Prepare to meet your God, O Israel Amos 4:12
To Meet – When you read this verse, what do you think about? Do you see the man with the placard walking the streets proclaiming the day of doom? Do you hear the preacher asking where you would be if you died tonight? Do you see the cartoons satirizing religion with “The End Is Near” scenarios? As Abraham Heschel notes, this verse is usually interpreted as preparation for disaster. But that isn’t what it means at all. The real imagery is uncovered when we know the Hebrew verb qara (the word here has the preposition attached – liqrath). Heschel explains that this word “denotes either to go to a place to receive favorably a person upon arrival, or to oppose someone in battle; it does not mean to head for disaster.”
Are you relieved? Now you can ignore those sermons of fire and brimstone, of impending doom and the threat of the grave. Now you can confidently walk past that man with the “End is Near” sign knowing that he doesn’t understand Hebrew. Isn’t that comforting?
Well, maybe not. You see, Amos is still asking us to prepare to meet our God. We should be preparing to meet the King of the universe. We should be preparing to be ushered into the presence of holiness. Even Isaiah realized that he didn’t belong in that room. While qara might not be about impending doom, it certainly suggests that we can’t come casually. God is not our buddy, our personal best friend or our good neighbor. When we prepare to meet Him, we prepare to stand before the Almighty, the King of kings, the Aleph and Tau, the One and only. Perhaps we do not need to worry about judgment and punishment, but standing in the presence of the Holy is no less frightening. It is not a matter of being sentenced by the Judge. It is a matter of honoring Him with the proper protocol, respect and admiration. Would you come to the halls of the high court in shorts and sandals? Would you show up at a royal wedding in a swimsuit? Would you refuse to bow before an emperor or salute a great general? God stands far above all these and yet we offer Him only the smallest of acknowledgements with our made-up protocols.
Of course, Amos is not interested simply in the appropriate rituals. Neither is God. We prepare to pay Him homage and honor when we live according to His commands. Our lives are the sacrifices that demonstrate ritual purity before Him. Our hearts are open to His inspection. We prepare by fulfilling His desires out of love for who He is.
Preparation is a honor, not a threat. The invitation assumes we are worthy to come before Him. We are invited to receive Him as the King of the universe. Not all accept the invitation. Not all prepare. Some are left outside when the door to the wedding feast closes.
Topical Index: meet, qara, preparation, honor, doom, Amos 4:12
 Abraham Heschel, The Prophets, Vol. 1, p. 37.