Amos 4:10-13 – “’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. ‘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. ‘Therefore, thus I will do to you, O Israel; because I will do this to you, prepare to meet your God, O Israel!’ 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 prophet Amos ministered to the northern kingdom of Israel during the reign of King Uzziah, who died in 739 B.C. What this means is that Amos most likely ministered to Israel around 750 B.C. or so. The most important date in Israel’s history around this time is 722 B.C. when Israel was taken into exile by Assyria. Amos speaks against the Israelite’s amassing of wealth at the expense of the poor (Amos 2:7). He speaks against religion that is lifeless and heartless and irreverent. He speaks against sexual immorality (Amos 2:7). And he speaks against general “iniquities” (Amos 3:2). The point is clear: Israel must repent, or else the judgment of God is coming.
Consider the irony of what we read in Amos 4:10-13. God is telling the Israelites that he has shown his mercy to them through the pestilence that plagues them, through the carrying away of their horses, through their being “overthrown” like God did with Sodom and Gomorrah, and on and on. God showed his mercy in bringing punishment to His people. Have you ever viewed discipline as God’s mercy? That is exactly what we see here, because after God brought various punishments to the Israelites, they failed to completely return to the Lord. The punishment and discipline became greater and greater until God finally said enough is enough. “Prepare to meet your God, O Israel!”
Because the Israelites were living in opposition to God, God’s statement “Prepare to meet your God” is a statement of judgment. Like Uzzah was put to death when he put his hand on the ark as it fell to the ground, so God is saying that his presence is coming, and there should be no comfort in this. God’s presence is bringing judgment. Their sin places them as God’s enemy. I think of Aslan in the Chronicles of Narnia. He is the Christ-figure of C.S. Lewis’ masterful series. For the good guys, Aslan’s presence is a good thing. For the bad guys, Aslan’s presence should bring terror. Just 30 years (or so) later, God’s hand of judgment is partially seen as Assyria came to take Israel over and lead the Israelites into exile.
There have been times in my life that I’ve seen the merciful discipline of the Lord in my life. It was horrible at the time. But the lesson learned was sweet. To experience the merciful discipline of the Lord and to continue living the life of sin should lead you to be terrified. To despise the mercy of God and to continue to live in sin will bring a greater discipline. You thought the first example of God’s mercy was hard to experience? Just wait till God says, “Prepare to meet your God!”