Punishment for Unrighteousness
Open Your Bible
Amos 3:1-15, Isaiah 59:12-21, Titus 3:1-11
BY Aurora Eagen
I tend to binge TV shows. It’s a problem I have. Amongst other reasons, one factor that drives me to push play on the next and next and next episode is that I hate being in the middle of a story. The middle of a story can be heavy and hopeless, full of heartbreak and without answers.
Yet even while tragedies are unfolding, they can provide encouragement for those who have been oppressed—that justice will come to fruition.
For the people of Amos’s day, this insight must have been a breath of fresh air after a long dark season. It was a moment where someone saw what was happening, not just in their own sphere, but on multiple planes of reality.
It is easy for us, as it was for the ancients, to live in a closed world: to be concerned only by what our eyes can see, living by our self-made plans, tending to matters that we deem important.
For the politically-minded citizens of Israel, this moment seemed like their chance to rid themselves of Assyria by aligning themselves with new neighboring allies. Only hindsight shows us how disastrous this would be for them. They were in the middle of their story. And things often look very different in the middle.
Without a slow, steady partnering with the God of all stories, we fall into the same trap. We take what little we can see and understand and interpret the world as if that is all there is. But context can change everything. Living only by our own limited perspectives, we too become “incapable of doing right” (Amos 3:10). And at the end of that road we, like ancient Israel, bring disaster upon ourselves.
Sometimes, disaster is the only wake-up call that will suffice. Sometimes we are so set on our own version of the world, ignoring warning after warning, that it takes God allowing us to reach the bitter end of the road we laid brick by brick. Sometimes only breaking us will make us whole again.
Thankfully, God is a redeemer and restorer as well as a distraught watchman. In His view of the story, the breaking may be part of the mending process. He is so patient—loving perpetrators and victims alike, desiring their wholeness and healing—allowing so much time to turn back. When waiting for justice, it often seems to feel relentlessly delayed. But we must remember: we are in the middle of the story. He is being patient with others, just as he is patient with us. The storm will come with all its terror and might.
After, the world—though broken—will have been washed clean. And then, the master craftsman will tenderly collect the remnants to again (and again and again) begin building something beautiful, whole, and stronger than before.