These are tough chapters. Through his prophet, the Lord announces to nation after nation, “For three transgressions . . . and for four, I will not revoke the punishment.” That is, each nation had sinned greatly and, ultimately, had crossed the line. They had gone too far, and God would punish them. I think of besetting sins, those sins that are particular to each of us, and how we struggle to overcome them and be done with them. We call them “besetting sins” because they plague and torment us. We seem to repeat them over and over again. It was not only the nations but, also, Israel and Judah had sinned and sinned and sinned and now would be judged.
The rich and the religious took advantage of the poor. There was no justice in the land. Idolatry was everywhere. Though God had reached out over and over, the people refused his pleadings. What could be done? The prophet knew! “Seek good, and not evil, that you may live; and so the Lord, the God of hosts, will be with you, as you have said. Hate evil, and love good, and establish justice in the gate; it may be that the Lord, the God of hosts, will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph” (5:14-15). Ah! There it is! There’s our hope, that the Lord would be gracious to us!
O for a closer walk with God,
a calm and heav’nly frame,
a light to shine upon the road
that leads me to the Lamb! --William Cowper (1772)