“ ‘I overthrew some of you, as God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, and you were like a firebrand plucked from the burning; yet you have not returned to Me,’ says the Lord. ‘Therefore thus will I do to you, O Israel; because I will do this to you, prepare to meet your God, O Israel!’ " (Amos 4:11-12).
Are you the kind of person that is difficult to wake up? There are some people that you almost need a cattle prod to get them up out of bed because they are in such a deep sleep.
The prophet Amos ministered to God’s people during a period of prosperity for Israel. Business was booming and national boundaries were bulging. However from a spiritual perspective things did not look so bright. In fact, they looked rather dark. Greed and injustice were festering. Hypocritical religious motions had replaced true worship, creating a false sense of security in the people’s relationship with God. God describes how the people’s sins had burdened Him: "Behold, I am weighed down by you, as a cart full of sheaves is weighed down” (Amos 2:11). Through Amos, God was attempting to call His people back to Him.
Amos, a farmer whom God had called to be a prophet (cf. Amos 1:1; 7:14-15), lashes out at the sin of God’s people without wavering in his attempts to get the people to see God’s coming judgment upon them and their need to return to Him in repentance. Amos describes God as a roaring lion about to pounce on Israel in His righteous judgment: “The Lord roars from Zion, and utters His voice from Jerusalem; the pastures of the shepherds mourn, and the top of Carmel withers (Amos 1:2)." Furthermore, Amos uses very strong language to describe how God’s people were acting and of God’s coming punishment upon them: “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 wine, let us drink!’ The Lord God has sworn by His holiness: ‘Behold, the days shall come upon you when He will take you away with fishhooks, and your posterity with fishhooks’ ” (Amos 4:1-2).
In fact, as the opening verses describe, God had already performed many acts of chastening upon His people in an effort to get them to wake up. In His attempts to get His people to come back home to Him, God had caused them to suffer lack of food (Amos 4:6), lack of water (Amos 4:7-8), to face locust which devoured their crops (Amos 4:9), and even to suffer from plague and military defeat (Amos 4:10-11). How did the people respond to these endeavors by God to get them to wake up from their spiritual sleep? God says, “…Yet you have not returned to Me” (cf. Amos 4:6, 8, 9, 10, 11). In a sense God had used a cattle prod on them, but they were in such a deep spiritual sleep they would not be woken up.
What does it take for me to wake up spiritually and recognize my own spiritual condition? Must God chasten me and allow me to suffer hardship and deprivation before I will return to Him (cf. Hebrews 12:5-11)? Israel had fallen asleep spiritually. Remember, on the night of His betrayal Jesus’ disciples had fallen asleep when He needed them most and they needed to be most aware as they were about to face a great trial themselves (cf. Luke 22:39-46). This reminds me that I am not above falling asleep spiritually. Today, I will strive to stay alert spiritually, but should I doze off spiritually for a moment, I will respond positively to God’s efforts and chastening to get me to return to Him!
“Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night. But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation” (1 Thessalonians 5:6-8).