“It’s the economy, stupid.” “Americans vote their pocketbooks.” These and similar adages give us a glimpse into the American psyche: Americans have become drunk on wealth and the comfort and convenience it affords. Character and principle have long since ceased to truly guide our national behavior having been replaced by the expediency of wealth enhancement. We have become largely a nation of idolaters, bowing at the altar of the dollar, giving obeisance to the buck. How gracious the Lord is, then, to show our god to be a false god, one that cannot save itself, much less those who trust in it. Dagon has fallen down before the Ark of the Covenant. And like the Philistines of old, we have propped him up again, only to have him fall again, breaking off head and hands till “only the stump of Dagon was left to him” (I Sam. 5:4), God thus revealing the impotence of their idol and ours.
Whether the economy will recover or not, I neither know nor (in one sense) care. The fact remains that in smiting our economy God has performed a gracious act. He has revealed how false is the hope fixed upon temporal gain, how insecure is the person whose faith is placed in earthly wealth. God sent His prophet Amos to the Northern Kingdom to warn them of impending doom because of their steadfast rebellion against Him. Through Amos, the Lord reminds them of how many times and in how many ways He had touched their temporal affairs with the gracious desire that they would be turned from their idolatry back to Him. Among other things He has done, God declares: “I have given you cleanness of teeth . . . and want of bread [hunger and famine]”; “I have withholden the rain from you [drought]”; “I have smitten you with blasting and mildew [flooding, excessive moisture]”; “I have sent among you the pestilence [plagues] after the manner of Egypt”; “your young men have I slain with the sword [war]”; “I have overthrown some of you, as God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah” (Amos 4:6-11). After each of these recitations, God inserts this comment: “Yet have ye not returned unto me” (vv. 6, 8, 9, 10, 11). In the New Testament, we read of a similar work. To the apostate church in Thyatira, the Lord commented: “I gave her space to repent” (Rev. 2:21).
Whether we look at the state of our economy, or the spread of new infections and diseases or the reviving of old ones, or the spread of violence in every segment of society, we are seeing the evidence of the hand of God’s blessing being withdrawn. We have ceased to hear His gracious message through His Word, so now He is speaking to us through the voice of our circumstances, touching every area of our lives, provoking us to examine our values, giving us “space to repent,” pleading with us using the persuasive voice of troubles to turn us from our idols to serve the living God.
I am not a prophet, so what anyone else will do, I can not predict. But those of us who know the Lord should be provoked, first, to examine our own lives—what we are living for, what our confidence rests in—and, second, to point those around us to the One true God and Savior. For God’s message to those who persisted in their rebellion in Amos’s day was: “prepare to meet thy God” (4:12); and to Thyatira He warned: “I will cast her . . . into great tribulation . . . . And I will kill her children with death” (Rev. 2:23). These times of shaking are the gracious proddings of the Lord. He would provoke us to “lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and . . . run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith” (Heb. 12:1b, 2a). We must trust the Lord, thank Him for His gracious work, examine our own lives, and point others to His saving grace.
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