Chapter 4: One huge theme I notice in this chapter is decidedly God's sovereignty and how He takes responsibility for good as well as bad happenings (is the blog secretary paying attention?). Check out the following:
I brought hunger to every city and famine to every town. (vs. 6)
I kept the rain from falling... I sent rain on one town but withheld it from another. (vs. 7)
I struck your farms and vineyards with blight and mildew. (vs. 9)
I sent plagues on you like the plagues I sent on Egypt long ago. I killed your young men in war and led all your horses away. (vs. 10)
I destroyed some of your cities... (vs. 11)
4:12 Therefore, I will bring upon you all the disasters I have announced. Prepare to meet your God in judgment, you people of Israel! All of the above things God did to Israel, He did in order to get their attention so they would return, but it didn't happen. People certainly are stubborn! So this verse shows the result.
4:13 For the Lord is the one who shaped the mountains, stirs up the winds, and reveals his thoughts to mankind. It's hard to understand how we all have so many viewpoint angles on God, but I personally believe that His revelation process to each person is in direct proportion to the surrender to His will and love-motivated obedience. He is so multi-faceted on so many levels, that often times one person's revelation about Him on one level will be much deeper and on more levels to another.
5:4 Now this is what the Lord says to the family of Israel: "Come back to me and live!" This is always the cry of His heart!
5:8 It is the Lord who created the stars, the Pleiades and Orion. He turns darkness into morning and day into night. He draws up water from the oceans and pours it down as rain on the land. The Lord is his name! In many circles today, we have tried to dismiss God's hand in nature, but I see evidence throughout the Bible that God fully takes responsibility for all happenings in His nature/creation. However, I still believe that He always uses say disasters to try to show mercy to people (draw them to Himself so they will repent and He can heal them) and never for meaningless punishment or vindictiveness.
5:10-13 We see the behaviors of certain believers that God despises: they hate honest judges, they despise people who tell the truth, the trample the poor and steal from them through taxes and unfair rents, they oppress good people by taking bribes and depriving the poor of justice in courts.
Three times the Lord says, "Come back to Me and live! Leave evil behind and I will help you!" (5:4, 5:6, 5:14)
5:18, 20 What sorrow awaits you who say, "If only the day of the Lord were here!" You have no idea what you are wishing for. That day will bring darkness, not light. Yes, the day of the Lord will be dark and hopeless, without a ray of joy or hope. This verse and the following sound like people who wish for the day of the Lord will be sorry and even fall under its tribulation. However, if you read this more carefully, it is only saying that those who are hypocrites (believers who practice falsehood) and who love evil rather than righteousness who are wishing for the day of the Lord that will fall under the judgments of it. This is not warning true believers and overcomers. Check out verse 21-24 (and the previous verses):
5:21-24 I hate all your show and pretense—the hypocrisy of your religious festivals and solemn assemblies. I will not accept your burnt offerings and grain offerings. I won't even notice all your choice peace offerings. Away with your noisy hymns of praise! I will not listen to the music of your harps. Instead, I want to see a mighty flood of justice, an endless river of righteous living.
5:25-26 Was it to me you were bringing sacrifices and offerings during the forty years in the wilderness, Israel? No, you served your pagan gods... I have learned recently that the 3 Feasts (Passover, Pentecost, Tabernacles) are a part of our personal journey to immortality and tabernacling with God, and in this verse I see a relationship (I think I listed this recently but bears mentioning again). Passover is when we put faith in Jesus to receive life out of the bondage and death of Egypt (a free gift). Pentecost is the journey from Egypt to the Promised Land. It is a journey of sanctification of faith displayed by works of obedience to the Spirit's leading in our lives. It is the "Torah" written on our hearts, and our response to that (as the Israelites received the Torah at Mt. Sinai on their way to the PL and were expected to obey. Theirs was the written law on stone tablets, ours is the New Covenant of the Torah written on our hearts). The journey of Pentecost is necessary for receiving the PL, or the Tabernacles stage (being filled to the fullness of God, for the overcomers will happen at the first resurrection). No one can short cut this stage. Here God is telling the people that they did not fulfill Pentecost in the wilderness by being faithful. They served foreign gods. Therefore, they did not enter the PL at the first go around (first resurrection). We all have our "trek trough the wilderness" to go through on the way to the PL. The question is...will it be a Pentecost for us? Will we be faithful with the lessons, the tests, the obedience and following God wholeheartedly out of love? Or will we endure the wilderness only to be turned back for another 40?
The dead horse gets another beating...Amos brought it up first. Don't blame me! But...is this, could this be the Church in the last days? James 5 seems to agree!
6:4-7 (selected) How terrible for you who sprawl on ivory beds and lounge on your couches, eating the meat of tender lambs from the flock and of choice calves fattened in the stall. You drink wine by the bowlful and perfume yourselves with fragrant lotions. You care nothing about the ruin of your nation. Therefore, you will be the first to be led away as captives. Suddenly, all your parties will end.
130:7 O Israel, hope in the LORD; for with the LORD there is lovingkindness, And with Him is abundant redemption. And He will redeem Israel from all his iniquities. Not too many limitations mentioned here.