“PREPARE TO MEET THY GOD”
1. My text today this morning is Amos 4.12. While you are making your way to Amos chapter 4, allow me to mention a few historical details to give you some background and context.
2. Amos “was a prophet from Judah to Israel,” during that time after Solomon’s death when the kingdom split into the northern kingdom of Israel, dominated by the ten tribes, and the southern kingdom of Judah, dominated by the largest tribe of Judah and the smallest tribe of Benjamin.
3. Let me read what one commentator wrote in some introductory remarks about the small book of Amos:
BOOK OF AMOS is a prophetic writing of nine chapters, containing chiefly
the announcements of judgment upon the northern kingdom of Israel because
of her social injustices, moral degeneracy and apostasy. The prophet
foretells not only the coming dissolution of Israel but also the
expectation of judgment upon the surrounding nations. He sees justice and
ethical conduct between men as the foundation of society, and maintains
that worship by a people whose lives are characterized by selfishness,
greed, immorality and oppression is an abomination to God.
book of Amos consists of three groups of oracles under one title: “The
words of Amos. . . which he saw concerning Israel in the days of Uzziah
king of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam.. . king of Israel, two years
before the earthquake” (1:1). Chapters 1 and 2 consist of eight
“burdens” against the surrounding nations, including Judah and Israel.
The oracles are directed against the crimes of these nations and culminate
in a detailed denunciation of the social and moral evils of Israel. The
second section, chapters 3-6, consists of three sermons against Israel for
her sins. The sermons of judgment are easily perceptible since each begins
with the prophetic formula “Hear this word” which stands at the head
of chapters 3, 4 and 5. Each of the three denunciations is concluded with
an emphatic “therefore” (3:11; 4:12; 5:16; 6:7) which announces the
nature of the judgment to follow. Hence, in the first part of each sermon
is set forth the cause of judgment, and in the latter, the nature of the
4. Our text for today, Amos 4.12, comes very near the end of the second sermon in the second section of the book.
5. For just a few minutes, read Amos chapter four with me, so I can make some comments that will set the stage for this morning’s sermon.
6. Amos 4.1: “Hear this word, ye kine of Bashan, that are in the mountain of Samaria, which oppress the poor, which crush the needy, which say to their masters, Bring, and let us drink.”
a. The word “kine” simply refers to bulls and cows. So Amos is comparing the people he is addressing to big cows and bulls who push around smaller and weaker cattle, they “oppress the poor,” they “crush the needy.”
b. Being in the region of Bashan, which is in the mountains of Samaria, identifies who he referring to, those of the ten northern tribes who are turned to religious apostasy.
c. “. . . which say to their masters, Bring, and let us drink.” They may be big and strong and able to push others who are weaker around, but their condition means they are fattened for the slaughter. Judgment is about to fall, yet they think that things could not be better.
7. Amos 4.2: “The Lord GOD hath sworn by his holiness, that, lo, the days shall come upon you, that he will take you away with hooks, and your posterity with fishhooks.”
a. When God swears by His holiness it means that His active attribute of holiness demands punishment. In other words, God being Who He is demands that He judge them for their wickedness.
b. Have any of you ever been to a slaughter house where livestock are killed and then dressed? The animal is killed and then large hooks are run through tendons and ligaments down near the hooves, so the animal can be hoisted up for bleeding, for skinning, and then for cutting up.
c. The reference to “your posterity” and “fishhooks” refers to the slaughter of very young animals, who were then hoisted up in similar manner, only with smaller hooks that are little different than fishhooks.
d. Despite the paucity of such real life sights, smells and sounds that we have from the virtually antiseptic world that most of us here in the United States live in, this verse is full of imagery for anyone who lives in a low tech society where there are animals in the streets, flies all around, and the smells of life and death in the air.
e. When judgment falls it will be violent, it will be surprising, and it will be inescapable.
8. Amos 4.3: “And ye shall go out at the breaches, every cow at that which is before her; and ye shall cast them into the palace, saith the LORD.”
a. This verse forms a mental picture of people behind the walls of a fortress that is under attack. When the enemy assaults and breaches the walls the cows will think that they can get out by means of the breaches the enemy made to get in.
b. But it will not work. There are always those who think that if trouble comes, if the enemy attacks, if judgment falls . . . I will figure out a way of escape. But the LORD says, in so many words, “No, you won’t.”
9. Amos 4.4-5:
4 Come to Bethel, and transgress; at Gilgal multiply transgression; and bring your sacrifices every morning, and your tithes after three years:
And offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving with leaven, and
proclaim and publish the free
offerings: for this liketh you, O ye children of Israel, saith the Lord GOD.
a. Bethel, of course, was the place where the false gods were set up after Israel was divided north and south, with the Temple located in Judah to the south.
b. They tithed. They offered sacrifices. They gave offerings. But it was all transgression. And leaven, of course, is a type of sin. So, none of their religious exercises improved their standing with God. It only angered Him more and more, because it was all idolatry. They were worshiping God their way. But God insists that He be worshiped His way, not your way.
10. Amos 4.6-11:
6 And I also have given you cleanness of teeth in all your cities, and want of bread in all your places: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the LORD.
7 And also I have withholden the rain from you, when there were yet three months to the harvest: and I caused it to rain upon one city, and caused it not to rain upon another city: one piece was rained upon, and the piece whereupon it rained not withered.
8 So two or three cities wandered unto one city, to drink water; but they were not satisfied: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the LORD.
9 I have smitten you with blasting and mildew: when your gardens and your vineyards and your fig trees and your olive trees increased, the palmerworm devoured them: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the LORD.
10 I have sent among you the pestilence after the manner of Egypt: your young men have I slain with the sword, and have taken away your horses; and I have made the stink of your camps to come up unto your nostrils: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the LORD.
I have overthrown some
of you, as God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, and ye were as a firebrand
plucked out of the burning: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the LORD.
a. In these six verses, God refers to the various punishments that He has poured out upon them, judgments that they were visited with for the specific purpose of turning them back to God. But what happened each time God sought to turn them back to Him?
At the end of verse six we read, “. . . yet have ye not returned
unto me, saith the LORD.”
At the end of verse eight we read, “. . . yet have ye not
returned unto me, saith the LORD.” At
the end of verse nine we read, “. . . yet have ye not returned unto me,
saith the LORD.”
At the end of verse ten we read, “. . . yet have ye not returned
unto me, saith the LORD.” And
at the end of verse eleven we read, “. . . yet have ye not returned unto
me, saith the LORD.”
1. Now that you have a pretty good background leading up to our text for this morning’s sermon, there are four things I would like for you to keep in mind before we sing and consider this morning’s message:
2. First, it is obvious that God was long-suffering toward them despite their sins. Again and again, He warned them with prophets and with chastening designed to turn them back to God. However, they did not respond.
3. Second, they completely misunderstood God’s long-suffering and their own circumstances. Perhaps they were deluded into thinking the real God, the Creator of all things, was like the false god they were worshiping. They were wrong. As well, they mistook their prosperity and fatness for favor, not understanding that they were simply being fattened up like livestock for the slaughter.
4. Third, the Israelites are perfect illustrations of how it is possible for God to warn and warn and warn without those who are being warned paying attention and hearing what they are warned about.
5. And finally, before brother Isenberger comes, keep in mind that the way God deals with the Jewish people, as a nation in the Old Testament, is very much the same way He deals with individuals like you and me in the New Testament.
6. As Paul wrote to the Corinthians in First Corinthians 10.11-12, “Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.”
7. God warns people before He judges them. The human race was warned before the Flood. Pharaoh was warned before the plagues. And God here warned Israel before He judged them. When they did not repent of their sins, when they did not turn back to God, judgment fell. Judgment fell on them very hard. My sermon is God’s warning to you who are here today.
Now brother Isenberger comes to lead us as we stand to sing.
1. Turn to our text for today, Amos 4.12. When you have located that verse, stand for the reading of God’s Word: “Therefore thus will I do unto thee, O Israel: and because I will do this unto thee, prepare to meet thy God, O Israel.”
2. What is meant by this statement? There are two points that are being made in this sermon that Amos delivered to the wicked nation of Israel.
3. First, God makes the point that He will judge them. “Therefore thus will I do unto thee, O Israel.” God’s holiness demanded that He judge them in the past, did it not? And did they respond to His dealings in the past? No. So, because He is the same God with the same nature, and since they are the same people with the same sins, they can be certain that God’s judgment will fall again.
4. Then, God makes the point that because judgment is going to fall, they need to prepare for that coming judgment. “. . . and because I will do this unto thee, prepare to meet thy God, O Israel.”
5. Did Israel prepare to meet her God? No, she did not. And because Israel did not prepare to meet her God, Assyria rushed down from the north, overwhelmed the entire nation, carried their men off into captivity, brought strange men in from other conquered nations to take their women, and the result was an ethnic mix of people who had a mixed culture, a mixed language, a confused religion, and have been known for 2,700 years as Samaritans. They did not prepare to meet their God.
Let me now apply the central phrase in our text to you:
“prepare to meet thy God.”
There are three parts, very simple parts, for you to focus your
1A. First, YOU ARE TO PREPARE
1B. Interesting word, “prepare.” It translates a Hebrew word that has to do with being firm, with being right, with being established, with being correct. Imagine a house properly set up on pillars. Imagine a soldier who is expecting an attack, so he makes sure he has good footing so he does not fall down when his position comes under siege. Imagine a football player on natural turf, a big lineman, preparing for the snap of the football by making sure his cleats have good traction. Visualize a baseball player in the batter’s box, digging his cleats in so he can swing the bat effectively and get a good start toward first base if he makes contact. Each is a picture of being prepared.
2B. You see, my friend, you are not prepared. The very fact that this command is issued requires us to acknowledge that you are not prepared. People think they have been prepared by their religious activities, but they are not prepared. Still others think they are prepared because of what their parents did to them or for them, or what their parents arranged to be done to them or for them, soon after they were born. But, still, they are not prepared.
3B. Keep in mind that these were Jews that Amos was addressing on behalf of God. God was speaking to these Jewish people through the prophet Amos. They had had done to them what God said their parents should do for them when they were born. And they had engaged in ritual religion their whole lives. Yet they were not prepared. Thus, nothing that has been done to you, or for you, can have prepared you.
4B. Judgment is coming upon you. Whether you realize it or not, judgment has already begun to fall upon you, yet you have not prepared. Romans chapter one informs us that such things as sex sins, ignoring God, desiring what other people have, being envious of others, being argumentative, being sneaky, whispering secrets, being a backbiter, being proud, bragging, disobeying your parents, and getting a kick out of others doing wrong, are not only sins that God will judge . . . they are sins committed by people after God has already begun to judge them. So some of you, even some of you young people, have already begun to suffer the judgment of God . . . without even realizing it, just exactly like they did in Amos’ time.
So, you are very much in the situation those Jews were in in
Amos’ time. You have
already been judged by God a number of times, but without responding.
And you cannot say that such things are in God’s hands, because
God has commanded you to prepare (the verb is imperative). But
how are you to prepare? To
prepare would be to obey God’s command.
But you cannot obey God’s command, because you are dead in
trespasses and sins. You
are utterly depraved. Your
situation is quite hopeless.
2A. Next, PREPARE TO MEET
1B. You are not ready, but you need to get ready, for the encounter. Do you know that you have a date? That is right. There is an appointed day, and an appointed time, at an appointed place, where you will experience a close encounter of the first kind. It will be unlike any other encounter that you have ever in your life had. Dramatic. Discouraging. Depressing. Defeating. Astonishing. Surprising. Shocking. Memorable. Overwhelming. Unnerving. Intimidating. Shaming. Humiliating. Degrading. Frightening. Nightmarish.
2B. In Hebrews 9.27, we are given a bit more information about this date that you have, this meeting that you will attend. The writer to the Hebrews declares, “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.” Quite a different appointment has been made for those of us here who are Christians. First Thessalonians 5.9 says about us, “For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ.” We will be saved, but you will be judged.
3B. The great tragedy of your life is that you have experienced a number of incidents that have been hints, suggestions, precursors, warnings of things to come. Perhaps it was a brush with death. Perhaps an illness or an automobile accident. Perhaps you were witness to something that happened to someone else, and in your mind you knew that there was a lesson there for you. But you ignored the warning. You failed to learn the lesson.
4B. Take a look back over your shoulder of life. Remind yourself of things you have forgotten about, but which you would do well to remember. For me they were automobile accidents that I might not have lived through, or close calls with hunting rifles and shotguns, or falling headfirst out of a tree, or getting my air hose kinked while scuba diving, or almost being run over by a car when I was little.
You have your own incidents that God has used to remind you that
your life will someday end, and that you are not yet prepared for the
encounter. What have you done
with the warnings? How have
you responded to that brief reminder of a future encounter?
The problem is that you have not really responded at all. “But you said I could not respond, pastor.”
That is true. But even if you could respond you would not.
Romans 3.11 reminds us of the psalmist’s words, “there is none
that seeketh after God.”
3A. Finally, PREPARE TO MEET THY GOD
1B. Notice that Amos did not give the Jews a choice of which god to prepare to meet. Had those Jews been given a choice they would have chosen some golden calf, some figurine shaped in the form of a woman, or some other such idol formed by their own hands. But such a choice was not given to Israel. And no choice will be given to you, either.
2B. Who is this God you will someday experience an encounter with? Who is this God you will someday meet? Who is this God you are as yet unprepared for? Verse 13 provides a description of Him: “For, lo, he that formeth the mountains, and createth the wind, and declareth unto man what is his thought, that maketh the morning darkness, and treadeth upon the high places of the earth, The LORD, The God of hosts, is his name.”
3B. The God you will someday meet for judgment is not some holy mountain. He is the One Who formed the mountains. Neither is He some divine wind. He creates wind. The point that is being made here is that the God you will meet is not a part of nature. He is above nature. He is not a part of the universe in which we live. He is infinitely greater than the expanse of this universe.
The point established is that God was not the god of their
conceptions. Neither is God
the god of your conceptions. The
God you will meet at the Great White Throne judgment is the Creator of all
things, the God of Israel, whose name is Jehovah.
This God, the true God, has sworn by His holiness that He will
judge you. And in His anger
He will pour out His wrath upon you.
1. “Prepare to meet thy God.” Because God has sworn by His holiness that He will pour out judgment upon you, and because you have not successfully escaped God’s previous judgments (mostly you haven’t even noticed them), you will not escape God’s punishment come judgment day. That judgment you will notice.
2. The only thing you can do is “prepare to meet thy God.” But you have not the means to prepare for that inevitable judgment that is coming. And you will stand before God on that day, but will fall before Him and then be cast into the lake of fire.
3. Just as Israel paid no attention to God’s warning, and was utterly destroyed as a nation by the Assyrians, so you too will pay no attention and will be swept up and carried off into judgment. “Prepare to meet thy God,” the Bible says. But you cannot prepare to meet God, the Bible also says.
4. Thus, your situation is utterly hopeless. You are caught between God’s righteous demands and your own inabilities.
5. You need Another to prepare you to meet your God, since you cannot prepare yourself. That Other is Jesus Christ, the Son of God, Who suffered and bled and died for sins.
6. He is the One Who prepares sinners to meet God. So, if you want to be prepared to meet God, you need to come to Jesus Christ.
 Hobart E. Freeman,
An Introduction To The Old
Testament Prophets, (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1968), page
 Ibid., page 184.
 Francis Brown, S.
R. Driver & Charles A. Briggs, The
New Brown-Driver-Briggs-Gesenius Hebrew And English Lexicon,
(Peabody, MA: 1979), page 465.
 John Joseph Owens,
Analytical Key to the Old
Testament, Volume 4, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book
House, 1989), page 811.
 Ephesians 2.1