In 2 Kings 17 we read about what happened as God drove the enemies of Judah toward them like a cart overflowing with sheaves – judgment came by the Assyrians. This is the historical record of what happened in 722 BC to Israel. Israel had refused to listen to the Word of God. They worshipped idols. They polluted themselves. God told them He was going to judge them and that they would not be able to escape. Forty years after the warning of Amos, one generation later, this happened to Israel:
“7 For so it was that the children of Israel had sinned against the Lord their God, who had brought them up out of the land of Egypt, from under the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt; and they had feared other gods, 8 and had walked in the statutes of the nations whom the Lord had cast out from before the children of Israel, and of the kings of Israel, which they had made. 9 Also the children of Israel secretly did against the Lord their God things that were not right, and they built for themselves high places in all their cities, from watchtower to fortified city. 10 They set up for themselves sacred pillars and wooden images on every high hill and under every green tree. 11 There they burned incense on all the high places, like the nations whom the Lord had carried away before them; and they did wicked things to provoke the Lord to anger, 12 for they served idols, of which the Lord had said to them, “You shall not do this thing.” 13 Yet the Lord testified against Israel and against Judah, by all of His prophets, every seer, saying, “Turn from your evil ways, and keep My commandments and My statutes, according to all the law which I commanded your fathers, and which I sent to you by My servants the prophets.” 14 Nevertheless they would not hear, but stiffened their necks, like the necks of their fathers, who did not believe in the Lord their God.”
And so God sent the Assyrians in judgment against Israel. And Judah watched it happen. And during the reign of King Hezekiah the Assyrians came after Judah and God stopped them, killing 185,000 of Sennacherib’s troops, sending them home in defeat. They knew what it looked like for God to fulfill His promises of judgment. And they were sinning the same sins and rejecting the same warnings of judgment from the prophets.
In Zephaniah 3:6-7 again, we have read, “I have cut off nations, Their fortresses are devastated; I have made their streets desolate, With none passing by. Their cities are destroyed; There is no one, no inhabitant. 7 I said, ‘Surely you will fear Me, You will receive instruction’— So that her dwelling would not be cut off, Despite everything for which I punished her. But they rose early and corrupted all their deeds.”
Judah was warned. Now there is something significant here about the warning. God warned Israel. Israel refused to listen. Israel was taken into captivity by Assyria and they never came back. You realize that? Israel was taken by Assyria and never came back.
God had told the people through Jeremiah and Daniel understood it in Babylonian exile that the exile of Judah would be seventy years and then after that under Ezra and Nehemiah the people were brought back, they rebuilt the wall, they re-inhabited the Land. They had an opportunity to come back.
They had seen the example of their sister tribes to the north in Israel. God told them through the prophets that judgment was coming if they did not repent and return to Him. They did not, so He sent word that judgment was coming and there was no escape. But they would not listen. As a nation they were doomed.
Again back to Amos 2:4, “Their lies lead them astray, Lies which their fathers followed.” For generations, fathers taught sons by example how to invite God’s judgment! They followed after false gods. Fathers and sons worshipped the same idols by the same acts of immorality. One generation taught the next how to sin and how to rebel and how to go astray from the Word of God.
God has said to the people through Zephaniah, I am righteous in your midst, I will do no unrighteousness, I bring justice every morning, I will never fail. I have cut off the nations and given you an example of what happens to those who continue in their sin. And I have given you instruction so that you can hear and live. Fathers, look at this – God has laid out a really good pattern for you to follow in your fatherhood! Moms, for you too.
First He says that He will be righteous in their midst. Fathers, and mothers, you need to be righteous in your home, among your family. You need to be an example of holiness and obedience. God says He will do no unrighteousness. Can any human parent follow that example without fail? No, but when we do fail, moms and dads, we have a responsibility to confess that sin and ask our family to forgive us. Model brokenness and humility. Model confession and repentance. Don’t hide your sin, or you will be teaching your kids to do likewise. Be vulnerable in your imperfections and use them to teach righteousness.
Ephesians 6:4 reminds fathers, “Do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.” Teach them by righteousness and by a proper response to unrighteousness. Teach them how to rightly deal with sin. Just as God had given Judah an example, we need to be truthful about the consequences of sin. Too many parents today shelter their children from the consequences of sin, and of stupidity and bad decisions. We must learn from mistakes, ours and others.
Hosea 8:7 reminds us, “They sow the wind, And reap the whirlwind.” And Hosea 10:12 says, “Sow for yourselves righteousness; Reap in mercy; Break up your fallow ground, for it is time to seek the Lord, Till He comes and rains righteousness on you.”
And of course Galatians 6:7 gives us this admonition, “7 Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.”
Keep in mind, sowing and reaping does not just apply to negative things, to sin and wickedness. 2 Corinthians 9:6 says, “But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.” Sow righteousness. Sow goodness. Sow holiness.