“I gave you cleanness of teeth in all your cities. And lack of bread in all your places; yet you have not returned to Me,” says the Lord.
“I also withheld rain from you, when there were still three months to the harvest. I made it rain on one city, I withheld rain from another city. One part was rained upon, and where it did not rain the part withered. So two or three cities wandered to another city to drink water, but they were not satisfied; yet you have not returned to Me,” says the Lord.
“I blasted you with blight and mildew. When your gardens increased, your vineyards, your fig trees, and your olive trees, the locust devoured them; yet you have not returned to Me,” says the Lord.
“I sent among you a plague after the manner of Egypt; your young men I killed with a sword, along with your captive horses; I made the stench of your camps come up into your nostrils; yet you have not returned to Me,” says the Lord.
“I overthrew some of you, as God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, and you were like a firebrand plucked from the burning; yet you have not returned to Me,” says the Lord.
Therefore thus will I do to you, O Israel; because I will do this to you, prepare to meet your God, O Israel! For behold, He who forms mountains, and creates the wind, who declares to man what his thought is, and makes the morning darkness, who treads the high places of the earth — the Lord God of hosts is His name. (Amos 4:6-13)
Man Is A Stubborn Creature
Sin can make a person very stubborn. In almost a spiral death dive without any hope of coming out alive, the allurement of sin will make people do the most unlikely, unreasonable and unbelievable things. An animal will learn with repeated chastisement to change a certain behavior conforming to the wishes of the master. Many wild animals can be trained to become domesticated through a series of continual character modifications. The highest of all animals and one made in the image of the Creator has a tenacious ability to refuse to change even when faced with repeated punishments. No one more clearly demonstrates this failed trait in man than the nation of Israel. Brought forth by the grace of God and created through the mercy of a loving Father, Israel had more than any nation on earth to be thankful for and had been promised by the Lord of Hosts to be cared for and protected by divine will. Clearly, in the Law of Moses, the blessings of God’s eternal glory would rest upon Israel as long as they were obedient to His will. When Israel would stray from the course of divine truth the Lord would gently chastise them and show them how to return to Him. The early days of the conquest of Canaan were pivotal days of the judges where Israel would serve the Lord for a time before falling into the ways of the people around them and bring the wrath of God. They would be oppressed for a time and the Lord would deliver them and the cycle would continue for years to come. There was no king in the land and everyone did what they thought was right in their own eyes. The period of the united kingdom under Saul, David and Solomon brought great peace and prosperity. There would be times the chastisement of God would bring sorrow to the people but they would heed the word and return to the Lord. Following the death of Solomon, the kingdom fell into civil war. Nothing would be the same for Israel as it began to implode on itself in the wickedness of the nations around them.
Amos was not a common prophet of his day but a man fierce in his devotion to God and fiery message of repentance. He grew up hard and lived a hard life. His view of God’s judgment was the severity of a loving God who would not tolerate the hardened hearts of a rebellious people. The longsuffering of the Lord is always given to man to give him time to repent and come back to a rightful place with God. In Israel’s case, the Lord had repeatedly brought tragedies against the nation to shake them from their hardened hearts bent on following the path of wickedness. The land had suffered famine as a means to bring them back to God but they refused to obey Him. He withheld the rain from the land bringing a great drought destroying crops and making life unbearable and still the people refused to change their hearts. The people could see the hand of God working in the rain as it would rain in one place but not another and there was never enough rain. No matter how hard the drought man refused to repent. The Lord blasted the crops with blight and mildew leaving little or nothing to harvest and yet the people still would not turn their hearts to righteousness. When the law was given to the people at Sinai they were vividly reminded that if they transgressed the word of God the same plagues befalling Egypt would come upon them. Because of their wickedness, the Lord fulfilled that promise and sent among them the plague after the manner of Egypt. He killed their sons and destroyed their armies and still this did not turn the heart of the people back to God. Finally, the Lord brought devastation against the people like He did when He destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah with brimstone and fire. In all of this, the heart of the people remained stubborn and rebellious to repent. If they had experienced calamity before they would feel the full wrath of God when He brings the might of the Assyrian and Babylonian nations against them.
Sin is a cruel master who subdues the heart to repel the fierce punishment of God. The chastening of the Lord is purposeful and designed to change the hearts of sinful man to receive the grace of a loving Father yet men refuse to acknowledge God and to follow His word. It is difficult to say how the chastening of the Lord works in the lives of men today but the reality of His hand in the affairs of the nations and lives of His people demonstrate the will of the Father is still being exercised to bring men to Him. The remarkable story is how often men will refuse to return to the Lord. Natural calamities happen to all men, injustices abound in the affairs of men and the judgments of God are still being exercised to show the glory of a loving Father who is trying to bring all men to know Him. Yet they have not returned to the Lord and how sad this will be in the end. The great tragedy of the judgment of God is to hear how often the Lord chastened man and how often He was rejected. Israel and Judah would realize the words of Amos rang true that God had given them ample warnings and many opportunities to repent but they refused. There were no excuses. The Lord continues to give man warnings to repent and as often as he refuses he brings judgment to himself as a stubborn and rebellious creature. Sin will take you farther than you want to go and make your heart turn away from God to the point there can be no hope. Prepare to meet your God is all that is left to say.