"I am the vine, you are the branches"
Malachi vs Revelation, Part 8
America: Will It Repent?
For many years I have heard preachers say that the church will be raptured before the wrath of God comes upon the earth because God has not destined us to wrath. What I never understood about that was why then have other Christians suffered throughout the history of the church? It seems to be a Westernized teaching, and especially an American teaching. But is this true, that God's people should never suffer? Why does the Bible tell us something different? Even Yeshua tells His disciples that they would suffer. Now don't get me wrong, God knows how to rescue His people. We see this with Noah and Lot, Daniel in the lions den, the three Hebrew children in the furnace. But God's Word does tell us that judgement will come to the house of God first. God tells us that He must discipline those He loves, and surely He loved His chosen people Israel and yet He had to discipline them and punish them for their iniquity. We say that that was before Yeshua came. I must say that bad things happen to good people all the time and with that said, I must say that a lot of good people died in the Holocaust. We must let go of our mentality that we will escape all that is coming, because that is not all true.
Yeshua tells us to repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand. When John the Baptist spoke the same message and when he saw many Sadducees and Pharisees coming to him to be baptized (which in its original meaning was a sign of spiritual cleansing), he tells them, "You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bring forth fruit in keeping with repentance; and do not suppose that you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father,' for I say to you that God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. And the axe is already laid at the root of the trees; every tree, therefore, that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire" (Matthew 3:7-10).
We want to compare today's world to what God tells the nations and Israel in the book of Amos because God is the same yesterday and today and forever. There is no partiality with God, He will judge the nations as well as Israel for their sins.
Amos Cries Out to the Nations
Amos was a shepherd when God called him to warn His flock; maybe he called Amos because God, who is the Good Shepherd, knows the heart of a shepherd for his sheep. At the time Amos prophesied, both Kingdoms of Israel were experiencing prosperity, but because of a life of luxury and idleness, oppression and idolatry became prevalent. We see in Amos 1:2 that God is likened to a lion attacking the sheep. God the Good Shepherd is attacking His own flock. We must learn the lessons well from the Hebrew Scriptures because it has been written to be an example to us (1 Corinthians 10:6-11). God will not let unrepentant sin go unpunished. As we look at the sins of the nations, first let us consider America and its sins and let us see if there is any similarity.
Judgement goes to Syria first. Verse 3 tells us that Syria dragged logs with spikes over the people of Gilead. In other words, they threshed the people. They beat the people like one would to separate the grain from the straw. A great injustice to humanity was occurring and God brings forth His judgement. Then God condemns Philistia for their crimes against humanity, for they dragged off people to sell them as slaves and judgement falls on them. Next, He judged the Phoenicians who also enslaved the people; Edom murdered with no mercy even their own relatives; Ammon murdered pregnant women. Moab had such hatred that they burned the bones of their enemies and made mortar for their brick with the ashes. Crimes to humanity take on many shapes. When we have no justice or mercy, at our gate judgement will fall.
Amos Cries Out to the Flock of Israel
Next, God brings judgment to Israel: Judah first, for they rejected God's teachings and refused to obey Him and they led the people into idol worship. Israel was selling people for money, and the needy are sold for the price of sandals. They smeared the poor in the dirt and pushed aside those who were helpless. The people had morally decayed and they had no respect for God's sanctuary or His Word. When a country, a people, rejects God's Word, His counsel, God Himself, they fall into moral decay and rebellion and evil. Crimes to humanity and crimes of all sorts take over.They fall into darkness and chaos rules. The poor become poorer and the rich become richer and the people become enslaved. Amos cries out in chapter four, "Hear this word you cows of Bashan who are on the mountains of Samaria, who oppress the poor, who crush the needy, who say to your husband ‘Bring now, that we may drink!' 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.'" God continues and tells the people, "All that has happened to you, and yet, you do not return to Me" (Amos 4:6).
If we just look at America, we have seen the weather like we have not seen it in a lifetime. We have suffered financial crisis, we have been victims of terrorists, high unemployment and the glory of America has faded in the world; our poor have become poorer and our rich have become richer. Our country is divided, and divided we will not stand, but fall. Yet we too have not returned to God. Our wise men have become foolish and no one can deliver us, no one but God. We must learn the lessons from those who went before us. We need revival in this country. We need to repent and return to God. We need to once again live by His Word and seek His counsel.
Amos continues His cry in Amos 5:1-2, "Hear this word which I take up for you as a dirge, O house of Israel. She has fallen, she will not rise again, the virgin Israel. She lies neglected on her land; there is none to raise her up." Amos continues in verse 4, "Seek Me that you may live, but do not resort to Bethel, and do not come to Gilgal, nor cross over to Beersheba; for Gilgal will certainly go into captivity, and Bethel will come to trouble. Seek the Lord that you may live, lest He break forth like a fire, O house of Joseph, and it consumes with none to quench it for Bethel, for those who turn justice into wormwood and cast righteousness down to the earth . . . ". Verse 9 goes on, "It is He who flashes forth with destruction upon the strong, so that destruction comes upon the fortress. They hate him who reproves in the gate, and they abhor him who speaks with integrity. Therefore, because you impose heavy rent on the poor and exact a tribute of grain from them, though you have built houses of well-hewn stone, yet you will not live in them; you have planted pleasant vineyards, yet you will not drink their wine."
God continues by telling them that He knows their transgressions and that they need to seek good and not evil so that they may live. In verse 15 God says, "Hate evil, love good and establish justice in the gate! Perhaps the Lord God of Hosts may be gracious to the remnant of Joseph." Their society had become so corrupt with bribes and threshing the people, taking everything from them including their last penny, as you would say. In chapter six God continues to deal with the rich who are at ease. Now this is not just a rant against the rich, but also against the church, for we sit in our pews and we neglect our neighbor. We neglect the poor even in our churches because we close our eyes and we do not see those who are in need. We even preach prosperity and we look down on those who do not have and we say to ourselves that it is because of sin or lack of faith that people do not have the blessings of God. But remember that judgement is coming first to the house of God because of our insensitivity to our neighbor. Amos tells the people in chapter 8:11, "Behold, days are coming, when I will send a famine on the land, not a famine for bread or a thirst for water, but rather for hearing the Words of the Lord." The prophet Joel speaks a similar thing when he tells the people that the grain offering would be cut off. He says in Joel 1:13, "Gird yourselves with sackcloth, and lament, O priests; Wail, O, ministers of the altar. Come, spend the night in sackcloth, O, ministers of my God, for the grain offering and the libation are withheld from the house of your God." Paul tells Timothy, "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires; and turn away their ears from the truth, and will turn aside to myths."
We are the light of the world; if we do not shed light, then darkness prevails. We are the temple of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth resides in us; so if we do not speak truth or live in truth, than lies and corruption prevail. We who call ourselves believers of the One True Living God, if we do not walk uprightly, then we are to blame; for we not only have the ear of God, but we are His representatives here on this earth. Isaiah tells the people in chapter 9:14-16, "So the Lord cuts off head and tail from Israel, both palm branch and bulrush in a single day. The head is the elder and honorable man, and the prophet who teaches falsehood is the tail. For those who guide this people are leading them astray; and those who are guided by them are brought to confusion." God goes on to say that He will not take pity on them. In verse 17 of Isaiah 9, He says, "In spite of all this, His anger does not turn away, and His hand is still stretched out." God in His great mercy has brought about trials of all kind and tribulations, pain and suffering, sorrow and sadness, all for one reason: because He loves us and He wants us to turn back, to repent, and begin living by His Word and His way. We must seek the Lord and live. When judgement was about to fall in Jeremiah's day, God tells him to proclaim to the people, "'Return, faithless Israel, I will not look upon you in anger, for I am gracious', declares the Lord; 'I will not be angry forever. Only acknowledge your iniquity, that you have transgressed against the Lord your God.'"
The Bible tells us that God doesn't do anything unless He tells His people first. God has always raised up for Himself a prophet to cry out to the people of His coming judgements. God has done this, but we have closed our ears to those who have heard God crying out to His people to, "Repent and come back to Him," come back to His Word, His ways, His truths. All throughout Yeshua's (Jesus's) message to the church in the book of Revelation, He would say, "He who has ears let Him hear what the Spirit is saying." Are we listening, are we looking at the signs, do we hear the Spirit tell us to "Repent, come back"? If you say "Yes, I can see, I do hear and understand," then are you blowing the trumpet in your church, your family, your neighborhood? God tells Ezekiel, "Son of man, speak to the sons of your people, and say to them, ‘If I bring a sword upon a land, and the people of the land take one man from among them and make him their watchman and he sees the sword coming upon the land, and he blows on the trumpet and warns the people, then he who hears the sound of the trumpet and does not take warning, and a sword comes and take him away, his blood will be on his own head. He heard the sound of the trumpet, but did not take warning; his blood will be on himself. But had he taken warning, he would have delivered his life. But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, and the people are not warned, and a sword comes and takes a person from them, he is taken away in iniquity, but his blood I will require from the watchman's hand'" (Ezekiel 33).
People, we are the watchmen. We are the church of the Living God. We are the light now in the world. Can we escape if we, the church, close our eyes, fall asleep, or turn our heads from the living God and let judgement come upon us? If you do not feel the responsibility, then I say maybe you are not where you need to be with God. Your walk has maybe grown cold; Yeshua tells us that if we can interpret the weather we should be able to interpret the signs of His coming. Are we looking? Are we ourselves repenting and humbly coming before God, seeking Him out? Are we in His Word letting it change our lives, our hearts? Let us take the example of those who went before us and let us see that God is a holy God and He will not be mocked. God must punish sin, no matter if it is the sin of one who is not in His flock or one who is. God is Holy and we too must be holy.
Look up, for Yeshua's salvation is coming!