Summary: A loving Creator dedicated to our salvation is sometimes left with no choice but punishment.
Have you ever wondered what God "has done for you lately?" Many have. In fact a lot of people struggle to see the hand of God in their lives. Unfortunately, they only look for good things--things that make their lives easier. However, Paul reminds us that God’s impact on our lives comes as both kindness and severity (Rom. 11:22). Strange how we often miss this lesson. The Israelites missed it too.
As Amos, the southern prophet, declared to a derelict northern kingdom, God’s patience wears thin. He had blessed the nation with many great things: He led them out of Egypt, forged a covenant with them, fed them in the wilderness, fought for them during the conquest of Canaan, allowed them to have a king and send them many warnings when they strayed from Him. Yet despite all of God’s goodness, the fickle nation turned its back on God.
Israel’s Punishment (Amos 4:1-5)
God, through Amos, first enumerates the national sins of Israel. They played the spirital harlot like the prostitues of Bashan (v. 1). They trusted in their strategic mountain position to protect them from attack, rather than trusting in God (v. 1). They cruelly oppressed the poor and needed (v. 1). The wealthy among them lingered in hedonism with attitudes of ease and pleasure (v. 1). Their worship was so corrupted that God called them to heap their transgression one on top of another (vv. 4-5). The entire list of sins is summed up in God’s charge, "For so you love to do, O people of Israel!" (v. 5).
Because of their sin, God promised punishment. He sign a contract for their demise (vv. 2-3). Time was running out for a nation pushing God’s longsuffering to the limits.
The severity of God is real. Even today He promises destruction on those who refuse to obey Him (2 Thes. 1:7-9). People today need to understand that a God’s love does not contradict or nullify God’s justice. Like Israel, there is no escape for us if we refuse to repent.
Israel’s Rejection (Amos 4:6-11).
After you have been kind to someone for so long by supplying their every need and they repay you by abuse, hatred, and evasiveness, what are you left to do. This was the situation that God found himself in when dealing with Israel. He blessed them with homes, land, families and food. Instead of showing gratitude, the people turned to false and impotent gods and idols, rejecting God. So God began to withhold His blessings. He withheld the blessing of food (v. 6). He stopped the rain (vv. 7-8). God even brought crop failure to an already starving people (v. 9). He allowed pestilence, wars, and destruction to come to their cities (vv. 10-11).
As each blessing disappeared, God waited for their repentance, but each time they rejected God. He lamented their choice, "Yet you did not return to me."
If we like those of Paul’s day despise the blessings of God and do not allow His goodness to lead us to repent, what will God do to us (Rom. 2:4)? Will all our blessings dry up? The the source of good gifts turn His back on our backs (Jas. 1:17)? The gleam of light is that God wants us to be saved. He wants to bless us. And even when we forget Him, reject Him, and despise Him, He continues to do what He can to elicit our repentance. God’s love and dedication to our salvation is constant (2 Pet. 3:9).
Israel’s Final Warning (Amos 4:12-13)
This is my favorite part. Once God took back all His blessings and the people still rejected Him, He did not give up on them. He gives them this final warning. In verse 12 He tells them, "Therefore thus I will do to you, O Israel." The plan for their destruction is given in verses 2 and 3. Apparently, nothing could stop the advancing Assyrian Army. However, God gives hope in the message of doom, "Prepare to meet your God."
To emphasize their "adversary" God describes Himself, "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 high places of the earth--the Lord, the God of hosts, is his name!" Wow! What a God. What power. Who can prepare to meet this God in battle. What mountain offers superior tactical position against the God who created all mountains? What military strategy can man devise that God has not already contemplated and in fact declared first to man? What reprieve from battle will man get when fighting a God who can stop the sun and prolong the day of battle? Where can man turn when facing the God who tramples on and demonstrates the impotence of false gods and idols by stamping out their high places of worship? What sword can be forged, shield fashioned, or armor donned that can prepare someone to meet such a God as Jehovah?