Archive for April, 2013

Amos 8

Amos 8 continues his prophecy for the people.  He relates it to them as seeing “a basket of summer fruit”.  You can imagine it can’t you.  Big basket heaping with ripe and juicy fruit, just sitting there for the enjoyment.  Only one problem….they aren’t going to get any of it. In fact, God says “the end has come upon my people; I will never again pass by them”.  They aren’t going to enjoy the fruit of God’s blessing, in fact what lies ahead is a long way from anything that is even close to a summer fruit basket.

So what has God so irritated?  Disobedience….it almost always comes down to this.  Amos calls them out as “you who trample on the needy and bring the poor of the land to an end”.  They are taking advantage of those in need.  They are not living as God has commanded them.  And they also are cheating people “we may make the ephah small and the shekel great and deal deceitfully with false balances”.  All the while I’m sure they thought they were getting away with it.  Take advantage of those who can’t protect themselves.  Line their own pockets deceitfully by being liars and cheats.  God is not amused.

Here is what Amos tells the people from God.  “Surely I will never forget any of their deeds”.  Does anything stand out there in God’s word to them?  For me, it is the word “never”.  God takes a long view on things.  He doesn’t forget.  He never forgets.  So when we sin, it doesn’t go away over time.  It never goes away, unless it is completely erased.  And the only way that happens is through Jesus.  His blood can cover our sin and remove it.  Otherwise, God doesn’t forget…..never.  Have you got any sins that are hanging around your neck?  You do if you haven’t accepted the grace of Jesus’ blood on the cross.  You’re in the exact same spot as these people were – facing God’s punishment.

So what will that look like?  Amos gives a pretty nasty list of things that I wouldn’t want to sign up for:

–       “I will make the sun go down at noon and darken the earth in broad daylight

–       I will turn your feasts into mourning and all your songs into lamentation

–       I will bring sackcloth on every waist and baldness on every head

–       I will make it like the mourning for an only son and the end of it like a bitter day

–       I will send a famine on the land

It doesn’t bode well for those who aren’t obedient.  God doesn’t take it lightly, and He never forgets.  But this ending statement really says it all: “they shall fall, and never rise again”.  We need to get right with God.  We need to clean up the sin in our lives.  We need to live a life of obedience and walk with Jesus every step of the day!

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Amos 7

Amos 7 has Amos delivering some rather strong prophecy to the people and rulers of Israel.  It begins with God showing Amos what is to come – locusts that would eat the grass and devour the land.  The thing that jumps out at me is that God was “forming locusts when the latter growth was just beginning to sprout”.  If you ever wonder if God is in control and sees the entire picture from end to end, you can stop wondering. He does.  He is in control from beginning to end.  He has all the details in His hands.

Amos shows us the power of intercession here as he cries out “O Lord God, please cease” as God continued to reveal the judgment that was coming for His people.  We see intercession from godly men throughout scripture, when people stand in the gap between God and another or others and seek His grace and mercy.  And like we have seen elsewhere, Amos’ intercession works.  “The Lord relented concerning this”.  God changed His course of action.  He didn’t change His standards or expectations, but He is giving His people yet another chance to get it right.

We get a really good visual of what God’s expectations are here.  “I am setting a plumb line in the midst of my people Israel”.  Let’s be clear.  God has a measuring stick for our lives.  We are going to be measured by it, and every last one of us is going to come up short.  Sin will not allow us to be ‘plumb’ in God’s economy.  The rulers at that time, particularly Jeroboam whom this was directly written about, were furious.  Their answer wasn’t to correct their living, but to get rid of the messenger.  He wants to kill Amos and shut him up.

Isn’t that how we are?  When we don’t like the message, we want to silence the messenger.  Amaziah who was priest warns Amos.  He tells him what the king is saying: “The land is not able to bear all his words” and advises Amos to “go, flee away”.  Rather than address the real issue, which was obedience to God’s commands, the answer was to get the messenger out of town and quiet.  If we don’t have to hear the truth, we can ignore it.  That isn’t true, but it is how we think.  There are many churches in America today that take that approach.  If we only talk about love and grace and mercy, and never mention sin and hell and death, it won’t apply to us.  That is so far from the truth, and so many will get surprised someday when they stand at the judgment throne and try to enter heaven based on wrong doctrine that they were fed in a church.  Don’t fall for it.  God’s truth is not easy, but it is the plumb line we will stand next to.  Are you ready?  Are you plumb?

Amos 6

Amos 6 has some strong words for the people.  “Woe to those” is how he begins.  That can’t be a good message.  Yet it is one that we often need to hear.  Unfortunately for many of us in the church today, the focus is not on woe but grace.  We’ve moved away from the reality that God is a just and holy God and there will be punishment for our sin.  We focus on the grace and mercy and love nature of God, and completely ignore the truth that he also is holy.  But not Amos, he is front and center with the message that things are not going to slip through unnoticed.

What was going to cause woe?  “Woe to those who are at ease in Zion, and to those who feel secure on the mountain….who lie in beds….eat lambs….sing idle songs….drink wine….annoint themselves with the finest oils”.  Woe is coming because they are focused on self and being consumed with their own comfort.  They fell prey to the lie of the enemy that they were the source of their own blessing.  It is not the case.  God is the giver of all good things.  He alone is the source of goodness and we must never lose sight of that.  The minute we start to believe that we do anything to bring it upon ourselves and dwell in the midst of self, we’re on a very slippery slope.

Amos calls them out about what they were focused on.  They were at ease and enjoying themselves, but were “not grieved over the ruin of Joseph”.  God’s desire is that we are overcome with our sin.  Jacob’s sons were living it up while they put Joseph into a pit and then sold him into slavery.  To top it off they lied to their father.  Amos gives God’s word to this sin: “I abhor the pride of Jacob and hate his strongholds, and I will deliver up the city and all that is in it”.  God doesn’t ignore sin.  He deals with it.

We tend to twist things to our own benefit.  “You have turned justice into poison and the fruit of righteousness into wormwood”.  We make excuses for our actions and convince ourselves that God will let it go.  But He won’t.  He can’t.  And we will come face to face with Him some day having to answer the question of why we lived as we did and chose to disobey and sin.  It won’t be a good conversation, and unless we have something beyond our own lame excuses, it will be short and decisive.  Amos warns us of what lies ahead.  Sin will be addressed.  Are you ready for that conversation?

Amos 5

Amos 5 has some pretty strong words from the sheepherder turned prophet.  The real message comes at the end of the chapter when he tells the people that God will “send you to exile”.  This isn’t going to end well.  But why?  What is driving God’s punishment?  Well it is pretty basic blocking and tackling stuff.  In a word, it is disobedience. But let’s break it down.  Amos tells God’s chosen people that they were “fallen, no more to rise…..forsaken on her land”.  They have really messed up in their journey with the Lord.  And there is punishment coming.

So what’s that look like?  “The city that went out a thousand shall have a hundred left, and that which went out a hundred shall have ten left”.  This is some serious downsizing that God is going to do.  90% of the people will be gone.  It’s going to be only a remnant that remains.  It is serious business, and the future does not look bright.  God is serious about obedience.  He doesn’t just close His eyes and look the other way.  And when we choose to disobey, He will find a way to get our attention.  And that may not be much fun.

Amos gives the simple solution to the issue.  “Seek me and live….Seek the Lord and live…. Seek good, and not evil, that you may live….Hate evil, and love good, and establish justice”.  This isn’t rocket science, same message, same God, same set of expectations throughout scripture.  It comes down to obedience.  We live in the midst of a war between good and evil.  There is a constant battle going on between the two.  That will never change until the Lord returns.  So it comes down to choice on our part.  Will we choose good and seek the Lord, or will we choose evil and endure the consequences?  It really is that simple.

God knows that as humans, we’re going to mess up.  “For I know how many are your transgressions and how great are your sins”.  He doesn’t get pleasure in that, or the punishment that must follow.  But He knows our hearts and our tendency toward sin.  So it boils down to the reality that He is a holy God, and His nature and character is one filled with righteousness and justice. He can’t ignore what we do.  It will be dealt with.  “Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream”.  Justice is coming.  It flows out of the nature of God.  The question is – are you ready to face that?  If not, it is time to get right.  Jesus came to make it possible to have right standing with God.  Are you ready?

Amos 4

Amos 4 begins with Amos gently sharing his prophecy of what is to come.  “Hear this word, you cows…”.  He evidently didn’t take the course on how to win friends and influence people.   And although he was a sheep herder, he isn’t talking literally to cows here.  He is addressing the well to do leadership and business people, some would say specificially the wives of these folks, but either way, he is talking to the people who were in charge and living large.  This was the upper crust of the day, and Amos’ message was not something that they wanted to hear.

God has been pursuing His people for some time.  Amos gives them a summary of all that God has done.  He reminds them that God:

–       “gave you cleanness of teeth

–       Withheld the rain

–       Struck you with blight and mildew

–       Sent among you a pestilence

–       Killed your young men with a sword

–       Made the stench of your camp go up your nostrils

–       Overthrew some of you

God has been pursuing, and yet the people have not caught on.  The intensity is increasing, and now Amos is warning them that God is ready to make yet another run at bringing them back to Himself.  This sounds painful: “they shall take you away with hooks, even the last of you with fishhooks. And you shall go out through the breaches, each one straight ahead; and you shall be cast out into Harmon”.

God doesn’t give up in His pursuit of us.  He is never satisfied with our wandering from Him.  He will get our attention, so we need to realize that when we ignore the simple signals, the intensity goes up.  But God’s love for us never ends.  He will continue to draw us to Himself.  He will amp up the pursuit until we understand and return to Him.  Why does God keep after us?  Because He loves us.  Because He created us in His image and He wants a personal relationship with us.  Because He is God!

Here is the reality my friends: “For behold, he who forms the mountains and creates the wind, and declares to man what is his thought, who makes the morning darkness, and treads on the heights of the earth – the Lord, the God of hosts, is his name….prepare to meet your God”.  Some of us are running from God.  We think we have sinned and lived such a rotten life that He can never forgive us.  That’s wrong thinking.  He sent Christ to the cross for you.  Some of us are ignoring God because we don’t want to admit that there are some things that are wrong in our life that need to be changed.  Ignorance is not bliss.  Covering your eyes does not hide you.  Christ went to the cross for you too!  And some of us are just too busy to spend time walking with God.  Life is going ok on our own.  We don’t need Him.  Unfortunately – this is stupidity – we just haven’t figured it out yet.  We need Him.  He wants us.  And the sooner we connect the dots the more blessed life will be.  Where are you on this continuum with God?  Are you fat and happy and just living your own life like these ‘‘fat cows were?  Or are you ignoring Him, or running from Him?  Stop, turn, and no matter what your situation – RUN TO HIM!  That is where blessing lies.  That is where we receive His goodness and love!

Amos 3

Amos 3 has some very straight and in your face truth from Amos the prophet to the people of God.  Bottom line – they are God’s chosen people and the only ones that He has known.  They have been disobedience and God says “I will punish you for all your iniquities”.  Lots of churches and preachers and believers today want to gloss over these kind of statements in the Bible.  They focus on grace and mercy and love and well, let’s not focus on the ‘bad stuff’ that is in the Bible.  But that isn’t reality my friends.  God is a holy God.  He is by nature and character unable to overlook our sin.  There will be a price, not matter what anyone says.  Scripture is clear – the wages of sin is death.  God has a plan to redeem us, but alone from that we are in for a whooping.

Amos asks a series of questions here:

–       “Do two walk together, unless they have agreed to meet?

–       Does a lion roar in the forest, when he has no prey?

–       Does a young lion cry out from his den, if he has taken nothing?

–       Does a bird fall in a snare on the earth, when there is no trap for it?

–       Does a snare spring up from the ground, when it has taken nothing?

–       Is a trumpet blown in a city, and the people are not afraid?

–       Does disaster come to a city, unless the Lord has done it?”

Amos asks a series a questions, and in each case the answer is no.  He reminds the people that they have failed to walk with God because they chose not to meet.  They have moved away, and as such, are wandering aimlessly without Him.  Amos perspective on history is that God is absolutely in control and things happen for a reason – His reason – and He alone determines that.

But Amos goes on to remind us that God’s will doesn’t happen in a vacuum.  “For the Lord God does nothing without revealing his secret to his servants the prophets”.  God reveals His will to us, if we seek it.  He isn’t sitting up in heaven and just making things happen without any interaction with us, at least if we are seeking to know and understand.  God is waiting for us to meet Him.  He wants us to not only be in the know, but to walk in obedience with His plans.  He wants us to be in the middle of what He’s up to!

Amos wraps the chapter by prophesying the destruction that is to come.  God will punish the people for their sin.  He will use things at His disposal to clean up sin.  That involves the rulers and others who have accumulated wealth through many houses and other gains.  We can’t mock God and His laws forever.  There is a price to pay, and Amos is making it clear that it will come to those who are guilty of transgressions.  Difficult words for us to hear today.  We like to focus on the good stuff in our walk with God, and while it is very good, and very real, we can’t ignore the truth that if we fail to walk in obedience, God has to deal with our sin, just like He did in Amos day!

Amos 2

Amos 2 continues the prophecy of what is to come for those who have transgressed against Israel.  This is personal to God.  The chapter is filled with “I” statements from the Heavenly Father.  In each case again He says “I will not revoke the punishment”.  It is going to happen.  There will be no getting out of it.  The deed has been done and these nations – Moab and Judah and Kerioth – they will be destroyed.  “I will send a fire” is what God says for each.  He is going to burn them and kill off the rulers and princes.

So how did these places get on the wrong side of God?  He calls out their acts:

–       “rejected the law of the Lord

–       have not kept his statutes

–       lies have led them astray

–       sell the righteous for silver

–       sell the needy for a pair of sandals

They have turned their backs on God and are living their own way.  And they have attacked God’s people, which is not a wise choice.

Scripture reminds us that they followed “after which their fathers walked”.  The impact of fathers and grandfathers is immense when it comes to instructing kids on how to live.  The people had forgotten the past – they totally ignored history and the story that God had written to date.  Maybe they had never been told, but God reminds them here clearly.  “It was I….I destroyed….it was I….I raised up….I will press you down”.  God has been and always will be very alive and active in what has happened, is happening, and will happen.  We must not forget His actions of the past.  We must not ignore what He is doing right now, and we must look ahead and listen for His direction for the future.

There is a significant responsibility on fathers to lead their family well, and to tell the stories of God and His faithfulness.  We’ve seen it over and over where parents, and leaders, have failed to train people well, be they kids, or people under their rule.  There is a responsibility we must undertake.  We must be intentional in our instruction.  We must train up our children well so they never forget.  God has written a story, a very vivid story of His love and His holiness.  We need to teach it well.  We don’t want to be described as “he who is stout of heart among the mighty shall flee away naked in that day”.  God does reign.  He is on the throne.  We need to teach that well!

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