Have you ever been with someone who sets their alarm but they keep pushing the snooze button so they do not have to get up? “For my first decision of the day I am going to procrastinate” Jim Gaffigan
As much as we want to not deal with our clock alarm going off there are other alarms that are more pressing than those. Fire, burglar or bad weather alarms are all alarms we should pay attention to because our health and safety may depend on it.
God will send us alarms to wake us up especially if we are not doing His will and that is exactly what He did with the people that the prophet Amos is addressing. The People that Amos is dealing with have become blinded by their own sin and it is so bad that it has come into their worship practices and they do not even realize it. God is going to send them some alarms to try and get them to see that they are in sin and are living a life that is not pleasing to Him.
Amos 4:6-11 I gave you cleanness of teeth in all your cities, and lack of bread in all your places, yet you did not return to me, declares the Lord.7 “I also withheld the rain from you when there were yet three months to the harvest; I would send rain on one city, and send no rain on another city; one field would have rain, and the field on which it did not rain would wither; 8 so two or three cities would wander to another city to drink water, and would not be satisfied; yet you did not return to me, “declares the Lord.9 “I struck you with blight and mildew; your many gardens and your vineyards, your fig trees and your olive trees the locust devoured; yet you did not return to me, “declares the Lord.10 “I sent among you a pestilence after the manner of Egypt; I killed your young men with the sword, and carried away your horses, and I made the stench of your camp go up into your nostrils; yet you did not return to me, “declares the Lord.11 “I overthrew some of you, as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, and you were as a brand[b] plucked out of the burning; yet you did not return to me, “declares the Lord.
1) The Alarms
Because people make God into their own image instead of seeing what He has revealed about Himself in scripture they do not think God would do what we see in the book of Amos. Some people believe that the God of the Old Testament is somehow different than the God of the New Testament even though God never changes.(Malachi 3:6) It is also in the New Testament, after Christ rose from the dead, that Ananias and Sapphire were struck down for lying about the amount of money they gave the church. (Acts 5)
God has sent seven alarms to wake the people up but they ignored every alarm and kept living the way they wanted to live. God does not send alarms because He is a mean God but because He knows that their actions are hurting the people they are oppressing, they are hurting themselves and they are hurting the image of God when they are to be the light to the rest of the world. What the people are experiencing is the warnings God gave them in Leviticus 26 which are promises of blessings and curses for how they acted. If they followed God commands He would bless them but if they did not each one of the curses would be sent. Every one of the alarms God sends them was promised to those who disobeyed Him.
Cleanliness of teeth is just a way of saying they have not eaten. The Alarm of Famine went off and the people hit the snooze button.
When it did not rain, especially during certain times of the year, then their crops would not bear fruit they needed to survive. God was letting them know that He was the cause of the drought because they were praying to false gods for rain. The people would have to go to other cities where they would get water from those who collected the rain. It was so bad that it says they staggered into the towns which meant they were weak from the lack of water. The Alarm of Drought went off and the people hit the snooze button.
Plant Disease and Locust
While the people were praying to golden calves for the harvest God was showing them that those other gods were not the ones who were in control of the weather. “Every basic crop of grains, fruits, vegetables, grapes and olives is wiped-out. Grain, wine and oil were Hosea’s list of agricultural staples. (2:8; 22)” (Joel and Amos, David Allan Hubbard pg 168) This also effected the seeds they would need to plant for the next year and the oil that they needed for cooking and for their lamps at night. The Alarm of plant disease and Locust went off and the people hit the snooze button.
Plague and War
Because those alarms did not work to get the people to return God would increase the suffering with plagues and war. Plagues would usually accompany war and the term was used for any epidemic that would cause deaths because of diseases. Amos was using the words Plague to remind the people of the Plagues that God sent upon Egypt and he associated their relationship with God to those of the Egyptians. The people did not think they were going against God and they especially did not see themselves as enemies of God but that is exactly what Amos was accusing them of being. The Alarm of plagues and war went off and the people hit the snooze button.
Amos uses Sodom and Gomorrah who experienced God’s wrath of judgement and use the term snatching out of the fire in regards to Lot and his family. They should have been appreciative that they escaped with their lives but again they did not change their ways. The Alarm of Destruction went off and the people hit the alarm button.
1 Corinthians 15:34 Wake up from your drunken stupor, as is right, and do not go on sinning. For some have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame.
God hated sin so bad that He died for it on the cross and He still hates what sin as done to His creation. We make excuses for our sins by calling them bad habits or saying that they are culturally acceptable and we ignore what God says about the things we are doing. We all have a tendency to ignore God in certain areas of our life and cover up the sins with excuses. What sins are you hitting the snooze button on when God is trying to send you alarms to get you to change?
2) The Reason for the Alarm
I am not one of those people who set an alarm for no reason. I set an alarm for a purpose and God sent all of these alarms for one reason and that was because He wanted them to return to Him. Remember these are church going people yet we are told in the midst of all of their religious activities God is saying that they are not returning to Him. Five times Amos said the phrase “But you did not return to Me” God desires a relationship with you but our sins get in our way. That is why Jesus had to die on the cross so that we could be back in a right relationship with God. It is not by our works or our religious activities that we can be back in a relationship with God but because Jesus Christ died for our sins. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
Not all suffering means that God is sending an alarm to wake you up from your sin. We know in the book of Job that the suffering he went through was for bigger purposes we will not understand this side of Heaven but it was not because Job was doing something wrong. We know in the book of Jonah that God was disciplining His run away prophet and in it the sailors were punished because of someone else’s actions. The punishment the people of God were receiving was because of their sinfulness and so God was trying to get their attention. Although we may not understand all that we are going through and why it is always good to turn to God and evaluate our lives when we are experiencing difficulties. Many times we do not see God’s discipline as a demonstration of His Love and Grace.
“But you did not return to me”
Like a Parent who disciplines a child God will send suffering to help us return to Him. In heaven we will ultimately understand but even here on earth we need to learn to be grateful for the difficulties and how God is using them in our lives to draw us closer to Him. Again, not every difficulty you are going through is because of your own sin but when you are going through difficult times where do you turn? Alcohol, Food, Entertainment, golf, hunting, shopping can all become gods we run to instead of going to God. We miss out on the ultimate relationship with Him simply because we turn to other gods to fulfill needs only He can fill.
God went to great lengths for us to be in a right relationship with Him by coming to earth, living a perfect life, dying on the cross and raising from the dead and just like a loving marriage God wants us committed to Him and Him alone.
Hebrews 12:7-11 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
Never think those difficult times in your life means that God does not love you. When you become a Christian you are set on a journey toward Holiness not Happiness. (Romans 8:28-29) Just because we do not understand pain and suffering does not mean there is not a purpose in it. Most successful people in life will sight their difficulties in life as the reason for being a success so if we can see in our limited view of the world how suffering can benefit us how much more can God see pain and suffering as a benefit to His creation. Remember we worship a God who did not separate Himself from our pain but experienced it and no other religion makes that claim. Only Christianity tells us that God came in the flesh (Jesus) and suffered with and for us.
Hebrews 4:15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.
Whatever you are going through God understands and you can turn to Him. You may not fully understand the pain you are going through but one day God will make sense out of it. Is God trying to wake you up to some things in your life by the difficulties you are going through? Are you at least examining your life to see if maybe God is trying to work on a certain area of your life? What other gods are you turning to get through your difficulty besides turning to God? Have you noticed a pattern of Alarms going off in your life that you need to pay attention to?