For all the harsh judgments God proclaimed through His prophets upon Israel, He always gave them a glimmer of hope. The Lord had called Amos, a simple shepherd, to prophesy destruction upon Israel. Naturally, there were many in the land who didn’t appreciate the message in both governmental and religious circles. When the priest Amaziah told the man of God to cease and desist in Amos 7:12-13, he was only one of many over the years to say similar things and to warn off a prophet:
And Amaziah said to Amos, “O seer, go, flee away to the land of Judah, and eat bread there, and prophesy there, but never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king’s sanctuary, and it is a temple of the kingdom.”
Of course, the message of gloom and doom wasn’t coming from Amos’ imagination, it was coming from God. Because of the repeated rejection of Him and His Word throughout the years, and despite His immense patience, God had reached a point of complete disgust. He expresses this as He speaks through the prophet to the naysayer in Amos 7:16-17:
Now therefore hear the word of the Lord.
“You say, ‘Do not prophesy against Israel,
and do not preach against the house of Isaac.’
Therefore thus says the Lord:
“‘Your wife shall be a prostitute in the city,
and your sons and your daughters shall fall by the sword,
and your land shall be divided up with a measuring line;
you yourself shall die in an unclean land,
and Israel shall surely go into exile away from its land.’”
There is a price for opposing the Word and will of God. To use the language from Acts 26:14 in which Christ reprimanded Paul before his conversion:
‘… why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’
From Got Questions, here is a good explanation of this:
“It is hard for you to kick against the pricks” was a Greek proverb, but it was also familiar to the Jews and anyone who made a living in agriculture. An ox goad was a stick with a pointed piece of iron on its tip used to prod the oxen when plowing. The farmer would prick the animal to steer it in the right direction. Sometimes the animal would rebel by kicking out at the prick, and this would result in the prick being driven even further into its flesh. In essence, the more an ox rebelled, the more it suffered. Thus, Jesus’ words to Saul on the road to Damascus: “It is hard for you to kick against the pricks.”
Weren’t the Jews always doing this? They’d resist God and the pointed stick He wielded would be driven further into their flesh. It always got worse for them (but they continued to do it anyway). The priest Amaziah certainly experienced this upon the fulfillment of the prophetic Word specifically against him.
Despite being warned off, Amos continued obediently proclaiming the coming destruction. Talk about a harsh Word, how about Amos 8:2?
… Then the Lord said to me,
“The end has come upon my people Israel;
I will never again pass by them.
You can see why the prophets weren’t particularly popular.
This short prophetic book proclaims both near and far term events with no real distinction as to how far apart they are. This is typical, since the prophet would see the vision, but God wouldn’t always enable him to determine its timing, or how something in the distant future wasn’t distinguished from that which might come soon to pass. We can look back and in many instances see this with clarity that the prophet didn’t have. For instance, consider first the declaration in Amos 8:9-10:
“And on that day,” declares the Lord God,
“I will make the sun go down at noon
and darken the earth in broad daylight.
I will turn your feasts into mourning
and all your songs into lamentation;
I will bring sackcloth on every waist
and baldness on every head;
I will make it like the mourning for an only son
and the end of it like a bitter day.
This certainly appears to be an end-of-days prophecy. In contrast, look at Amos 8:11:
“Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord God,
“when I will send a famine on the land—
not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water,
but of hearing the words of the Lord.
The fulfillment of this occurred during the 400 years following the prophet Malachi. This timeframe, in which God didn’t speak to His people, i.e. a famine of the Word of the Lord, happened in what is known as the Intertestamental Period. The hunger for God’s Word wasn’t satisfied until Jesus came. Sadly, the people didn’t realize that He was the bread of life.
The hope that God inevitably gave Israel was for the far-distant future. Again, neither the prophets nor the people had any real sense of when the amazing things proclaimed would take place. God said in Amos 9:13:
“Behold, the days are coming.” …
He said in Amos 9:14:
“I will restore the fortunes of my people Israel… “
And again, in Amos 9:15:
“I will plant them on their land,
and they shall never again be uprooted
out of the land that I have given them,”
says the Lord your God.
When would all these wonderful promises come to pass? Did the people think they were just around the corner? They might have. But God had another plan. The times and the seasons weren’t yet right.
How about the promises that we look forward to today? According to the times and seasons, many of us look for the soon coming of Jesus in the clouds to snatch us from this wicked earth in the Rapture of the true church. We know from connecting the dots of Bible prophecy with the events happening in the world that the Tribulation is near.
If this is the case, then the Millennial Reign of Christ – 1,000 years of Jesus ruling personally on the earth – can’t be far behind. For the Israelites, the promise of such utopian dreams were just that: the wishful, desirous hope of complete redemption. They thought such fulfillment might be in their lifetimes. Obviously, it wasn’t. For us, it undoubtedly will be.
So many in the church – because they ignore Bible prophecy – don’t hold out any hope for the Rapture. They believe we’re here on the earth for the long haul. In a sense, that’s rather fatalistic.
My attitude is: Seriously? You want to continue making this lost and dying world, this alien and hostile place, your home? Why would you want to? Doesn’t the evil surrounding you make you grieve and want even more to be in the presence of the Lord? How can you think like you do that you’ll make this world a better place despite what the Bible says? You won’t, and it cannot be. Let it go!
Am I an escapist? Guilty as charged. I’m ready to escape the sorrow and the tears. This is my glimmer of hope. I’m ready to go home. How about you?