Where is our walk with Christ and do people see Christ in us?
This is a story about Amos. He was a common man, sheepherder, a layman; dedicated to serving God and his actions spoke for him. God told Amos to warn the Israelites of judgment coming because of their disobedience, complacency, idol worship, they oppressed the poor, they were hypocritical, and they had no sincere heart for God.
In chapters one - two, Amos announces judgments to fall on nations that came against Israel. God then tells of judgments to come to Judah and Israel. People asked what they had done. They began to sound like the Pharisee in Luke 18. In chapters three - six, Amos gives the reasons why God would bring judgments. The children of Israel had sinful lives; they used religious rituals and traditions to make themselves look good. They were more concerned for their image. Amos mourns for Israel and how God despises Israel’s pride. In chapters seven - nine, Amos tells of the visions of judgment that would happen, of Israel’s destruction, and tells of Israel’s restoration.
But today’s focus is on chapter four. God used different situations to get the Israelites to turn lives back to Him.
In verses 1-5:
Here we see that Israel’s rich ladies were contrasted with the kine (cows) of Bashan, spoiled, smooth, and very much taken care of (Psalm 22:12). These ladies childishly pushed their spouses to persecute the vulnerable to supply their extravagant ways of life. We are to be mindful so as not to want material belongings in such a manner in that we will abuse others and disappoint God to obtain them.
Amos snidely welcomed individuals to sin in Bethel and Gilgal where they loved worshipping idols rather than God. At Bethel, God had restored his pledge to Abraham with Jacob (Genesis 28:10-22). Presently, Bethel was the religious focal point of the Northern Kingdom, and Jeroboam had put a symbol there to deter individuals from going to worship in Jerusalem in the Southern Kingdom (1 Kings 12:26-29).
Gilgal was Israel’s first camping area subsequent to entering the Promised Land (Joshua 4:19). It was here where Joshua restored the Abrahamic covenant and the ceremony of circumcision, and the people commended the Passover (Joshua 5:2-11). Saul was delegated as Israel’s first ruler in Gilgal (1 Samuel 11:15).
The Israelites were saying thanks to God and tithing for the abundance that they had accomplished by mistreating poor people. Being prosperous is not a gift from God. It is great to say thanks to God for any success that we might acquire, however God should likewise be engaged with the cycle prompting that flourishing.
We can see that the people were showing off. They were putting themselves on display and wanted to be seen. They wanted recognition and they were more interested in serving themselves and were not submitted to God’s will. Let me ask this question, can going to church be sinful? It might be if people who claim to be Christians live and act like these people did.
Are people today more concerned with their image or their attitude at a church service or even in their daily Christian lives?
TOO MANY PEOPLE IN TODAY’S SOCIETY USE THE CHURCH AS A SOCIAL CLUB, A SINGLE’S CLUB, OR A DAYCARE CENTER.
A phylactery is a small box containing Hebrew text, Jewish men wore during prayer to keep the law.
In verses 6-11:
Seven warning signs were given to the children of Israel.
In verse six, “cleanliness of teeth” refers to famine/starvation. “Yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the Lord.”
In verses seven – eight, “withholden the rain from you” refers to drought, they had no water. “Yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the Lord.”
In verse nine, “blasting and mildew” refers to blight, a plant disease; “palmerworm” – insects ate the plants. “Yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the Lord.”
In verse ten, “pestilence” – is human disease; “slain with the sword” – war was everywhere. “Yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the Lord.”
In verse eleven, “destruction of cities” – homes, buildings destroyed. “Yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the Lord.”
Have we seen any of this in our lifetime? We can watch any television news station and see this all over the world and some of it is right here in our own country.
In verses 12-13:
Now we see that God would pass judgment and that the people were told to be prepared to meet Him. No matter how God warned the people, through famine, drought, plague, locusts, plagues, or war, they still ignored God. And since they ignored God and did not understand the message, they would have to meet God face to face in the judgment. They had rejected God and refused to obey Him.
People of today…
Regardless of how God cautioned the Israelites through starvation, dry season, scourge, beetles, torment, or war, they actually disregarded him. Since they would not receive the message, they would meet Him up close and personally in judgment. No longer would they disregard God. They would need to confront the One that they dismissed, the One that they would not comply with when he told them to really focus on poor people. One day every one of us will meet God up close and personal, face to face, to be held accountable for what we have accomplished or for what we would not do. Have we paid attention to the Word that instructs us to prepare ourselves to meet him?
TOO MANY PEOPLE OF TODAY ACKNOWLEDGE THE EXISTANCE OF GOD BUT THEY DO NOT ACKNOWLEDGE THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD.
Are the people of the church today just as sinful if they live like the people in this passage of Scripture? What will God have to do with people today to make them get their hearts right with God? What must happen to Christians so that they begin to act and be as Christ wants them to be? Are we a Church of Casual Christianity? Are we Cardboard Cut-out Christians? What will it take to bring us back to God?
The affluent people of Israel were enjoying their life of luxury and prosperity. They had become careless, complacent, mistreating poor people, and selling them into servitude. Before long, Israel would be vanquished by Assyria, and the rich would become slaves. Then in walks a God called man from a small country town, prophesying judgment, and preaching repentance. With no unique preparation, schooling, or childhood upbringing, Amos submitted to God's call to go and prophesy unto Israel. Compliance is the trial of a devoted worker of God.
The Prophet Amos:
Amos was a common country man, a sheepherder, and a sycamore tree gardener. He was undoubtedly content with tending to his flock and working in the sycamore orchard. This type of sycamore was of the fig variety, a common food staple in the area (Amos 1:1, 7:14). He originated from working with long haired sheep to the very much prepped goats of the city. He went from a position of agriculture to a position in culture. But God called him to serve anyway. It was not Amos’ ability that God was looking at, it was his availability, it was Amos’ willingness to serve.
I can imagine the high society people looking down their noses at the country preacher, because it can be seen in churches today. It is a shame that some churches will not hear a preacher if he does not have a plethora of letters behind his name, or if he does not come from a specific type of background.
This was during the time of Jeroboam II, king of Israel, and Uzziah, king of Judah when he answered the call from God to deliver a message to the surrounding nations of Judah and to Israel and Judah as well. He was a courageous spiritual statesman, not a priest or politician. In a sense you could say he was a traveling minister.
The Pretending of Amaziah:
Amaziah was the chief priest in Bethel. He was supposed to be representing Israel’s spiritual side. But instead of being concerned about listening to God’s message, he was more concerned for his stately position, the prestige, the authority, and the money. Those were all that Amaziah was worried about, not the people’s spiritual welfare. So soon as this bogus priest had under the pretense of kinship toward Amos, he offered guidance, and implied his goal to utilize his power to make Amos stop prophesying if he did not do it intentionally. Amos offers him a prompt strong response and outshoots the court pontiff with his own bow.
The Prophecy of Amos:
In chapters one and two, he gives announcements for the surrounding nations, each start with “Thus saith the Lord.” He states punishment for the transgressions of Damascus, Gaza, Tyrus, Edom, Ammon, Moab, then to Judah and Israel.
In chapters three through six, he gives the reasons why God would bring the judgments to the children of Israel. Amos grieves for Israel and how God detests Israel’s pride. The three discourses begin with “Hear this word.”
In chapters seven through nine, there are five visions. The motivation behind the visons is to strengthen the truth that the anticipated judgment could not be turned away.
The Person of Amos:
“I was no prophet.” Not initially, or by progression, or by study, nor by any human assignment or arrangement, as many have been.
“Neither was I a prophet's son.” My dad was no prophet, nor was I reared up in the school of the prophets, for example (2 Kings 2:3, 5, 7, 15; 4:38; 6:1). Although you call me a soothsayer, regardless of whether jokingly or seriously, it matters not, however I guarantee you that I am not such by artisanship, or for a work.
“But I was an herdsman.” By rearing, decision, and occupation I was, and I still am a herder and have my interests in or close to Tekoa in Judah, on which I can live. Even though I prophesy without payment or compensation, I required not to do the prophet’s work for my bread.
“And a gatherer of sycamore fruit.” The tree and the fruit are known by one name. Palestine flourished with both; and the fruit, though not large, was sweet and useful for nourishment for man or cattle. Amos had and could still live on this type of work, and he would be content.
Amos reminds Amaziah that he did not prepare to be a prophet and that he is called of God to prophesy. He was a herder in terms of professional career and made his living that way. God sent him to prophesy. If Amaziah does not acknowledge the message, he is actually conflicting with God.
Amos’ answer was straightforward and showed proof that he was a simple man. He was not making prophetic proclamations just to be heard by others. He tells Amaziah that he was there because the Lord put him there. Are we where we are supposed to be? Are we doing what we are supposed to do be doing?
Amos gives a portrayal of a shepherd, to which he was. And while in this position, the Lord called him and took him to be a prophet. He did not seek after it, nor did he take this honor to himself. His mission was a divine calling, and he did not enter this work with worthwhile perspectives. In other words, he was not doing it for the money.
In comparable manner, God took David and made him ruler of Israel. God took Elisha from the furrow and made him a prophet. Furthermore, Christ took a few of his followers who were fishers and made them fishers of men, or priests of the word. Thus, their calling showed up clearer and manifested itself in their life.
“And the Lord said unto me, Go, prophesy unto my people Israel.” What Amos did, complied to the order of God, and he performed his responsibility. What these two verses, announce is an adequate vindication of himself, his character, and his conduct.
Amos was not an expert prophet. It is intriguing that those that ought to have been speaking against the transgression in the land, had disobeyed their duties and obligations. God called an unknown man and sent him with a message to these individuals. He was not impacted by power or position. He expressed the Words that God had put in his mouth.
The Preaching of Amos:
Amos’ preaching announced the coming judgment as “The Lord will roar from Zion” (Amos 1:2) and “The lion hath roared, who will not fear? The Lord hath spoken, who can but prophesy” (Amos 3:8). As a lion roars its warning, there is no escaping from God.
Amos saw the union of justice and righteousness in the daily life, which was a burden to him that Israel did not see or have. He understood the sovereignty of God and viewed God dealing out punishment according to disobedience. Amos preached that the Day of the Lord would be a day of darkness and not the unconditional guarantee of security to God’s elect as the Israelites believed.
Amos also preached that privilege indicates responsibility. As God’s chosen, the Israelites assumed that their prosperity meant having God’s favor, but they were accountable for their inward as well as their outward actions. Amos’ most annihilating judgment was focused on the hard negligence for the rights and necessities of others, as the persecuted poor.
But hope was to come. “Seek ye me, and ye shall live” (Amos 5:4), “seek the Lord, and ye shall live” (Amos 5:6), repentance and deliverance were still there (Amos 5:15), and restoration (Amos 9:11-12). The hope that Amos preached of was fulfilled in Christ. What applied back then still applies today.
We are to be just as sure of our calling if we are to go out into the ministry. If there is any doubt in someone’s mind, then he or she should hold off until confidence of the calling sets in. If God has called any of us into the ministry, then we ought not to let anything hinder us in accomplishing that task. Amos had doubts, which sounds like a lot of Christians today.
I am just a … this or just a that. I am not a … this nor am I a that. I have no special talent or gift that I know of. I may or may not have a biblical degree so what does that matter? It is not what you are that matters. It is what God can make you to be. He does not ask for our ability. He asks for our availability. He asks for a willing vessel. He will give us what we need to accomplish the task that he has set before us, either by ourselves or with the help of other like-minded Christians.
God calls all into the ministry in some form or fashion. We all can witness in one way or another. In the book of Joshua, God used Rahab, a harlot, to aid the men in accomplishing their tasks. She ended up being in the lineage of David. (Joshua 2:1, 2:3, 6:17-25; Matthew 1:5; Hebrews 11:31; James 2:25)
Jeremiah 1:7, But the Lord said unto me, Say not, I am a child: for thou shalt go to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak.
Ezekiel 2:3-4, And he said unto me, Son of man, I send thee to the children of Israel, to a rebellious nation that hath rebelled against me: they and their fathers have transgressed against me, even unto this very day. For they are impudent children and stiffhearted. I do send thee unto them; and thou shalt say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God.
Are we truly obeying God's Word?
God called me into the ministry over 20 years ago and I have had the blessed opportunity to preach for a church radio broadcast, served as a Sunday School teacher, served as a youth director along with my wife, as a music director, as an Associate Pastor, and as an Interim Pastor.
Copyright © 2023 Rev. Chris Swanson
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