Prepare to meet your God, O Israel! Amos 4:12
It’s not uncommon in medicine to meet those who insist they have a high pain tolerance. This usually indicates the opposite – it’s most often a ploy (of those who don’t tolerate pain) to convince others of the severity of their symptoms.
Addicts are an odd bunch when it comes to pain. While addicted, our tolerance for physical discomfort is very low, using the slightest injury to convince ourselves that we require pain medication. When it comes to self-inflicted consequences however, we show amazing resilience. In our sickness, we lose jobs, homes, and families, but still, we keep on using, refusing treatment and change.
This is the condition in which the Israelites found themselves in today’s passage. Having wandered from God, they suffered multiple consequences – famine, drought, and pestilence – all of which were meant to turn them back to God. Stubborn and addicted to their own destructive pursuits though, the Israelites displayed an incredibly high pain tolerance, refusing to repent. To this, Amos uttered today’s terrifying words – Prepare to meet your God.
This divine equivalence of “Wait until your father gets home”, should be a sober thought to all of us. How would I feel about my life if I faced God right now? When we eventually meet God – which we all will – will we have a life of following him to show? Or, will we have a life of pursuing ourselves? Sure, I believed in you God. No, I never actually followed or obeyed you. I lived for me, but I believed. That’s enough, right?
This is exactly the kind of thinking Amos confronted. Claiming to believe in God is not the same as following him. Amos lay a choice before his people. You are going to meet God. How would you like to prepare? Will you continue to follow yourselves, pursuing pain and misery? Or, will you embrace the life, joy, and peace offered to those who repent?
The same question lies before us. How much self-inflicted pain will we tolerate? How will we meet God? Will we meet the terrifying God whom we’ve run from our whole lives? Or, will we meet the gracious, loving God whom we’ve truly followed? The choice is ours.