Whatever the Cause, In Hardship, God Wants Our Attention
The Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord, and for seven years he gave them into the hands of the Midianites. Because the power of Midian was so oppressive, the Israelites prepared shelters for themselves in mountain clefts, caves and strongholds.
Whenever the Israelites planted their crops, the Midianites, Amalekites and other eastern peoples invaded the country. They camped on the land and ruined the crops all the way to Gaza and did not spare a living thing for Israel, neither sheep nor cattle nor donkeys. They came up with their livestock and their tents like swarms of locusts. It was impossible to count them or their camels; they invaded the land to ravage it. Midian so impoverished the Israelites that they cried out to the Lord for help.
When the Israelites cried out to the Lord because of Midian, he sent them a prophet, who said, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: I brought you up out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. I rescued you from the hand of the Egyptians. And I delivered you from the hand of all your oppressors; I drove them out before you and gave you their land. I said to you, ‘I am the Lord your God; do not worship the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you live.’ But you have not listened to me.””
After 40 years of peace, the Israelites did evil and God tried again to get their attention back. The scourge this time was the worst ever. Their homes weren’t safe and they had to hide in the cliffs. Their fields of food would be pillaged and harvested by their enemies and left barren.
No food to eat, no livestock to use to raise it, would cause famine and disaster. Donkeys and sheep missing don’t just mean pets. Those were their machines and tools as well as their milk supply and wool for clothing. They were continuously looted and never had a chance to recover.
When God heard their cry and sent a prophet, he told them the cause and the effect, with the implied solution:
I told you what to do, but you didn’t listen and rebelled against me.
There are a lot of places in the Old Testament where the wrath of God would come upon people in their circumstances. God warned them and then stuck to His promise: I will take care of you, but if you turn away from Me, you will suffer.
Bad things happen today, but it isn’t for the same reasons. Ever since that Friday in Jerusalem, the wrath of God has been poured out. None of it was held back when Jesus died on the cross for our sins. He died for everything evil we’d ever do. Earthquakes and famines happen because of the fallen world, the state of creation, but it’s not God trying to punish us.
For the Israelites then and for us today, God repeats Himself. In this hard time, remember that I am the God that rescues and delivers you. Remember the things that I did in the past to show myself faithful, and turn to me and watch what I do this time.
Old Covenant or New Covenant, the cause is different, but the solution is the same: turn towards God and trust Him. He’s watching and always always helping.