The book of Amos has one of those gotcha beginnings that should cause all of us to sit back and think about how we think. Throughout chapter 1 of this book, God pronounces judgments on the peoples who live around Israel, peoples who had been a thorn in Israel’s side for years. As the mortar shells fall on those camps, one can almost hear the people of the northern kingdom cheering God on, “That’s right God, hit ‘em where it hurts; they deserve it!”
However, much like one of those military moments where the shells come closer and closer to their target, God’s blasts of judgment seem to spiral in toward the folks of Israel and Judah. In chapter 2, when God pronounces judgments on Judah, one might think that a person in the northern kingdom would have been holding his or her breath, hoping that final shot would not be fired. Then, BOOM, the purpose of the book of Amos is revealed. God has exposed his fury against the surrounding peoples and their sin to magnify how incredibly worthy of his wrath are the people of the northern kingdom.
Now, sitting on my couch with my laptop on my lap, why should I care about this opening salvo of the book of Amos? Here is why: It is very easy to like it when people we see as bad people get what is coming to them. It is very easy to breathe a sigh of relief or to even smirk at the troubles that befall people who just plain deserve it. But, have we forgotten, we too have sinned before a holy God? We too have failed to live up to his perfect standard. We too have done more than enough to earn an eternity in hell by infinitely offending an infinitely holy God. We doo still have enough sin in our lives that, were it not for the covering and cleansing blood of Jesus, we would be cast into hell to stay forever.
Christians, why we should care about the beginning of the book of Amos is simple. We should care to remember to be careful not to cheer at the destruction or downfall of those we dislike. We should be reminded of the old adage, “But by the grace of God go we.” This is not to say that we stop praying that God do justice or bring his kingdom—by no means. It is, rather, to say that, when the wicked get what God rightly gives them, we should praise God for his justice and then fall on our knees and acknowledge that we deserve the same thing were God to give us what we have merited. Let the judgment of God, when it falls, remind you that he has treated you with grace. Let that humble you and not puff you up. Be careful what you cheer for.
Lord, I thank you that you have shown me your mercy. I certainly could have never done anything to deserve it. I know that your justice, your judgment, will fall on those who oppose you. I rejoice in how much that displays your glory. However, I also must tremble, remembering that I am worthy of your wrath. Were it not for your grace in Christ, I too would be under your curse. Thank you for grace. I pray too that you will sovereignly spread your grace and mercy to others, that they too will come to Jesus and escape the wrath that they, no more than I, deserve.