“PREPARE to meet thy God, O Israel.”
This is not the whole of this verse as written in the Bible, but is two words more than is usually quoted when used by Arminians. The words, “O Israel,” are always overlooked by those who tell dead sinners or unregenerate persons to prepare to meet their God. These words of the prophet are addressed to Israel, and to Israel only, never was such language used by the prophets in addressing the Gentiles round about them. In other words, it was elect Israel, the nation which God had chosen from among all the nations of the earth to be his peculiar treasure, these only were commanded to prepare to meet their God. The “prepare” was addressed to a prepared people, to the Israel of God. The preparation of the heart in man and the answer of the tongue is of the Lord. These who have this preparation of the Lord within them, these only prepare to meet their God, and they prepare with the preparation already prepared in them. No man can work out his own salvation only as God works in him to will and to do of his good pleasure, so Paul says. On the same plan, no one of us can prepare to meet our God, only as the preparation is wrought within us by God himself. No man can work without tools to work with. The dead or unregenerate sinner has no capacity for activity in any spiritual direction, because he is dead. Before he can move he must be made alive, for life must precede all activity, natural as well as spiritual. Thus it would seem self-evident to any one reading our text without bias that it is Israel, and Israel alone, who are commanded to do this preparing, and they so commanded because they are already God’s people, already chosen by him, and separated from the other nations, so that their preparing to meet him would be the consequence of God’s previous choice of them and of his will concerning them. Indeed, there can be no doubt as to this, because the words immediately preceding those we have quoted are: “Therefore thus will I do unto thee, O Israel: and because I will do this unto thee, prepare to meet thy God, O Israel.” This proves that God’s will, and not their own will, is fulfilled in this preparing to meet him. It is because God’s will is that they shall prepare that they are called to prepare, and God’s will must be, and always is, done. Now, what is meant by their being commanded to prepare to meet their God? Is it to prepare themselves to meet him in heaven, is it to make restitution to divine justice for their sins against that justice? No, none of this, but “to meet thy God” in this case means to meet the fire, the pestilence and other calamities which God was about to bring upon Israel at the time then spoken of by Amos. “Our God is a consuming fire,” and for Israel to meet God in this instance meant not to die and go to heaven, but to meet the fire which should consume away their dress. This any Bible reader can find out for himself if he will take the pains to read the prophecy of Amos which leads up to the words of our text, God had been sending dire things into Israel on account of their transgressions, but none of these things wrought repentance in them. He had sent want of bread into all their places, but they had not returned to him. He had withheld rain from them, but they had not returned to him. He had smitten them with blasting and mildew, the palmerworm had devoured their figs and olives, yet had they not returned to the Lord. Pestilence had been sent among them, so that their camps were filled with the stench of the dead, yet they returned not to the Lord. All these calamities God sent unto them, but they repented not. All this proves that external circumstances and providential occurrences will never work repentance in one sinner’s heart, that repentance is a matter of grace inwardly, in the soul and not of outward acts or circumstances. Now, after the failure of all these national calamities to bring about returning to the Lord, the call comes: “Prepare to meet thy God, O Israel.” The day of the Lord is approaching, and they are called to meet it; none but God’s own Israel are ever called to meet this day. The people already prepared of the Lord are commanded to make ready for that day with the preparation already granted them. What is this day of the Lord? Let Amos tell it: “Wailing shall be in all the streets; and they shall say in all the highways, Alas! alas! and they shall call the husbandman to mourning, and such as are skillful of lamentation to wailing. And in all vineyards shall be wailing: for I will pass through thee, saith the Lord.” Thus you see the Lord’s passing through them will bring about all this lamentation and woe. Very different from external calamities which could not bring repentance will be this passage of the Lord through them which will mean such lamentation and weeping. “Woe unto you that desire the day of the Lord! to what end is it for you? the day of the Lord is darkness and not light.” “Shall not the day of. The Lord be darkness, and not light? even very dark, and no brightness in it?” Thus it may be seen what is involved in Israel’s being called (not invited) to meet their God. It was to meet this woe, this weeping, this darkness, this dread and awful day of the Lord, that Israel was called. This is the way their desire to see the day of the Lord will he answered. It will be in such a way as to almost drive them to despair. Thus will they prepare to meet their God, a very different preparation from what the world is preaching about, and a preparation which none but God’s called and prepared Israel knows anything about.
This is written by request, and with a desire to respond to our inquirer’s desire. L.
Elder H. H. Lefferts
Signs of the Times
Volume 84, No. 7.
April 1, 1916