FROM "AMEN" TO "OH, ME!"
"The words of Amos, one of the shepherds from Tekoa-what he saw concerning Israel two years before the earthquake...He said: The Lord roars form Zion and thunders from Jerusalem..." (Amos 1:1a,2a)
Good evening! Yes, I am writing this in the evening instead of the morning. As you may all ready know we are going to examine the Book of Amos. What do we know about Amos? Well, Amos was a shepherd from the South (which is Judah). However, God calls Amos to prophesy in the North (which would be Israel). Amos, although a shepherd, shows himself to be sophisticated and educated. Amos presents God as being angry and so angry that his voice is roaring from Jerusalem. From chapter one, verse three through chapter two, verse sixteen, we find condemnatory statements. "For three sins of Damascus, even for four, I will not turn back my wrath." (Amos 1:3) Amos begins his "sermon" condemning nations in Syria-Palestine. Amos is speaking for God and condemns Syria to begin with for cruelly dealing with the Israelites who lived in Gilead. He then begins preaching against Judah and basically says the same thing. (2:4-5) So, remember he is preaching in the North. In order to better understand what is happening here imagine being in a church service. Amos is the guest preacher. He preaches against everything and everybody that Israel is against. It would be like the preacher preaching against every sin the church is dead set against. You know what would happen..."Preach it, Preacher!" "Now that there is what I call good preaching!" "That boy can preach!" Yes, all those ways of saying, "We like what the preacher is saying." And, it probably means we like the way the preacher is saying it too. Yes, he is probably yelling, and spitting, and red in the face, all those things that make for "good" preaching. (Yes, I'm being sarcastic) Anyhow, they are liking Amos. But...
"This is what the Lord says: 'For three sins of Israel, even for four, I will not turn back my wrath." (Amos 2:6)
There was a preacher who was preaching and he began preaching against abortion. One lady in the congregation yelled out, "Amen!" Then he preached on tobacco. Again, she yelled out, "Amen! Preach it, Brother!" Then the same reaction for when he preached against fornication. Then, he turned his attention to gambling. At this time the same person yelled out, "You're meddling, Preacher! You're meddling!" Well, Amos will not be getting any more "Amens." Why? He has turned his attention to the sins of Israel, his audience.
"They sell the righteous for silver, and the needy for a pair of sandals." (Amos 2:6b) During this time debt slavery was common. Amos is stating that it became so bad that anytime someone owed just a small amount they were forced into slavery and sold.
Amos is concerned about social injustice. He is also uncompromising. Today, social justice issues are being discussed once again. The church through the years has often been guilty of ignoring social issues. Many just want to preach and sing about "the blood" and hear about "how this and that is sin and how sinners are going to hell if they don't repent." Well, Amos and the prophets demand our attention. For Amos right living and right worship go hand in hand. You may recall, before Jesus fed the five thousand he first fed them. No, he did not make them sit down and listen to a Bible lesson before he fed them. I don't know why people today think that before you feed the hungry you must first make them listen to a sermon. I assure you that if I'm hungry the last thing I'm going to be able to do is listen to preaching. My wife will tell you that when we go shopping the first thing we do is eat. I can't shop on an empty stomach. Jesus wasn't concerned with telling them a Bible story, he fed them. Oh, I know I get on a soap box at times...but, oh well.
What is the problem in Israel? For one, there is corrupt worship. But, there is also mistreatment of others. "Hear this word, you cows of Bashan on Mount Samaria, you women who oppress the poor and crush the needy an say to your husbands, 'Bring us some drinks!" (Amos 4:1) Umm...what did God just call these women? Yes, I took this from the Bible (NIV). This is strong condemnation of Israel's ruling elite, in this case the wives of the aristocracy. Amos does not seem to allow for repentance. Doom sounds certain!
Amos is also critical of Israel's centers of worship. "Go to Bethel and sin; go to Gilgal and sin yet more." (Amos 4:4) Israel, according to Amos is simply going through the motions of worshipping God, yet ignoring personal responsibility and community care. Yet, there is still hope for Israel. Amos has visions of locusts devouring produce and fire consuming the land. Amos cried with concern and God changes his mind, withdrawing the punishment.
"This is what he showed me: The Lord was standing by a wall that has been built true to plumb, with a plumb line in his hand...Then the Lord said, "Look, I am setting a plumb line among my people Israel: I will spare them no longer." (Amos 7:7,8b)
When I was in High School I took building trades. During my junior year our class built a full sized house. I learned what a plumb line was and what its purpose was that year. This sounds like a threat against Israel. But, a plumb line has nothing to do with judgement. It is a measuring device. Israel was tilted and out of plumb. religion was not doing it any good. The book as a whole ends with words of hope for Israel.
Well, our next study will be from the Book of Obadiah. Yes, there is a book by that name. I won't post tomorrow, for I'll be out of town. Join me Friday. -Pastor Rick