Monday, February 16, 2015

The Book of Amos - Judgement, Yet Promises

The Book of Amos is a pretty small Book of the Old Testament in the Bible.

Will we be fruitful for God?
Not surprisingly, today we rarely, if ever, hear a sermon based on the Amos because the majority of the book is telling about the judgements of God. "Sin, Judgement, and Repentance" fall into the "doom and gloom" theology of old that no one wants to hear about anymore. Yet, simply because it is not taught about does not mean it goes away. God's Word is Eternal, and what He says shall come to pass regardless of whether we read about it or believe it.

Amos began life as a shepherd, 

until God spoke to him and asked him to Prophecy to both Judah and Israel. I am certain his job as a herdsmen was much easier. Dealing with animals can usually be more peaceful than communicating to humans. Besides a "bah" here or there, or a nudge. You can't get into too much interpersonal conflict with a herd. You also spend a lot of time alone and in nature, so you are able to communicate to God, if your heart so desires. But, Amos had a complete change in career. He went from the life of a daily shepherd to the challenge of telling people God's displeasure with how they were living. He became a shepherd of a different sort, a shepherd of rebellious people.

God makes it clear that he will judge sin:

You--only have I known (or chosen)--of all the families of the earth; Therefore, I will punish you for all your iniquities. (Amos 3:2)
The more you know God, when you become part of His family and sit under his teachings, you will be held to a higher standard: all of your iniquities will be punished. Since you will know more clearly what is sin and what is not, God will hold you accountable for what you know. Children and young adults raised in a church with godly parents, need to take heed of this warning.

In the Book of Amos, God proclaims judgement on many: Damascus, Gaza, Tyre, Edom, Ammon, Moab, Judah and Israel.

But consider this interesting point:

You cannot have mercy without judgement. Read that again: "You cannot have mercy without judgement." Just as there is no need for forgiveness or grace without sin, there is no need for mercy without judgement. A debt must be owed, before it can be paid or cancelled. Thankfully, God's grace is sufficient. We can never out-sin God's ability to forgive us. His grace abounds, even more so, to those who need it, and especially to those who recognize their need. 
His Grace Abounds to Us

The Angels will never know what it is like to be forgiven and to be restored by God's grace. But as humans, we can know God in this intimate way. We can know Him as our Restorer. We can love Him for redeeming us and wanting a relationship with us even though we are sinners.

God looks to each new generation to make their own decisions for their family:
I will not turn away Its punishment, because they have despised the law of the Lord, and have not kept His commandments. Their lies lead them astray. Their lies after which their fathers walked. (Amos 2:4)
I have a strong affinity for first generation Christians. I am one, therefore, I know it is not easy to turn from the way you were raised to build a family on design that is new to you. It takes great commitment and a lot of study to know God's Word. As always I am thankful that God is merciful and will add to what we do; He will make up (provide grace) for areas that we are short and He will correct points that we get wrong. We simply need to walk by faith that He is bigger than we are, and much more capable.

If you turn to God, and lead your family in His ways, you are not held accountable for the sins of your fathers. Every individual has an opportunity, no matter how they were raised or what horrible things they have experienced in life, to make their own personal decision to follow God and to receive His promises.

But beware, God is not fooled by half-hearted lip service. 

He knows whether you are gathering at church to socialize or to dedicate your life wholly to Him. He knows if a church is all about building an organization or about ministering to each member that makes up the living organism of a vibrant relationship with God community.

He says,
I hate, I despise your feast days, And I do not savor your sacred assemblies. Though you offer Me burnt offerings, I will not accept them, Nor will I regard your fattened peace offerings. Take away from Me the noise of your songs, For I will not hear the melody of your stringed instruments. (Amos 5: 21-23)
God sees the motives of our heart. He looks deeper than we can. He pierces into the soul and knows the heart intent.

God Sees Deeper than the Outside. 

Look how He will separate the church:
For surely I will command, and will sift the house of Israel among the nations, as grain is sifted in a sieve; yet not the smallest grain shall fall to the ground. All the sinners of My people shall die by the sword. 
Jesus tells a parable about the smallest of seeds -- a mustard seed. In Matthew 12: 31-32, "The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field, which indeed is the least of all the seeds; but when it is grown it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches."

Mustard Seed of Faith

Jesus explains that all it takes is to have faith that He is God - Lord and Savior - the size of a mustard seed. God brings the growth; He is faithful to complete us. So when God sifts the church not even the person with the smallest grain of true faith shall fall to the ground. If we confess our sins to God, and trust Him for forgiveness, He will most definitely save us. Our sins will not bring about our eternal death. We will grow and be useful to others, just as the birds rested in the branches of the mustard seed when it had grown.

So God does not give these warnings to make His faithful followers fret. We are to warn others who are ignoring His Word, but we do not need to be uncertain of our future. Twice the Lord says in Amos, "Seek Me and live." (Amos 5: 4 and 6). Still, God is very clear when he issues His judgements to explain that punishments are coming, "'Yet you have not returned to Me,' Says the Lord." God wants us to repent: to turn to Him and change our ways.

Anyone who studies God's Word, knows that he does not end prophecy with judgement but always gives hope for the promise of restoration. After God sieves the church, His people, He promises to "repair its damages," to "raise up its ruins" and to "rebuild it." (Amos 5:11)

Gentiles Included

And then God says a most marvelous statement. In this promise of restoration of Israel (the first chosen people in days of old), God claims that they will possess the remnant, along with "all the Gentiles who are called by My name." Many people miss the places in the Old Testament that show God always intended for the Gentiles (non-Jews) who decide to be called by His Name to be included in the covenant promise and to have restoration from sins and eternal life.

And so I will end with God's own words given as an eternal promise at the end of the book of Amos:
"Behold, the days are coming," says the Lord, "when the plowman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him who sows seeds; the mountains shall drip with sweet wine, and all the hills shall flow with it. I will bring back the captives of My people Israel; they shall build the waste cities and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and drink wine from them; they shall also make gardens and eat fruit from them. I will plant them in their land, and no longer shall they be pulled up from the land I have given them," says the Lord your God. 

As Christians of today, 

we need to recognize our power to rebuild wasted, bankrupt cities and inhabit them. We can restore places that sin has destroyed and make them fruitful again. We need to be open and obedient to what and where God calls us to minister and to be open to being a little seed of faith that can be grown by God to be a tree that can provide shelter to others.

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