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Amos: Woe to Those Who Are at Ease!

Majoring in the Minor Prophets  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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This lesson looks at how Israel and Judah were deceived by their wealth, comfort, and worship of God.

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If you have not done so yet, please turn your Bibles to the book of Amos. We opened up our study of Amos last week. We saw in our lesson that Amos prophesied during the days of King Uzziah in Judah and Rehoboam II in Israel. These times were good for God’s people politically and economically. Their borders had spread to the farthest they had been since the days of Solomon. But unfortunately, even though things were dong so well physically, things were not doing so well spiritually. We began seeing many of the sins that, if they would not repent, would bring destruction upon Israel and Judah.
This contrast between the lives of God’s people physically and spiritually will be the main idea that we see in chapters 4-6. We see in these chapters that many of the Israelites were living double lives. Outwardly, everything looked good, but inwardly and spiritually, they were a mess and were not changing.

Their Comfort & Security

In Amos 4:1, Amos begins by giving a prophesy to some of the leading women of Israel - who he refers to in verse 1 as “cows from Bashan.” He is not just calling them names here. He is using this language to talk about their luxury and laziness. The area of Bashan was known for it’s rich pasture lands. It was choice land to the the east of the Sea of Galilee. If you fed your livestock there, they would be well fed and fattened up. The point Amos is trying to get across here to these women is their luxury and their gaining of comfort at the expense of the poor in needy makes them like cows that are eating well and getting fattened up for slaughter.
In Amos 4:2-3, the LORD swears by His holiness that He is going to judge these women who are only concerned for their pleasure and comfort. It would all be taken away.
This theme of their comfort and wealth carries into chapter 6 also, and we see that this was not just a problem among the northern kingdom, but Judah also. Look at all of these things that are said in the first 8 verses about their comfort and security physically…
Ease in Zion (Jerusalem) Security on the hill of Samaria Beds and couches Bowlfuls of wine Fine anointing oils Songs and instruments Feasting
But appearances can be deceiving. Physically speaking once again, things seem to be going great. There is great wealth (at least among those who are in society that are higher up (such luxurious living). But they are much like the church in Laodicea who were saying, “I am rich and have need of nothing” when in reality, spiritually speaking, they were poor, wretched, and naked... This is how Israel and Judah are at this point. It is as though they look at all that they have and are filled with pride and think they have all that they need. And the LORD has blessed them - so of course, He is pleased with us, right?
Well, no. The physical blessings that they had from the Lord did not prove that they were right with him. They were not servants of the LORD. This is seen in verse 6, where Amos, after talking about all of the great wealth and comfort that they have, says that this people “does not grieve over the ruin of Joseph.” They may have looked good on the outside, but they did not care about the corruption and sin within the nation. Their wealth, security, and comfort led them to trust in themselves instead of the Lord and to ignore the sin that was surrounding them. They became self-infatuated. The Lord’s response in Amos 6:1 & Amos 6:8 is this:
Woe to those who are at ease in Zion And to those who feel secure in the mountain of Samaria, The distinguished men of the foremost of nations, To whom the house of Israel comes. (Amos 6:1, NASB95)
“I loathe Jacob’s pride and hate his citadels, so I will hand over the city and everything in it.”
Their pride made God their enemy and they would lose the blessings the Lord had given them because of it.
Woe to those who are at ease in Zion… If you were going to point at one passage in this book which describes the nation that we live in, isn’t it this one? We live in a culture that is self-infatuated. A culture that, compared to most in the world, is rich and focuses on comforts and pleasure. But may this passage describe, not just our physical nation, but some of those who claim to be Christians. We focus so much on our blessings and are so concerned with being comfortable as Christians that we forget that we have a mission given to us by God that is anything but comfortable - to call men and women in this lost and dying world to repentance . Also, to deal with sin among God’s people. It is much easier and more comfortable for our lives to ignore these things. We get so focused on all of our blessings and just assume someone else is fulfilling the mission. We are not grieved that there are so many souls around us that are lost and dead in sin.
Wealth and comfort has this kind of effect on people. It makes them content with how things are right now. It makes them not want to do anything to change the situation or to make things uncomfortable. How often is it that this is how your life looks? Or mine?

Their “Worship” of God

Now, it wasn’t only the case that their wealth and comfort led them to deceive themselves, but also their worship. This is another theme that carries through this section of Amos.
They were a people that worshipped. Here are some examples of the things they did in worship:
Sacrifices every morning (4:4) Tithes every three days (4:4) Offerings of thanksgiving (4:5) Freewill offerings (4:5) Songs of praise (5:23) Etc.
And you could even say, as the LORD does in Amos 4:5 that they “love to do” these kinds of things.
But then you look at all of the worship they offer, and you see that it is not about the LORD at all! It is self-centered. They are just doing what they think is right to do. Even though they may claim, “we worship the God of Israel,” this is not the case. Look at this section in ch4 in more detail.
In this passage, God tells them that they go to these places to sin. Their worship is sinful. In Amos 4:4, Amos talks about Bethel and Gilgal… These were two places of worship for the northern kingdom. These are not the places that the Lord had commanded His people to bring their sacrifices. He wanted them to bring their offerings and sacrifices to Jerusalem. These places were made worship centers out of convenience.
Verse 5 - they were bringing leavened bread for their offerings of thanksgiving when they were supposed to bring unleavened bread according to the law (Lev 7:12-15). And their motivation for bringing their offerings is so they can “loudly proclaim them.” It was about getting others to see that they were pious and religious. It wasn’t for the Lord. So when the Lord says here that they love to perform these things in worship, it isn’t because they love God and love worshipping him, it is because of what they get out of it.
Over in 5:18, the LORD also talks about how Israel was greatly anticipating the “day of the LORD.” They longed for it, as though expecting that day would mean further blessing for them. They had deceived themselves.
Lets look at what the LORD thought about their worship. Let’s read Amos 5:18-26:
“Alas, you who are longing for the day of the Lord, For what purpose will the day of the Lord be to you? It will be darkness and not light; As when a man flees from a lion And a bear meets him, Or goes home, leans his hand against the wall And a snake bites him. Will not the day of the Lord be darkness instead of light, Even gloom with no brightness in it? “I hate, I reject your festivals, Nor do I delight in your solemn assemblies. “Even though you offer up to Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings, I will not accept them; And I will not even look at the peace offerings of your fatlings. “Take away from Me the noise of your songs; I will not even listen to the sound of your harps. “But let justice roll down like waters And righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” (Amos 5:18–24, NASB95)
How is this for strong language… “I hate, I reject your festivals…” I won’t accept your offerings… Get the annoying racket of your singing away from me… If the Lord did not have their hearts and if they were not living for Him, their worship sickened Him. He didn’t want it. It was 100% in vain. It was worthless.
Do you think that there are some people today that the LORD may say these kinds of things to? We may quickly point to some religious groups who we believe worship God differently than what He commands in His word. But I am not asking about them. What about us? Would the LORD say these kinds of things to us at times?
May it be the case that we may go to worship because it makes other people think highly of us? May we do even more than the LORD commands in His word by making sure we come to every study, every meeting, every 9AM service because we think doing these things can make up for our sin throughout the rest of the week? Do we substitute going to worship for repentance? I do think this often happens. Someone may fall away from the LORD and they decide to come back to worship and God’s people just assume that this person has come to repentance because they are attending services again or are faithful to God again because they are in a church building again. But let me tell you this, if we are coming here (if you are coming here), and the LORD does not have your heart or my heart, or you I are living like nonChristians when we are outside of this building, we are deceiving ourselves to think that coming to this building and singing some songs and attending all the Bible classes fixes our standing with God or makes it so that he will overlook our rebellion. Worship and service cannot replace godly sorrow and true repentance.
Don’t worship God in vain. Give Christ your heart. Live a life that is fruitful for Him. As Amos says in Amos 5:24, ““But let justice flow like water, and righteousness, like an unfailing stream.” (Amos 5:24, CSB). God wants people to worship Him who are living for Him.

Destruction is Coming

Israel, and even Judah, had in these kinds of ways deceived themselves into thinking everything was ok. But things were not really ok. Destruction was coming because of their sin. Amos 5:12 says that their crimes against God; their sins, were innumerable.
Israel, and even Judah, had in these kinds of ways deceived themselves into thinking everything was ok. But things were not really ok. Destruction was coming because of their sin. Amos 5:12 says that their crimes against God; their sins, were innumerable.
And God had done all that He could to try to wake them up - to get them out of complacency and trusting in other things than Him. Amos 4:6-11 describes many of the things that the LORD did to discipline them:
He brought food shortage (4:6) He brought famine (4:7-8) He sent locusts to devour their crops (4:9) He sent plagues like He did in Egypt (4:10) He overthrew some of them like He did with Sodom and Gomorrah (4:11)
But in spite of all of the discipline God brought to them to teach them and bring them to repentance, we are told multiple times in this section, “Yet you have not returned to me, says the LORD.”
This is what God wanted so badly? He wanted them to give their hearts back to Him. This is what He wants for us also when we turn our backs on His ways.
After all that He has done, there is not much more he can do to bring them back… There is only one more thing He can do… He is going to bring judgment… Here is how He puts it in verse 12:
“Prepare to meet your God, O Israel.” God is coming to His people, and He is going to remind them who it is that they have turned their back on…
“For behold, He who forms mountains and creates the wind And declares to man what are His/his thoughts, He who makes dawn into darkness And treads on the high places of the earth, The LORD God of hosts is His name.” (Amos 4:13)
“He who made the Pleiades and Orion And changes deep darkness into morning, Who also darkens day into night, Who calls for the waters of the sea And pours them out on the surface of the earth, The LORD is His name. 9 It is He who flashes forth with destruction upon the strong, So that destruction comes upon the fortress.” (Amos 5:8-9)
This is the God that they are rebelling against… The God whose will they are treating with contempt. Look at verse 17 of chapter 5:
““And in all the vineyards there is wailing, Because I will pass through the midst of you,” says the Lord.” (Amos 5:17, NASB95)
God is coming to His people and He is not going to Pass-over them this time like He did in Egypt. He is going to pass through their midst and destroy.

There is Still Hope

But there is still some good news in the midst of this good news… Even though God is coming to judge the nation, we see in Amos 5:4 that there is the hope of being spared if those who have rebelled would only repent. For thus says the Lord to the house of Israel, “Seek Me that you may live. (Amos 5:4, NASB95)
In spite of all of the discipline he has brought and his promises of judgment, he still wants them to return to Him. He wants their hearts to come back to Him… This is one thing that is so amazing about God… Something that makes him unlike any of us. He is willing to show such compassion and mercy for those who rebel against Him.
May His example not just challenge us to have more compassion and mercy towards others, but may seeing who He is bring us to repentance also.
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