Israel was in a heap of trouble with God. Things actually appeared to be chugging along OK. The temple was up and running. The religious leaders were in authority, doing their religious thing. Meanwhile, the party poopers were the true prophets of God, coming out of personal divine encounters with the living God, telling the people that things were not OK, that there was social injustice, governmental corruption, religious hypocrisy. And they were telling the people, straight from the mouth of their God Who had made a covenant with them all, that He was holding them more accountable because of that covenant, not less accountable.
Amos 3:1-6 (NKJ)
1 Hear this word that the LORD has spoken against you, O children of Israel, against the whole family which I brought up from the land of Egypt, saying:
2 “You only have I known of all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities.”
3 Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?
4 Will a lion roar in the forest, when he has no prey? Will a young lion cry out of his den, if he has caught nothing?
5 Will a bird fall into a snare on the earth, where there is no trap for it? Will a snare spring up from the earth, if it has caught nothing at all?
6 If a trumpet is blown in a city, will not the people be afraid? If there is calamity in a city, will not the LORD have done it?
Oops. Calamity created BY God? There’s some “personality attributes of God” we typically don’t want to address.(hmmm, didn’t He tell us in Malachi He never changes?)
The true prophets were unpopular, although the smoother-talking proclaimers of the unconditional goodness of God, regardless of the lifestyle of the people, were thriving (temporarily).
God had earlier, time and again, told Israel that if they refused His word, He would correct them with the blows of the rod of man (2 Sam 7:14). God had already employed other people groups to judge His people – He had brought the Midianites into the land during the times of Gideon. But folks who refuse to learn from history are condemned to relive it. And Israel has been the poster-child of that slogan of truth (hint: they’re not alone).
So there they were, in the days of Isaiah (which were also the days of Amos, Hosea and Micah, so you can confirm the gist of the heavenly message), and the warning was out. The 70-year Babylonian captivity was around the corner, and it was going to entail devastating destruction of the land, desperate times for the people, famines during sieges of cities, desperation to the point of cannibalism. Many pulled by ropes with hooks into Babylon, to die there. Horrific.
And what does the Lord reveal to the people? Is there hope for the righteous even during those kind of times?
Isa 33:14-22 (NKJ)
14 The sinners in Zion are afraid; Fearfulness has seized the hypocrites: “Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? Who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?”
(This verse sets up the target audience, and the rhetorical question. V 15 answers that there actually is an OK group, as well)
15 He who walks righteously and speaks uprightly, he who despises the gain of oppressions, who gestures with his hands, refusing bribes, who stops his ears from hearing of bloodshed, and shuts his eyes from seeing evil:
(V 16 is the prophetic promise)
16 He will dwell on high; his place of defense will be the fortress of rocks; bread will be given him, his water will be sure.
What an incredible word of comfort and assurance. His water will be sure. Bread will be given him. Doesn’t say much about flat-screens, but the necessities of life are promised, that promise coming from the mouth of God. He knows those who are His. And He remains jealous over them, always.
It goes on to prophetic promise, including:
17 Your eyes will see the King in His beauty; they will see the land that is very far off.
God is always good to those who are His, those who are truly His. Look at the following contrast-of-carefulness. On one hand, an angry God will carefully scour a city “with lamps” to search out those worthy of judgment, and on the other hand His eyes RUN to and fro carefully looking for the faithful, to reward each and every one. One way or the other, we are talking about an inarguably proactive God:
Zeph 1:12 (NKJ)
12 “And it shall come to pass at that time that I will search Jerusalem with lamps, and punish the men who are settled in complacency, who say in their heart, ‘The LORD will not do good, nor will He do evil.’
2 Chr 16:9 (NKJ)
9 “For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him..…..
But we are in the New Testament times. True.
John 16:32-33 (NKJ)
32 “Indeed the hour is coming, yes, has now come, that you will be scattered, each to his own, and will leave Me alone. And yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me.
33 “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”
There will always be trouble, and in fact active and even purposeful troubling in the world – tribulation – but those who dwell in Him, and those who purposely make large room in their lives for Him to dwell in them, are assured of His presence. Yea God!
Rom 8:35-39 (NKJ)
35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
36 As it is written: “For Your sake we are killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”
37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.
38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come,
39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The word, below, to Timothy is a word to us all (although this fortunate guy did have a Christ-centered upbringing, unlike many of us)
2 Tim 3:12-17 (NKJ)
12 Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.
13 But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.
14 But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them,
15 and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,
17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
The good news of the gospel is not the promise of no trouble in life. It is the invitation to eternal life in the One Who loved and loves us, and will see us through all things, including trouble and troubling, as we remain in Him.
We are eternally secure, only in Him, and Him in us.
The pearl of great price is worth selling everything else to obtain.
Whatever life adjustments ought to be made, ought to be made.
Search me, Oh God.