Faithlife Sermons

The Message of Amos

Psalm 9:7-8 (Opening) 7  But the Lord sits enthroned forever; he has established his throne for justice, 8  and he judges the world with righteousness; he judges the peoples with uprightness. Introduction Have you ever been driving down the road, or riding in the car, minding your own business, when someone zooms by you like you were standing still? Or have someone weave in and out of traffic around you like it was a NASCAR race? Whenever something like that happens to me, the first thing I think of, and usually what I say is something like “There’s never a cop around when you need one.” I’ll admit, sometimes I secretly wish they would hit a patch of black ice and go off the road, not hurting them physically, but causing serious damage to their car. Is that wrong? Am I a bad person for thinking that? I just want justice. The person in that car is obviously doing things that are illegal, so if it caught up with them, would that be a bad thing? People tend to associate that with the Buddhist or Hindu concept of karma. “What goes around comes around.” What is justice? Justice is the abstract concept of the resulting state of proper judgment. Because it’s an abstract concept, it’s hard to nail it down well. In the legal sense, judgment refers to the process of defending the righteous and condemning the guilty. Taken together, these concepts form the basis of God’s righteous governance. But who is the righteous and who is guilty? Is it our place to make that determination? God Speaks (Amos 1:2) Last time we met together, I talked about what was going on in Israel and Judah during the time that Amos was prophesying. Both kingdoms were thriving and growing. It was a time of general economic growth and military success. Both kingdoms had pushed their boarders to or beyond the point they were at over 150 years earlier when Solomon was king of a unified Israel. But as always, there was bad news with the good news. Israel, the northern 10 tribes, had turned their back on God as a nation. Jeroboam the first had built two new temples for the people to worship in and had two golden calves made to represent Yahweh. Judah and Benjamin, the southern two tribes ruled from Jerusalem, didn’t do much better. Their national relationship with Yahweh had fluctuated often over the 150 years. There was rampant idolatry, sometimes even in the Temple itself. The neighbors of both nations had continued to cause problems, attacking Israel and Judah from time to time. Syria to the north, the Philistines to the southwest, Tyre and Sidon in Phoenicia to the northwest, Moab and Edom to the southeast, and the Ammonites to the east; they had all caused problems for Israel and Judah over the years. Amos traveled from Tekoa in Judah, about 13 miles south of Jerusalem, to Bethel in Israel, where Jeroboam the first built one of his two temples. God sent him there to send a message to Israel, Judah, and the surrounding nations. Amos 1:2 2 And he said: “The Lord roars from Zion and utters his voice from Jerusalem; the pastures of the shepherds mourn, and the top of Carmel withers.” Amos compares God’s voice to the roaring of a lion. A lion’s roar can be heard up to five miles away, and up close is louder than a car horn. Lions roar for many different reasons, but the loudest roars seem to be as a territorial warning to other encroaching groups. This is my area, stay away. I see God’s roaring voice here in Amos as a similar warning. It’s like He’s saying, “You are messing with my people. Back off or face judgement.” Roaring not as king of the jungle, but as King of the Universe. Many centuries earlier, when Israel was wandering around in the wilderness, Balak, the king of Moab, saw how successful Israel was in battle, even though they had no lands of their own. He was worried about them invading Moab, because there were so many Israelites. So, he hired a seer to prophecy against them. He had heard of Balaam, a great prophet, so he hired him to curse the Israelites. That didn’t work out so well. Balaam prophesied three times, and each time he prophesied truthfully what God had told him. But Balak didn’t want to hear good things about Israel, he wanted them cursed so he could protect Moab. The third time Balaam prophesied, he said that God was Israel’s protector. Numbers 24:8-9 8  God brings him out of Egypt and is for him like the horns of the wild ox; he shall eat up the nations, his adversaries, and shall break their bones in pieces and pierce them through with his arrows. 9  He crouched, he lay down like a lion and like a lioness; who will rouse him up? Blessed are those who bless you, and cursed are those who curse you.” Not what Balak wanted to hear at all. God will protect His people. And if an injustice is done, to them or to Him, He will step in and take care of the problem. That’s why God is roaring like a lion, protecting His pride, His people. Warning the interlopers, they will face His wrath. Amos says that God’s warning is so strong that the grass in the fields where the shepherds graze their sheep dries up and becomes useless for feed. Carmel, the lush, green mountain on the boarder between Israel and Phoenicia, the image of fertility with vineyards, olive groves, and dense forests, would dry up and wither away. God is bringing a harsh warning. God’s Indictment (Amos 1-2) As Amos begins speaking for God, He begins denouncing all the neighbors of Israel and Judah. He starts with Damascus. Amos 1:3 3 Thus says the Lord: “For three transgressions of Damascus, and for four, I will not revoke the punishment, because they have threshed Gilead with threshing sledges of iron. Let me try to explain the pattern that God uses when speaking through Amos. All eight of these indictments God pronounces through Amos here in the first two chapters begin with the phrase “For three transgressions of whoever, and for four, I will not revoke the punishment.” God seems to be saying that the nations He is indicting, in this case Syria, with its capitol at Damascus, have been increasing in their sin, progressively getting worse and worse. The sin that God lists seems to be the straw that breaks the camel’s back, if you will. Syria had been used by God to achieve His goals. Earlier, during the reign of King Ahab, during the time of Elijah the Prophet, God sent Syria to punish the people of the northern kingdom of Israel. But God says now they’ve gone too far. God’s accusation is that Syria, “threshes Gilead with threshing sledges of iron.” That phrase doesn’t really mean anything to us today, so let me see if I can explain it. Threshing is the process of separating the grain from the straw when the grain is being harvested. The field of grain is cut down and allowed to dry and bundled into sheaves. The sheaves of grain are then brought to the threshing floor, where they are unbundled in small amounts and scattered on the stone floor. Then the grain is threshed, either with a flail, banging it against the stalks to release the grain, or with a threshing sledge, which was generally a wooden sled with flint or other sharp stones jammed into the underside of the sled. An animal would drag the sledge around in circles over the stalks of grain to loosen the grain. Then the result would be fluffed with pitch forks to separate the grain from the fine chaff and the straw. Gilead was the region on the east side of the Jordan river, part of the northern kingdom of Israel, where the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and half of Manasseh were given land. Like I said before, Syria had been used by God in the past to punish the northern kingdom, but here in Amos, God is accusing Syria of going beyond and causing injury and pain above and beyond. See, a normal wood and flint sledge would leave some of the grain on the stalks, either for the birds or for gleaners, the poor who would be allowed to gather leftover grain. But an iron sledge would be more efficient, and remove all the grain from the stalk, leaving nothing behind for the gleaners. Syria was taking everything good from Gilead and leaving nothing for those who remained there. It’s kind of like clearcutting an area of forest, or strip mining to get the minerals you want from the ground but leaving nothing left of any use for other people or animals. God’s judgement against Syria in verses four and five speak of war against Syria, burning and breaking down the major cities, and removing the people into exile, all of which began when the Assyrians began their sweep into the Mediterranean coast area around 740 B.C., not many years after this prophecy was given in Bethel. As we continue through chapters one and two, we see God indicting nation after nation, beginning with Damascus in verse 3, then Gaza, the capitol of Philistia, Tyre, the capitol of Phoenicia, Edom, the Ammonites who lived in the area we now call Jordan, Moab which is south of the Ammonites but north of Edom beside the Dead Sea. Then God indicts Judah and Israel. The indictment against Israel is the longest of the eight, and after that God goes into detail about what the sins of Israel were and what the outcome will be. With each of the eight indictments, God summarizes the punishment to come because of His judgement. Each judgement speaks of fire in the major cities and fortresses, and destruction of fortresses, and for some, exile. God accuses Gaza and Tyre of conspiring together to enslave children of Israel and sell them to Edom. He accuses Edom of being heartless toward his brother Israel. Edom was the nation founded by Esau, Jacob’s brother. God changed Jacob’s name to Israel. God accuses the Ammonites of attacking Gilead just north of them, and killing innocent women and unborn children, simply to expand their land. Chapter two starts with an uncharacteristic indictment of Moab. Amos 2:1 2 Thus says the Lord: “For three transgressions of Moab, and for four, I will not revoke the punishment, because he burned to lime the bones of the king of Edom. According to Genesis 19, the people of Moab were descended from the son of Lot, Abraham’s nephew, and Lot’s oldest daughter, after the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. In Lot’s defense, his daughter did get him drunk before it happened. Oh, and the Ammonites were descended from Lot and his youngest daughter the next day. God’s indictment against Moab had nothing to do with the Israelites directly. Moab was just north of Edom, and they often had border skirmishes between the two nations over the centuries. But God’s indictment implies the Moabites did more than attack Edom. It seems they encroached far enough into Edom to exhume the remains of a revered king of Edom and burn his remains to the point of making them completely ash and using that ash to make whitewash for painting buildings, like you would with lime. Their utter disrespect for the revered king and the desecration of the historic landmark were cause for God’s indictment against them, and warning of impending destruction. At this point, while Amos was pronouncing all these indictments at the temple in Bethel, I’m sure the people listening, probably all members of the northern ten tribes, were cheering about God’s indictments of their surrounding neighbors. Karma was catching up with them. But then God turns to Judah and Israel. God accuses Judah of rejecting His law and following lies that had been taught to them by their fathers. The people of Judah had the Temple, and worshiped Yahweh there, but many of them also participated in idolatry, worshiping other gods, and some of the idols at times had been set up in the Temple in Jerusalem. God warns them of their impending exile and the destruction of Jerusalem and the surrounding strongholds. Finally, God gets to Israel, the northern 10 tribes. His accusations against them run the gamut from greed and abuse of the poor, to sexual immorality, to idolatry, to incorrect worship of Yahweh, and abuse of His true followers. And Amos uses the next 6 chapters to detail the crimes and what the eventual punishment should be. Judgement against Israel God begins His case against Israel with a warning. Amos 3:1-2 1 Hear this word that the Lord has spoken against you, O people of Israel, against the whole family that I brought up out of the land of Egypt: 2  “You only have I known of all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities. God says “I picked you, out of all the people of the world, even when all of you were not even a dream for Abraham. I chose you through Abraham to be My people, and now you’ve done all this.” As God’s chosen people, they had a responsibility to follow God’s laws. That was their side of the covenant agreement. God’s side of the agreement was to honor and bless them as a nation. But when they stopped following God’s laws, well, that’s when the punishment comes into play. God warns them that their punishment will come in the form of another nation attacking and destroying their cities and strongholds and taking the people off into exile. One of Israel’s biggest transgressions was their illegitimate worship. Jeroboam the first set up temples with altars and idols at Bethel and at Dan, the northern and southern extremes of the kingdom, solely for political reasons. It had nothing to do with God, but it had everything to do with making things easier, and the people not going to Jerusalem to worship, and possibly staying there and not returning. Political expediency became idolatry and outright sin. Amos 4:4-5 4  “Come to Bethel, and transgress; to Gilgal, and multiply transgression; bring your sacrifices every morning, your tithes every three days; 5  offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving of that which is leavened, and proclaim freewill offerings, publish them; for so you love to do, O people of Israel!” declares the Lord God. God sounds sarcastic here, to me. It’s written like a priestly call to worship, but points out several of the sins the people of the northern 10 tribes were participating in. First off, going to someplace other than where God’s “house” resided to worship was wrong. God’s Temple was in Jerusalem; that’s where they were commanded to go worship Him. Nowhere else. But they would go to Bethel to worship. Both Bethel and Gilgal had historical significance to the Israelites as places where God interacted with them. Jacob dreamed of the stairway to heaven at Bethel and named the place “the House of God”. Gilgal was the place where the monument of twelve stones was built after Joshua and all Israel crossed the Jordan river on dry ground. But God said to worship Him in His Temple in Jerusalem. Jeroboam had set up priests who were not Levites at his temples, and they demanded the ten percent that the Israelites were to pay to the Temple in Jerusalem, depriving the Levites of their livelihood. Not only that, but they would demand the people bring sacrifices to the temple in Bethel or Dan, and not to Jerusalem. And the people would brag about their great sacrifices they would bring to God in Bethel. God wasn’t as proud of them as they were of themselves. Amos 5:21-24 21  “I hate, I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. 22  Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the peace offerings of your fattened animals, I will not look upon them. 23  Take away from me the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps I will not listen. 24  But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. Their attitude when they worshiped God was wrong. Not only that, but how and where they worshiped God was wrong, too. Because of their wrong attitude, God wouldn’t accept their sacrifices, their burnt offerings, or their grain offerings. Even their songs of worship to God were just noise in His ears, not pleasing to Him. God wanted them to be obedient to His law, and to have an attitude of love toward one another. There was no justice, because the rich took advantage of the poor, and the rulers oppressed their subjects. No one took God into account, and no one was right or just toward his neighbor. God calls them out on their attitude. Amos 6:1-3 1 “Woe to those who are at ease in Zion, and to those who feel secure on the mountain of Samaria, the notable men of the first of the nations, to whom the house of Israel comes! 2  Pass over to Calneh, and see, and from there go to Hamath the great; then go down to Gath of the Philistines. Are you better than these kingdoms? Or is their territory greater than your territory, 3  O you who put far away the day of disaster and bring near the seat of violence? God speaks out not just against Israel, but also Judah here. Those who worship in Jerusalem on Mt Zion were resting on their loreals, feeling proud in the fact they were worshiping in the “right place”, but their attitude was just as wrong as the people of the northern 10 tribes. God even tells them to compare themselves with other nations and cities. Calneh and Hamath are cities in Syria in the northeast, Gath is a city in Philistia in the southwest. In other words, God is saying, “Look around at all the other people around you, even the ones I have indicted for their sins. You are no better. You have no place to judge them for their sins. Only I do.” Now that the trial is over, God tells them what their punishment will be. Amos 6:11-14 11  For behold, the Lord commands, and the great house shall be struck down into fragments, and the little house into bits. 12  Do horses run on rocks? Does one plow there with oxen? But you have turned justice into poison and the fruit of righteousness into wormwood— 13  you who rejoice in Lo-debar, who say, “Have we not by our own strength captured Karnaim for ourselves?” 14  “For behold, I will raise up against you a nation, O house of Israel,” declares the Lord, the God of hosts; “and they shall oppress you from Lebo-hamath to the Brook of the Arabah.” At God’s command, the houses of the rich and the poor will all be demolished. God doesn’t make a distinction between those who have wealth and those who don’t. That’s a human distinction. Then God makes to ludicrous statements to make His point that the unrighteous will meet judgement. First, He asks if horses run on rocky outcroppings like a wild goat. The second seems to ask if you use oxen to plow rocks, but it could also be translated as does one plow the sea with oxen. The behavior of Israel is equally ridiculous: making justice into poison and righteousness into bitterness. Using justice as a tool for evil and making righteousness seem so bad that people can’t stand to be around it. God warns them that they will fall to a nation that is stronger than they are, and they will leave nothing. That nation, Assyria, eventually consumes the entire northern kingdom of Israel and takes the survivors off into exile, bringing in their own loyal subjects to inhabit the land. Restoration It sounds like all of Amos is one big downer. God saying to Israel, “You’re a loser and there’s no hope for you.” But there is an upside to the prophecy. God holds that back to the very end. Amos 9:11-12 11  “In that day I will raise up the booth of David that is fallen and repair its breaches, and raise up its ruins and rebuild it as in the days of old, 12  that they may possess the remnant of Edom and all the nations who are called by my name,” declares the Lord who does this. The House of David, or David’s line, will be raised up and repair the kingdom. This is a messianic prophecy, that the Messiah will come and renew the kingdom, and even the remnant of Edom, those who aren’t fully children of Israel, but are children of Abraham, will be included in the kingdom. And then, everyone will receive God’s blessing. Amos 9:13-15 13  “Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when the plowman shall overtake the reaper and the treader of grapes him who sows the seed; the mountains shall drip sweet wine, and all the hills shall flow with it. 14  I will restore the fortunes of my people Israel, and they shall rebuild the ruined cities and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and drink their wine, and they shall make gardens and eat their fruit. 15  I will plant them on their land, and they shall never again be uprooted out of the land that I have given them,” says the Lord your God. The concept of the plowman overtaking the reaper implies that there will be constant harvest and plentiful food. All of God’s blessings will be poured out on His people, and, for lack of a better phrase, they will live happily ever after. Conclusion We can learn from what Amos tells the people of Israel and the surrounding nations. Jesus tells us Matthew 22:37b-40 37b  “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” Love God and love your neighbor. Jesus says it’s that easy. Easy to say, not always easy to do, especially when you see someone doing something that makes them hard to love. But our challenge for this week is to live the way God would want us to live, loving Him and loving our neighbor, everyone we meet, every day. Romans 12:19-21 (Closing) 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Bible Study Amos 4:6-13 6  “I gave you cleanness of teeth in all your cities, and lack of bread in all your places, yet you did not return to me,” declares the Lord. 7  “I also withheld the rain from you when there were yet three months to the harvest; I would send rain on one city, and send no rain on another city; one field would have rain, and the field on which it did not rain would wither; 8  so two or three cities would wander to another city to drink water, and would not be satisfied; yet you did not return to me,” declares the Lord. 9  “I struck you with blight and mildew; your many gardens and your vineyards, your fig trees and your olive trees the locust devoured; yet you did not return to me,” declares the Lord. 10  “I sent among you a pestilence after the manner of Egypt; I killed your young men with the sword, and carried away your horses, and I made the stench of your camp go up into your nostrils; yet you did not return to me,” declares the Lord. 11  “I overthrew some of you, as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, and you were as a brand plucked out of the burning; yet you did not return to me,” declares the Lord. 12  “Therefore thus I will do to you, O Israel; because I will do this to you, prepare to meet your God, O Israel!” 13  For behold, he who forms the mountains and creates the wind, and declares to man what is his thought, who makes the morning darkness, and treads on the heights of the earth— the Lord, the God of hosts, is his name! Amos 5:6-7 6  Seek the Lord and live, lest he break out like fire in the house of Joseph, and it devour, with none to quench it for Bethel, 7  O you who turn justice to wormwood and cast down righteousness to the earth! Amos 5:18-20 18  Woe to you who desire the day of the Lord! Why would you have the day of the Lord? It is darkness, and not light, 19  as if a man fled from a lion, and a bear met him, or went into the house and leaned his hand against the wall, and a serpent bit him. 20  Is not the day of the Lord darkness, and not light, and gloom with no brightness in it? Amos 7:10-13 10 Then Amaziah the priest of Bethel sent to Jeroboam king of Israel, saying, “Amos has conspired against you in the midst of the house of Israel. The land is not able to bear all his words. 11 For thus Amos has said, “‘Jeroboam shall die by the sword, and Israel must go into exile away from his land.’” 12 And Amaziah said to Amos, “O seer, go, flee away to the land of Judah, and eat bread there, and prophesy there, 13 but never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king’s sanctuary, and it is a temple of the kingdom.” Amos 9:1-10 9 I saw the Lord standing beside the altar, and he said: “Strike the capitals until the thresholds shake, and shatter them on the heads of all the people; and those who are left of them I will kill with the sword; not one of them shall flee away; not one of them shall escape. 2  “If they dig into Sheol, from there shall my hand take them; if they climb up to heaven, from there I will bring them down. 3  If they hide themselves on the top of Carmel, from there I will search them out and take them; and if they hide from my sight at the bottom of the sea, there I will command the serpent, and it shall bite them. 4  And if they go into captivity before their enemies, there I will command the sword, and it shall kill them; and I will fix my eyes upon them for evil and not for good.” 5  The Lord God of hosts, he who touches the earth and it melts, and all who dwell in it mourn, and all of it rises like the Nile, and sinks again, like the Nile of Egypt; 6  who builds his upper chambers in the heavens and founds his vault upon the earth; who calls for the waters of the sea and pours them out upon the surface of the earth— the Lord is his name. 7  “Are you not like the Cushites to me, O people of Israel?” declares the Lord. “Did I not bring up Israel from the land of Egypt, and the Philistines from Caphtor and the Syrians from Kir? 8  Behold, the eyes of the Lord God are upon the sinful kingdom, and I will destroy it from the surface of the ground, except that I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob,” declares the Lord. 9  “For behold, I will command, and shake the house of Israel among all the nations as one shakes with a sieve, but no pebble shall fall to the earth. 10  All the sinners of my people shall die by the sword, who say, ‘Disaster shall not overtake or meet us.’
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