As a parent, there is a word I have found myself using and explaining quite often with my kids. And honestly, it isn’t one I would have expected. It is the idea of consequences. I can hear my wife and me telling our kids, for what feels like the thousandth time, that the consequences we are imposing are to help them grasp the reality that decisions have natural consequences, some good and some bad. We hope to help them see how God has designed the world, to walk according to His good design, and experience the fruit of that way of life in both the highs and lows. But when we get out of step with how God has designed the world, it only brings pain.
The Bible reveals a God who is gracious and forgiving and who also justly gives consequences out of His perfect wisdom (Exodus 34:6–7). His grace continues to outlast the consequences imposed on the guilty. God does not discipline His people to pay them back, but rather to redeem—to win them back. This is why Scripture says He is “slow to anger and abounding in faithful love” (v.6).
The people of God in the days of Amos had wandered from God in thought, word, and deed. The injustice they continued to perpetrate ran so deeply in their hearts and way of life that even after God patiently and repeatedly called them to repentance, exile—the loss of covenant blessings—would come. They would lose their land and autonomy, but most tragically, they would lose His protective and transforming presence among them in their land.
“…I will send a famine through the land:
not a famine of bread or a thirst for water,
but of hearing the words of the LORD.”
Throughout the Bible, God commands His people to be like Him in caring for those suffering in various ways. Because God Himself does this, so should those who belong to Him. When God took on flesh in the person of Jesus, He pointed to consequences of an ultimate nature for those who will not look after those suffering. In Matthew 25:31–46, Jesus so closely identifies with suffering people that He says to either care for or neglect them is to do the same for Him.
What is the condition of our heart toward those who are suffering? Have we considered how our love for others in this way affects our sensitivity to God’s voice? Because God is always gracious, it is never too late for HIm to turn our hearts back to Him and toward those he loves.