Reader: “You push away every thought of coming disaster,”
Response: “but your actions only bring the day of judgment closer.”
Scripture: Amos 6:1-8
What sorrow awaits you who lounge in luxury in Jerusalem,
and you who feel secure in Samaria!
You are famous and popular in Israel,
and people go to you for help.
But go over to Calneh
and see what happened there.
Then go to the great city of Hamath
and down to the Philistine city of Gath.
You are no better than they were,
and look at how they were destroyed.
You push away every thought of coming disaster,
but your actions only bring the day of judgment closer.
How terrible for you who sprawl on ivory beds
and lounge on your couches,
eating the meat of tender lambs from the flock
and of choice calves fattened in the stall.
You sing trivial songs to the sound of the harp
and fancy yourselves to be great musicians like David.
You drink wine by the bowlful
and perfume yourselves with fragrant lotions.
You care nothing about the ruin of your nation.
Therefore, you will be the first to be led away as captives.
Suddenly, all your parties will end.
The Sovereign Lord has sworn by his own name, and this is what he, the Lord God of Heaven’s Armies, says:
“I despise the arrogance of Israel,
and I hate their fortresses.
I will give this city
and everything in it to their enemies.”
Sometimes God uses very powerful people to proclaim the truth like Isaiah or John the Baptist but he also uses more ordinary people like you and me. As a shepherd and grower of trees, Amos was such a person. God called him as a prophet to the northern kingdom of Israel even though he was from the southern kingdom of Judah. Israel as a nation had split some 200 years earlier with separate kings and worship practices.
Lest we think that this passage comes from the dusty dog eared edges of an ancient Old Testament scroll, note the circumstances of the nation and the challenge of God’s word through Amos’ urging repentance. (c.753 B.C.) Do you see anything similar to today’s situation around the world? (2021 A.D.)
Though from the southern kingdom of Judah, God has called Amos to go to the northern capital city of Bethel and home of king Jeroboam II to proclaim his message. The first part of his message is to challenge the people’s idea that they have been especially blessed by God who has favored them above other nations because they are God’s chosen people. Amos calls them on their abuse of their self-perceived position of privilege. He further indicts them on their excessive partying, worship apostasy and indulgence in pleasures. Amos pleads for the people to repent and confess their sin. The judgment of the Lord is coming. The old billboard sign “Prepare to meet your God” comes from this section of the book.
In the section of the book we look at today, Amos zeros in on those who trust their wealth, their position of power and possessions for their “salvation,” i.e. the things that will save them. But Amos pulls no punches. He prophesies that sorrow will hit them hard and gave them some historical examples such as the cities of Calneh and Hamath. We read those names and nothing registers for us. But those two cities under Israel’s control suffered disastrous and crushing defeats at the hands of the Assyrians. Yet in Israel’s blind way of thinking, nothing would ever happen to them; they were too powerful in their own minds to experience defeat.
Having an inflated view of their own brilliance, they played and partied. They were drunk with power and oppressed the poor. The rules they levied on others did not apply to them. (Sound familiar?) They were sacrilegious combining worship of Yahweh with worship of Baal treating sacred things as common and ordinary. Ignoring Yahweh, they crafted their own image of god and designed their own worship, which included child sacrifice. In Amos’ words, “You care nothing about ruining your nation.”
In truth, those in power were destroying the nation through their self indulgences, disregard of God and love of their own power. Israel was a depraved nation. The moral fiber was gone. Amos prophesied that the leaders would be the first to be led into exile
when God brought judgment upon the northern kingdom of Israel. They did not repent and his prophecy came to pass within a couple of decades as they were crushed by the Assyrians. In God’s words, “I despise the arrogance of Israel, and I hate their fortresses. I will give this city and everything in it to their enemies.”
The judgment of God was severe and directly related to the way the people lived in rejecting his word. So does God’s judgment of nations apply only to biblical times? No. As we have said several times. The season of Advent is concerned with the Second Coming of the Lord and his coming Judgment. As nations on the earth, we dare not believe that we are exempt from God’s judgment in our time. The words of Amos ring as true today as when he uttered them 2800 years ago. Pray for national repentance. In the clear words of Amos, “Prepare to meet thy God.” (Amos 4:12)
Music: “Break Forth, O Beauteous ” Choir of King’s College
Our kind and gracious heavenly Father, your only begotten Son willingly came to earth out of his great love to bring redemption to the entire world. How very foolish we are to think that sin is trivial, that there are no consequences and that judgment will never come. The cross is the evidence that there is judgment for sin, the sin of people and the sin of nations who reject you. Forgive our acquiescence to the actions all around us that flagrantly mock the truth so clearly stated in the Scriptures. All too often we have sought peer approval, lacked courage or been embarrassed to be identified as one of your disciples. We repent of our silence. In the days ahead may we be useful in advancing your kingdom on earth as we await the Lord’s return, your final judgment and the establishment of the reign of our great Savior. In the name of Jesus our Lord. Amen.