For the week of May 7, 2005 / 28 Nisan 5765
Torah: Vayikra / Leviticus 19:1 - 20:27
Haftarah: Amos 9:7-15

The Danger of Denial

For I will give the command, and I will shake the house of Israel among all the nations as grain is shaken in a sieve, and not a pebble will reach the ground. All the sinners among my people will die by the sword, all those who say, "Disaster will not overtake or meet us." (Amos 9:9,10)

The biblical prophets were people called by God to speak his word. Often what they said had a predictive element as they foretold events in the near or distant future. Yet they did not always predict the future. In fact most of the time they simply reminded the people of God's will for their lives.

The prophets tried to help the people understand the implications of their lifestyles. God doesn't usually respond to our attitudes and actions with immediate signals of approval or disapproval. While there are some examples of God's taking immediate action in response to something somebody did, his dealings with human kind are usually only realized over a period of time.

This lack of immediate response on God's part contributes to the common impression that God, if he exists at all, doesn't really get involved in our affairs. Because the benefits or consequences of our lifestyles are not clearly evident to us, many, if not most people, live any way they wish.

If we stopped to think about it, we would know that many things in life operate on the principle of long-term cause and effect. There are few things in life that are like games and sporting events, in which results are evident within a relatively short period of time. A good play results in a point. An infraction of the rules means a penalty of some kind.

But most of life doesn't work this way. For example, planting and harvesting take a considerable amount of time. The good or bad results of decisions made at planting time are not known until a long time afterwards. Once it is harvest time, it is too late. Right decisions have to be made at planting. Ensuring good crops requires a commitment to good farming practices right through the growing process.

Our lives are the same. We often look at our immediate situation to gauge our condition. My guess is that if people dropped dead after smoking only one cigarette, they wouldn't smoke. But because young people have great difficulty connecting pictures of cancerous lungs with themselves, they don't believe that smoking will ever lead to that kind of result.

The biblical prophets had the difficult task of trying to help people understand that their way of life was intimately connected to their future, whether or not that connection was readily perceived.

Our neglect of God's ways will result in negative consequences. Denying that fact only draws us deeper into the pit of destruction. In the passage quoted earlier, it sounds as if the sinners are equated with those who deny the coming destruction. Of course they are. For it is those who cannot see their doom that will never experience the needed change of heart.

As in Amos' day a shaking is coming, if it is not already here. Many of us are drunk with denial. We live in a fantasy world of pleasure and busy-ness. Yet our denial will never protect us from the reality of the consequences of neglecting God and his ways.

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