When you think of judgment, what comes to mind? Maybe you think of a judge, sentencing a convict. Maybe you think of punishment. The minor prophets have a lot to say about “judgment” against Israel. First, we need to understand why God has so much to say to Israel before we can understand God’s judgments against Israel.
In Deuteronomy 30, God is covenanting with the people of Israel. A covenant is not like today’s modern-day transactional relationships, like an employee and client relationship. Rather, a covenant is a binding union between two parties. It can have conditions or strings attached, but the point is that a covenant is not fickle or nonchalant. It’s intimate and binding. Marriage is a form of a covenant: there are expectations (or vows) between the two parties, and it is an irrevocable binding of two parties. In Deuteronomy 30:15-16, Moses says “See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. For I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in obedience to him, and to keep his commands, decrees, and laws; then you will live and increase, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess.”
This is a covenant. You may remember yesterday, in Amos 5, God said “Seek the LORD that you may live.” In other words, life is ONLY found in devotion to God. So what happens when God’s covenant partner utterly forsakes the agreement? We find our answer in Amos 7-9.
This passage can be hard to understand. It’s rife with visions. In chapter 7, God shows a series of images depicting total destruction–this is what Israel deserves– but He promises mercy instead (see 7:3,6). Chapter 8 describes horrific famines that affect even the strongest men and women in the land. But in chapter 9:11-15, after these fearsome images of judgment and punishment, God says something the reader might not expect. God says that He’s going to restore Israel, build it up, and make them prosper. He’s going to pick them back up, dust them off, and help them to be the nation He designed them to be. In other words, God is keeping His end of the covenant, no matter what.
Amos shows us an image of judgment (in fact, most of the minor prophets do). However, even moreso, Amos shows us that God is loyal in spite of our sin, merciful in the face of our sin, and blesses us when we don’t deserve it. He is so good! Praise God!