Wednesday, August 31, 2016

"Prepare to meet your God!"

Day #245

Scripture Reading:  Amos 1 - 4 …

Being a prophet in Israel and Judah in the centuries before Christ could not have been an easy or enjoyable task.  God sent the prophets with a message of judgment and offered hope ONLY if the people returned to Him in repentance - turning from their sin and coming humbly before their God in faith and obedience.  Those who welcomed God's offer of forgiveness and who returned to Him were few in number.  Most stubbornly persisted in their rejection of the words of the prophets, listening instead to the assurances from false prophets that all was well.  In the shadow of God's impending judgment came the prophet, Amos.

Like many of the other prophets, Amos was given a message that was 95% judgment … yet with an offer of hope for the future based not on what THEY would do, but on what GOD would do.  The true prophets did not speak their own words, but only what God Himself revealed to them.  Who would have the courage to speak such words to a nation that was chosen to belong to God?!  Amos explains, "Surely the Sovereign LORD does nothing without revealing His plan to His servants the prophets.  The lion (God) has roared - who will not fear?  The Sovereign LORD has spoken - who can but prophesy?" (3:7-8).  

People today do not want to talk about God’s judgment, yet the truth of what lies ahead is revealed in God’s Word from one cover to the other!  The prophets were called and sent by God to issue a warning and a call to the remnant to trust in God’s mercy and grace in the coming Savior.  I sense that same urgency and that same call today … and I am not alone.  People often mock those who pronounce God's coming judgment, but the message God has given those who shepherd His flock today is as clear as it was in the days of Amos:  Judgment is coming on this world and many people will be surprised to find themselves in the path of His wrath.  

As Amos begins his prophecy, he mentions nations by name:  Damascus (capital of Syria), Gaza (land of the Philistines), Tyre (Lebanon), Edom, Ammon and Moab (Jordan).  These are the nations around Israel yet today.  The people of Israel and Judah would have been glad to hear of God's coming judgment upon these other nations.  God's judgment upon these nations was clear and certain:  "I will not turn back my wrath" (1:3,6,9,11,13; 2:1).  It will come!

But Amos didn't stop there!!  He goes on to pronounce God's judgment on Judah and Israel!!!  (2:4-15).  These were the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, whom God had made into a great nation and brought up out of Egypt (2:10).  Yet, God disciplines those He loves.  It was for the sake of their forefathers that God would save a remnant.  "You only have I chosen of all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for your sins" (3:2).  Unlike the other nations, God would not destroy them completely … then or now or in the future.  "As a shepherd saves from the lion's mouth only two leg bones or a piece of an ear, so will the Israelites be saved" (3:12).  A remnant … a small piece that appears insignificant and useless … but God would keep His promises.

Oh, but what Israel and Judah have had to go through because they rejected their God and refused to return to Him … and more lies ahead.  Why is God so stern?  What about Jesus?  Isn't God compassionate and merciful and forgiving?  Yes … BUT, God cannot overlook sin. When Moses came down from Mt. Sinai and God spoke to Him, He proclaimed, "The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.  Yet He does not leave the guilty unpunished; He punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation"  (Exodus 34:6-7).

So Amos declares, "The Sovereign LORD has sworn by His holiness:  'The time will surely come when you will be taken away ...'" (4:2).  The remainder of chapter 4 makes it clear why judgment will fall upon them.  God's discipline is meant to lead to repentance, but the people of Israel and Judah had utterly ignored God's warnings.  Five times God brought extreme trials on Israel ... He gave them empty stomachs, He withheld rain, He sent locusts and blight on their gardens and vineyards, He sent plagues, He overthrew their cities ... all to get their attention and to call them back to Him.  But after each one of these, God's refrain is the same:  "YET you have not returned to Me!" (4:6,8,9,10,11).

The result:  "Therefore this is what I will do to you, Israel, and because I will do this to you, prepare to meet your God, O Israel!" (4:12).  God offers His love and forgiveness.  God calls out, "Come to ME!"    "He who forms the mountains, creates the wind, and reveals His thoughts to man, He who turns dawn to darkness, and treads the high places of the earth - the LORD God Almighty is His Name" (4:13).  God is GOD!  If you know God, you know that He loves you and sent His own Son, Jesus Christ, to pay your debt on the cross.  And because He loves you, He is not going to let you drift away without giving you a wake-up call.

We read in Hebrews 12:  "Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. ...  No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful.  Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it"  (Hebrews 12:7,11).  When God says to Israel, "Prepare to meet your God," it would be in judgment that they would meet Him.  But it did not have to be so.  God's call to repentance was met with stubborn rebellion.  Don't make the same mistake.  In the words of Isaiah, "Seek the LORD while He may be found; call on Him while He is near.  Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts.  Let him turn to the LORD, and He will have mercy on him, and to our God, for He will freely pardon" (Isaiah 55:6-7).

"O LORD, our God, to know You is to know Your power and Your greatness, and then to come face-to-face with my sin and guilt.  I thank You, O God, for Your discipline and for Your call to return to You, to repent and to find Your forgiveness through faith in Your Son, Jesus Christ.  I trust in Your promises and Your grace, O LORD, and praise You for the gift of knowing that when I meet You I will not have to be afraid.  Because of Your love for me I look forward to that day when I see Your face and enter Your presence.  My life is Yours!  In Jesus' name, Amen"

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