Take Amos, for example. What he warned the Israelites about in 750 BC are things that are again occurring today and so we should be concerned about them today.
Amos prophesied in 750BC or so. He spoke God's Word at a time when the Israelites were enjoying success, which they equated to wealth. As for wealth, they equated it to God's favor. Just as today we have the prosperity gospel false ideology, so in the past the Jews mistakenly thought that wealth meant they were all set with God and could coast. They relaxed their spiritual duties and God was not pleased.
God was actually looking unfavorably on them. Their worship had become hollow, it was religiosity without heart. God sent Amos to warn them. Amos 1 begins:
"He said, “The LORD roars from Zion and thunders from Jerusalem; the pastures of the shepherds dry up, and the top of Carmel withers.” (Amos 1:2)
Amos, being a sheepherder, knew the sound of the lion. It was a prevalent predator in his day and many a sheep were lost to it while shepherds stood helplessly by, able to do nothing. When the lion roars, he means business. His roar, notoriously loud, is meant to startle. The metaphor is meant to startle awake the Israelites to the warning of the lion.
The lion "thundering from Jerusalem" has two metaphors. The first is thunder, which acts the same way as the lion's roar. Thunder presages a storm. When you hear it, you perk up and you know the storm is on its way. Thundering from Jerusalem means that the LORD is reminding His people from whence true worship stems.
The "pastures of the shepherds dry up" is simply drought. God is not an absentee landlord. He is active and He sends or withholds rain. Israel today has been experiencing the worst drought in their modern history. For five years rainfall has been a record low levels. All the storage tanks indicate below red marks. Just to give an example, the average rainfall for Jerusalem in November is 60mm. This November, they got 7. 'The pastures of the shepherds dry up...' Is it a coincidence that their worst drought in the modern era coincides with a fallen Israel, straying from worship? I do not believe so.
Wildfires broke out this week at Mt. Carmel forest. The Carmel forest is a verdant area of Israel. The area is held up in the bible as the ideal of fertility and beauty. For the "top of Carmel to wither" would be devastating indictment indeed.
Amos prophesied that God was about to raise up the pagan nations around Israel to judge her and them. Lebanon had broken treaties and colluded with Jordan (Edom). The LORD'S anger burned against Gaza because they had deported an entire population. God was angry with Syria for their incessant warlike actions. Greed was the watchword of the day and Israel's enemies had dragged Israel into a sour economy. The Lord would send fire to the walls of Tyre.
Do you see parallels from the time of Amos with Israel today and her spiritual state? Her wealth and success has seduced her into a relaxed or even a non-existent worship. Her worship was flash over substance at best and so it is today. Her enemies are truce-breakers, greedy, deporting entire populations (Gaza) and militaristic. Even after Israel attacked and destroyed Syria's nuke site three years ago, the Syrians have apparently rebuilt. The Jerusalem Post reported this week that a possible Syrian nuke facility has been identified by satellite. By the way, Syria has never allowed IAEA inspectors in despite pressure and entreaties by the UN to do so.
Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, spiritual leader of the ultra-orthodox party Shas, said this week in his address that God is judging faithless Jews who do not keep the sabbath. Iran's Press TV reports: "An Israeli rabbi has suggested that wildfires still raging in northern Israel were God's punishment for religious offenses committed by the area residents." Ynet news reported "Haredi newspapers say disaster 'a warning sign', call for personal and public self-scrutiny" and as a result, "ultra-Orthodox newspapers called for self-scrutiny, saying the disaster was a sign from God."
We do know that God warns before judging. The Tribulation is judgment on non-believers and on Israel. When anything destructive or cataclysmic, or miraculous, occurs in Israel, believers should sit up and take notice. When superlatives are attached to any event in Israel, such as "worst drought", "uncontrollable wildfires", or "worst disaster" then we should really attune to what God might be saying. When combined with indicators in the bible as to God's standards, His warnings, and His judgment, and the events match up as a possible prophetic fulfillment, then spiritual alarm bells should be ringing in every Christian.
I advise four things:
1. Hal Lindsey's Report this week is an excellent overview of Ezekiel's prophesies fulfilled in regard to Israel. His 20-minute segment gives a wonderful context from which every believer should then come to the minor prophets. Part one of Hal's segment this week, titled "Ezekiel's Enigma," is here and part 2 is here. If that link expires then go to Hal's web page here.
2. Read Amos 1 with an eye toward a possible fulfillment of the prophesies today that Amos was burdened with speaking back then. If you are not of the ilk that believes in prophetic fulfillment twice, then examine the principles exhibited. Is what is happening in Israel with the drought and the fires a warning from God? If it is a warning, what were the people doing that caused God to warn them? Are we as individuals or as a nation doing those same things today? It is always worth checking ourselves to see how our walk with the Lord is going. Are we wandering? Or are we close to Him?
3. Pray for Israel! Not only are we commanded to in Psalm 122, but Jack Kelley also has an explanation of what you are really doing when you pray for the peace of Jerusalem, here. Joel C. Rosenberg has specific prayer needs listed at his website, here. I copied the ones listed for 12/5/10 below:
- For the Lord to heal and comfort Haifa police chief Ahuva Tomeris who has been “in critical condition, after being hurt while escorting a Prison Service bus en route to a northern jail located near the site of Thursday’s major fire.”
- For the Lord to heal and comfort 4 Israeli border guards who have been injured during the blaze.
- For the Lord to comfort the families and friends of all 42 Israelis who have died as of Friday as a result of the fires — here are the names of those who were lost.
- For the Lord to encourage and provide for the 17,000 Israelis who have been evacuated from their homes.
- For Lord to bring to justice to those responsible for these horrific fires.
- For the Lord to help Israel contain and put out the fires quickly.
- For the Lord to provide desperately needed rain, and turn His people back to Himself.
And keep looking up, for your Redemption draweth nigh!