Amos 3:2 “You only have I known among all the families of the earth; Therefore I will punish (paqad) you for all your wrongdoing.”
Imagine with me for a moment that you have been offered membership into an exclusive club. This club carries with it great honor, untold riches, and being a member will even save your life one day. You don’t have to pay for your membership but you do have to be invited. If you accept the offer of membership, you are accepting everything that goes with being a member. Being a member means you have to accept the leaders rules and regulations and if you don’t abide by these rules you may not be kicked out of the club, but you will be punished. It’s important you know the rules before you join so that you are not taken by surprise the moment you infringe upon a rule and have to suffer the consequences.
The benefits of such a club far exceeds the restrictions placed upon an individual within it. You may ask what the rules are for, why each rule has been set, or if the rules are even justifiable. Your allowed to ask these questions, you just aren’t allowed to change them or offend them. The rules have been set in place long before time even existed, they are ancient and have good reasoning behind them. The general intent of rules is for order, for protection, and ultimately they express love to those bound by them since they were made for them. When punishment occurs for breaking these rules, it is not to bring despair but just the opposite, it is to renew.
Do you want to be apart of this club? The offer goes out to everyone, there are none who are excluded. The members within the club are not to impose the rules of the club on anyone who is not a member, that would be unjust. The rules within the club are divine in nature but it is only club members who recognize them and have therefore committed to adhering to them.
Membership has its Privileges
First, the negative aspects of membership in this club:
Because there must be order, there also must be a framework by which it is run. Within the context of the club is an order that is reflective of its founder. His nature is good and everything associated with the club is likewise good. People may occasionally stumble but there is much grace given. Fools are rarely seen and for those who come in as fools, their countenance is changed dramatically upon membership. If a member acts foolishly, they will be quickly corrected, not as a form of self-righteous authority but because each member represents the founder.
There is a reason fools don’t make it in this club.
Punishment is rarely embraced by the fool. The fool acts foolishly because he has no regard for anyone or anything other than himself. Rules are certainly offensive to the fool and he will resist them until his dying breath.
Punishment for the wise is received differently. To the wise, punishment is a necessary tool for growth. Without adherence to rules, the path forward would be open to interpretation, leaving the one traversing this path guessing as to which direction to go. Rules give peace of mind that there is an order to things, and a distinctive path moving forward; there is security in that path.
In God’s Kingdom, rules express God’s love in much the same way.
Zechariah 10:2 “For the idols speak delusion;
The diviners envision lies,
And tell false dreams;
They comfort in vain.
Therefore the people wend their way like sheep;
They are in trouble because there is no shepherd.”
The Lord is our Shepherd, He leads us in our paths and follows a course that brings comfort and peace. Every other thing that sets itself up against the Lordship of Jesus Christ leads people astray and into trouble.
The positive aspects of joining this club far exceed the negative. As you might have guessed, this club is the Kingdom of God, the leader is Jesus, the Word of God is the rule book and it’s members are those saved by grace.
The privileges of living in God’s Kingdom and following His rules are manifold:
- Any trouble incurred before is now erased
- We become inheritors of God’s Kingdom
- We become rulers alongside Jesus
- We gain eternal life
- We gain fellowship among other members in His Kingdom
- He guides and protects
- He supplies our needs
- He leads us on paths of righteousness
- He restores our souls and gives us honor
- There are times of refreshing and times of trial
- The trials have purpose
It is a privilege to be called and accepted into God’s Kingdom, but do we really live like it?
So many act like they want to have their cake and eat it to. The idea that somehow we can claim membership in God’s Kingdom and still keep one foot in the world is an assumption that will produce only hopelessness and regret. For those who are fully in the Kingdom, when something leads them astray, correction is needed.
When punishment is Needed
The idea of God punishing His people evokes a wide range of emotions, from being unjust to exerting unfair authority. Rebellion against any form of authority is common among those who have experienced bad leadership.
With God, punishment is reserved for His people. The world wouldn’t understand punishment, especially if God is doing it, they would draw false conclusions, they would never give praise where it is do, and the lessons learned would never lead to true growth.
When God punishes, He always has an eye towards restoration and healing.
“But I said:
‘How can I put you among the children
And give you a pleasant land,
A beautiful heritage of the hosts of nations?’
“And I said:
‘You shall call Me, “My Father,”
And not turn away from Me.’
Surely, as a wife treacherously departs from her husband,
So have you dealt treacherously with Me,
O house of Israel,” says the Lord.
A voice was heard on the desolate heights,
Weeping and supplications of the children of Israel.
For they have perverted their way;
They have forgotten the Lord their God.
“Return, you backsliding children,
And I will heal your backslidings.”
But for those who respond to His call they cry out…
“Indeed we do come to You,
For You are the Lord our God.”
Punishment is simply a call to return.
If we choose to go our own way, the Lord will not bless it. It is in the midst of removing His blessing when we see the error of our ways. We simply have no idea how good we have it, until it is gone.
Are you in a place of punishment now?
Humble yourself, turn from your wickedness and seek the Lord with all your heart, He is waiting for you. Repent of your sin and the Lord will restore you.
When you do, when you return, you’ll wonder why you ever left in the first place.