Today’s selected reading continues in the Old Testament prophetic book of Amos, and is found in the final chapter of the book. In this particular chapter, Amos is given two distinct visions regarding the kingdom and house of Israel. In the first section of this chapter, the prophet Amos is given a vision of the imminence of the judgment and destruction of Israel and Samaria. In the second half of this chapter, the prophet Amos sees and receives a word from the Lord concerning the future restoration of the house of Israel—restoration from the lands and kingdoms to which they had been driven. It’s interesting to note that when this chapter opens up, it opens up with the prophet Amos seeing the Lord standing beside the altar, and speaking a very specific message concerning the house of Israel. It must be recognized that this wasn’t the first time the prophet Amos saw the Lord, for earlier on in this book we read how he saw the Lord standing beside a vertical wall with a plum line in His hand. This was now the second time the prophet Amos saw the Lord, except this time he saw the Lord standing beside the altar. It’s incredibly interesting that when the Lord declared a message of judgment concerning the house of Israel, He did so standing beside the altar. The altar—that place of sacrifice and burnt offering—was the very place the Lord stood to pronounce judgment and calamity upon the house of Israel. That place where the priests ministered before the Lord and offered before the Lord the sacrifices and offerings of the people was the same place the Lord stood and pronounced judgment upon the house of Israel. WHEN THE LORD PROPHESIES JUDGMENT FROM BESIDE THE ALTAR. It’s interesting that in the sixth chapter of the prophetic book of Isaiah, the prophet saw the Lord seated on a throne high and exalted. Earlier on in this book, the prophet Amos saw the Lord standing before a vertical wall with a plum line in His hand. The prophet Ezekiel saw the Lord seated on a throne in his vision of the wheel within a wheel, and the four living creatures beside the Chebar River. Both Isaiah and Ezekiel saw the Lord seated on a throne, while the prophet Amos saw the Lord standing beside the altar.
In many studies concerning the nature and person of God, there are many who understand Him to be seated upon His holy throne in heaven. When men and women consider the reality of the person of God, they consider Him forever seated upon the throne in heaven, and never moving from that place. When you read this particular passage in the prophetic book of Amos, however, you find the Lord not seated on His throne, but actually standing beside the altar. WHEN THE LORD LEAVES HIS THRONE TO STAND BESIDE THE ALTAR. WHEN THE LORD APPROACHES THE ALTAR. Why? Why would the Lord rise from His throne in heaven and stand beside the altar? Moreover, why would the Lord stand beside the altar, and from there pronounce imminent judgment upon the house of Israel. From the place where sacrifice and offerings would be made for the sins of the people, the Lord would pronounce judgment and calamity upon them. The statement I am about to make may offend those who read it, and there may be many who may label me as a heretic, or a lunatic, or perhaps some combination of both, yet this statement must be made. The cross of Jesus Christ is a monument of the divine mercy and grace of the Father toward fallen humanity, and the breaking of the curse of Adam, and the curse which was pronounced after Adam and Eve sinned in the garden. The cross is forever and eternally a testimony and testament of the forgiveness, the redemption, and the salvation of our God to all those who have called upon the name of the Lord and are saved. The cross is that place where Jesus the Christ bore our iniquities, and where the chastisement of peace was upon Him, and where He who knew no sin became sin for us in order that sin might be destroyed in Him. It was there at the cross of calvary—that place of divine and obedient sacrifice—that the Lamb of God who came to take away the sins of the world bled and died between two thieves.
The cross of Jesus Christ is and has always been an instrument and invitation of salvation to all those who are tired of being slaves to sin, and want to experience the free gift of salvation which is offered through the person of Jesus Christ. We must understand that the cross is that place where Jesus bore the penalty and judgment for sin—the sin of fallen humanity—and there nailed it to the cross. It was there at the cross where Jesus the Christ defeated the works of the devil, and where salvation and sanctification begin for all those who call upon the name of the Lord. We understand the cross of Calvary as a place where mercy triumphed over judgment, for it was there where the divine mercy of God triumphed over His judgment of sin. It is from the cross of Jesus Christ that the Holy Spirit beckons and invites men and women to experience the free gift of salvation, and the free gift of eternal life. With that being said, I am convinced that as much as the cross is an instrument of mercy, it is also an instrument of judgment. When Jesus cried from the cross, saying, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me,” we must understand that it was at that moment when the Father had to turn and look away from His Son, because His Son—Him who knew no sin—had become sin. It was at that moment when the Father looked upon His beloved Son, and could not see His Son, but the sin of fallen humanity throughout the ages. It was there at the cross where the judgment and punishment for sin against God was meted out, and it was there at the cross where the wages of sin were manifested. When the apostle Paul wrote that the wages of sin is death, we must recognize and understand that the wages of sin is death, and that Jesus experienced those wages firsthand. It was there upon the cross of Calvary that Jesus experienced the wages of sin firsthand, for the death which He died was the just penalty for the sin of a fallen world. The wages of sin is indeed death, and it was there upon the cross where Jesus experienced the full wages of sin—death—and did so on our behalf.
As much as the cross of Calvary is a place of divine mercy and grace, I must emphatically declare that it is also a place where the judgment and wrath of God can be seen. The death which Jesus died was the manifestation of the full wrath and judgment of God upon sin, and we dare not and must not forget that. I would dare say that for a number of individuals, the Lord is standing beside the cross of Calvary—the place of sacrifice and offering—and presenting unto them the free gift of salvation and eternal life. It is there at the cross where a number of men and women will experience the free gift of eternal life, and will find themselves washed and cleansed by the blood of the Lamb. There are others, however, who will experience the cross of Jesus Christ as an instrument of judgment and wrath. These are individuals who have rejected, and perhaps even despised the free gift of eternal life, and have scorned the salvation of the living God. The same place that provided mercy and grace to one may very well be the same place where another experiences judgment and wrath. Mercy and grace met at the cross, yet judgment and wrath—judgment and wrath upon sin—were also found and present at the cross. The Lord rose from His throne and stood beside the altar—that place of sacrifice and offering—and from there pronounced judgment upon the house of Israel. The Lord rose from His throne in heaven and stood beside the altar—that place where sacrifices and offerings were made for the sins of the children of Israel—and from there pronounced judgment upon the northern kingdom of Israel. For those steeped in rebellion, iniquity, wickedness, immorality and idolatry before the Lord, the altar was no longer a place of sacrifice and offering, but a place where judgment was proclaimed and meted out.
It was there beside the altar that the prophet Amos saw the Lord standing, and then heard a very specific word. It was from beside the altar the Lord stood and proclaimed the tremendous reality that there was no escaping the judgment and the wrath which He was about to pour out upon the house of Israel. When I read this prophetic passage in the book of Amos, I can’t help but see a powerful picture that the cross has the potential to be an instrument of judgment and wrath for all those who reject and despise the free gift of mercy and grace that is found in the person, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Consider the words of the author of the book of Hebrews, which are found and recorded in the tenth chapter: “For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith He was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? For we know Him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge His people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:26-31). It was from beside the altar the Lord pronounced judgment, and wrath, and punishment on the house of Israel because of their great iniquity and immorality before Him, and I would dare say that the Lord may stand beside the cross of Calvary and pronounce judgment and wrath upon all those who rejected truth, all those who despised the blood, all those who scorned the free gift of salvation. What if, the final thing men and women saw before they entered into an eternity of separation from a merciful, a holy, and a loving God was the cross of Jesus Christ?
I recognize that this might sound cruel and harsh, and there is no Scriptural evidence that suggests this to be the case, but what if before men and women were cast into the lake of fire and burning sulfur, they saw the cross of Jesus Christ, and in that moment recognized that the instrument that would have provided for them mercy and grace was actually the instrument that brought judgment and punishment. All those who despise the cross, all those who despise the blood, all those who despise and scorn the sacrifice of Jesus Christ have nothing left except for “a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour.” The cross is indeed a place where mercy and justice meet, yet the question that must be asked of you when you stand before the cross is what will you experience. When you stand before the cross of Jesus Christ, will you experience the mercy and grace of a loving Father, or will you experience the justice and judgment of a holy God? Oh dear brother and sister, learn to hear the voice of the Spirit calling from the cross of Calvary at this very hour, for the day and our might come when the voice you hear from beside the cross is a voice of judgment and wrath. Consider how many decades and centuries the altar of the Temple stood as an invitation of mercy and grace to the children of Israel. Consider how for centuries, the altar stood as an invitation for the children of Israel to come before the Lord with their sacrifices and offerings, and there present them before the Lord. Consider that for countless decades, the altar was that place where the priests of the Lord presented before the Lord the sacrifices of the people—the sacrifices which were brought by all those who were willing to bring their offerings to the Lord.
For centuries, the voice of the Lord came forth from the Temple inviting men and women to bring their offerings and sacrifices before Him, and that He was pleased when they obeyed and did so. This reality is confirmed both in the Tabernacle and the Temple, for in both instances—during the days of Moses and during the days of Solomon—the Lord caused fire to come forth and consume the sacrifice and offering which was upon the altar. The fire which came out from before the Lord was both a sign and a confirmation that the altar was a place where the Lord was pleased with sacrifice and offerings presented and brought to Him by His people. WHEN THE LORD NO LONGER SENDS FIRE UPON THE ALTAR BUT STANDS BESIDE IT! When the Lord ceases to send fire upon the altar, it may very well be a sign that the Lord is standing beside it, and that judgment is at the door. Oh, please understand that I am in no way attempting to be some type of “gloom and doom” individual, but merely that I am attempting to draw men and women to the divine mercy and grace of Almighty God. There is still time left for countless men and women to accept the free offer of mercy and grace proceeding from the Father. There is still time for men and women to run to the cross, and to cast themselves before it in humility and brokenness and surrender. When the Lord ceases to send fire upon the altar, it is a sign that repentance is desperately needed, and that we must once more bring our offerings and sacrifices to Him. The prophet Amos saw the Lord standing beside the altar, but the Lord standing beside the altar was actually a sign of judgment upon the nation. Oh, are we as a nation quickly approaching that point where the Lord is standing beside the altar in our midst? We are a nation that was founded upon the principles, the statutes, and the commands of the Scripture, yet how far we have fallen from such a place. We are a nation that was founded upon prayer and Scripture, yet we have not only removed prayer from public schools, but we have also removed the Word of God from schools, and from our courthouses. All one needs to do is pay attention to the current events taking place all around us, and one will clearly see that the time might be drawing near for the Lord to rise from His throne and stand beside the altar. We as a nation may be quickly approaching that point where the Lord stands beside that place of holiness and righteousness in our midst, and from that place pronounce judgment and wrath upon it.
Oh, I can’t help but get the strong sense in my spirit that there are altars in churches today that haven’t seen the fire of God upon them for quite some time—or perhaps, they have never seen or experienced the fire of God burning upon them. When the Lord ceases to send fire upon the altars of our churches, it may very well be a sign that the Lord may be preparing to arise from His throne, and stand beside them, and from there proclaim His word and His purpose. OH that we would read this passage in Amos, and would hear that which the Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is speaking in this generation. Inasmuch as there is a great deal of language in this passage regarding the judgment and wrath of the Lord upon the house of Israel, there is also a promise of restoration—restoration from captivity”In that day I will raise up the fallen booth of David, and wall up its breaches; I will also raise up its ruins and rebuild it as in the days of old; that they may possess the remnant of Edom and all the nations who are called by my name, declares the Lord who does this. Behold, days are coming, declares the Lord, when the plowman will overtake the reaper and the treader of grapes him who sows seed; when the mountains will drip sweet wine and all the hills will be dissolved. Also I will restore the captivity of my people Israel, and they will rebuild the ruined cities and live in them; they will also plant vineyards and drink their wine, and make gardens and eat their fruit. I will also plant them on their land, and they will not again be rooted out from their land which I have given them, says the Lord your God” (Amos 9:11-15). How absolutely amazing is it that even though the Lord declared that He would judge the house of Israel, and that they would go into captivity, He promised to restore them. RAISE UP! REBUILD! RESTORE! I WILL RAISE UP THE FALLEN BOOTH OF DAVID! I WILL RAISE UP ITS RUINS AND REBUILD IT AS IN THE DAYS OF OLD! I WILL RESTORE THE CAPTIVITY OF MY PEOPLE ISRAEL! THEY WILL REBUILD THE RUINED CITIES AND LIVE IN THEM!
In the same chapter where the Lord promises to judge the sinners which dwelt in the midst of His holy land—“All the sinners of my people will die by the sword, those who say, The calamity will not overtake or confront us” (Amos 9:10). The judgment of the Lord upon the house of Israel would serve as a way to cleanse the land, and to remove the iniquity and transgression from it, in order that when the appointed time came, He might restore the house of Israel to its rightful place. The Lord declared through Amos that He would not bring to a complete end the house of Israel, but would shake it in order that that which could remain would do so. Even in this chapter, the Lord promised to restore, promised to raise up, and promised to rebuild. Oh dear brother or sister, please don’t miss this reality, for it is of tremendous importance in this very late hour. There is a promise to restore, to rebuild, and to raise up in the midst of those who earnestly seek and call unto the Lord. The Lord restored the house of Israel to their land not once, but twice, and this second time He did so, He promised they would never again be uprooted. Oh for security within the inheritance the Lord has given unto us within our lives. Oh that there would be a generation in this hour that would raise up the fallen booth of David, and will rebuild the wall as it was in days of old. Oh that there would be those who would experience the restoration of the Lord from their captivity into the place of their inheritance. Let those with an ear to hear hear what the Spirit is speaking in this hour, and prepare themselves for what the Lord is preparing to do in this generation. The Lord promised to restore a people who were faithful to Him, and promised to rebuild the ruins among them, and I am convinced that the Lord is releasing this same promise to His faithful servants in this generation. The Lord desires to restore the ruins which have been present within your life, and seeks to raise up that which has fallen. Oh that we would surrender ourselves to the plan, the purpose and the design of the Lord to rebuild that which has fallen, and that we would not seek our own agenda in the midst of such an hour as this. Oh that we as the sons and daughters of the living God would partner with Him in the process of raising up the fallen tabernacle of David, and rebuilding the ruins which have for too long been present among us in our midst.