James Nisbet Commentary - Amos 4:12 - 4:12

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James Nisbet Commentary - Amos 4:12 - 4:12


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This Chapter Verse Commentaries:

PREPARATION TO MEET GOD’

‘Prepare to meet thy God!’

Amo_4:12

That man has still to learn the real lesson of life, who has not yet been taught to read it, in all its chapters of joy and sorrow, as one great preparation for another world.

For, in passing out of this world into another, we must, every one of us, ‘meet God.’

They are words easily said, to ‘meet God’; but it is hard, sometimes, to attach to the language which enunciates the simplest of truths any appreciable idea.

Have you bethought you, brethren, that that will be the first time that the spirit of a man ever comes into real and visible communication with a spiritual being? that, till that moment, we had no capability of even conceiving what spirit is? and that then we shall stand in actual intercourse with it.

To many, it is too awful to be dwelt upon; a matter in which fear is only too glad to seek its refuge in oblivion.

To a few, it is a pleasant feeling; but one that has never taken shape.

And how exceedingly rare is the mind, which has any distinct idea at all of how it will feel, and what it will say, and what it will do, at that awful moment of recognition by the Eternal.

And yet, so simple a coming fact is it, that no fact is fact now, which once was future and now is past, so much a fact as that fact is fact; and every other future fact, be it what it may, is an uncertainty compared to the certainty of this fact; and to every living man in his existence the next fact in the series of the events of his immortality, may be this moment when he shall ‘meet God.’

No one can have studied the New Testament carefully without conceiving that, in contrast with the Old Testament, it seldom, I had almost said never, refers to the contemplation of death, but always to the ‘meeting of God.’

I. What the exact character of that ‘meeting’ shall be, I am not going to commit the rash act of endeavouring to unfold.—It is likely that—all, as it were, in a moment—at that moment the whole of the past life will relive, and stand out in its clearness; just as pictures, which are fading, are sometimes, by certain processes, restored, in a moment, to their original brightness.

But, however it may be with the retrospect, assuredly that ‘meeting,’ how brief soever, will determine, irrevocably determine, the vast eternity which reaches on beyond it.

Therefore, in that interview with God, the past and the future will come together: the past, to its crisis; the future, to its doom. And therefore I do not say to you, this morning, ‘Prepare to die!’ I do not say, ‘Prepare to live for ever!’ but I say to you that which is greater than both—‘Prepare to meet thy God!’

II. And now the first consideration is, Whom shall we meet?—And I answer, unhesitatingly, The Lord Jesus Christ. Whether it be by judgment, or whether it be by the Second Advent, it is always ‘The Son of man.’

And here lies a thought of exceeding comfort. Our view of ‘God,’ at least our first view of ‘God,’ will be of the Godhead as it is in Christ. And if in Christ, it must be in human form. Christ has never laid aside His body. We can trace it by successive links in all its stages. All the disciples saw that body, spiritualised, after the resurrection. The twelve saw it, as it was become glorified, at the point of the ascension. And the angels declared distinctly that, as it ascended, so it would return again, bodily. St. Stephen, St. Paul, and St. John have all been permitted to see that form, in its perfectly glorified state, in heaven. Therefore the ‘God’ we shall ‘meet,’ at that moment, will be ‘the Man, Christ Jesus.’

Therefore it is I urge you, in your thoughts, never to discard the thought of ‘the God’ you are going to ‘meet,’ from that of ‘the Man, Christ Jesus’; but let Jesus, in all His exalted manhood, Jesus in all the perfections of His work, be present to you, by the eye of faith, whenever you hear the words said, ‘Prepare to meet thy God!’

This thought leads me to appreciate the propriety and the wisdom of the exact words, which the Holy Spirit has selected.

It is ‘thy God’—thine own God—whom you are to be ready to ‘meet.’ For it is He who made you—God—the sinner’s God—it is He Who has given Himself for you—He, in Whom all heaven is thine. And do you only feel Him ‘thine’—make Him ‘thine’ by a strong act of appropriating faith—then do not doubt that you will be able to ‘meet’ Him as ‘thine,’ and it will leave you nothing else to contemplate. And if you can say the last words, you need not be afraid of the first words—‘Prepare to meet thy God.’

II. By ‘meeting God,’ here, I understand two things.—The first is, to go forth, to respond, with your whole heart, to those approaches, which God is continually making, by His Spirit, to your soul. We all know what it is, at times, to feel God drawing more than usually near to us. To return those advances of God, by grateful echo within, and quick obediences without, that is what I mean by ‘meeting God.’

And the second way is, have as much intercourse as you can with God, in your own retirement—in thought, in prayer, and sacred study of the Bible. Put yourself in frequent converse with the grandnesses of an unseen world. These things will be the rehearsing of that greater ‘meeting’ which is to come: the practising of that high part which you are one day to take. God will become a known God. You will be familiar with His invisible glories; and when you come to see and hear Him ‘as He is,’ it will be no violent transition; there will be no great revulsion; it will be no stranger you are called to ‘meet’; but Him, ‘Whom having not seen, you love.’ A Friend—One, with Whom to hold fellowship, has often been the sweetest joy of life—One, Whose smile has often passed before you. And you will not tremble; but you will run to it when the herald cries, ‘The Bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet Him.’

III. But, look well to it, that you are robed, as befits the royal presence.—This whole earth is the ante-room to that great banquetting-house. Here, the garments are kept, which every guest must wear: and woe be to the man who dares to ‘meet’ his Master’s eye unrobed!

Need I say to you what those robes are; or, how they were woven?

Christ, in His manhood, made robes of righteousness for man. He needed them not. Therefore He left them to His Church. Any sinner, by the hand of faith, may put on one of those perfect robes, and, from that moment, the rags of his own righteousness, and all the defilements of his life-long sins, are covered; so covered, that God Himself sees nothing in that man but infinite perfection. He stands before the immaculate holiness of Jehovah, ‘perfect and entire, wanting nothing.’ In all that grand conclave of saints and angels, which shall circle around that throne, there is nothing so ‘spotless’ as that man. He is ‘prepared to meet His God.’

But, after all, the ‘preparation’ to ‘meet God,’ lies more in an habitual frame of mind, than in any distinct acts. I would earnestly say to you, brethren, as you wish to do the greatest thing in existence well, never be in any place, from this moment, nor in any company, nor in any amusement, nor, God helping you, in any state of mind, in which you would not like Christ to find you, if He should come then.

Rev. Jas. Vaughan.

Illustration

‘The certainty of judgment is the basis of a call to repentance, which may avert it. The meeting with God for which Israel is besought to prepare, was, of course, not judgment after death, but the impending destruction of the Northern kingdom. But Amos’ prophetic call is not misapplied when directed to that final day of the Lord. Common-sense teaches preparation for a certain future, and Amos’ trumpet-note is deepened and re-echoed by Jesus: “Be ye ready also, for … the Son of man cometh.” Note, too, that Israel’s peculiar relation to God is the very ground of the certainty of its punishment, and of the appeal for repentance. Just because He is “thy God” will He assuredly come to judge, and you may assuredly prepare, by repentance, to meet Him. The conditions of meeting the Judge, and being “found of Him in peace,” are that we should be “without spot, and blameless”; and the conditions of being so spotless and uncensurable are, what they were in Amos’ day, repentance and trust. Only we have Jesus as the brightness of the Father’s glory to trust in, and His all-sufficient work to trust to, for pardon and purifying.’