"Therefore thus I will do to you, O Israel; because I will do this to you, prepare to meet your God, O Israel!" (Amos 4:12)
This verse is a summary of the LORD's message for all the prophets to give to His people. The last prophet God sent before His Son said the same thing. In reference to John the Baptist, an angel in Luke 1:17 says, "He will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the LORD a people prepared." That is the great question for all mankind, "Are you prepared to meet your God?"
Notice in Amos 4:6-13 how many times the LORD uses "I" when referring to His actions. He says I gave, withheld, send, struck, sent, killed, made and overthrew. He is the source of each of these physical disasters; drought, blight, locust, pestilence, war that caused the stench of death and destruction. The LORD caused all this disaster to bring the people to the realization that He was against them so they would return to Him. But the result of each calamity He sent is "Yet you did not return to me, declares the LORD."
Just as verse 12 is a summary statement for the prophets, Amos 4:6-12 is a summary of a promise God made in Leviticus 26:14-33. The LORD begins this passage with "If you will not listen to me and will not do all these commandments, if you spurn my statutes, and if your soul abhors my rules, so that you will not do all my commandments, but break my covenant, then I will..." Verse 18 encapsulates all He will do, "If in spite of this you will not listen to me, then I will discipline you again sevenfold for your sins, and I will break the pride of your power."
When events like those listed in Amos 4:6-11 occur, how do you view them? Are natural disasters just "mother nature?" Is war just a consequence of fallen mankind? As the cross grew nearer, Jesus warned his disciples about coming tribulation, persecution, famine and other times of difficulty and stress. In Luke 21:10-13, He explains how His followers should view these events. "Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes and in various places famines and pestilences. And there will be terrors and great signs from heaven. But before all this they will lay hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name's sake. This will be your opportunity to bear witness."
Yesterday, a friend told me about several earthquakes occurring along the border between Iraq and Iran. The Christians in the area have received great persecution from their Muslim neighbors, but in this time of distress, the neighbors are turning to believers for help. During hurricane Harvey, there were many videos of people traveling into the disaster to help those in need. Several I saw were believers using the opportunity to "bear witness." We saw the same attitude from Christians following the Sutherland Springs massacre. The LORD, the God of hosts, who brings these devastating events, would have His children "Love your neighbor as yourself" and "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."
Not all disasters and calamities are on such a large scale. Many are much closer to home with your friends and family. 1 John 4:12 says, "If we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us." Often our opportunity to "bear witness" to our Lord and Savior comes in these times of difficulty which will cost us time, emotion, money and energy. But to such a task we are called.
Spirit of grace, stir in us a graciousness that exemplifies our great and good God. May we be as merciful to those in need as He is to us. Teach us to see these times of high stress and difficulty as an opportunity to bear witness of You in both word and deed.