Amos was a contemporary of Hosea and also prophesied to the northern kingdom of Israel shortly before their fall to the Assyrians in 722 BC. The first two chapters of Amos record God’s judgment on Israel’s neighbors. Smug and prosperous, Israel was probably unprepared for Amos to turn God’s judgment oracles toward them in Chapter 3. But Israel had forsaken their true love for ritualistic religion and oppressed the poor to secure their wealth. They would be held to a higher standard because they knew God’s law and ignored it.
Hear this word that the Lord has spoken against you, O people of Israel, against the whole family that I brought up out of the land of Egypt:
“You only have I known
of all the families of the earth;
therefore I will punish you
for all your iniquities (Amos 3:1-2).
Judgment is the theme of Revelation 6 as well. We watch as Jesus opens the seals of the scroll. As each seal is broken, judgment is released on the earth. Interpretations vary, but none deny that God will judge the earth.
The first four seals reveal four horsemen that hearken back to Zechariah’s vision of the patrolling horsemen (Zech 1:8-17; 6:1-8). “The horsemen are used as God’s instruments to bring judgment on his people’s enemies. The colors stand for the four points of a compass” indicating that the whole earth is affected by the horror these riders inflict (P. Gardner, Revelation, pg 95). It’s as if Satan has a bow and is set to “conquer” which is why Jesus exhorts the churches to “overcome” in Rev. 2-3.
I believe we are living under the effects of the four riders on the earth, presently. For they bring war, famine and disease…BUT, their power is limited by God. Specifically, we read that the horsemen bringing famine and death are restricted in their destruction (6:6, 8). When the fifth seal is opened we see God’s rationale for the judgment rendered by the riders…to avenge the blood of the martyrs. But it is also important to note that Christians are not exempt from the horror that is brought by the horsemen. “The work of these evil forces therefore brings punishment on some but also works to refine the faith and works of those who belong to Christ” (P. Gardner, Revelation, pg 93).
The sixth seal reveals the end is near – that Jesus is on His way to finally judge the earth, and the whole earth cries, “Who can stand?”
The Sovereignty of God is on full display in John’s vision of the seals. The horsemen are agents of Satan – but they are directed and restricted by God! How do we reconcile God’s love with this picture of Him sending horror on the earth?
We must remember that our lives are but a small dot on an eternal line.
The same suffering that embitters the unbeliever toward God refines the Christian in holiness. And God not only sends the bad, He also sends the good! The same blessing that causes the unbeliever to turn away from God in self-sufficiency will cause the believer to fall to his knees in gratitude. Our responses to both suffering and blessing reveal our true allegiance. And in God’s mercy, He delays His return so the sinner can repent and be saved!