1 This is what the Lord God showed me: behold, he was forming locusts when the latter growth was just beginning to sprout, and behold, it was the latter growth after the king’s mowings.
2 When they had finished eating the grass of the land, I said, “O Lord God, please forgive! How can Jacob stand? He is so small!”
3 The Lord relented concerning this: “It shall not be,” said the Lord.
4 This is what the Lord God showed me: behold, the Lord God was calling for a judgment by fire, and it devoured the great deep and was eating up the land.
5 Then I said, “O Lord God, please cease! How can Jacob stand? He is so small!”
6 The Lord relented concerning this: “This also shall not be,” said the Lord God.
7 This is what he showed me: behold, the Lord was standing beside a wall built with a plumb line, with a plumb line in his hand.
8 And the Lord said to me, “Amos, what do you see?” And I said, “A plumb line.” Then the Lord said, “Behold, I am setting a plumb line in the midst of my people Israel; I will never again pass by them;
9 the high places of Isaac shall be made desolate, and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste, and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword.”
God wants to relent. While wrath and judgment are a part of His nature, the deepest place in His heart is filled with love and mercy. He wants nothing more than to forgive and restore. Chapter 7 of Amos begins with a series of visions, the focus of which point to God’s desire to see His people restored to Himself. In the first two visions, (locusts and fire) God indicates that He will destroy the people; first with famine, then with fire. In both cases, the prophet intercedes and God follows that heart of love and relents. He grants mercy. But the third vision does not end as well. God here declares that He will cut off the worship life of the people. Their sanctuaries will be laid to waste. The collapse of the culture is eminent when that happens. Here we find two very important spiritual principles; first, God want to be and is merciful and loving. But while we would like those characteristics to be the only ones we have to see, that cannot be the case. He is also just and righteous. Those parts of His character cannot be denied. Second, when the spiritual life of a people is decimated, they will fall. We would do well to pay heed to both of these principles.
Just like small children who want their parents to give them everything they ask for, we want God to be the big sugar-daddy in the sky who does everything we tell Him to do. That seems like the loving way to be a god, right? As parents, we know better. Your children cannot thrive on candy and video games. There must be loving discipline and justice in the home in order to raise children who are responsible and caring people who contribute to the world around them. But just as parents sometimes withhold discipline because it is too painful for them to administer, so God is withholding His wrath, for His heart is first of all merciful.
Something we take very lightly today is the demise of the Christian force that once was predominate in our culture. There are many who today say that we are a “post-Christian” society, headed quickly to “non-Christian.” This is a tragic state of affairs, as it will mean the collapse of who we are as a people. As with the nation of Israel, when the sanctuaries are laid to waste, so will be our center and our heart. While we think we can survive on our own, without the benefits of a loving Savior, we cannot. The realities of that life will be harsh.
This is not to ever paint a picture that is filled with only despair. Our God is always forgiving and ready to restore that which has been shattered by us. In Christ Jesus God brought redemption into our world. His loving and merciful nature did win out on the cross. That does not mean He will ignore our idolatries or faithlessness. But the triumph is always His in the blood of Jesus. Even when all around us fall away, we do not have to follow their lead. In the midst of the storm, God’s strength will always be there for us, no matter the circumstance. We can be an Amos, or a Daniel, or a Joseph and remain strong in the arms of our Father.