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Friday, April 28, 2017

Prepare to Meet Your God

Introduction

God sent Amos to the people of the northern kingdom of Israel to pronounce His charge and judgment against eight nations. He wanted the Israelites to listen to His charges and judgments against the first seven nations so they would recognize their own sin, repent, and return to a right relationship with Him. With God’s judgment of the Israelites of the northern kingdom, He proclaimed their punishment to be the overthrowing of their government and the captivity of their leaders and rich citizens. He judged them for their idolatry, oppression of the poor, and their lack of mercy and grace toward the poor. God gave the Israelites His laws to govern their lives as a nation which included helping the widows, orphans, poor, and aliens, and to stay faithful to their relationship with Him. The Israelites were like the surrounding nations. Because of this, their sin against God was greater. They sinned against other people and against God. They broke their covenant with Him.

Our study of Amos 3 showed us more explicitly the sins of the people of Israel. With Amos 4, we will understand a subset of the population in whom God found sin and covenant unfaithfulness. Amos told the people God’s judgment of them and what they did.  He explained their sins against God. Amos then reminded them of what God did or allowed their enemies to do in the past because of their sin. He told the Israelites how God’s judgment would come upon them. Finally, Amos reminded the people of who God is–His greatness, might, and being. Let’s begin now with Amos’ call to the people to shama’ hear.



Call to Hear

Amos began this second sermon (or proclamation) the same way he did the first. In Amos 4:1, Amos said,

“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!’” [NASB]

Unlike the call to hear of Amos 3 which called each Israelite to listen to and heed God, in chapter four Amos called to a specific group of people in Samaria to hear God’s judgment. Just as Amos prophesied against capital cities in the surrounding nations and used that city to mean God judged the entire nation, so when he spoke God’s judgment on Samaria, he meant the whole of Israel received God’s judgment.  Before we continue with this verse, remember “hear” comes from the Hebrew word shama’. It means to hear, listen to, and obey what the speaker said.

Who were the audience of this sermon? What charge did God bring against them? Amos used a derogatory name for the audience. He called them “cows of Bashan.” Calling a woman a cow is by any standard derogatory. Cows are fat, and good for producing milk and bearing calves. The people of the time recognized the cows of Bashan as being well fed and fat. The fields and pasture lands of Bashan on the northeastern side of the Jordan River were fertile. They provided well for herds and flocks. The animals of that region received recognition as being fat and increasing. David mentioned them in Psalm 22:12 in this way. The women of Samaria were so wealthy they were like the fat cows of Bashan. Amos and Ezekiel both used this term figuratively to speak of the luxurious rich nobles. Ezekiel 39:18 says, “You will eat the flesh of mighty men and drink the blood of the princes of the earth as though they were rams, lambs, goats, and bulls, all of them fatlings of Bashan.” [NASB] Note here, some theologians believe this call to hear spoken to the cows of Bashan referred to the rich women of Samaria. Other theologians believe it referred to the rich people of Samaria, not just the women. Either way, God’s judgment of their actions condemns them for walking away from Him and His laws.

As to the rich people of Samaria’s actions, of what did God charge them? From chapters two and three, we understand they oppressed the rich and did not help the poor as God told them to do in Leviticus and Deuteronomy. In Amos 4:1, God charged them similarly. They oppressed the poor; they defrauded, exploited, and deceitfully enriched themselves by their actions against the poor–the widow, orphan, needy, and alien. Amos emphasized this by adding these rich Israelites crushed the needy. The people who needed help with daily provisions and needed an advocate received nothing from the rich who were their fellow brethren, the sons and daughters of Israel. Family did not help family.

The final charge God made against the rich of Samaria is they cared for nothing other than their own luxurious living. They preferred to revel in their luxuries and become drunk with wine than to open their doors and eyes. These rich did not want to use their wealth to help the poor, but wanted more wine on which to get drunk. Their luxuries were more important than the daily life-sustaining needs of their fellow Israelite. These wealthy people forgot the needy people were their family and fellow heirs of the Promised Land.

·         Do you use hard earned money to buy things that are unnecessary to life instead of giving back to the community?
·         Do you turn away when someone asks for help with food, or a ride to work or an interview?
·         Have people rebuffed you as the rich Israelites rebuffed the poor? How has that changed how you interact with the poor?
·         What changes will you make to your lifestyle to align yourself with God’s will for the money and provisions He gives you?


God’s Judgment of the Wealthy of Samaria

With two verses, Amos prophesied God’s judgment on the rich of Samaria and on Israel. He said in Amos 4:2-3,

“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 the breaches in the walls, each one straight before her, and you will be cast to Harmon,’ declares the LORD.” [NASB]

In these two verses, Amos stated three things would happen to the rebellious rich of Israel. Before this, he emphasized who judged them and how serious this judgment of God was. Amos stated, “The Lord GOD has sworn by His holiness.” He applied the two names he earlier used to speak about their God. Amos said Adonay, the Lord and Master, and GOD, Yehovah-the existing One, the I AM, the One who is, was, and always will be-swore His judgment against the rich of Israel would occur. The One and Only God, the I Am their ancestors knew and covenanted with, was the One who charged and judged them. The great and holy GOD who swore by His holiness ensured His judgment would happen against the rich of Israel. GOD swore by His holiness-His sacredness, a mark of His character. He could not be unfaithful to Himself. GOD swore by Himself; this bound Him to punish the guilty.

What did GOD say would happen to these rich Israelites who oppressed the poor? He said they (their enemies) would take them away with meat hooks. The enemies GOD would allow to battle and overcome the Israelites would carry the rich Israelites into captivity. Besides that, their enemy would lead them captive by meat hooks. “Meat hooks” comes from the Hebrew word tsinnah, which means piercing hook or barb. Isaiah 37:29 speaks of these meat hooks as does Ezekiel 38:4. These hooks forced an animal or person go the where the leader wanted  The Assyrians overthrew Samaria after a three year siege of their walls and gates. When Assyria overthrew a city or nation, they put rings in the captives’ noses then chained them together to take them to places throughout their empire. Excavators of the areas of the Assyrian empire have found numerous metal nose rings in their digs. Amos emphasized the rich Israelites’ captivity when he added “the last of you with fish hooks.” “The last of you” comes from the Hebrew word ‘achariyth and means the survivors. The fishing hooks were small briars or thorns like a fisherman would use. Habakkuk 1:15 used this same word in the prophecy against the Judeans. He said the Chaldeans (the Neo-Babylonians) would bring the Judeans up with a hook and gather them in their nets. Few of the rich Israelites would stay in the northern kingdom after their enemies came against them, Amos prophesied.

With verse three Amos said the people would go out through the breaches in the wall in front of them. Manny cracks and breaches in the wall would occur because of the effective attack against the Samaritan wall. The enemy would use those breaches to enter and exit the city. The Samaritan walls would protect no one from the enemy. The enemy would have easy access to get to the rich Samaritans and to remove them from their supposed fortified city. The Samaritans would exit the city as captives through the breaches in the wall straight in front of their homes or where they stood. The enemy would cast the rich Samaritans from their luxurious homes and take them to Harmon, a “high fortress.” To emphasize the seriousness of this judgment and ensure the people knew it would occur, Amos said the LORD Yehovah, the I AM, declared it. It would happen. What God says, He will surely do.

·         What would you think if someone said God declared judgment on you for your sins and because of that you would lose your way of life?
·         Would this judgment from God make you seek Him and change your life?
·         Would you sniff and walk away continuing to do what you wanted thinking, “Who is this God that He has any hold on my life?”



The Sins of the Cows of Bashan

In verses four and five, Amos told the rich Samaritans/Israelites of what sins God charged them. He stated in Amos 4:4-5,

“‘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.” [NASB]

In these verses, God pointed out to the rich Israelites they did not follow His laws about worshiping Him in the temple. Numbers 28:2-4 and Leviticus 7:13, 22:18-23, & 23:38 record God’s laws on these offerings. God required the sin sacrifices occur each morning and night in the temple (Numbers 28:3-4). The tithes of the Israelites were to occur once a year. The Israelites were to give them to the priests at the temple, except for every third year. In he third year, the community priests received and stored the tithes so they could give them to the poor and Levite of their communities. God meant for the priests to store these tithes and use them to feed the poor of their communities and themselves.

Notice in verses four and five, the rich Samaritan was religious about keeping their sacrifices and tithes. They made sure they gave them, but notice where they offered them and how often. This is why God considered them a sin. The rich Israelites offered their sacrifices and tithes at their temples in Bethel and Gilgal. Bethel was the site of their main temple to their false gods-Baal, Asherah, Molech, and Chemosh. It was not a temple of the LORD.  Gilgal was a home for prophets in northern Israel. It was about four miles from Bethel. These prophets did not serve the LORD, but the false gods of Israel. Besides worshiping at temples for false gods, the rich Israelites used similar offering and tithe schedules and types to worship their gods as GOD required of the Israelites. These rich Israelites mostly kept the letter of the law, but not the intent. They offered religious action, but not faithfulness to the LORD. Inwardly they rebelled and were unfaithful to God. Notice, too, the rich Samaritans gave their tithes to the priests every three days, not every year as God required. They wanted people to know of their religiosity so offered them more often than GOD required from His people.

With verse five, we must remember God required a thank offering of unleavened breads. In Leviticus 7:13, God said the Israelites should offer leavened cakes with peace offerings, and unleavened bread with thank offerings. The rich Israelite did not keep to the letter of the law. They wanted to be seen offerring what was more expensive. Leavened bread not unleavened showed off their wealth. Because it took more time than unleavened bread, this became their supposed best sacrifice to their gods. The rich Israelite wanted recognition for giving to their gods what they and society thought was the best. Amos pointed out this sentiment in the rest of verse five. He said they proclaimed and made known when the rich Samaritan gave their freewill offerings. They made their offerings known. Amos made this sarcastic remark to get the Israelites’ attention. These rich Israelites were hypocrites; they did not offer to God what He required, but offered to their god what they felt was their best to show off their wealth to people around them. With Amos’ last sentence in verse five, we discover God’s final pronouncement about the rich Israelites. He said they love to do this, make known to people around them about their rich offerings. The Lord God, Adonay Yehovah, Lord and existing one, declared this. The rich Samaritan offered sacrifices and tithes according to a plan they knew from Yehovah, but did not make those offerings to the LORD. Their intent was to get recognition for their tithes and offerings. It was not about remaining in a covenant relationship with the LORD.

·         Do you give an offering to church only because the Bible says you should?
·         Do you give in an obvious way so other people can see how much you give?
·         Do you recognize God gave you the good gifts you enjoy?
·         Do you seek to renew and strengthen your relationship with God as offering your tithes was meant to do?
·         Do you thank God through your offerings and tithes as showing gratefulness for His care and as giving back for His service part of what He gave you?



God’s past Judgment of Israel’s Unfaithfulness

In verses six through eleven, Amos reminded the Israelites of God’s earlier actions of discipline on them because of their rebellion against Him and His laws. Five main punishments occur in these six verses as noted in verses 6a, 7, 10, and 11. In these verses, God said He would cause them to have no food in all their cities. He would withhold rain from them. God would send a plague and slay their young men by the sword. Finally, in verse eleven, He said He would overthrow them like Sodom and Gomorrah. Upon these five main punishments, God added upon verse six’s punishment with verses seven, eight, and nine. Without rain, the plants would not grow and cattle would perish. With the scorching wind, mildew, and locusts, plants and animals would not survive. What exactly did Amos say in these verses? Let’s consider them now.

In verse six, Amos told the rich Israelites,

“‘But I also gave you 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.” [NASB]

“Cleanness of teeth” is an expression meaning they had no food to eat. Their teeth did not get dirty because they had nothing to eat in any of the cities, towns, or villages of Israel. Amos emphasized this punishment by reminding them they lacked bread, a main staple of any nation, in all their places. God said even with this punishment the Israelites did not return to Him. A chronicler recorded a famine occurred in 2 Kings 8:1. It says there was no food to chew, and the teeth were clean. Isaiah 3:1 spoke of the Lord removing their supply and support of bread and water from Jerusalem and Judah. This action was one way God punished and got the Israelites’ attention to bring them back to a faithful relationship with Him.

Amos continued reminding the rich Israelites of God’s previous punishments of their transgressions. He said in verses seven and eight,

“‘Furthermore, I withheld the rain from you while there were still three months until harvest. Then I would send rain on one city and on another city I would not send rain; one part would be rained on while the part not rained on would dry up. 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.” [NASB]

In verse six, God reminded the rich Israelites He had power over their food to withhold or give it. With verses seven and eight, His punishment showed He had power over rain, too. Before farmers could reap the crops, God withheld the rain, and no harvest occurred. Lack of rain affected the crops and each person’s thirst. With the lack of food mentioned in verse six, the people could have sought fish and water from the rivers. With no rain, crops would have failed, cattle would have died, and people would have had unquenchable thirst. Besides this, God sent rain to one city and not another. The people of the land would have staggered to other cities seeking this bodily requirement for life. They would have drunk, but remain unsated. There would not have been enough water to satisfy their thirst. God’s raining on one city and not another would have shown He was the one in control of the rain; it would not been just bad luck. Deuteronomy 11:17, 2 Chronicles 7:13, Isaiah 5:6, and Exodus 9:6 each record God is the one who causes rain to fall or not. First Kings 17:1 recorded the drought of which Amos spoke in these two verses. Even after that drought, God said the Israelites did not return to Him.

Again God showed His power over those things that sustained the rich Israelites–their food and drink. With verse nine Amos said,

“‘I smote you with scorching wind and mildew; and the caterpillar (locust) was devouring your many gardens and vineyards, fig trees and olive trees. Yet you have not returned to Me,’ declares the LORD.” [NASB]

In this verse, Amos reminded the rich Samaritans God struck them with His judgment in other ways that affected their bodies, crops, produce, and animals. God reminded them He was in control of the winds, moisture, and insects. Each of these affected their crops. He sent a scorching wind, the sirocco winds that came from the deserts east of Israel. God reminded them of its heat and gusts that sent sand and dust on them, their animals, and crops. It withered their vegetation. This wind was unpredictable, just as the day of the LORD would have been for the rich Israelites. God smote them with mildew that came from humidity or rains that did not pass or dry up well so their crops, especially corn crops, became mildewed and destroyed. God controlled the caterpillar. This word “caterpillar” comes from the Hebrew word gazam, which means locusts. The locusts from the desert are notorious for the amount they can eat. Daily they eat their weight in food. A swarm of locusts can number 40 to 80 million locusts in half a square mile (one square kilometer). This means they can eat about 420 million pounds (192 million kilograms) of plants each day. 
(http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/bugs/locust/) God controlled even these insects so He could affect the food of the nation. The Israelites would remember a plague. Amos said it devoured their gardens, vineyards, and fig and olive trees, yet the people did not return to the LORD. David spoke of this occurring in Psalm 78:46 and 105:24. Amos said, God punished the people of Israel, it affected the wealthy of the land, yet they did not return to Him. GOD is almighty. He controls rain, wind, sand, dust, plant growth, and bugs/animals. These God-controllable things affected their profits and wealth. God was the One who gave them what they had. They should return to Him.

With verse ten, Amos reminded the rich Israelites GOD controlled their health. He was the One who caused their birth and determined their health. GOD was the One who allowed sickness and brought wellness. He knew and numbered their days and the days of all living things. Amos said in verse ten,

“‘I sent a plague among you after the manner of Egypt; I slew your young men by the sword along with your captured horses, and I made the stench of your camp rise up in your nostrils. Yet you have not returned to Me,’ declares the LORD.” [NASB]

This plague was like what GOD sent on Egypt when the Pharaoh refused to release the Hebrews from slavery. It was a pestilence, a disease that did not distinguish between old and young, or rich and poor. David spoke about a pestilence coming upon the Israelites in Psalm 78:50. GOD said He slew the young men by the sword along with their captured horses. He reminded the rich Israelites He controlled whom He allowed to come against them in war and who won the battle. GOD determined if their horses survived. Amos recalled for them the stench of death that surrounded them when their young men and horses died by the sword. This vivid stench was memorable to the people. The smell reminded them Who brought the death and stench, Who is greater than them, and Who is in control of everything. The products of their wealth, cattle, horses, vineyards, flocks, orchards, and crops were each in GOD’s hands. He determined their survival and fruitfulness. These determined the wealth of the rich Israelites. GOD gave the rich Israelite wealth, health, and daily needs. Just as easily, God could take it away. He allowed these bad things to happen several times at the hands of the Israelites’ enemies–by the Philistines, Arameans, Egyptians, Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, and Amorites.

With the final verse recalling GOD’s might and power, Amos reminded the rich Israelites they existed after GOD’s judgments only because of His mercy.  GOD brought them from the blaze of destruction from His earlier judgments. In verse eleven, Amos said,

“‘I overthrew you, as God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, and you were like a firebrand snatched from a blaze. Yet you have not returned to Me,’ declares the LORD.” [NASB]

God’s judgment against Sodom and Gomorrah destroyed every occupant of those cities except for a small few–Lot and his two daughters. Lot was righteous in the eyes of the LORD and God’s did not intend His judgment destroy him. Continually since GOD brought the Israelites out of Egypt, they sinned against God. Often God punished them, but He spared some people. Consider the ten spies who said they could not take the Promised Land from the Israelites. They and each of the adults of that time died during their forty year sojourn in the desert. Consider when God sent the asps to kill the unfaithful in the desert. Those who looked to God as their salvation survived. God’s mercy spares the righteous when His judgment occurs. Often it spares the one who repents so he or she experiences none of God’s punishment. Sometimes God lessens the punishment of the repentant person from what He originally proclaimed. Amos stated this in verse eleven. God’s mercy snatched some of the Israelites from His fiery judgment. They were a firebrand He snatched from the blaze. Each of the above punishments in verses six through eleven occurred, the rich Israelites did not return to Him the LORD said. GOD controlled everything they had and their lives. His mercy could spare them. Still the rich Samaritans walked the ways they wanted-oppressing the poor and worshiping false gods. God’s judgment would not spare the unrepentant.

·         What has God done to punish you and get you to return to Him?
·         Have you ignored God’s promptings and punishments?
·         Have you forgotten all you have including your continued life come from God’s mercy?


God’s Punishment of the Cows of Bashan

With verse twelve Amos returned to the judgment by GOD he spoke of in verses two and three. Amos prophesied in verse twelve.

“Therefore thus I will do to you, O Israel. Because I will do this to you, prepare to meet your God, O Israel.” [NASB]

The word “therefore” refers to the most recently stated judgment of God Amos spoke of to the rich of Israel. It refers to verse eleven. Just as God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah with His fiery wrath, so He would destroy the rich of Israel and what they considered their own possessions. The unrepentant rich Israelites, the ones who oppressed the needy, worshiped false gods, and wanted other people to consider them religious, would experience the wrath of God like the residents of Sodom and Gomorrah experienced. God would remove His hand of protection and provision from them and allow their enemies to destroy that in which they trusted–their walls and temples, their crops, vineyards, cattle, flock, and herds. When this happened the rich Israelites would know the LORD God was almighty and gave them everything they had. Amos told them in this part of the prophecy, “prepare to meet your God.” This “God” is ‘Elohiym, the ruler and judge. Amos told them to prepare to meet the true Ruler and righteous Judge. The only One who has absolute authority over them. Amos told them they had little time to get right with GOD-repent and return to worshiping Him alone. Just as God had mercy on righteous people, such as Lot in Sodom and Gomorrah’s destruction, so God in His mercy would pull His righteous people as a firebrand from the blaze to come. A remnant few would survive.

GOD’s judgment would come unexpectedly, like a thief in the night. Isaiah said similar things when he prophesied. He told the Israelites to tremble, fear, and put on sackcloth. Isaiah said people would know God’s name through their destruction (Isaiah 32:11, 64:2). Israel did not lead people of other nations to know the LORD, but the LORD, in His justice and punishment, would make His righteousness, justice, and power known.

·         Have you ever experienced God’s punishment?
·         Did His punishment of you remind you of Him and bring you back to a right relationship with Him?
·         Have you seen God punish someone else? Did that cause you to repent and get right with God before He judged you?


Declaration of Who GOD Is

Amos taught and reminded the rich Israelites who this all-powerful and righteous GOD is. His judgment and punishment of them would teach the nations surrounding them, witnesses such as Egypt and Philistia from Amos 3, about His might, righteousness, and justice. Amos wanted to give a final reminder of Who the LORD is to the rich Israelites. Earlier, Amos showed who God had been for the Israelites through His provisions for them and His judgment of them. In verse thirteen, Amos recalled GOD as the Existing One, Yehovah. In verse thirteen, Amos said,

“For behold, He who forms the 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 hearth, the LORD God of hosts is His name.” [NASB]

Amos reminded the rich Israelites GOD is the One who creates the rocks and earth. He formed the mountains. Amos stated like David and Isaiah that GOD calculated the dust of the earth and weighted the mountains in a balance (Psalm 65:6, Isaiah 40:12).
Yehovah is the God of rock and earth.
Amos reminded the rich Israelites God creates the wind. David and Jeremiah testified He caused the vapors to ascend from the ends of the earth and caused the clouds to ascend from the ends of the earth (Psalm 135:7, Jeremiah 10:13).
Yehovah is the God of the weather and the air.
Amos attested the LORD declares to man what are His thoughts. He makes His mysteries and purposes known said Daniel, Paul, and Jesus in Daniel 2:28 & 30, Colossians 1:12, Ephesians 1:9, and Matthew 13:11.
Yehovah is the God who reveals Himself to humanity
and seeks a relationship with them.
Amos recalled for the rich Israelites GOD is the One who makes dawn into darkness. He can cause darkness and gloom to overtake a day with His righteousness, justice, power, and omniscience. God has power over night and day, sun and moon.  Amos used these words in a metaphorical and literal way. Just as God created the day and night, so too he could bring darkness and gloom. He can darken day into night when it makes no sense (Jeremiah 13:16, Joel 2:2, and Amos 5:8). He makes gloom come unexpectedly as His justice prevails.
Yehovah is the God who controls light and dark.
Besides these, Amos reminded the rich Israelites, God is the almighty and only God. He harkened the Israelites back to the Shema of Deuteronomy 6:4, “Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one!” This almighty God treads on high places of the earth. The high places, the altars of false gods-manmade gods-would fall with the tread of the LORD upon them. They had no might against the LORD almighty. Micah 1:3 stated this, too. He said the LORD is coming from His place and will tread on the high places of earth. There is no other God but Him.
Yehovah is God and is greater than idols.
Finally, Amos recited for the rich Israelites who this almighty God is. He said the LORD God of hosts is His name. This God is Yehovah, the existing One, the One Who is, was, and will be. He is ‘Elohiym, the ruler and judge of all that is because He is righteous and just. This God is the God of hosts, the ruler of angels and all creation. Isaiah 47:4 says, "Our redeemer the LORD of hosts is His name, the Holy One of Israel." Jeremiah 10:16 says, He is the Maker of all. The LORD of hosts is His name. Amos said in his doxology in Amos 9:6, the LORD is the Creator, the One who built His upper chambers in heaven, founded the vault above the earth, Who called for the waters of the sea, and poured them out on the face of the earth.
Yehovah is the Creator, the Almighty, and One God.

·         Have you come to recognize God is the Creator and is Almighty, the one and only God?
·         Have you experienced the power and majesty of the LORD God of hosts?
·         What is keeping you from knowing the LORD God in your life–busyness, denial, personal ambition and determination? Each of these is sin; you let these areas of your life be god for you.

Recap

Amos spent chapter four pointedly speaking to the main people to whom God’s judgment related. He did not say only the rich sinned against God. Amos highlighted a particular subgroup of the population in this chapter who caused a greater number of transgressions against God and other people. He called them to listen to and heed the word of the LORD. Amos sought their attention using the familiar word, shama’.



Conclusion and Relevance

By this point in Amos’ prophecy, the people of Israel should have perked up, truly understood God’s judgment, and repented. More pointedly, God wanted the rich Israelites to obey Him because they amassed sin upon sin. Their sins were complete. God wanted their attention and their faithfulness to Him. He proclaimed His charges against them for their sins and His righteous and just judgment of them because of their sins. God loved them so much He let them know before His punishment came upon them. His mercies never ended. God did not want to punish them, but if that was the only way to get their attention and lead them back to Him, to righteous living and a faithful relationship to Him, then He would let it fall upon them.

God still is merciful. Paul taught this to the Ephesians in Ephesians 2:4-5 when he said,

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved). [NASB]

Because of God and His mercy for us, because of His love for us, He offers each of us salvation from our sins for which we deserve a death penalty. Yet, He allowed His Son, Jesus Christ, to take our punishment and die on the cross for our sins, so we can be alive through His death and resurrection, having received forgiveness for sin and cleansing our sin and guilt from us. Just as God wanted to save His people in the Old Testament, He wants people to receive salvation from their sins and be in a relationship with Him. God’s greatness knows no ends. His love us overwhelming and surpasses our sins reaching out to save us from death and destruction.

“Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16, [NASB])

What keeps you from accepting God’s mercy and grace? Give it to God and He will give you freedom from sin, temptation, and death. He will give you eternal life with Him and supreme joy.

“Who is a God like You,
Who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of His inheritance?

You do not stay angry forever, but delight to show mercy.” (Micah 7:18 [NIV])