Photo credit to Michael Dawson, http://www.facebook.com/I-Can-See-the-Shore
“Thus says the LORD: ‘For three transgressions of Edom, and for four, I will not revoke the punishment, because he pursued his brother with the sword and cast off all pity, and his anger tore perpetually, and he kept his wrath forever.’” (Amos 1:11)
Poor Edom. More talk of their punishment. But it’s not just Edom’s doom being told of here. Judgment is pronounced on Damascus, Gaza, Tyre, Edom, and the Ammonites. And the list continues in chapter two with Moab, Judah, and Israel. And maybe it would be good to look at a couple of things here. Maybe it would be a good idea to look a little bit at Amos, who God chose to share this news. And then maybe it would be good to look at why these nations surrounding Israel were being judged. And later we’ll get to why Judah and Israel were being judged. Why? Because I’m pretty sure it’s a warning not only to them, but to us today. So it would behoove us to learn.
Amos lived during the reign of king Jeroboam of Israel. In that time Amaziah the priest of Bethel had an issue with Amos’ words. He went to Jeroboam and said, “Amos has conspired against you in the midst of the house of Israel. The land is not able to bear all his words. For thus Amos has said, ‘Jeroboam shall die by the sword, and Israel must go into exile away from his land.’ And Amaziah said to Amos, ‘ O seer, go, flee away to the land of Judah, and eat bread there, and prophesy there, but never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king’s sanctuary, and it is a temple of the kingdom.’ Then Amos answered and said to Amaziah, ‘I was no prophet, nor a prophet’s son, but I was a herdsman and a dresser of sycamore figs. But the LORD took me from following the flock, and the LORD said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’ Now therefore hear the word of the LORD.’”(Amos 7: 10-16) Isn’t that amazing how You raise up Your people to serve You from the unexpected? I mean here was Amos, a nobody and a nothing by most people’s standards, a shepherd and tender of figs. He hadn’t been born of a prophet, and he wasn’t a prophet from the start. But when You told him to go prophesy, he went, and left it all. Was there any thought in Amos’ head that lots of people wouldn’t care for what he was going to be saying? I think so. But he must have had some intense love and respect for You going on, Lord, to go anyways. A number of commentators believe that he received ill treatment at the hands of those he was prophesying against. And yet he obeyed.
It reminds me of a facebook post I read yesterday by Gary Dawson who has lived in the jungles in Venezuela among the Yanamamo since he was a little boy. He says, “Full time missionaries are now becoming obsolete. Missions and churches are pulling out their people from all around the world because of danger and hardship. When has it ever been no danger, no hardship? The most frustrating thing for me, is to see the great need of so many hurting poverty stricken sin bound people and not have enough to minister to everyone. I see my sisters with their tiny supply cooking for the old, the blind, and sick from their meager supplies. I have witnessed us as a family give until we have no more to give. The biggest challenge is who to give to? Who needs it the most? I was reading once again in Matthew 25:35-46 and it says this. I am going to paraphrase it.”
“Jesus is speaking of the future when He separates people some to the right some to the left. He says to them on the right side. He tells them to enter into glory blessed by the Father into a place that was prepared for them since the beginning of time. He says it is because when he was hungry they fed him, when he was thirsty they gave him drink, when he was a stranger they took him in. When he was naked they clothed him, when he was sick they visited him, and when he was in prison they came to him. The righteous will ask him, ‘When did we see you hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked? When did we see you sick or in prison?’ He will answer and say, ‘Verily, I say unto you. Inasmuch as you have done it unto the least of these you have done it unto me.’ Wow! You just have to love that promise. But now the scary promise.”
“He then turns to the ones on his left and says to them, ‘Depart form me, you are cursed into everlasting fire (sort of cools the jets of those that do not believe in hell) prepared for the devil and his angels. I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not take me in, I was naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ They will reply, ‘But Lord, when did we see you hungry, when did we see you thirsty or a stranger, or naked or sick, or in prison and we failed to minister to you?’ He will answer, ‘Verily, I say unto you, inasmuch as you did it not unto one of the least of these, you did it not unto me.’ Wow! do we all ever need to do a whole lot more. We become so wrapped up in making our lives more easy and more comfortable that we lose the vision of the heart of God.”
But Amos held tightly to the vision that Israel, Judah, Moab, Ammon, Edom, Tyre, Gaza, and Damascus refused to see or grasp. Of all the people that should have been lights, there were only a remnant and Amos was one of them by choice. And Gentile or Jew, we have to determine if we are going to live under the Father’s blessing by choosing to obey and agree or we can choose our own way, which will meet judgment instead of blessing, no matter how much we think we were in the right.
God is all about true compassion not just from a compassionate heart, but from His heart. Lots of people can show a form of compassion and do good things, but without God, it’s not good, because only God is good. A good deed without God in the midst of it is empty. It leads to destruction. Why? Because only God offers life because He is life and that’s why He sent Jesus. No one else could die and rise from the dead as Jesus did. No one else could live a perfectly holy life by Your standards, without sin, and be fit as the sacrifice for all our sins. Thank You, Lord, that Jesus didn’t choose comfort and ease instead of reaching out to us and meeting our needs. That’s the heart of God for others and that’s what we are called to exhibit in You.
It’s not that those who met the needs of the poor and thirsty and imprisoned and naked around them weren’t sinners. We’re all guilty of three transgressions and four, which means repeated, abundant, and in excess. But those are they who choose to surrender for forgiveness and accept the heart and ways of God through Christ Jesus and let Him live it out in their lives. Just like the grace they received, they let it flow out to others. And it’s not like that other group didn’t have a chance. It’s not like those eight nations couldn’t have chosen otherwise. It’s not like people today don’t have a choice. We all do and they all did, since the beginning of time.
Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament shared, “In this comprehensive pronouncement of God against sin in all these nations, there looms the tremendous fact that God is a God of all nations, and not merely of Israel, and that he will judge and punish sin wherever it exists. Moreover, the sins denounced are not merely those of violence, cruelty, oppression, injustice, and social wrongs. Violators of solemn covenants, innovators, and corrupters of the true worship are likewise guilty and will suffer the judgment of God.” Truly the heart of the problem then and the heart of the problem now is with the heart. And the heart is controlled by the mind. And somehow we have this tendency to think too highly of ourselves and too little of the God who created us and holds everything together by His word. Yes, nations, what holds everything together is not your thoughts or your actions, but the word of God who created us.
Well, it’s still our choice. We can choose to surrender to the hand who created us for a purpose and for His glory, or we can choose our own way. I can be like Edom and despise my birthright. I can desire something, anything more than You. And then when I reap the consequences of that choice, I can choose to be angry and take it out on You and those who choose You. But the truth is, we were all created to know You like that. We were all created for a relationship with You. Every nation. We were created to be brothers and sisters from one Father, only we fell prey to the lies of another father, the father of lies. One Father brings life, the other father brings death. One Father only speaks and does truth, the other father only lies and lives those lies. Amos is warning us about what happens when we lose sight of our real Father. Instead of becoming like Him and living and leading others into life, we devour and are devoured, we exile and are exiled, we break covenants and are broken ourselves, we forsake pity and are eaten by our own anger, we forsake brotherly love and feel unloved ourselves, we despise the life inside of pregnant women and lose the value of our own. But it doesn’t have to be. Because there is a true Father who wants to restore us and our way of thinking back to HIs way of LIFE.
We can choose life or we can choose death. Moses said that this choice wasn’t so hard that we couldn’t do it, and it wasn’t so far off that it couldn’t be attained. It’s not so far away that it’s in heaven and we can’t reach it. It’s not someplace beyond the sea that we have no access to. Well, for some it has been and some, it still is. But for most of us, we have access to God’s word. It’s near us, it’s in our house, or in the motel drawer, or next door, or around the corner. I mean, for most of us, it’s even closer. We’ve heard it. It’s even in our mouths and hearts so we can actually do it and live by it. It’s nothing new. The choice has always been there. From creation You have set before us life and good, death and evil. Which I choose depends on what I do with Your words and Your commands. To obey You, to love You, by walking in Your ways and keeping what You say by agreeing and doing and living it out, is to enter into a relationship with You and to reap those benefits. To turn my heart away, to not listen and not obey, and to worship anything else or even myself is a death wish and emptiness. Choose life that you may live in Him. Choose life that your children may know Life and live. Love God. Obey His voice. Hold fast to Him in Christ Jesus. There is hope and it is only in You, God. “Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and God our Father, Who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.” (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17)