Fleeing from a Lion only to Meet a Bear

Bible Reading: Amos 5; 6; 7:1-9; 8; 9 - Listen

The Israelites were crying out for "the day of the Lord," thinking that it would bring an end to their troubles, but God warned them, "that day will be darkness, not light... pitch-dark, without a ray of brightness" (5:18,20). "It will be as though a man fled from a lion only to meet a bear, as though he entered his house and rested his hand on the wall only to have a snake bite him" (5:19). The day of the Lord would bring justice, not relief. The people thought they would be safe from his judgment because of their religious activity, but God said, "I hate, I despise your religious feasts; I cannot stand your assemblies.... Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps. But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!" (5:21-24). God's people paid lip-service to him on the Sabbath, but served only themselves during the week. They were "complacent" and "secure" in their comfortable houses, but God warned, "Your feasting and lounging will end" (6:1-7); I will "smash the great house into pieces and the small house into bits" (6:11)

God gave the prophet, Amos, four visions about the future of his people. In the first, he saw a swarm of locusts that "stripped the land clean" (7:2); in the second, he saw a fire that "devoured the land" (7:4). After both visions, Amos cried out, "Sovereign Lord, forgive!" "I beg you, stop!" (7:2,5). In response to the prophet's intervention for his people, "the Lord relented" and said, "This will not happen" (7:3,6). In the third vision, "the Lord was standing by a wall that had been built true to plumb, with a plumb line in his hand.... Then the Lord said, 'Look, I am setting a plumb line among my people Israel; I will spare them no longer'" (7:7-8). In the fourth vision, Amos saw a basket of ripe fruit. The Lord said, "The time is ripe for my people Israel; I will spare them no longer. In that day... the songs in the temple will turn to wailing..." (8:2-3).

What is the day of the Lord? For the Israelites in Amos' time, it came when the Assyrian army took them into captivity, ushering God's judgment on his wayward people. Ultimately, it is the day we face our Creator. But we may also experience the day of the Lord on earth, when God finally allows the consequences of our destructive behavior to cave in on us. This is not a day of judgment against unbelievers; it is a day when the river of justice floods the lives of God's people who are living a lifestyle of disobedience and rebellion against him. They flee the trouble that stalks them like a lion, only to find their lives being torn apart by the perilous choices they've made (5:19). Often, the trouble they are fleeing is the very thing God wants to use to teach and transform them. Rather than build a relationship with God, however, they rest their hand on the false security of church attendance, volunteer ministry or a childhood profession of faith, unaware of the poisonous snake of deception crawling their way (5:19-24). Friends and family may be able to intervene for a time, giving their loved ones more time to turn from their sin and follow the Lord, but if they keep running away from God, he eventually "will spare them no longer" (7:8; 8:2). Their lives will crumble like a wall that was built crooked; their sin will rot their lives like over-ripened fruit.

"Seek the Lord and live." "Seek good, not evil, that you may live. Then the Lord God Almighty will be with you, just as you say he is. Hate evil, love good" (5:4,6,14-15). Like the Israelites, we will be judged according to the plumb line of God's truth. A life that is built according to the truths in the Bible will stand secure; a life that does not line up with God's plumb line, however, will eventually collapse. On the day of the Lord, when God stands with a plumb line in his hand, how will we measure up?