Heavenly Maitre d’

Amos 4:6, 8, 9, 10, 11: “’Yet you have not returned to me,’ declares the LORD” (NIV).

Observation: In each of these five verses God testified of Israel’s sin and established justification for coming judgment. He recounted things He had done to show His commitment to Israel including withholding food and rain to produce empty stomachs and failed crops. He had sent blight on gardens and locusts to devour fruit trees. He had sent plagues and wars in which the nation’s youth would be killed. He even reminded them that some had been overcome even as at Sodom and Gomorrah, yet still the nation had not returned to Him.

Application: What’s going on here? Is this how God treats His friends? These verses present a picture of God unlike the one we prefer to keep front and center. In our pursuit of the good things of life we much prefer to imagine God wooing us by unceasing whispering of His undying devotion to us. In this, we make Him rather like the Roman prelate’s servant who attentively pops grapes into her boss’s mouth as he is fanned on his couch—a sort of heavenly maître’d who remains continually at our beck and call.

This idyllic view, much preferred by the Israel of Amos’s day and by us cultural Christians of today, is abruptly cast aside by God’s summation in Amos 4:12, “Therefore this is what I will to do you, Israel, and because I will do this to you, prepare to meet your God, O Israel” (NIV). Whew! No wonder we would rather breeze past Old Testament prophets like Amos in our reading. Israel, crushed by the Assyrians, was about to meet the God with whom she had formed a covenant relationship and then profoundly offended by taking the relationship lightly.

We should consider whether such admonitions apply to us today. Is He a God who never changes, or has He softened with the passing of generations? Having walked an aisle or prayed a sinner’s prayer, do we secretly hope He is more accepting of half-heartedness today than He was with Israel of old? Chillingly, He puts us on notice that whole-hearted obedience is still what He expects. Have I not claimed identification with His Son who went to the cross for me? Is it possible to identify with Christ’s death without dying to my persistent embrace of things temporal? How else can I show that I have “returned to Him” as He yearned for Israel to do?

I have the choice of either walking willing, gladly, into the fulness of His embrace or clinging stubbornly to my own pursuits. Both options lead to this: “Prepare to meet your God”; each have profoundly differing results.

Prayer: Father, You are eternal and unchanging. Neither passing time nor creature comforts change Your expectation that I fulfill my part in our covenant. Guide me into right choices by Your Word and by Your Spirit.

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