The way we can correct our path and avoid judgement is to look at our own history and the history of our nation.
Human nature hasn’t changed and God hasn’t changed either. He created the Heavens and Earth including the weather. God has control over all of nature whether it’s rain, earthquakes, etc. Humans have no control over those tools.
God uses the things He has created to judge, reprimand and nudge mankind into the right direction. God says so Himself repeatedly through out Scripture, including in the book of Amos.
What Amos is saying to Northern Israel is repeated about a generation later to Judah by Jeremiah. Amos is detailing the abuses of the elites in the government and monarchy upon the regular citizens. Amos is not talking about the sins of each individual citizen but of the nation as a whole.
“Hear this word, you cows of Bashan who are on the mountain of Samaria, Who oppress the poor, who crush the needy, Who say to your husbands, ‘Bring now, that we may drink!’” (Amos 4:1 NASB)
When a government is corrupt, that corruption trickles down to the bottom levels of society. The mother of the king had a profound role in how well or poorly her son ruled the nation. The elite, aristocratic women of Israel egged their husbands to take more and more from the poor to enrich themselves.
“The Lord GOD has sworn by His holiness, ‘Behold, the days are coming upon you when they will take you away with meat hooks, and the last of you with fish hooks. You will go out through breaches in the walls, each one straight before her, and you will be cast to Harmon,’ declares the LORD.” (Amos 4:2–3 NASB)
The phrase “cast to Harmon” is a variation on the word “harem” which is basically concubinage and sex slavery. This is the fate awaiting these wicked women.
Starting in Amos 4:4, Amos goes straight into sarcasm to critique their worship and how it falls short of the true worship.
“Enter Bethel and transgress; In Gilgal multiply transgression! Bring your sacrifices every morning, Your tithes every three days. Offer a thank offering also from that which is leavened, And proclaim freewill offerings, make them known. For so you love to do, you sons of Israel,” Declares the Lord GOD.” (Amos 4:4–5 NASB)
Gilgal was supposed to represent the rolling away of God’s reproach. It’s where all the children of Israel were circumcised just before they entered the land of Israel but it has been re-purposed, and not in a good way.
The issue is not the frequency of the offerings but the object of their offerings. They weren’t supposed to bring offerings to Bethel or Gilgal, but to Jerusalem.
The showbread which is in the Temple was leavened but that is not a grain offering. Amos is sarcastically showing how the people of Northern Israel had made offerings in a way that God specifically forbade and yet presumed to do it for Him and used “free will offerings” to advertise their own greatness while pretending to honor God.
“But I gave you also cleanness of teeth in all your cities And lack of bread in all your places, Yet you have not returned to Me,” declares the LORD.”(Amos 4:6 NASB)
“Clean teeth” is not a reference to a good dental plan, but a reference to starvation and famine. By making sacrifices to God to gain favor with men, garnered God’s disfavor and invoked God’s punishment on themselves.
God took away their food with famine, drought, etc., using natural causes.
“So two or three cities would stagger to another city to drink water, But would not be satisfied; Yet you have not returned to Me,” declares the LORD.” (Amos 4:8 NASB)
The droughts and famine is creating ghost towns. Even today, Northern Israel gets more water than Judea and the Negev and a lack of water hits Northern Israel more seriously than Judea or the Negev, which are more accustomed to dealing with desert conditions.
“God placed seven divine acts of punishment on Northern Israel to try to get their attention before He has to judge them: famine, drought or selective rainfall, blight, locusts, plagues, loss of manpower, & loss of territory. ” New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition (ed. D. A Carson et al.; Accordance electronic ed. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1994).
No matter what natural disaster God brings on them, the children of Northern Israel fail to come back to God. They fail to see their own failure on a personal or national level.
God does not have a short memory, He knows our entire history. We are to pay attention to what is going on around us but the children of Northern Israel refused to do this.
Even if you ignore God, God will not allow you to ignore Him forever. He will make you face Him at some point. The nation of Northern Israel are prepared to meet God on good terms.
You don’t have to die to meet God. It simply means that God is going to make a judgement. It means to receive what God has for you, to receive something and to be accountable for what you have done.
“Therefore thus I will 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 And declares to man what are His thoughts, He who makes dawn into darkness And treads on the high places of the earth, The LORD God of hosts is His name.” (Amos 4:12–13 NASB)
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