6 “I gave you cleanness of teeth in all your cities, and lack of bread in all your places, yet you did not return to me,” declares the LORD. 7 “I also withheld the rain from you when there were yet three months to the harvest; I would send rain on one city, and send no rain on another city; one field would have rain, and the field on which it did not rain would wither; 8 so two or three cities would wander to another city to drink water, and would not be satisfied; yet you did not return to me,” declares the LORD. 9 “I struck you with blight and mildew; your many gardens and your vineyards, your fig trees and your olive trees the locust devoured; yet you did not return to me,” declares the LORD. 10 “I sent among you a pestilence after the manner of Egypt; I killed your young men with the sword, and carried away your horses, and I made the stench of your camp go up into your nostrils; yet you did not return to me,” declares the LORD. 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!
A few thoughts for meditation:
1) We saw last time from Jesus that our first response when we witness disaster is not to compare your own spiritual condition to that of the victim, but instead to treat it as God giving you more time to repent yourself. In Amos, we see another similar reason we may suffer disaster; God is using it to bring people to repentance before a much greater judgment comes. Amos preached to the northern kingdom of Israel before they went into exile. They lived in rebellion against God for generations. And here God listed a series of judgments which he brought upon Israel to bring them to repentance. They needed to learn that the idols they trusted in to satisfy their needs and sinful desires were in fact no gods at all. They needed to remember that God was their Creator, Lord, and Redeemer and that they belonged to him. This might seem cruel on God’s part to bring such disaster on his people. But, when God tells you this will happen beforehand (Deuteronomy 28-30) you have no excuse to continue in your sin and act shocked that God will keep his word and hold you accountable.
2) Notice the full range of disasters: famine, drought, blight, locusts, disease, war, and oppression. Imagine living through even one of them, and knowing the whole time it was preventable. The condition was repentance. Five times God said “yet you did not return to me.” For generations, they had the Scriptures in their midst pointing them back to God, they had prophets pointing them back to God, and then the promised disasters for sin would come. But still, they refused to return to God. They preferred their idols of greed, pleasure, politics, and sexual immorality. The short term pleasures and the illusion of control over their lives were more intoxicating than a reconciled relationship with the one true God. And this is a point for reflection. Israel worshiped the pagan idols to get what they really wanted; money, sex, and power. Today, people just worship the money, sex, and power. But the consequences are the same. You are cutting yourself off from the God who made you, putting yourself on a path of self-destruction, and selling off eternity for things that will soon perish and leave you empty. Satan really is a slick salesman. But in times of disaster, God in mercy, often takes these idols from us, to show us who we truly need, and how little these idols can truly offer us. They cannot truly keep us safe in a fallen world. They cannot remove our sin and guilt before God. And they cannot save us from death or give us eternal life. When disaster comes and strips away the crutch of your idols, will you return to the Lord? Or will you roll on the ground in grief trying to find your crutch again?
3) Finally, we must be careful in applying too much of a direct comparison to Israel. Israel was the Church of the Old Testament and had a specific covenant with God. No nation today has such a unique covenant like that with God, with specific blessings and curses attached to them. The Church is the Israel of God today under the new covenant, and as we saw before in Revelation, churches are given promises and threats by Jesus to draw them to repentance. But, God is calling all the nations to repent and turn to Christ for salvation before the day of judgment comes. And the disasters that come are “the birth pains” (Matt 24:8) in preparation for the final judgment to come. We do not know when that date is. But with each disaster that strips away our idols, God is calling us to consider who our god truly is, and whether or not we are ready to meet him. That is the ultimate destiny of every human being. With every disaster on earth, and with every proclamation of the good news of Christ, God is saying to us, “prepare to meet your God.” Will you meet him as one reconciled to him through Christ and ready for glory? Or will you meet him as a rebel ready for judgment that final day? You can prepare to meet God through repentance or prepare to meet him by ignoring his warnings and offers of mercy and suffering the eternal consequences.