The stories of ancient Israel are a picture of divine persistence which is the complement to the waywardness of the Hebrew people. We often talk about repeat offenders, zero-tolerance, and three-strikes-you’re-out. But what does it take for God to put up with Israel all the way from Sinai all the way from the Red Sea and the Exodus all the way to New Testament times where we find them making a mockery of the temple and its sacred purpose.
Repetition and Prediction
What does it take to press a wayward people back into a relationship?
Lots, including (A) the evidence of the poor choices people make to ameliorate their situation. Running to each other is futile.
A. Amos 4:8. So two or three cities wandered unto one city, to drink water; but they were not satisfied: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the Lord.
B. EXILE. Amos 4:3
And Ye shall go out at the breaches, every cow at that which is before her; and ye shall cast them into the palace, saith the Lord
C. FAMINE. Amos 4:6
And I also have given you cleanness of teeth in all your cities, and want of bread in all your places: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the Lord.
D. DROUGHT. Amos 4:7
And also I have withholden the rain from you, when there were yet three months to the harvest: and I caused it to rain upon one city, and caused it not to rain upon another city: one piece was rained upon, and the piece whereupon it rained not withered.
E. PLAGUES AND PESTILENCES. Amos 4:9.
I have smitten you with blasting and mildew: when your gardens and your vineyards and your fig trees and your olive trees increased, the palmerworm devoured them: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the Lord.
F. DISASTERS AND DEATH. Amos 4:10
I have sent among you the pestilence after the manner of Egypt: your young men have I slain with the sword, and have taken away your horses; and I have made the stink of your camps to come up unto your nostrils: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the Lord.
It was all in vain. Progress was not in the area of faith, spiritual insight, or covenant-keeping. Ancient experience was designed to be cautionary, not a template for faithfulness. No-one can merely copy ancient practice in order to stand in a right relationship with God.
Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he answered them, The kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed (with close examination), nor will they say, Look, here it is! or There! for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you. Luke 17:20-21
Everyone needs grace.
Faith is its river.