Four Uses of Affliction in God’s People

volume 18, number 46, November 14, 2019

“A lion has roared! Who will not fear? The Lord God has spoken! Who can but prophesy?” -Amos 3:8

Our nation is experiencing an almost unprecedented economic boom. The November 1 report from the Labor Department shows that our economy added 128,000 jobs in October, a figure which would have been higher had it not been for the General Motors strike which reduced the employment rolls by nearly 50,000 people for the month. Consequently both the S&P 500 and Nasdaq reached record highs on November 1. The unemployment level for African Americans, Hispanics, and women is the lowest in fifty years, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average, which was at 19,805 in January, 2017 closed on November 1 at 27,347, a twenty-seven percent increase in less than three years. On top of these remarkable economic figures, our nation has regained our unmatched military superiority, as evidenced by the recent, skillful takedown of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and a day later, the heir apparent to ISIS leadership Abu Hassan al-Muhajir. 

We remain, however, a most wicked, vile, corrupt, and perverse nation. We are eerily similar to both Israel and Judah at the time of Amos who prophesied during the reigns of Uzziah, King of Judah, and Jeroboam II, King of Israel. In other words, Amos was preaching a message of doom and gloom upon both nations if they did not repent. Both nations were living in a time of great financial prosperity and military prowess, something akin to the Golden Age under King David some three hundred years before. And with their prosperity came a particular type of national sin. They prided themselves on their citadels, their military might. They were placing their trust in princes and chariots (Psalms 20:7,118:8, and 146:3). They also oppressed the poor and crushed the needy (Amos 5:10-12). So to gain their attention, in order to draw them back through repentance, Yahweh brought a measure of famine (Amos 4:6) and withheld the rain (Amos 4:7). He sent Amos to prophesy to all the tribes of Israel for all of them were guilty (Amos 3:1). He said that judgment was coming (Amos 3:2-8). Amos gives a series of rhetorical questions, the first several of which yield an obvious “No” answer while those following give a clear “Yes” response. So, unless they repented, judgment was coming, regardless of their military and economic hegemony.  

The word of prophecy is summed up with this, “Therefore thus I will do to you, O Israel; because I will do this to you, prepare to meet your God, O Israel,” (Amos 4:12). God was using the calamity of natural catastrophes to draw His people back to Himself.

Today is no different than that day. The Biblical precedent is clear. God brings affliction to arrest us from our deathly slumber lest we go to hell with our eyes open but totally oblivious to the terror which awaits us. 

So, how should you respond to the afflictions coming upon you and your family? First, fear God and live. Tremble at His word, take heed to the eternal life to which God is calling you. He will not allow His blood bought people to continue in sin very long. He promised the church at Ephesus that He would take the church away from their city if they did not repent (Revelation 2:5). He promised an even more violent response to the lukewarm Laodicean church. He would spit them out of His mouth (Revelation 3:16). Paul says that because he knows the fear of the Lord, he will do all he can to persuade men to repent and turn to the Lord Jesus to be saved from the wrath of God which is surely coming (2 Cor.5:10,11). Do we not see this in God’s dealings with King David after his adultery with Bathsheba and murder of Uriah, her husband? His child by the illegal union died in infancy and David’s kingdom was usurped by his wicked and spoiled son Absalom. Moses did not enter the Promised Land because instead of speaking to the rock at Meribah, he struck it twice, a sign of disobedience and unbelief (Numbers 20:9-13). We see it in the Lord’s removal of the Ark of the Covenant from Israel as they entered battle against the Philistines, as well as in the violent deaths of Hophni and Phinehas, and their father Eli. When God, through the Holy Spirit, convicts you of sin, then run immediately to Him in repentance.  

Second, if God has no problem at all afflicting His own people, what does this say about those who are outside of union with Christ? How shall they ever escape if they neglect this great salvation offered to them through the atoning death of Christ, the only Savior and hope for the world? The unbeliever is exceedingly careless about his soul. He is presumptuous. He is overly optimistic, viewing God as a kind of benevolent grandfather who spoils his grandchildren and looks the other way at their disobedience. But God is clearly angry with those who reject Him, who dismiss Him as irrelevant to their lives. He says that He is angry with the nations who are at ease (Zechariah 1:15). He says that He is a jealous and avenging God, that their steps will slip in due time, plunging them to eternal ruin (Nahum 1:2-4, Deut. 32:35, Heb.12:18-21). 

Third, if God sharply afflicts His own people, and He surely does, then unbelievers must also consider their plight. They face a certain, fearful, terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume all God’s adversaries. It is indeed a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Hebrews 10:27,31). He will, without the slightest hesitation, render to every man according to his deeds (Romans 2:6), dealing out retribution to all who do not know God, to those who do not obey the gospel of the Lord Jesus. They will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power (2 Thess.1:8,9). Indeed, if you are still unsaved at this very moment, then you and every other hell bound sinner must “Prepare to meet God,” (Amos 4:12). Remember, it is appointed for men once to die, then comes the judgment (Hebrews 9:27).

And fourth, open your eyes to the Biblical history of God’s people and surrounding nations. Has He not dealt with them justly and righteously? Jonah, in his hatred of the Ninevites, at first refused to go preach to them but was judged severely and then recanted his hardness of heart (Jonah 1:1-3). The prophet notes the boast of the wicked nations, that their molded silver has come from Tarshish, and their gold from Uphaz, the works of skillful craftsmen, but Yahweh is the true God, He is the living God and the everlasting King. The earth quakes at His wrath and the nations cannot endure His indignation (Jeremiah 10:9,10). Indeed, who can stand before the Lord in the day of His coming (Malachi 3:2)?

Affliction from the hand of God ought to make every last human being ask, “Am I ready to meet God?” Are you ready to meet Him? Are you warning others that they will stand before Him and give account of all their deeds done in the body, good or bad?  

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