In verses 6–11 Amos is done with irony. He reminds the people that God has shouted the truth of his reality to them in five striking ways that they might return. But they would not. In verse 6 he says there had been famine—”lack of bread in all your places, yet you did not return to me, says the Lord.” In verses 7–8 he says there had been drought—God withheld the rain . . . “yet you did not return to me, says the Lord.” In verse 9 he says God smote them with blight and mildew and locust . . . “yet you did not return to me, says the Lord.” In verse 10 he says God sent pestilence and sword . . . “yet you did not return to me, says the Lord.” In verse 11 he says that God overthrew some of them like Sodom and plucked them like a brand from the fire . . . “yet you did not return to me, says the Lord.”
What was God doing here? He was blocking Israel again and again in search for happiness without the true God. Hosea (whose ministry may have overlapped with Amos’) described it like this. God says to his wayward wife Israel,
I will hedge up her way with thorns; and I will build a wall against her, so that she cannot find her paths. She shall pursue her lovers, but not overtake them; and she shall seek them, but shall not find them. Then she shall say, “I will go and return to my first husband, for it was better with me then than now.” (Hosea 2:6–7)
That’s what God was doing with Israel. Five times he blocked her. Again and again he cut her off on her downward path to destruction. He shouted in her ear that there is no hope while running from God.
The Final Word: One Last Hope
And now Amos was giving the last word. Verse 12: “Therefore [that is, since you have refused to return to God through all that has happened to you]—therefore, thus I will do to you, O Israel; because I will do this to you, prepare to meet your God, O Israel!”
The judgment of God is coming in a decisive way and there is no averting it. But there seems to be one last hope. Prepare! Get ready! Prepare to meet your God. If you would not prepare to meet him in holiness and truth at Bethel, then at least prepare now for this final meeting in judgment. For after this there will be no more chance to prepare.
So draw from Amos’ prophecy this morning this truth: When we come to meet God (whether in worship at Bethlehem, or in judgment at the last day), we should prepare.