Take care lest you forget the Lord your God by not keeping his commandments and his rules and his statutes, which I command you today,
lest, when you have eaten and are full and have built good houses and live in them,
and when your herds and flocks multiply and your silver and gold is multiplied and all that you have is multiplied,
then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery,
who led you through the great and terrifying wilderness, with its fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty ground where there was no water, who brought you water out of the flinty rock,
who fed you in the wilderness with manna that your fathers did not know, that he might humble you and test you, to do you good in the end.
Beware lest you say in your heart, “My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.”
You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day.
And if you forget the Lord your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I solemnly warn you today that you shall surely perish.
Like the nations that the Lord makes to perish before you, so shall you perish, because you would not obey the voice of the Lord your God.
Jesus warned that riches could — and in many cases, would — become a great distraction and keep us from becoming what God would have us to be (Lk. 8:14). This was true for Old Testament Israel. Moses warned them that their prosperity might cause them to give themselves rather than God the credit for their good fortune and turn away from serving Him, resulting ultimately in their own destruction as a nation.
I bring this up because I was recently reading the Old Testament book of Amos, and I noticed how everything that God warned Israel about was taking place. Consider:
Woe to those who are at ease in Zion, and to those who feel secure on the mountain of Samaria, the notable men of the first of the nations, to whom the house of Israel comes!
Pass over to Calneh, and see, and from there go to Hamath the great; then go down to Gath of the Philistines. Are you better than these kingdoms? Or is their territory greater than your territory,
O you who put far away the day of disaster and bring near the seat of violence?
Woe to those who lie on beds of ivory and stretch themselves out on their couches, and eat lambs from the flock and calves from the midst of the stall,
who sing idle songs to the sound of the harp and like David invent for themselves instruments of music,
who drink wine in bowls and anoint themselves with the finest oils, but are not grieved over the ruin of Joseph!
Therefore they shall now be the first of those who go into exile, and the revelry of those who stretch themselves out shall pass away. (Amos 6:1-7)
Israel had become quite rich and prosperous…and so they didn’t think about God’s judgment of them which would come in the future. After all, how could anything bad happen when things were going so well for them? Surely nothing bad would happen to them! Bad things don’t happen to rich people, after all…
And were they abandoning God and forgetting His mercy, compassion towards them, and all-consuming power and holiness? Consider:
Hear this, you who trample on the needy and bring the poor of the land to an end,
saying, “When will the new moon be over, that we may sell grain? And the Sabbath, that we may offer wheat for sale, that we may make the ephah small and the shekel great and deal deceitfully with false balances,
that we may buy the poor for silver and the needy for a pair of sandals and sell the chaff of the wheat?”
The Lord has sworn by the pride of Jacob: “Surely I will never forget any of their deeds.
Shall not the land tremble on this account, and everyone mourn who dwells in it, and all of it rise like the Nile, and be tossed about and sink again, like the Nile of Egypt?”
“And on that day,” declares the Lord God, “I will make the sun go down at noon and darken the earth in broad daylight.
I will turn your feasts into mourning and all your songs into lamentation; I will bring sackcloth on every waist and baldness on every head; I will make it like the mourning for an only son and the end of it like a bitter day.” (Amos 8:4-10)
Israel’s apostasy had progressed to the point when they couldn’t wait for the holy days of the Law of Moses (such as the new moon and the Sabbath) to end so that they could get back to making money…and cheating the poor in the process (cf. Amos 2:6-7). Because of this, the Lord promised great and terrible punishments to come upon them.
Is there anything America or any other country existing today can learn from this? As an American — even a middle class American — I have access to more wealth and ease than anyone else who has lived before me in history. We complain about high gas prices and the high housing market, and we are justified to do so. There are serious economic impacts that come from things like that. However, at the same time there are countless thousands of us who, in spite of how much it costs to fill up the tank, still eat three or more rich meals a day, go out to eat whenever we want, go on fun and expensive vacations, and possess many luxuries such as big-screen TVs, smart phones, nice cars, and the like.
And for those of us in the church…is worship on Sunday the highlight of our week or is it something we endure, constantly looking at the clock for when it can finally be over so we can go back to making money or reveling in our fun and luxuries? I know there are Christians reading this of whom what I describe does not apply…but I also know there are those who sit in the pews who fit this description perfectly.
Thus, does the situation described below in Israel apply to us today…and specifically to you personally, reader?
“Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord God, “when I will send a famine on the land— not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord.” (Amos 8:11)
In one sense, the Bible has never been more easily accessible than it is right now. And yet, there is still a famine for the Word of God today in spite of all the abundance of Bibles…a self-imposed famine. Many churchgoers have a Bible app on their smart devices and Bibles in their homes, cars, and/or favorite church pews…but those Bibles sit there, unopened and unread day after day, the app on their phones and tablets remaining closed…while their attention is focused on the gathering of wealth and the revelry of fun, and their hearts turn darker and darker with sin and immorality.
Yes, there is much which applies to us today from what God warned Israel and from what their downfall turned out to be in the end. May we think on these things, my friends…