You Have Not Returned to Me!
By Wendell Hutchins
[all Bible quotes from NASB]
The summer of 2011 will be remembered as one of the hottest and driest summers to occur in Texas and Oklahoma since reliable records have been kept. Wildfires were a constant threat and thousands of acres were burned, from fires ignited by heat lightning or by human carelessness. The green normally seen till June or July was replaced in mid-May by colors we expect to see on TV in the Australian outback. Almost all counties of Texas and Oklahoma were placed in the “exceptional” category of drought conditions by the National Weather Service, and water rationing was an all too common necessity.
Many people during this summer spoke of praying to God to send rain, and this is right and good. Many people, however, gave little thought to God or His goodness except in connection with the rain, and the lives of these people did not change in gratitude to God or in response to His goodness or His holy nature, and certainly many people did not repent of wickedness. For example, it is safe to assume that almost everyone who went to Lake Texoma with a case of beer did not care whether the lake was dangerously low or up to the floodgate as long as the beer was cold!
The Bible tells us that God often uses nature and its harsh capabilities to get our attention. The Flood of Genesis is familiar, but only eight people survived that experience (1 Peter 3:20-21); so let us not dwell on that event in this discussion.
God has used such events in nature as earthquakes (Zechariah 14:5, Matt. 28:2), storms (Psalm 83:15, Jonah chapter 1), drought (1 Kings 17 & 18, Haggai 1:11) and the resulting famine (Genesis 41, 2 Samuel 21:1), and even astronomical events (Joshua 10, Job 9:7, Isaiah 38:8) to draw attention to His magnificent power, His displeasure toward sin, and His pleasure toward righteous living.
When events in nature cause us to suffer or ponder the meaning of these events, we cannot always know the answer or reason for such things. When Satan received permission to target Job, one of his tools was “a great wind” (Job 1:19), which tells me that, if God so allows, sometimes Satan can influence the weather- consistent with him being “the prince of the power of the air… the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:2). I cannot tell you with certainty that Satan is behind every tornado or violent storm; but I cannot tell you with certainty that Satan absolutely never is behind such weather!
Sometimes events are just nature in action, “nature being nature;” nature is seasonal and temporary, and always changing. Romans 8:20-22 says “The creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.” Floods, earthquakes, droughts, and blizzards- even the exploding stars (novae) and colliding galaxies we observe by telescope- often happen simply because it is the order of things for nature to have such seemingly chaotic events occur now and then. (Did you know that we have observed storms and violent winds on Jupiter and Neptune?)
But we can also be assured God is at work in nature now and then, for His purposes. Matt. 5:45 God “causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” Weather is one part of nature that testifies there is a God; Romans 1:18-20 “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.”
Consider now Amos 4:6-11; “I gave you also cleanness of teeth in all your cities and lack of bread in all your places, yet you have not returned to Me,” declares the LORD. “Furthermore, I withheld the rain from you while there were still three months until harvest. Then I would send rain on one city and on another city I would not send rain; one part would be rained on, while the part not rained on would dry up. So two or three cities would stagger to another city to drink water, but would not be satisfied; yet you have not returned to Me,” declares the LORD. “I smote you with scorching wind and mildew; and the caterpillar was devouring your many gardens and vineyards, fig trees and olive trees; yet you have not returned to Me,” declares the LORD. “I sent a plague among you after the manner of Egypt; I slew your young men by the sword along with your captured horses, and I made the stench of your camp rise up in your nostrils; yet you have not returned to Me,” declares the LORD. “I overthrew you, as God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, and you were like a firebrand snatched from a blaze; yet you have not returned to Me,” declares the LORD.”
Here God says He Himself caused famine (which explains “cleanness of teeth”), severe drought, heat waves, failing crops fit only for the caterpillar to eat, and a virulently deadly plague! (Yes, even times of war and death, although that is not the focus of our discussion.) “What reason have You caused these things, God?” Five times in this passage God tells us that after these events sent by Him, “yet you have not returned to Me,” declares the LORD.” God does indeed bless us with beautifully balanced weather and productive gardens and plenty to eat; but sometimes He Himself holds those things back from us, and He tells us why! He wants us to RETURN TO HIM; enough to sometimes deal with us harshly if necessary!
1) “God is love” (1 John 4:8);
2) God “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4);
3) God “deals with you as with sons (Hebrews 12:7); for what son is there whom his father does not discipline?” A father’s discipline should be as gentle as it can be; if we can understand a father “grounding” a child or taking away privileges, or even spanking (not beating!) because we know the father’s motivation, why can we not accept discipline from a perfect Father in heaven Who is motivated by perfect love?
Let us not be stubborn and refuse to learn! Let us not be stubborn and refuse the call of God!
Now, before you read further, do me a favor; bite your tongue. Not hard, don’t draw blood, but bite your tongue hard enough to hurt a little bit. Did you enjoy biting your tongue?
With that in mind, consider Revelation 16:10-11; “Then the fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and his kingdom became darkened; and they gnawed their tongues because of pain, and they blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores; and they did not repent of their deeds.” Rather than repent of evil, these people (who were chewing their tongues because it was all the relief they could get from their suffering!) blasphemed and cursed God! Don’t be stubborn!
Since we started this discussion thinking about drought and oppressive heat, consider Revelation 16:8-9; “The fourth angel poured out his bowl upon the sun, and it was given to it to scorch men with fire. Men were scorched with fierce heat; and they blasphemed the name of God who has the power over these plagues, and they did not repent so as to give Him glory.” Rather than repent and glorify God, rather than humbly submit and ask for mercy and relief, they blasphemed and cursed God! Don’t be stubborn!
The call of God in Amos 4:6-11 can be summarized as, “I have tried to get your attention, yet you have not returned to Me,” declares the LORD. With this in mind, friend, are you suffering? If so, the best advice anyone can give you is consider your relationship with God. Are you saved? Have you obeyed the gospel of God’s Son Jesus Christ? Are you living a life of grateful obedience, knowing that Hebrews 5:9 says of Jesus, “having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation”?
There are three possibilities that exist in your life.
1) If you are a faithful Christian, have faith and pray, knowing that with God’s help you can successfully endure anything you are facing, however long you have to face it.
2) If you are a Christian who has ceased to be faithful for some reason, repent and return to God, “so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19). Having done so, have faith and pray, knowing that with God’s help you can successfully endure anything you are facing, however long you have to face it.
3) If you have not obeyed the gospel, you need to establish your relationship with God by turning to Him in obedient faith. If you have faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God and Savior (John 8:24), enough faith to obey Him by confessing Christ as Lord (Matt. 10:32), repenting of sin (Luke 13:1-5), and being baptized into Christ (Galatians 3:26-27), you can start your spiritual life a new person (Romans 6:3-4) and know confidently that with God’s help you can successfully endure anything you are facing, however long you have to face it.
“Yet you have not returned to Me,” declares the Lord. (Amos 4:6-11) Does this describe you? Are you sure?