Shall Not the Land Tremble for This?

Hear this, you who trample the needy and do away with the poor of the land, saying, “When will the New Moon be over that we may sell grain, and the Sabbath be ended that we may market wheat?”— skimping on the measure, boosting the price and cheating with dishonest scales, buying the poor with silver and the needy for a pair of sandals, selling even the sweepings with the wheat. The Lord has sworn by himself, the Pride of Jacob: “I will never forget anything they have done. “Will not the land tremble for this, and all who live in it mourn? The whole land will rise like the Nile; it will be stirred up and then sink like the river of Egypt. (Amos 8:4–8, NIV)

God often uses the “enemy without” to punish the enemy within… and ancient Israel had no lack of enemies. But the Jews were like any other homogenous people; they had predators within their society, too… like those who would lie, cheat, and steal from their own people… and God just hates that stuff! Jesus taught us not to behave that way to our enemies, let alone to our own people… and God didn’t let such blatant disobedience go unaddressed.

You see, God had given Israel the law… but laws come with a burden. It’s utter foolishness to draw up a set of rules without the resources (and the determination) to monitor, correct and punish the lawbreakers — and these resources are dear. It costs a lot of money to run our police forces, courts and prisons… although these costs are lower than the price of evil left unchecked. But all these costs are less than the cost of the empty words; this is why God never speaks any. Every word God says has purpose, and every word he says will be accomplished.

I’ll have to admit that it sometimes feels as if God is letting evil win — especially when we are suffering at its hands. But duration is an intrinsic part of both evil and suffering. Now, some criminals get caught very quickly. But there are others who do evil almost at will! As to their evil, that’s on them. As to its duration, that’s on God. You see, God is longsuffering. And this flagship attribute is what allows evil to continue. But people can be shortsighted here; they assume that if God doesn’t send a lightning bolt immediately that the perpetrator is getting by with a crime. But God is the one who established the law, so God is the one who must follow through — and he does so in different ways.

Sometimes God punishes by his own hand (Korah). Sometimes he does this more from a distance (disease, pestilence, flood). Sometimes he turns-off the spigot of blessing (famine). Sometimes he uses an enemy to vex his people (like when he sent ancient Israel into captivity for violating the land’s Sabbath). But all these events had one thing in common: from the time of the sin to the time of the punishment, the perpetrators thought they were getting by with it.

God warned the Jews who were oppressing their own poor, “Shall not the land tremble for this, and every one mourn that dwelleth therein?” We ignore the law, too… and we live in a land that’s trembling with God’s warning. But what about the future? Shall we tremble then?

We should… because even believers will be judged. Now, we are secure in Christ, so we won’t be judged about heaven and hell. But we will be judged for every idle word and for every idle deed… and this will be a tremulous moment, to be sure. But all those sins shall be removed as far as the east is from the west… and they will never be reviewed again.

Unbelievers will not fare as well, however. God established his law, so he must address every unforgiven sin — and this includes the ones he did not address in a big way on the earth. So, believe on Jesus Christ today because his blood covers every sin… every believer’s sin, that is.

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