A Vision of Destruction - Amos 9:1-10
Amos 9:1-10 A Vision of Destruction 2020-09-20 Seek the mercy of our holy, just, and mighty God. This morning we come to Amos’ final vision, and if it were a dream, we might say it was a nightmare. It’s a terrible vision of God’s terrifying presence, and Israel’s disastrous pride. Passage: Amos 9:1-10 A Terrifying Presence (vv.1-4) 1. v.1 “I saw the Lord standing beside the altar, and he said…” - This is now the 5th and final vision in the book of Amos. These aren’t sweet dreams about rainbows and roses, but visions about God’s displeasure and judgement of Israel for their sin. 1. This 5th vision involves the Lord standing beside the altar. I spent quite a bit of time this week pondering on the Lord standing beside the altar. This is different than how we typically see the Lord presented in Scripture. Isaiah 6 presents him as on the throne, as does Revelation (5, 21). Hebrews (1, 10) tells us that Jesus is seated at God’s right hand. The altar is to be a place of justice, righteousness, judgment and mercy, of atonement and restoration and forgiveness. I’m convinced this isn’t the Temple and the altar in Jerusalem, but the false temple and altar erected in Bethel. This altar, built to a false god, was a place of deceit, of idolatry, bitterness, unrighteousness, and condemnation. And the Lord will destroy false altars. 1. 1 Kings 13 and 2 Kings 23. Between promise of the altar’s destruction and the fulfillment of that promise, God sends Amos to Israel to remind them of what was to come. 2. Josiah’s reform and the actions he takes are gruesome, but necessary. God had been so patient with his people, giving them opportunity to turn and repent, but they would not and they did not. They considered the long period of time to be that God had grown forgetful, when really it was God’s patience, so that none would perish but would come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). This shows that sin is to be taken seriously. When Jesus says the person with the offending hand should cut it off or the offending eye should tear it out (Matthew 5:29-30), he is making a very clear point that sin is to be taken seriously. 3. Are there false altars built in your life? Places where you offer sacrifices that are displeasing to the Lord? Each day we offer sacrifices - Romans 12:1 “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” What sacrifices have you made recently, and on which altar? Have you sacrificed family time for selfish pursuits? Have you sacrificed prayer time for sloth? How much better to come to the Lord in repentance, rather than being visited by the Lord coming in judgment? 2. vv.2-4 There is no place where God’s presence can be avoided. Those that perhaps are able to escape away from the destruction of this false temple and altar, or maybe as they hear Amos they believe they’ll be able to flee away. Where would they go to? 3. v.4b “…and I will fix my eyes upon them for evil and not for good.” - Nowhere they could go would get them beyond the watch and the reach of the Lord. 1. Jesus is watching you 2. Maybe as we’ve looked over these verses they’ve brought Psalm 139 to mind for you. There are certainly similarities, but these passages also couldn’t be more different. That psalm shows a man at peace with God and enjoying the presence of God, where here God is a terrifying presence. Awesome in Power (vv.5-6) 1. vv.5-6 “The Lord GOD of hosts, he who touches the earth and it melts…” - Here we have a break from the Lord speaking, and Amos inserts a hymn praising God’s awesome power. 1. He is the God who commands a heavenly host. A touch of his melts the earth and we mourn. Haven’t we experienced a little of this in 2020, seeing people mourning under a difficult year? 2. Amos compares the heaving of the earth to the swelling and sinking of the Nile River. This is the power of the Lord’s touch. 3. He is Lord over all creation, even controlling the water cycle. 4. Referring back to Isaiah 6 and Psalm 139, it is a God, awesome in power, that we serve. This should humble us and make us feel appropriately small. Transition: However, Israel was puffed up with pride, disastrous pride. A Disastrous Pride (vv.7-10) 1. v.7 “Are you not like the Cushites to me, O people of Israel?” - The Israelites mistakenly believed that they existed in a place of God’s favor regardless of what they did. This is a reality check for them, that they aren’t different than the Egyptians, the Philistines, or the Syrians (nations which Israel abhorred). Look at what they say in v.10. 1. v.10 “All the sinners of my people shall die by the sword, who say, ‘Disaster shall not overtake or meet us.’” - This is pride, if I’ve ever seen it. In their pride they refused to acknowledge their need for God’s mercy and grace. In their pride they believed they could continue in sin so that grace would abound (Rom. 6:1). In their pride they believed they were safe and secure. In their pride they say, “I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.” Revelation 3:17–19 2. v.8 “Behold, the eyes of the Lord GOD are upon the sinful kingdom…except that I will not utterly destroy” This is the nation of Israel, known as the sinful kingdom. They had walked in disobedience and rebellion, and distorted righteousness and justice. Therefore God would bring about their destruction. 1. But he wouldn’t utterly destroy Israel. We’ll focus on this in even greater detail next week, but God had a remnant among Israel that he was saving, and through which he would continue his work of redemption. God wouldn’t deal with all of them in exactly the same way, as we see in v.9. 3. v.9 “For behold, I will command, and shake the house of Israel among all the nations…” - There will be a separation, a sifting, a distinguishing and dividing. This was used for separating wheat from chaff and dust, and also used to screen soil to remove rocks and make for good soil. Jesus spoke about separating sheep and goats, and wheat and weeds. 1. Matthew 25:31-46 separation based on just and righteous deeds done in faith 2. Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43 wheat and weeds 3. For most of the nation, there was no acknowledgment of deserving punishment; no broken and contrite heart that was calling to God for mercy. God had been patient in bringing judgment, but God will not put it off forever. The day will come, and eternities will be sealed. Conclusion: This morning I urge you to not consider any sin as too small to bring to the Lord, and to not consider yourself immune to God’s correction if you continue in sin. Sins which may seem small have a way of growing larger and multiplying. Have sacrifices been made on the wrong altars? Don’t ignore it! Don’t resolve to try harder and do better. Repent! Our holy, just, and mighty God will respond in mercy.