Broken relationships

One of the consequences of the people of Judah going into captivity was broken relationships. While God’s people were dwelling in the Promised Land, land ownership laws kept them in the same general location for hundreds of years. Although it was possible to sell land, every 50 years ownership returned to the family of origin. Therefore, there was little change in the city of residence for most people. As a result, relationships were stable and the majority of families remained in tact. Like when the Nazis tried to exterminate the Jews in the 1940s, family members were probably separated and forced into different transient camps by their Babylonian captors. It is possible family members were scattered throughout the Babylonian empire during their captivity so that relationship structures that supported the Israelite culture would cease to exist.

Jeremiah declared, “Therefore thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will lay stumblingblocks before this people, and the fathers and the sons together shall fall upon them; the neighbor and his friend shall perish” (Jeremiah 6:21). The stumblingblock was a symbol of being broken. Jeremiah’s reference to the fathers and the sons together falling on the stumblingblock was most likely meant to convey the idea of a joint effort to sustain the family being a futile attempt against the cruel and merciless Babylonian army (Jeremiah 6:23). The neighbor and his friend were people that had lived in close proximity to each other their entire lives and were like extended family members to each other. In all likelihood, the word perish meant that these kinds of relationships would cease to exist. and every man would suffer alone during his time in captivity.

Jeremiah described a scene of devastation in which everyone would be weeping bitterly. He said, “O daughter of my people, gird thee with sackcloth, and wallow thyself in ashes: make thee mourning, as for an only son, most bitter lamentation: for the spoiler shall suddenly come upon us” (Jeremiah 6:26). The Hebrew word translated spoiler, shadad (shaw – dad´) may have been a term used to describe a calamity. Figuratively, shadad refers to something or someone powerful (7703), but it also carries the connotation of a rushing wind or a tempestuous storm (7665, 7722), something like a tornado that moves quickly and leaves behind a path of destruction. Jeremiah predicted the spoiler would come quickly and unexpectedly as when a child dies of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). In the end, the peoples’ lives would be left empty and worthless. Jeremiah declared, “Reprobate silver shall men call them, because the LORD hath rejected them” (Jeremiah 6:30).

 

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God’s family

God’s relationship to the people of Israel was the basis of his involvement in their lives. It says in Amos 3:2, “You only have I known of all the families of the earth.” The Hebrew word translated known, yada’ is properly translated as “to ascertain by seeing” which includes observation, care, recognition; and causatively instruction, designation, and punishment (3045). In a sense, Israel had become a member of God’s family, and vice versa. God treated the Israelites like a father would treat his own child.

Because God had been involved in the lives of the Israelites and knew them in a personal way, it says in Amos 3:2, “Therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities.” The Hebrew word translated punish, pâqad (paw – kad´) means to visit or be concerned with, to look after and make a search for, as well as punish (6485). Another way to look at paqad is “to intervene on behalf of” and in the normal course of events to bring about or fulfill a divine intent.

Over the course of time, Israel seemed to have forgotten or were unaware that there was a reason for their existence. In particular, the nation of Judah was designated to bring forth the Messiah. At the time of Amos’ ministry, the primary focus of Judah was preservation of the most favored nation status they were entitled to as God’s chosen people. Their worship had become meaningless as if they were just going through the motions. In an effort to remind his people that he was in control of their destiny, God asked the question, “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” (Amos 3:3).

The Hebrew word translated agreed, yâ‘ad (yaw – ad´) means to meet at a stated time (3259). The idea behind this word is to make an appointment or set a time for an event to take place, such as an engagement when a wedding date is established. God was letting his people know that a time had been set for his Messiah to be born and he intended to keep his appointment. Therefore, God’s people needed to be brought into alignment with his plan through divine intervention.

God’s punishment was intended to bring his people back to him. He wanted them to repent, make an effort to change, “to re-grasp the situation, and exert effort for the situation to take a different course of purpose and action” (5162). What needed to happen was the people needed to be converted. “The process called conversion or turning to God is in reality a re-turning or a turning back again to Him from whom sin has separated us, but whose we are by virtue of creation, preservation and redemption” (7725).

God had made numerous attempts to bring his people to a point of repentance, but each time there was no response. Five times in Amos chapter four, the LORD stated, “Yet have ye not returned unto me” and then concluded, “Therefore thus will I do unto thee O Israel: and because I will do this unto thee, prepare to meet thy God, O Israel” (Amos 4:12). The LORD’s people would encounter an enemy so fierce, they would be forced to cry out to God for mercy.

Wasted effort

My dad was an entrepreneur and over the course of his life was involved in at least a dozen business ventures. As a result, he experienced a lot of what Solomon referred to as “sore travail” (Ecclesiastes 4:8). Solomon said, “For a dream cometh through the multitude of business; and a fool’s voice is know by a multitude of words” (Ecclesiastes 5:3). I think my dad believed in the American Dream, the idea that a person can go from rags to riches if he is willing to work hard and pay his dues. At the time of his death, my dad owned properties that he estimated to be worth about $300,000. It was a fortune to him, but insignificant compared to the current value of the first home he and my mom bought 50 years ago. They lost the house in a bankruptcy due to a failed business.

I think there are many people who work more than is really necessary and those who don’t work enough. In my own case, I worked very hard for 14 years and then I retired. I realized toward the end of my career that I didn’t have a life outside of work, and if I didn’t do something about it, I was going to end up like my dad, alone and miserable.

Solomon said, “If a man beget an hundred children and live many years, so that the days of his years be many, and his soul be not filled with good, and also that he have no burial; I say, that an untimely birth is better than he” (Ecclesiastes 6:3). What Solomon was implying was that none of the man’s hundred children cared enough about him to give him a decent burial, therefore, his life was a waste.

Conversion

I have always taken my responsibility as a parent very seriously, so when my oldest son got a DUI and ended up in jail, I was devastated. My initial reaction was to ask myself, where did I go wrong? How could this happen to my son. It took several years for things to get sorted out. Eventually, John told me that he had given up his faith and viewed himself as an agnostic. He didn’t think he had ever truly given his life to Christ and wanted nothing to do with the church.

Proverbs 22:6 instructs us to “train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” The Hebrew word translated way, derek means “a road (as trodden)” (1870). Figuratively, derek refers to a course of life or mode of action Regarding our behavior, derek means our manner of life, the way we conduct ourselves. Derek also “refers to a ‘condition’ in the sense of what has happened to someone…In one passage derek signifies the overall course and fixed path of one’s life, or his ‘destiny.'”

My son’s declaration that he was no longer a Christian forced me to considered whether or not he had actually been converted as a young boy. As I looked back at his life and thought about his behavior, I was certain his commitment was real. Even though John no longer attended church, he was the same kind and loving person underneath his rough exterior. As a mom, it is hard to watch my son struggle and make mistakes, but I know that his life is in God’s hands and I believe someday his faith will be restored. I did all I could to point him in the right direction, the outcome is God’s.

 

Work

When my youngest son was 12, I started working full-time and six months later I started going to school full-time. The combination of working and going to school meant that I was away from home a lot and when I was there, I was completely distracted by what was going on in my life. Within four years, I obtained my masters degree. At work, I was promoted twice and increased my salary by seventy percent. The impact to my family was that my daughter became sexually active, my oldest son got into pornography, and my youngest son started using drugs.

It says in Proverbs 14:1, “Every wise woman buildeth her house: but the foolish plucketh it down with her hands.” To pluck something down with your hands means you take it apart. You break it down or unbuild it. The phrase building your house typically means having children or raising a family (1129). Therefore, plucking down the house you have built implies that you are having a bad influence on your children or hindering them from growing up in the Lord. The word foolish can signify disregarding God’s will and also represents acts of senselessness, impropriety, and stupidity (5039).

Work is good and working hard is commendable, but there is a point where work can become unhealthy. Some people are workaholics, unable to say no to the demands of their careers. In my case, I felt I had to make up for lost time when I had been out of the workforce. In many ways, I was just being selfish, doing what I wanted to do. The bottom line was that working fueled my desire for independence and made me less reliant on my husband for financial security. Unfortunately, I failed to notice that my effort to succeed was breaking apart my family relationships.

Folly

The first compromise I made after becoming a Christian was a very small one. I decided to get a part-time job to supplement my husband’s income. We had survived for seven years living paycheck to paycheck and I thought it was time for me to do my part to help with our financial situation. My first job was only temporary, but it opened the door for me to be away from home in the evening after my husband got home from work. After my youngest son started school, I got a permanent position working part-time at a high school near our home.

It says in Proverbs 9:13-17, “A foolish woman is clamorous, she is simple, and knoweth nothing. For she sitteth at the door of her house, on a seat in the high places of the city, to call passengers who go straight on their way: whoso is simple, let him turn in hither: and as for him that wanteth understanding, she saith to him, stolen waters are sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant.” In using the term foolish woman, Soloman “is describing an enemy of God who knew God and his word but, seeing the wicked flourishing, reasoned that they have the right lifestyle…They have knowledge of God but do not properly evaluate or understand what they know” (3684).

Initially, there was no negative impact to my family from me working outside our home, but over time, our lifestyle changed dramatically. I became less and less aware of what was going on in my children’s lives and my husband and I rarely had any time to ourselves. I never thought about the damage that was being done to my family’s relationships and we continued to live paycheck to paycheck in spite of the additional income my job provided.