“YET YOU HAVE NOT RETURNED TO ME, SAYS THE LORD”

In the days of the prophet Amos, God’s people who lived in the Northern Kingdom called “Israel” had strayed from the Lord. God, of course, wanted to see the Israelites change their course of action.

In Amos 4:6-12, we read a revealing record about God’s efforts to get His people straightened out. Alas, despite all that God had done for Israel in the past and despite all that He did to get the people’s attention by disciplining them in the days of Amos, like a stubborn cow, Israel refused to submit to Jehovah. In my Bible, the printed heading over this section of Scripture reads “Israel Did Not Accept Correction.” How sad.

Israel corrupted itself. As God’s messenger, Amos pointed out Israel’s sinful choices. The Israelites had sold the righteous (Amos 2:6), served idols (2:8), mistreated the poor (4:1), and, in general, failed to practice justice and righteousness (5:24). God’s people should have been a people who loved Him and demonstrated love for their fellow man. In Amos’ time, Israelites of the Northern Kingdom did neither.

Israel needed help. She had chosen a path of disaster. If she refused to turn from it, destruction was inevitable. All the excuses and finger-pointing in the world could not change this truth: if Israel went down, she would have no one to blame but herself. Like we said, Israel needed help. Jehovah is a “very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1), and the Israelites had access to the Great Helper, but they refused to humble themselves and come to Him on His terms.

Israel needed to be disciplined. Discipline involves training and education to bring about self- discipline and proper conduct. Israel had received that form of discipline through the law of Moses and messages from God’s prophets. As the Lord showed through Amos, Israel needed another level of discipline: she needed to be punished.

In this instance, what measures had God taken to bring about a reform in Israel’s conduct? He withheld blessings and touched their lives in ways that caused them to be uncomfortable. Specifically, the Lord gave Israel cleanness of teeth and lack of bread (Amos 4:6), He withheld rain (4:7,8), He sent blight and mildew (4:9), He sent locusts to devour their crops (4:9), He sent a plague (4:10), young men and horses lost their lives (4:10), and He overthrew some of them as He had Sodom and Gomorrah (4:11).

Surely Jehovah’s use of such strong measures would cause His people to humble themselves, repent, and rush to Him for security! In fact, how did Israel respond to God’s discipline? God Himself told them, “Yet you have not returned to Me.” We read those words in Amos 4:6, then again in verse eight, verse nine, verse ten, and verse eleven. God withheld blessings, but Israel refused to return. God used discipline that brought discomfort to their lives, yet they still refused to repent and come back to Him.

Israel, you should never doubt God’s love for you. It is because He cares about you that He wants what is best for you, and that is why He disciplines you. Never forget: “For whom the LORD loves, He corrects, just as a father the son in whom he delights” (Proverbs 3:12). God’s love refused to “just leave Israel alone.” Jesus told the lukewarm Laodiceans, “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent” (Revelation 3:19).

When we see in Amos 4 that Israel failed to make the change in her heart and behavior which God longed to see, a person might be tempted to conclude that God’s disciplinary action with Israel was a wasted effort and did not do any good. Wrong, wrong, wrong! Regardless of how Israel would respond to God’s corrective measures, disciplining His people was the right thing to do. Read that again: disciplining His people was the right thing to do. Disciplining His children is part of God’s perfect nature.

Parents, discipline your kids. Even if you do not see the visible results that you and the Lord want to see in your kids’ lives when you practice discipline, discipline them anyway. It is not a wasted effort. It is the right thing to do. Parents who love their kids discipline them. God says so (Proverbs 13:24).

Church leaders, discipline members of the congregation who refuse to walk in God’s truth. Even if you do not see the visible results that you and the Lord want to see in the members’ lives, discipline them anyway. It is not a wasted effort. It is the right thing to do. God says so (1 Thessalonians 5:14; 2 Thessalonians 3:14,15). Church leaders, who must give account for the souls under their watch (Hebrews 13:17), are responsible for leading the church to practice love-motivated discipline on unruly members. “But does it ever do any good?” That question frustrates me. Brethren, it is always right and good to do what God says, regardless of the outcome (Deuteronomy 6:18). Whether or not a rebellious person repents and returns to his Lord has nothing to do with our duty to such an out-of-line saint.

Okay, so God disciplined Israel and Israel refused to return to Him (Amos 4:6-11). What next? What should Israel expect? “Therefore thus will I do to you, O Israel; Because I will do this to you, Prepare to meet your God, O Israel” (Amos 4:12). Those who reject God will face His judgment. Are we listening?

— Roger D. Campbell

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