Judgment on the Nations - Amos 1:1-2:5
Amos 1:1-2:5 Judgment on the Nations 2020-07-19 Hold to righteousness and live out justice This morning we’re starting our study in a new book of the Bible, the Old Testament prophet Amos. 1. The man. Amos was an everyday guy, not professionally trained as a prophet. Amos 1:1 introduces him as among the shepherds of Tekoa. Amos 7:14 he tells Amaziah the priest that he is a herdsman and dresser of sycamore figs. A tri-vocational prophet. Tekoa was in Judah, the southern kingdom after the split of the nation Israel. 2. The mess. After Solomon’s reign came the reign of his son, Rehoboam, during which time Israel split into a northern and southern kingdom, with Israel in the north and Judah in the south. Jerusalem was the designated place of worship, and Jerusalem was in Judah to the south, with Rehoboam as king. Jeroboam was made king of the north kingdom, Israel. Because he feared losing the loyalty of the people if they returned to Jerusalem for worship, he made two golden calves and set them up in Bethel and Dan, and dedicated these as the places of worship for the people. Along with the golden calves, the people of Israel also took to worship the false gods of the nations around them, like Asherah and Baal. These objects of their worship gravely affected their standards of righteousness and deeds of justice, so that they began abusing and oppressing the poor to their own advantage. During the time of Amos, Jeroboam II is king of Israel, and he continues to lead them into further corruption. Assyria has backed off for a time, so Israel has been able to expand their borders and are in a season of prosperity. They have summer homes and winter homes, great homes adorned with ivory; they’ve planted vineyards and drink wine by the bowlful, anoint themselves with fine oils, eat the finest of meats, and have kept an air of religion, though it is dead ritual and repulsive to God. As is typical, they believe their prosperity is an indication of God’s favor and blessing on them, not knowing that in a matter of 30-40 years they would be carried off into captivity by Assyria, in 722BC. 3. The message. Amos brings a message of correction to Israel. Rather than continue in their ways, he calls them to righteousness and justice. 3.1. Amos 5:6–7 “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, O you who turn justice to wormwood and cast down righteousness to the earth!” 3.2. Amos 5:24 “But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” 3.3. Amos 6:12 “But you have turned justice into poison and the fruit of righteousness into wormwood—” 3.4. Justice and righteousness are what Amos calls the people of Israel to. Righteousness is having a correct standard of behavior, of right and wrong. Justice is how that standard of behavior is lived out, the expression of righteousness in the treatment of fellow image-bearers. There are no substitutes for these, especially empty religious ritual. Justice and righteousness are like the two hands playing a guitar. Righteousness forms the chords, holding down the strings at the fret. Justice is the hand strumming, playing out those chords of righteousness in rhythms and tempos fitting for the occasion. 3.5. Amos’ message is unashamedly theological and intensely practical. It’s not full of abstract concepts or ideas about God, but reveals God’s words and ways with a purifying clarity, like baking soda and vinegar. Passage: Amos 1:1-2:5 Use and abuse of people for selfish gain. How do you view other people? Are they obstacles, standing in your way of getting what you desire? That noisy neighbor who interrupts your quiet, or that co-worker who stands in the way of your promotion. Are they resources, those that can be leveraged to get you your desires? Their money and possessions, or their skill, or the people they know can serve to your advantage. Are they an irritation, something you must tolerate but cause much bother? Are they objects by which you can show your own superiority when you triumph over them, whether it be intellectual capacity, physical prowess, even spiritual maturity? Or are they, as seen in God’s Word, fellow image-bearers of God, worthy of showing proper honor to, loving with the love of Christ, and serving as eternal souls? Hold to righteousness and live out justice. Introduction (vv.1-2) 1. v.2 “The LORD roars from Zion…” - These aren’t Amos’ opinions or words, but God’s judgments. He roars as a lion, and creation trembles. 1. Judgements on the seven nations around Israel - Damascus (Syria), Gaza (Philistines), Tyre, Edom, Ammon, Moab, Judah. 2. Each judgment follows the same pattern Trophies (vv.3-5) 1. v.3 “Thus says the LORD: ‘For three transgressions of Damascus, and for four…’” - The surrounding nations, even though they didn’t have the Law of God, were still held to a moral and righteous standard for their behavior, because God has given general revelation to every person. 1. The people of Damascus saw people merely as trophies to be won. They treated the people of the land of Gilead (Reuben, Gad, Manasseh) as objects by which they could show their might and superiority. 1. They didn’t just beat them in battle, but they sledged them with threshing sledges of iron. Threshing is the process of separating the grain out, and one way this would be done was with a sledge, or sled, that oxen would drag over the sheaves to break out the grain. The sleds were typically made of wood, and sometimes they would have iron runners. It was a very effective way to grind and break up the sheaves. Then the chaff would be thrown into the air and blown away, called winnowing. Amos uses the picture of a threshing sledge of iron to compare how the Syrians treated the people of Gilead. They ran over the top of them, ground them up, treated them brutally. Victory wasn’t enough; they wanted destruction. 2. Have you ever looked at people as trophies to be conquered? Maybe you want to show how capable you are intellectually? Or maybe your physical superiority? Even possibly how much greater is your spiritual maturity? So you get entangled with them somehow, you win the challenge, but then you want to grind them to powder? Resources (vv.6-10) 1. v.6 “…because they carried into exile a whole people to deliver them up to Edom.” 2. v.9 “…because they delivered up a whole people to Edom, and did not remember the brotherhood.” 1. Gaza and Tyre were using people as resources. Specifically, they were going into other lands and carrying people off into slavery, handing them over to Edom. This wasn’t taking prisoners of war, but in a time of relative peace, marching in and taking innocent people captive, then selling them as slaves for a profit. The people of Gaza and Tyre would see their wealth increase at the expense of another’s life. These were people to be used and taken advantage of for their own selfish purposes and ends. 2. This same sinful objective can be carried out in very different ways. Like Gaza and Tyre, you can outright abuse others to your own benefit, like stealing something from them or blackmail. But you can also do this by pretending to befriend them, treat them well, only so you can get what you want from them. Maybe they’re popular, and you want to be popular, so you make friends with them. Maybe they have something they’re getting rid of, and you want it, so you befriend them in hopes they’ll give it to you. Irritations (vv.11-12; 2:1-3) 1. v.11 “…because he pursued his brother with the sword and cast off all pity, and his anger tore perpetually, and he kept his wrath forever.” 1. Edom simply had an intense grudge against others. This is likely Israel, as Israel/Edom are referred to as “brothers” in Scripture. Deuteronomy 23:7 “You shall not abhor an Edomite, for he is your brother.” Others were an irritation, and Edom was full of anger and wrath. They harbored and nurtured these emotions. Rather than controlling them, they became controlled by them. 1. Proverbs 16:32 “Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.” 2. Hebrews 12:15 “See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled;” 2. v.1 “…because he burned to lime the bones of the king of Edom.” - Moab, a nation that came to exist because of an incestuous relationship between Lot and his daughter (Gen. 19:37), shows great contempt toward Edom by burning the bones of their king. The king was the symbol of national pride; burning his bones is like unceremoniously burning the American flag. Obstacles (vv.13-15) 1. v.13 “…because they have ripped open the pregnant women of Gilead, that they might enlarge their border.” The Ammonites, also descended from Lot’s relations with his daughters (Gen. 19:38), looked to people as obstacles, blocking their way to what they wanted. In this case, they wanted more land, but it was inhabited by the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and 1/2 Manasseh. They didn’t go to battle against the men, but they committed the most heinous of acts, directing their attack against pregnant women. 1. For the Ammonites, people were obstacles. In this case it was even the yet unborn who were obstacles to getting what they wanted, so the Ammonites worked to remove the obstacles. We have modern methods that are in sterilized and clinical settings, performed under the guise of “healthcare.” But even though the times and methods may have changed, the end result is still the same. Rejected the Law (vv.4-5) 1. v.4 “…because they have rejected the law of the LORD, and have not kept his statutes…” - Judah now receives words of judgment. The six foreign nations around Israel have received judgment, and now it strikes even closer to home for Israel (just wait until next week!). 1. Judah is judged because they rejected God’s Word. They were given more light, more revelation, and so they’re held to an even higher standard. The other nations are still judged by general revelation and God’s moral law written on their hearts. But Judah knew the specifics of what God commanded and required. Judah knew God’s words and God’s ways, so that righteousness should have been established in their hearts and minds, and justice should have flowed out in their words and actions. Conclusion: Rather than use things to serve people, people are used to serve things; selfish gain, convenience, comfort, our pride. But we are to have a standard of righteousness established, which finds expression in deeds of justice, which will always prioritize people, made in God’s image, over our selfish gain, convenience, comfort, or pride. We have a standard of righteousness that is even fuller than what Judah had. We see the perfect righteousness of Christ, even just finishing the Gospel of Mark, and how Jesus came to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). As those called by his name and empowered by the Spirit of God, let us hold to righteousness and live out justice.