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Seek the Lord and Experience Life - Amos 5:1-17

Amos  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  50:03
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Amos 5:1-17 Seek the Lord and Experience Life 2020-08-16 Seek the Lord and experience life Are you aware of the Nobel Peace Prize? Each year an individual or organization is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize by the Norwegian Nobel Committee, according to Alfred Nobel, who committed a large sum of money to this annual award in his will before his death. The prize, in his words, is awarded to the individual or organization that, “shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.” What’s ironic, though, is that Alfred Nobel made his fortune as an explosives developer and arms dealer. He invented dynamite, along with other explosives; many of which were used in war. But in 1888 his brother, Ludvig, died while visiting France and a French newspaper mistakenly published Alfred’s obituary. The heading said it all - “The merchant of death is dead.” It went on to say, “Dr. Alfred Nobel, who became rich by finding ways to kill more people faster than ever before, died yesterday.” It’s believed that this premature reading of his own obituary is what led him to bequeath so much of his fortune, so he wouldn’t be remembered as the merchant of death, but perhaps as a man of peace. Passage: Amos 5:1-17 The passage before us could almost be looked at like an obituary. It begins and ends with a lamentation, which is a death song or a funeral dirge. But, like it was for Alfred Nobel, it’s not too late for Israel. They can change things. They can repent and receive the grace of God. They can seek the Lord and experience life, instead of continuing as they are and living in death, with only fuller, darker death to come. This morning I want to take a little bit of a different approach to our passage. You know when you throw a rock out onto a calm lake, and how the ripples begin from where the rock landed and work their way out? Concentric circles. This passage is laid out that way. The technical term is a chiasm, but think of it like we’re progressing through these concentric circles working to the heart of the passage in vv.8-9, then back out through concentric circles on the other side of center. At the heart of the passage are vv.8-9, where God is described as mighty, powerful, and merciful. As we work out from that central place, we are working our way toward understanding how Israel was dying. Though they have a mighty and merciful God, they are a stubborn and rebellious people and don’t practice justice and righteousness. Then there is a summons to seek, but their failure to do so will result in a season to weep. So let’s begin by looking at the mighty and merciful God. A Mighty and Merciful God (vv.8-9) 1. v.8 “He who made the Pleiades and Orion, and turns deep darkness into the morning, and darkens the day into night…” - We start here, right in the heart of the passage. Here Amos describes God and his mighty and merciful work. 1. Book of Job mentions in two places the greatness of God in placing these constellations, most notably in Job 38:31, as God’s power and majesty are made so clear, and Job is humbled. 2. God is also the one who designed the water cycle, and created water so uniquely. It moves between solid, liquid, and gas states, and as a solid it floats. It’s carried to the tops of mountains and waters the surface of the earth, and this is one display of God’s merciful provision for mankind. But what is used for mercy can also be used for destruction, that the waters flash forth against the strong and destroy mighty fortresses. 3. He is a God unlike the false gods the people worshiped. They worshiped golden calves, Baal and Ashteroth, and were given to idolatry. Worship of anything other than the one true God is folly - Isaiah 44:6-20 Transition: What had their idolatry led them to in actions and deeds? Here we move out from center to the first ripple. A Stubborn and Rebellious People (vv.7, 10-13) 1. v.7 “O you who turn justice to wormwood and cast down righteousness to the earth!” - Because the people of Israel had left off worship of the one true God for the worship of idols, their actions and deeds reflected this departure. The God of justice and righteousness wasn’t worshiped, so justice and righteousness weren’t practiced. Instead, they worshiped gods that would satisfy their carnal desires and temporal needs, and so their actions and deeds were also concerned only with self-gratification. 1. Their version of justice was bitter and was poisonous; it was no justice at all. Justice should be sweet, it should be cause of rejoicing and sweet to the soul. The standard of righteousness was thrown aside, cast to the earth where it was trampled on. 2. vv.10-13 One who speaks truth is utterly despised and hated. Rather than care for and help the poor, they oppress them and take advantage of their weak state, so that they themselves might prosper. They’ve profited through their mistreatment of others, so that they build great houses and plant pleasant vineyards. But God sees, and God knows, and they would not ultimately get away with these actions. Transition: Even in the midst of their rebellion, God invites them to turn and to seek him. A Summons to Seek (vv.4-6, 14-15) 1. vv.4-5 “For thus says the LORD to the house of Israel…” - The Lord invites them to seek him. Though they’ve given themselves to the worship of false gods and idols, he invites them back. 1. Everyone knows the game of hide and seek, right? When was the last time you played with someone under 3 years old? When it’s your time to hide they escort you to your hiding spot, then go off and count, “1, 2, 3, 10!” Then they run over to where they told you to hide. When it’s their turn to hide, as soon as you announce, “Ready or not, here I come!” they jump out of their hiding spot and announce, “Here I am!” There’s not much seeking. 2. Seeking the Lord isn’t a great mystery, either. It’s not like he’s hidden and you have to find him with great difficulty. Seeking the Lord means turning away from evil, repenting of sin, and walking in obedience to his Word. Matthew 6:33 “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” 3. If the Sunday ritual were stripped away, what would an obituary of your faith read like? Would there be health and wellness, a seeking after God and his righteousness, or sickness and disease, occupied with self and prosperity? Jeremiah 29:13 “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” God is interested in your heart, not dead ritual or outward shows of religion. 2. vv.14-15 “Seek good, and not evil, that you may live…Hate evil, and love good…” 1. Psalm 97:10 “O you who love the Lord, hate evil!” Romans 12:9 “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.” When was the last time you were abhorred? 2. Isaiah 55:6–7 “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.” Transition: But because Israel wasn’t seeking the Lord, there is great cause for weeping and sadness. A Season to Weep (vv.1-3, 16-17) 1. vv.1-3 “Hear this word that I take up over you in lamentation…” - As I said earlier, a lamentation is like a death song or a funeral dirge. Israel is fallen and forsaken. Because she has turned away from the Lord, the Lord is allowing Israel to reap what has been sown. There’s a false security, as they’re still sending out troops to battle, but they’re being met with great defeat. Israel might still look alive, with big and well-appointed houses, vineyards, wines, oils and fragrances, but they are dead. 1. Revelation 3:1 “And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: ‘The words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. “ ‘I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead.” 2. v.16 “In all the squares there shall be wailing, and in all the streets…” - The Book of Amos is a difficult book to preach, because I don’t want it to seem like we’re up here beating up on you every week, preaching fire and brimstone. But I don’t want to change the message of Amos, who calls us to take a serious look at our lives, and examine closely to see if there is sin that needs to be dealt with. Because Israel didn’t weep over their sin, there would be wailing, mourning, and lamentation over the judgment of their sin and the consequences of it. 3. v.17 “For I will pass through your midst,’ says the LORD.” This isn’t a coffee cup verse of God’s blessing, but a word of destruction. Do you remember what happened to Egypt when God passed through? Exodus 12:12 “For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the Lord.” As long as Israel continued in rebellion and idolatry, this is what they could anticipate. Conclusion: As the Lord is calling Israel to seek him, there is a golden thread of grace woven into v.15. If they turn to him, he will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph. It’s not too late; all hope is not lost. If the Lord, who knows all and sees all, were to write your obituary, would it tell of a life of seeking him? Not a perfect life; that is impossible for us. But a life that regarded God as holy and took sin seriously, repenting of it and pursuing righteousness and justice. This is life, to seek the Lord.
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