Prepare to meet your God – Tuesday, 13th Week in ordinary time – Amos 3:1-8, 4:11-12

Prepare to meet your God – Tuesday, 13th Week in ordinary time – Amos 3:1-8, 4:11-12

In chapters 1 & 2, the prophet Amos, after having listed the transgressions of the nations, settled on the transgressions of his own people, Israel. The prophet Amos is prophesying in the Bethel, the royal sanctuary and none of it is good news; for this time God has spoken against his very people.

In the eyes of God, Israel was in a position of great privilege; God himself declares in Amos 3:2 “only you I have known.” The people of Israel had taken this privileged position as a right and did not respond in love and service. That declaration is now followed swiftly by a devastating blow; “Therefore I will punish you for all your crimes.”

God now asks Israel seven rhetorical questions. The answer to each is obvious and the verdict is that no one should doubt that when Israel falls, not if it falls, it will be the Lords doing. Ironically when things happen, the people demand a cause. There can be no effect without a cause, nor any cause without an effect.

God wants to make clear that Israel’s protector, the one who led them out of slavery from Egypt will be its deliverer into slavery in Assyria. The people of Israel were put on notice several times and such has been their degeneration that now they “do not even know how to do right.” (3:10). So, sentence must be passed and “the lion has roared”. This is a phrase used in Amos in 1:2, 3:4 and 3:8 indicating that God is angry and Israel should be afraid of its impending destruction. Israel’s sin is now made manifest to the nations and as Israel is being picked apart and destroyed the nations are given a front row seat to view, so that they could understand why God brought judgement upon Israel.

All this was fulfilled when the Assyrians invaded Israel in 723 BC, less than 30 years after Amos made this prophecy. Chapter 4:2 tells us that when Israel was depopulated and exiled as a conquered community, they were led by their captives naked and attached together with a system of strings and fishhooks pierced through their lower lip. This would thoroughly humble the fat cows that Israel had become (4:1). For ten years, Israel was to be a subjugated state in the Assyrian Empire.

Amos continues his prophecy but this time taunts the people of the Northern kingdom. ‘Come he says, to the Gilgal and transgress.” Why would a temple be a place where one would transgress? Bethel was the royal sanctuary set up by the king not by the will of God. So, the offerings that should have been a blessing are now a transgression. Amos also mocks their tithes. There was a tithe that was to be brought every three years (Deuteronomy 14:28). Amos says, even if you were to bring your tithes every three days it would not matter, because it was only an outward show.

And then, as to hope for a course correction, God sent warnings that were specific. He withheld rain. Yet the message did not get through to them. We are told that while one city had rain and could fill all its tanks or cisterns, a neighbouring city had none. Yet experiencing the anger of God they did not turn back. Anyone can stumble into sin and feel the correcting hand of God, but we are in far greater trouble when we feel God’s correction and still will not return to Him. And when every tempest was thrown at the people of Israel in order to bring them back and still there was no change, God vows to perform what He has promised with the words, “Prepare to meet your God, O Israel!”

This was a sober warning, appropriate for all men at all times, because we never know when we will meet our God in eternity. Because we don’t know when, we must always be prepared to meet our God; but this is especially true for those facing the judgment of God.

Think of many times God has rescued us or given us ample warnings and yet we have continued our sinful ways. Are we ready to meet our God? For some, it is a moment to be dreaded. For others, it is a day to be looked forward to with a passionate longing. Paul wrote to the Christians at Philippi (Phil 1:21) “For me, life is Christ and death is gain,”. What is it for me?

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