and repentance. Indeed, it is for the church to show the example of humble and penitent response to the Lord’s providence. How can we expect the world to do what we ourselves are unwilling to do? In the following updated extract, George Hutcheson helps us to draw many such lessons from Amos 5:18-20.
1. Cascading Crises Come When We Ignore God’s Word
When the word is most clearly preached and threatenings are most terrible, there will still some be found so atheistic as not to credit them at all, and so presumptuous, as not to submit to the verdict of the word, but they will comfort themselves, expecting that God will do otherwise then it faith; for, so is here imported.
2. Cascading Crises Come When We Scorn God’s Warnings
It is no wonder to see such atheists and presumptuous sinners go so far as not only to harbour such thoughts but also to sit down in the seat of the scornful and openly deride the word. Here they desire the day of the Lord (or the day of vengeance in which He will prove Himself to be the Lord) with insolent and godless scorn. They desire to see that day and that the prophets would make their words good, which they expect will never happen. Although many who harbour such thoughts may be unwilling to make them known, God is provoked to expose them. And where the word effectually preached, does not prevail, corruption will be irritated by it to vent itself more openly.
Such atheistic and presumptuous attitudes are in themselves a heavy judgment and portend further judgments; there is a woe in all the calamities that come on them. Hedonistic and presumptuous atheists little consider what they are doing or their danger, when they scorn threatenings and desire to see them accomplished. And if their consciences were seriously pressed they would tell them it is so. Therefore He asks them in effect what can you expect in such a day? What do you gain by such a scornful attitude that you should be so bent on it? Their consciences (if awake) could tell them that such a day was rather to be avoided then desired and that they could reap nothing by such atheistic scorn. It produced no true good in them nor would it prevent that day, rather it would hasten it and make it more bitter and grievous. And therefore, they ought to consider better and avoid it.
3. Cascading Crises Should Arouse Deep Concern
Even the trials of God’s people may produce much humbling through lack of light or felt comfort so that they may purge dross. Judgments inflicted on a people for sin will be full of perplexity and discomfort being accompanied with real sense of God’s withdrawing, guilt of conscience and other spiritual judgments. Presumptuous and secure atheists may especially expect a strong warning and that calamities will be made dreadful to them. It is especially to them as well as all others that the day of the Lord is darkness and not light, that is, full of misery and perplexity, leaving them void of counsel and comfort.
4. Cascading Crises Cannot Be Avoided When God is Rejected
When God appears in anger against an atheistic and incorrigible people, they may expect to be involved in a heap of miseries on all sides. It will not be just one, but many evils, either together or following one after another, or both. Therefore, the comparison is used of a man surrounded on all hands with lions, bears and serpents (v19).
There is not evading judgments when God sends them. The sinner that avoids one may expect to meet with another and he may expect a judgment where he thinks himself most secure. It is as if a man fled from a lion, and a bear met him, or went into the house, and leant his hand on the wall (expecting to be upheld) and a serpent bit him, or, an unexpected affliction came on him (see Isaiah 24:17-18).
5. Cascading Crises Point to God’s Ultimate Judgment
The solemnity of a day of judgments and calamities is not soon seen nor laid to heart. People should seriously consider it beforehand so that they may be stirred up to prevent it and not experience it. It is therefore taught and repeated again that the day of the Lord will be darkness and not light (v20).
6. Cascading Crises Should Awaken Conscience
The Lord needs to do no more than prove the truth of what His word says so that men’s own consciences become a witness against their atheism and presumption. It will happen however much for the present they lull them asleep and sear them with a hot iron. Therefore, He presses the matter on their own consciences (shall not the day of the Lord be darkness?) since they might and in due time would speak for him.
7. Cascading Crises Are Not Without Comfort for God’s People
The truly godly will still have a measure of some light in trouble (though sometimes trials hide it from them, see Isaiah 50:10) and may sometimes experience some measure of what is promised to them (Psalm 112:4). They may certainly expect that there will be a clear and comfortable release from their troubles (Micah 7:8). Yet it is terrible to think how dreadful a day of vengeance will be to the wicked, how grievous and perplexing their miseries will be, and how destitute they will be either of present comfort, or of any hope of it for the future: Therefore is it added for explanation, “even very dark and no brightness in it.”
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