Therefore thus will I do unto thee, O Israel; and because I will do this unto thee, prepare to meet thy God, O Israel.” –Amos 4:12
“Therefore be ye also ready; for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh.” –Matt. 24:44
I am going to speak to you on some thoughts that have come to me by thinking around a verse which I heard as a little country lad years ago when the people were coming to hear a man of God speak God’s word. And it is a very simple text; it says, “Prepare to meet thy God.” Of course you will understand that this is addressed to a nation, to the people of Israel, and yet it has a very definite personal application, just like the Bible, which is regenerative in power and which is inspired in totality, is personal in its application. “Prepare to meet thy God.”
Some years ago the Grand Trunk Line Railroad offered $2,500.00 for the person or to the person who would send in the three best words to be chosen by judges for railroad crossings; and the person who won that $2,500.00 for sending in the three best words, according to the judgment of t he judges, sent in these words: “Stop. Look. Listen.” But these haven’t been worth much to many people when you think of the hundreds of people who have been killed on railroad crossings in these years that have gone by, because they didn’t stop, because they didn’t look, because they didn’t listen. And even though Jesus Christ came into this world to die for sinners, His death will have availed nothing for your salvation unless you accept it. No medicine will do anything to restore your good health unless that medicine is taken. No bread will give any strength to your body unless that bread is eaten and digested. You can stand in the presence of a crystal fountain and die of thirst unless you drink. And all the provisions that God has made through the death of Jesus Christ who was crucified for our offenses and raised for our justification will avail nothing for your salvation unless these provisions are met by penitent faith, taking them.
Just two years ago down in Mississippi I spoke of an old man, who, because of the killing that he had done of his son-in-law, was sent to the Penitentiary at Mississippi. It was what they call the Prison Farm. His name is Andrew Jackson Tabor. And when I preached in Mississippi a man who heard me said, “Would you like to see that old man about whom you spoke in your sermon who refused his pardon from the governors of Mississippi?” I said I would. So the Superintendent of the Prison Farm took me out to the farm and I was introduced to old man Andrew Jackson Tabor who had been in the penitentiary for twenty-odd years and whom two governors had pardoned. I spoke to him and I said, “Mr. Tabor, why did you not accept the pardon which Governor White and the other governor of Mississippi gave to you?” He said, “Because I didn’t want to get out of here and because I ain’t got no other place to live; and it ain’t no pardon if I don’t accept it.” And it was not a pardon if he did not accept it. And that day, in the company of the Superintendent of the Prison Farm, I saw this old man with his prison garb on line up with the other prisoners, go in to the kitchen, sit down at a wooden table, get his tin cup and plate, and eat the prison grub; and after that was over go back to the bed which he had occupied f or twenty-odd years, along with the other prisoners even though he had already been pardoned by two governors of that great state. No matter how great God’s love is, no matter how deep His grace is, no matter how marvelous are the provisions made for the salvation of sinners it will avail nothing for you if you reject it, if you say “No,” if you say “I will not have that which God Almighty offers to me,” when the offer is made.
We come to the truth this morning which this text puts upon our hearts. It is a very simple verse and a very simple statement, “Prepare to meet thy God.” Now that is something everybody has to do. You may be rich, but your money cannot keep you from meeting God. You may be cultured, but culture will avail you nothing if you stand before God as one who has trampled under your feet the blood of Jesus Christ. You may have political power, you may have social prestige, you may have fame, you may have broad estates, you may drive around in big cars, you may have servants at your every beck and call, but that does not mean that you will not have to meet God. “It is appointed unto man once to die”; and whether you meet Him by death or whether you meet Him as He returns to this earth as He is going to do literally and visibly and tangibly some day, you have to meet God! You don’t have to listen to me; you can turn off your radio if you want to; you don’t have to come to this Opera House; you don’t have to come to the Baptist church where I am preaching each night. You don’t have to do that. You can die first! You don’t have to open your Bible and read it. You will meet Him to whom the midnight is as the noon-day. You will meet One who has counted your footsteps since you learned to toddle at mother’s knee. You will meet One who knows every word in our mouths, and there isn’t a word in our mouths that he doesn’t know. He’s One who understands our thoughts afar off. He is One that you cannot joke with, One you cannot deceive. He is One that will riot let you escape through some technicality of law or through some eloquent plea of some lawyer, or loop-hole. You have to stand face to face with God. When you stand there you can’t hide things from Him.
You need to get ready. Prepare to meet thy God! And for a Christian to meet God, it must be a wonderful, thrilling thing, a sweet experience, to come face to face with One who died for you, and face to face with One in whom you have trusted. But, oh to meet God, having rejected Jesus Christ, there to stand face to face with God saying, “Yes, Lord, I trampled under my feet the shed blood of Jesus Christ.” How terrible a thing that must be.
I have seen loved ones meet loved ones whom they haven’t seen for years. I saw two brothers meet not long ago who hadn’t seen each other in eighteen years. These two big, strong men who loved each other put their arms around each other, and these brothers kissed each other, and cried and laughed and cried and laughed. It was a joyous experience; there were tears of joy to meet and stand face to face. But it is a terrible meeting that people have, that is a meeting with God if they have not put their trust in the Christ who died for them. Henry Clay Beatty one day over yonder in Virginia, took a shot-gun and hid it in his car, took his wife, the mother of a little three- weeks-old baby, out for a ride, got out of the car and blew her head off with a shotgun, and went back and said that he had had a fight with a highwayman. But when he was brought to trial a lawyer rose and said, “Gentlemen of the jury, if you let this man go free, this man who is guilty of the murder of his wife, you ought to dig up the bones of all the criminals of Virginia and apologize to them the rest of your life.” But there came a day when Henry Clay Beatty walked into a little room, the door opened; and then he stood in that little green door with his head shaved. He saw a little red light above a chair, and he stopped; and the newspaper reporters said that his face turned even paler than the prison pallor that had been upon it for days. They put Henry Clay Beatty in that chair and turned on the current and his body fried and sizzled and lurched and died. And Henry Clay Beatty had gone to meet God. But that dread hour when he went to look on the electric chair is a pleasant experience to what it will be to any man listening to me in this world today who stands face to face with Christ and says, “Yes, I knew he died for me. The preacher told me about it, the Bible recorded it, but I said no, and I trampled under my dirty feet His holy blood.” God will say to you “Depart from me, you worker of iniquity, into the hell-fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” God help people. God help men and women to prepare to meet God.
That is the only sensible way in this world for men and women to live. Every hearse says it is the only sensible way. Every obituary column testifies that it is the only sensible way for people to live, and every hearse and every cemetery and every white tomb-stone and every vacant chair in your household, says to you, “Prepare to meet
God.” It may be your time next.
A young girl down in my church came by me one night after the preaching and she said, “Oh, after hearing a sermon like that I am so glad I am a Christian.” She said, “My sweetheart and I want to see you in just a few weeks to get you to marry us.” I said, “Well, Mary, I am glad that you are a Christian, too.” About an hour after that my telephone rang and somebody said, “Oh, something awful has happened. Mary and her sweetheart went out riding on Highway 51, ran into a truck of logs and Mary is dead.” When I saw her, and saw her all mangled and bruised, when I rushed over to the home that night, I said, “Thank God that Mary was ready to meet God.” With all our high- ways where death comes so quickly, I wonder why it is that we have to preach so hard, and pray so much, and be so insistent with men and women, who seem to have good sense about other things and no sense about this thing of meeting God and of the uncertainty of life and of the certainty of death. It’s the only lovely life that people can live in this world, the only life that’s worth while, the life of constant preparation to meet God through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Then I bring this question that I want to ask and answer for you. Somebody says, “Well, when should I get ready to meet God?” You know when. When should you get ready? You know when. You don’t know when you are going to have to meet Him, but you know this— you know when you should get ready to meet Him. Right now. Every thing in God’s Book, every- thing in the wooing of the Holy Spirit, everything that pertains to common sense, everything of hu man experience, everything that we know anything about that is worth remembering about God and humanity, says N-O-W! NOW! NOW! NOW! Today is the wise man’s day; tomorrow is the fool’s day.
Oh, if you have some kind words to say to somebody, maybe a mother somewhere, maybe you had better say it today—you may not have the chance tomorrow. If you have something you need to make right, make it right now. If your soul is out of the ark of redemption and salvation, now is the time to enter. Right now! “Just now, come into my heart, Lord Jesus — now.” N-O-W, NOW! Yes, today is the wise man’s day, and tomorrow is the fool’s day; and yet so many people let tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow creep in from day to day.
I was over in Kentucky in Glasgow when Floyd Collins was caught in the cave out there, and college students and athletes and miners and farmers and many other kinds of people worked shoulder to shoulder to try to rescue Floyd Collins from that cave. That man! The last thing they heard him say, was just two sentences; he said, “My God, men, why don’t you take me?” They called back to him, “Hold out, old fellow; we’re coming!” And he said, “You’re too slow! You’re too slow!”
I think of young men and women who may be listening to me today. I think of business men, rich men, poor men, I think of many kinds of people who may be listening to me at this time, and I am saying to you, don’t you be slow in accepting the Lord Jesus Christ. If you say, “Well, I’ll put it off, I’ll wait until some mere convenient season,” I am saying to you that you are too slow. The devils in hell, if they talked to you and told you the truth, would say that if you are delaying for one hour you are being too slow. And if you are delaying for one day the angels of heaven would say, “You are being too slow.” Loved ones over there in the Glory looking for you and waiting for you, if you are still putting this thing off are saying to you, “You are too slow.” And this Book says that you are too slow if you are putting it off and waiting; the Holy Spirit says that you are too slow. Oh, be not too slow! Let this be the day when you say “I can, I will, I do believe, today; here today by my radio, here today in my car, here today in my kitchen, here today in my business office, here today, I bow the knee, I lift my hand to high heaven and say,
“My life my love I give to thee,
Oh, Lamb of God who died for me.”
Somebody went to Napoleon on one occasion and said, “Oh, sire, you’ve gained the victory!” Napoleon said, “Yes, yes, I’ve gained the victory. But another such victory will cost me my kingdom.” Oh, man, oh, woman, someone here today has gained a victory, haven’t you? Victory over your mother’s prayers, yes, some of you have gained victory over tears, you have gained victory over the loss of little ones, little tender hands which have been placed upon your cheek in years gone by. And maybe even today you have gained victory over the pleadings of the preacher; you have gained the victory, you say, over the wooings of the Holy Spirit, victory over the tender pleadings of our great God. But if you win another such victory, I say to you, it may cost’ you your soul. Oh, say to Him, “All to Jesus I surrender,” today. There where you are, by the radio, t h e re in your room, out in some shop, there in your car speeding on the highway, maybe up in some airplane, oh, say to Christ, “All to Jesus I surrender, all to Thee I surrender, my self, my sin, my all,” and He will take your sins away, and He will save your soul. If you are a backslider, come back to Him today. And if you have been wandering far, come back, and He will no more turn you away than your mother would if she were living and you were starving for bread. Let Him have His way with you. Prepare to meet Him!