11 “I overthrew some of you,
as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah,
and you were as a brand plucked out of the burning;
yet you did not return to me,”
declares the Lord.
12 “Therefore thus I will do to you, O Israel;
because I will do this to you,
prepare to meet your God, O Israel!”
13 For behold, he who forms the mountains and creates the wind,
and declares to man what is his thought,
who makes the morning darkness,
and treads on the heights of the earth—
the Lord, the God of hosts, is his name!
The book of Amos begins with the spiraling judgment of God on the nations around the land of Israel. God shows that he will not allow the rebellion of mankind to go on forever unpunished. One might imagine the people of Israel watching God declare the punishment to fall on Syria, Moab, or even Judah with joy. But then the focus of the book becomes Israel, and the people are in deep trouble.
From chapters 2-3, God shows that Israel has turned against him in myriad ways. And, if we are not careful, we will start looking at the book as a mere historical lesson about the rebellion of the northern kingdom. But, we must recognize that we live, as Israel lived, surrounded by spiritual lawlessness and corruption. No person who looks around in our world would consider the landscape to be becoming more godly.
As chapter 4 comes into view, God repeatedly shows Israel how he warned the nation time and time again. He allowed the people to face hardships to help them to see their need to return to him. But the rebellious nation refused to turn from their sin and return to the Lord.
Does that not make you wonder about your own culture and situation? How many things have happened around us that should be driving us to our knees before the Lord? How many pains, crimes, hardships, and disasters should have drawn us as a people to seek the mercy and favor of the Lord. Yet, in all things, as a people, it seems that our nation continues to flaunt our rebellion.
With all that said, it is the final passage of chapter 4 that should cause us to tremble. The nation has seen the call of God to return. The nation has refused to return. And, because they have refused and refused and refused to return to the Lord, God says this, “prepare to meet your God, O Israel!”
God says to a rebellious people who have refused all of his warnings that, at the end of the day, they had better be ready to meet their Maker. The Lord will stop sending warnings. Instead, he will come on his own. And the obvious intent here is to warn them that, without repentance, there will only be judgment to come.
Are we ready to meet our God? No, my country is not Israel. Yet, my country is made up of human beings, people created by God and under obligation to turn to him rather than oppose him. We should repent. We should put an end to our evils. We should seek the mercy of the Lord in Christ. And we are not doing so. Are we ready, then, when the Lord says to us, “Prepare to meet your God!”?
May passages like this one drive us to prayer and repentance. While I love to preach the mercy of the Lord, there is a wrath of God as well. In fact, the concept of the mercy of God makes no sense apart from the reality of his right and just wrath. I would not be faithful as a preacher did I not warn us that God must righteously judge. We must, as a people, turn to him and seek his mercy. We must learn from the pains of this life that our only hope is the love of the Lord. Because, without turning to his grace, we will find ourselves meeting him in judgment, and that will not go well for the rebels—it never has.