6.20 Amos -- Judgment and Repentance

One of the most important characteristics of the judgment prophecies, in Amos and elsewhere, is that they contain an implicit and unstated element of mercy in them.  Why?

         

Because if judgment were irrevocable, God would not have bothered to send a prophet to announce the coming catastrophe.  Remember Jonah and his message to Nineveh -- God never said to them, "Repent or else."  He said,

          "In 40 days you will be overthrown (Jon 3:4)."

           That is not a warning, it is a declarative judgment.  But the Ninevites repented anyway, and He relented -- exactly as Jonah had  feared he would.   We see the same elements in Amos:

        "Fallen is Virgin Israel, never to rise again" (Amos 5:2).

        "Seek Me and live" (Amos 5:4-6).

The very fact that God still spoke to Israel was in itself an appeal for them to turn and listen.  And even if His judgment could not be stopped for the nation as a whole, He could still render mercy and blessing to the remnant that turned to Him:

        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; maintain justice in the courts.
            Perhaps the Lord God Almighty will have mercy on
            the remnant of Joseph (Amos 5:14-15).

       

The amazing thing is that prophetic fulfilment depended on human response.  The very existence of the prophetic voice is predicated on human freedom and not divine determinism.  God wanted men to understand their true situation, and not to judge falsely by appearances.  This was not "kismet" -- an unchangeable divine decree.  There was a possibility that men could act appropriately, righteously, and ward off disaster. God did not only diagnose, He prescribed -- if only His people would take their medicine!  This too, the presence of God in the prophetic, even when it was a word of judgment, was a special privilege of Israel.