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Amos, the third of the minor prophets, lived in a little village called Tekoa, a few miles south of Jerusalem. Two years before a mighty earthquake shook the land of sacred memories, he wrote a book in which he warned the proud people of his day that God was still upon the throne, and would some day call men to give an account of all transgressions of his law. This holy writer reminded them of the pestilence in Egypt, of the destruction of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, of the evils of their day; and then catching prophetic inspiration, declared in the name of the Lord, "Therefore thus will I do unto thee: ...prepare to meet thy God, O Israel." This seems like a military challenge from the Almighty, that they quickly muster all their forces, call upon their idol gods for assistance, and hasten out to meet a sudden attack by the Lord of Hosts. "Prepare," he cried, which meant immediate action, "to meet thy God"; and then he gives a powerful description of the majesty of the One whom they were to meet, namely, the One who formed the mountains of the earth and who, when traveling across the world, steps from peak to peak. The One who created the winds which, when angry, level everything on land, and lash the mighty ocean into foam; the One who created light and darkness and who declares unto man the secret thoughts of his heart. Who is this One they were to prepare to meet? JEHOVAH-ELOHIM-TSEBAOTH, that's his name---the self-existing, eternal God, the unconquerable One.
Preparation is Reasonable...
Business men everywhere recognize the expedience of preparing to settle accounts with the banker, the baker, the butcher, the merchant. They prepare to settle estates through the orphans' court, and to obtain redress through the methods of legal jurisprudence. The successful doctor doesn't diagnose or prescribe in a haphazard way, nor does the music instructor teach at random. Preparation is necessary to success in all the endless branches of human endeavor, and preparation is generally made in proportion to the magnitude of the objective in mind. But little preparation is made to entertain a tramp when we see him entering the yard, but it's different when we see a neighbor coming up the walk; and we make still greater prepatation if mother, whom we haven't seen for years is coming to visit us. If the county judge, the governor of the State, the President, or a king were coming to call upon us, preparation would be made according to the greatness of the one whom we're to meet. Amos informs us of the solemn fact that some time we're to meet God. We should, indeed, feel embarrased should a king or a president step into our home when we're unprepared, and how much more so would we feel should the Lord, the King of all the earth, suddenly call upon us! The Lord is reasonable, for he has sent us word that he's coming, so that we may no be taken unawares. These words, spoken nearly eight hundred years before Christ, are applicable to sinful men in every age.
Could Not be Comforted...
A sinner who had trifled all his lifetime with the sweet Spirit of God, who had rejected every offer of mercy, who had repeatedly refused to accept Christ as his personal Savior, when dying began to cry pitifully. A friend who stood beside his bed bade him to be of good cheer; but the dying man, between sobs, explained that if he'd broken only a statute law and was to meet merely an earthly judge, it would concern him but little, for the judge might show mercy, or, if he were condemned, he should be placed in only an earthly prison, and that he might bribe the sheriff or dig under the wall. "But," he confessed, "I've broken a moral law, I've committed sin that's infinite in its nature, and, with mercy slighted all my life and every door of opportunity closed, I fall into the hands of an angry God and he'll shut me up in a dungeon prisonhouse forever, where no ray of light shall ever penetrate, and where the sweet voice of mercy shall never be heard," and with a scream he died and the poor soul went out into the great eternity---unprepared to meet his God.
Why Unprepared?...
Sin entered into the history of mankind soon after the creation, and God alone knows its awful work. It's broken the tender ties of parental love, dragged virtue off her high plane, broken up millions of homes, and changed the world that God made so beautiful into a cemetery so vast that if a tombstone were erected over every grave it would startle the world. Sin's the enemy of both God and men. It took the blood of Jesus Christ to build a bridge over the chasm sin made between man and God. Man was made to know and worship God---that's his normal state. Nothing else will satisfy the longing soul. History has proved the sad fact that man apart from God is unhappy and undone. It was to correct this sad condition that Jesus came to earth. If the great sphinx that stands today in Egypt by the River Nile could open its stone mouth, having watched the ebb and flow of humanity for centuries, having seen the rise and fall of empires, the usurpation of crowns, and the breaking of hearts, it would tell us that without God all is vanity and wasted effort.
Why be so Interested?...
We need not enter into an exhausive discourse to prove the fact that death is upon the track of every one of us, for we see the funeral train pass almost every day---cemeteries are growing larger. Broken columns stand all along our pathway as solemn indexes, pointing to the unfinished work of man; "They began to work," they seem to say to us, "but were overtaken by death before their work was completed." That plow which stands rusting in yonder field; that garment unsewd; that picture in outline; and that vacant chair, speak to us softly or in thunder tones that sooner or later all must die. Strong vitality may prolong life, yet, in time, every man and woman will feel the hand of death. In deep caverns skeletons are found of prehistoric men, and mummified bodies are found in pyramids of stone. Translated hieroglyphic characters speak of the life, happiness, death, and hope of immortality beyond the grave of those whose hears are still. There's an inherent hope in every heart that speaks of a life beyond, and that hope is as real as life itself. Jesus didn't correct that belief, but sustained it when he said, "Let not your heart be troubled...In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you."
"Heaven is a holy place,
Filled with glory and with grace;
Sin can never enter there."
How Shall We Prepare?...
Malachi was the last of the Jewish prophets and he lived and wrote about four hundred years before Christ, or at the beginning of that period known to Bible students as Israel's dark night. Just prior to his death, which occured about 409 B. C., when about seventy years of age, he gave utterance to his last prophecy in the following words: "Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord; and he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse" (Mal. 4:5, 6). About four hundred years later a priest by the name of Zacharias was burning incense in the temple when an angel appeared and informed him that his wife Elizabeth should bear him a son, and that many should rejoice at his birth, and the angels further stated, "And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. And he shall go before him [Christ] in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord" (Luke 1:16, 17).
Preparing the Way...
Matthew's acount of the sudden appearing of John the Baptist, of whom Malachi prophesided, is both interesting and instructive. "In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and saying, Repent ye; for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. ...Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight" (Matt. 3:1-3). The substance of his sermons was, "Repent." Upon one occasion, as he was journeying in the country around Jordan, preaching repentance for the remission of sins, he waxed indignant at their seeming unconcern and boldly declared, "O generation of vipers, who hast warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance" (Luke 3:3-8). The preaching of that humble man of God was so accompanied by the mighty power of God that the whole country was awakened, and they began to inquire how to prepare to meet the Lord. They'd become conscious of the awful fact that they were exposed to the judgments of the Almight God, and they flocked to John for advice and help. Repentance comprehends an awakening to the awful effects of sin against the great love of God. It enables lost men to understand that their attitude in sin is one of open rebellion against the law of God. Their eyes become open to the fact that their lives are being wasted, and the purpose of their existence nullified.
When thus awakened, they're sorry for the wrong stand they've taken against God, who all along has been their best friend, and they decide to quit the paths of wrong forever. In sorrow, they ask God to kindly forgive them, with a promise to serve him faithfully the rest of their lives. As soon as one believes the Lord has forgiven, a calm, sweet peace enters the soul. The burden of sin is lifted, and the Spirit of God witnesses to the new-born man that, indeed, he is a child of God. The forgiven person enters into a new day---a day, thank God, that has no evening, for the Christian's sun never goes down. With respect to repentance and preparation, the Bible is very definite, as will be seen by the following texts: "Repent ye, and believe the gospel" (Mark 1:15). "Repent ye, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out" (Acts 3:19).
Men in all ages have felt the need of God. They've longed for something that's higher, wider, and deeper than the world can bestow. In search for that satisfying power they threw out their anchor, and it fastened to a creed; but during the storm it tore loose, and they were swept out to sea. They tried again, and their anchor fastened to a saint; but the saint died and they drifted on. In despair they tried again, and this time their anchor fastened to the Rock---to Jesus Christ---and it held fast in every storm; it holds today, and it will hold fast forever.
Let's prepare to meet our God.




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