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Amos 1-2

May 20th, 2012 by Vic

May 20, 2012

Amos 1-2

“Reading the Sunday Paper”

 

As I read through the book of Amos in different translations I saw a lot of similarities with situations that are reported in our daily news.  But Amos does not preach just against the common public sins of violence, morality, and greed but also against the sins in our church and in our lives that are not so public.  God knows what is going on and Amos says God is going to judge.

 

When you listen to popular preachers have you noticed how much they like to hear the people say “Amen”?  Have you noticed who says “Amen” and what subject they say “Amen” to.  If the preaching is about husbands loving their wives, it is the wives who say “Amen”.  If the preaching is about children obeying their parents, it is the parents who say “Amen”.  We say “Amen” when the truth applies to someone else.  When the preacher is identifying someone else’s sin, it is easy to say “Amen”.  When we know the fellow in the next pew really needs to listen up, it is easy for us to say “Amen”.

 

Amos was a rancher and cattle buyer in the southern nation of Judah.  God called him to go to the northern kingdom of Israel and preach against their sin.  The first words God gave Amos’ to preach were judgments against the sins of their neighbors (chapter 1).  The people of Israel were all saying “Amen” until God’s word got more personal (chapter 2).

Amos preached in Israel around the same time (755) that Jonah preached in Nineveh.  The people of Nineveh repented, but the people of Israel kept on sinning.  Amos lived about 10 miles south of Jerusalem.  He was sent by God to Bethel, about 10 miles north of Jerusalem.  He was an agricultural specialist.  As a dealer in large quantities of livestock, Amos may have traveled extensively in Israel.  He had no academic training for ministry.  He was by profession, a farmer, not a preacher.  Amos was more diplomatic than Jonah and started his sermon against other people’s sins before he pointed to theirs.  His message was God’s word as recorded in the books of Moses.  He reminds them that God has not changed His word and He is still God over all nations, over all creation, and over all individuals.  Israel had been rescued from Egypt and given their own land.  God chose Israel out of all the nations to be His people.  That does not mean He will favor them, but will more sternly punish them for their sins.

 

In the last 10 years of Jeroboam’s reign, 760-750, Egypt, Assyria, and Babylon were relatively weak and Israel reached its height of economic prosperity.  International peace allowed Israel to gain wealth via international trade.  Wealth created a demand for the many luxuries available from all over the known world.  Investors were buying up food in the countryside and reselling it in the cities to a captive audience for great profit.  There was abundant corporate greed.  Excessive wealth created an upper class with a decadent lifestyle.  Exploitation of the poor did not please God.  There was a growing disparity between the rich and poor.  The rich were proud and selfish men, unconcerned about the misery of those they oppressed.  They labeled Amos a wild fanatic or an ignorant foreigner.  He was from Judah and out of touch with modern times.  Maybe they accused him of being jealous that he was not rich like they were.  The people of Israel were orthodox and conservative in their theology and worship, but disobedient and greedy in their social behavior.  They were heading for a great depression and did not know it.  Amos says they can avoid it if they repent and change their ways.

 

Amos begins his first sermon by preaching against 6 neighboring nations that surrounded Israel.  Numbers were important to the Jews.  They knew that no speaker would have just 6 points to a sermon.  The 7th point would be the climax and main point of the sermon.  He was saving the best for last.  And sure enough, the 7th point was against Judah, Amos’ home country, Israel’s closest neighbor.  Those people in Judah really deserved God’s punishment.  They did not have any contemporary music in their church.  The worshippers did not wear suit and ties.  They still drove the horse and buggy.  They did not have any cell towers or windmills.  They thought they were so special because they had Jerusalem and the temple.  Now the prophet says God is going to judge them like all the other nations who are sinning.  “Amen, that was a great sermon Amos.”

 

Can you imagine hearing the Bibles closing and being put back in the book rack?  Can you see all the mothers collecting stuff in the pews and getting ready to go home?  Then Amos says, “I’m not finished yet.  God has given me an 8 point sermon.”  God is going to judge your sin too.  God has not changed.  God’s judgment is the same for you as all others who do not repent.

 

Amos uses a literary technique that strongly emphasizes the grace of God.  The NIV says, “For three sins of Damascus, even for four I will not turn back my wrath (1:3).”  God is not a baseball umpire.  He does not give us 3 strikes and call us out.  The number 3 did not indicate a precise number of crimes, but a multiplicity of crimes.  Three signified completion or fullness.  They had sinned to the fullest measure and deserved punishment yet God was still gracious even when they sinned with overflowing iniquity beyond the limit.  They sinned a 4th time.  God demonstrated His grace hoping they would repent as the people of Nineveh did, but instead of repenting they just sinned more.  His grace had given them more time, but how did they use that time?  God is giving you time.  What are you doing about it?

 

1:1-2

Amos preached 2 years before the great earthquake.  This may have been the earthquake that made the people of Nineveh more receptive to the message of Jonah.  20-30 years after this message, the nation of Israel was taken into captivity and repopulated with immigrants from Assyria.

 

Amos hears the roar of approaching judgment.  The words he speaks are not his words.  God roars like a lion or thunder.  It would be foolish to ignore the roar of God.  The thunder of God does not produce rain but destruction.

 

1:3-5

Amos preached against the nations that surrounded Israel.  There is only one God who has power over the whole earth.  His laws apply to all equally.  His righteousness will not tolerate unrighteousness forever.

 

Beyond multiple crimes the climax was when Damascus (Syria) brutalized their prisoners and crushed them under a spiked wheel like grain.  God will destroy the king’s palaces, fortresses, and protective gates.  Those monuments of national pride will become rubbish.  The people will be deported.

 

1:6-8

Gaza (Philistia) in the SW, will also be destroyed because of multiple crimes.  The Philistines had always been a problem for Israel.  The last straw was because they sold prisoners of war and treated human beings as a financial commodity.  God is not pleased with the abuse of the helpless for profit.

 

1:9-10

“Because of the multiple crimes of Tyre, I will not restore it.”  Tyre was a slave-trading city.  They had a lot of ships and were the middle man for international slave trading.  They sold relatives to the highest bidder.

 

1:11-12

“Because of the multiple crimes of Edom, I will not restore it.”  Teman was Edom’s most southern city.  Bozrah was the major city in the north.  Edom was historically jealous of his brother Jacob.  He plotted to kill his brother.  He had an angry heart with no compassion.  God will destroy his nation with fire.

 

1:13-15

“Because of the multiple crimes of the Ammonites, I will not restore it.”  Abortion was practiced as a part of brutal warfare.  God is not pleased.  He will send fire to destroy the nation.

 

2:1-3

Moab was a brother of Ammon.  This nation’s identifying atrocity was a furious vengeance on the dead.  They dishonored human remains by burning the bones so as to prevent resurrection.  God is not pleased when we fail to respect God’s creation.

 

2:4-5

This is when the “amens” were getting louder.  Many in Israel were taking delight in hearing Judah denounced for its sin against the Law.  The other nations had sinned without the law.  Judah knew God and the covenant of God.  They had the written word of God and yet despised it.  They had disobeyed God’s know Law.  Disobedience blinded their eyes and made them unable to see the highway to heaven.  They followed idols rather than the Creator.

 

2:6-16

The 8th and final point of his sermon is against Israel.  The crimes listed in 6-8 all relate to social injustice that occurred regularly.

 

The righteous and needy were not guilty of any wrongdoing under the law.  They lost in court because of corrupt lawyers and judges.  Their heavy fines were impossible to repay (6).

 

The poor were stepped on.  Their progress was hindered.  They were prevented from helping themselves.  Sexual purity was perverted for pleasure (7).

 

The temple goers were exploiting the poor.  They were celebrating their power over the poor by having parties in the temple.  They were disobeying the Mosaic law by not returning garments that were taken as a pledge (8).

 

They were scorning and dishonoring the God who gave them victory over their strong enemies, gave them deliverance from bondage, and gave them a homeland (9-10).

 

God knows and watches over the godly and righteous people in the world.   There were a few good people who were trying to honor God in their wicked world.  Some were called Nazarites.  A Nazarite vowed to be different by not cutting his hair, drinking wine, or touching a dead body (11-12).  He practiced self denial.  Even though God was pleased with these dedicated believers, the majority of Israel tried to eliminate them by passing laws that made it more and more difficult to share the gospel.  Society seems to rejoice when one of God’s men falls to corruption.  It makes headlines when a pastor is arrested for DUI.

 

As Amos listed each of the sins of the other nations, Israel agreed with him.  The fact is that every one of the sins of other nations that Amos listed had been committed by Israel.  They had sacrificed babies on the fiery arms of Molech out of their selfish desire for prosperity.  Homosexuality is easy to condemn in the other person, but Jesus said that if you look on a woman with lust, you have committed adultery in your heart.  Stealing is obviously wrong, but how do you use your money?  Do you steal from God?  We condemn idolatry, but is pride and selfishness sitting on the throne of our heart?

 

The punishment for sinners will be crushing like a cart loaded with grain.  The verb ‘crushing’ means ‘bog down’.  We will be bogged down.  We will not have the joy of the Lord.  We will not live an abundant life.  We will be trying hard but getting nowhere.  When an attack comes we will be frozen with fear.  God will render ineffective all our resources and escape routes.  Confusion will prevail.  Fast runners will be paralyzed.  Soldiers will drop their weapons and armor (13-16).

 

Nothing but God’s mercy can deliver us from His justice.  We can escape God’s wrath and receive mercy by repenting of our sins and believing in Jesus Christ.

 

God is not pleased with the exploitation, abuse, and oppression of human beings for another’s pleasure and profit.  Neither does God find pleasure in pouring our His wrath on our sin.  But His love and holiness require Him to judge sin.  God’s judgment of sin is serious.  It is brutal.  It is ugly.  If you want to see what God’s wrath looks like, picture the crucifixion.  He poured out His wrath on Jesus for our sin.  The punishment for your sin will not be pretty.  We have been forgiven.  It is a gift given to us.  We must receive it to know the joy of God’s smile on our lives.

 

All have sinned and deserve God’s judgment.  But God’s grace has provided forgiveness.  All that is left is our response.  Will you repent and receive God’s forgiveness as the people of Nineveh did or will you reject God’s grace as Israel did?

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