“Prepare to meet thy God, O Israel” (Amos 4:12).
Chapter 4 of Amos begins with the description of Israel’s sins, and it ends with the announcement of the day of reckoning. God makes His people especially accountable for the ways in which they live and treat others.
Amos has listed a series of natural disasters, any one of which should have been enough to turn the nation to God. The list is composed of seven disasters, the full measure of punishments for the breaking of God’s covenant (in accordance with the words of Moses from Leviticus 26). Some of the disasters remind one of the plagues God sent against Egypt, while the description of the last calamity explicitly mentions the total destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.
According to Solomon’s prayer at the dedication of the temple, what should disasters normally lead people to do? 1 Kings 8:37-40.
The people of Israel did not behave like normal people anymore, and God found it impossible to get their attention. Moreover, God’s judgments had resulted in the hardening of the people’s hearts. Because the people failed to return to the Lord, Amos presented one last chance for repentance.
The final judgment is impending, but Amos does not specify what the judgment would be. The haunting uncertainty in Amos’ words makes the threat of judgment even more ominous. Israel has failed to seek God, so God goes out to meet Israel. If punishment fails, will an encounter with God save?
Amos 4:12 begins with the words “‘thus will I do to you’” (NKJV), which echo the traditional oath formula. This solemn statement calls for a response from Israel to prepare to meet its God as they did prior to God’s appearance at Sinai (Exod. 19:11, 15).