For a few years now I have been reading through and reflecting on the prophecies of Amos. A few weeks back I decided it was time to preach through Amos on Sunday mornings. I felt, and still feel, ill-prepared. There is so much I don’t know and much more I need to learn. However, I felt the time was right and approached teaching the book as, “Let’s jump in and see where it takes us.”
So far I have preached 3 sermons, and have made it through chapter 3. (Here are links to those sermons if you are interested: part 1, part 2, part 3.) Like most prophecies in the Old Testament, Amos’ prophecies are about coming judgment. Preaching about God’s wrath and God’s judgment are not easy. You can’t really approach preaching through Amos from a “feel good about yourself” mentality. The last couple of sermons have been difficult. One thing I have tried to consistently point out is that both God’s mercy and God’s judgment flow out of His love, which is a holy love. God always warns about His coming judgment because His ultimate goal is repentance and reconciliation, not wrath and destruction. I find great comfort in these words, “Surely the Sovereign Lord does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7).
The other day, as I was meditating on Amos 4, praying through how I would approach this chapter in a sermon; and, to be quite honest, tired of preaching about judgment, I was stunned by a thought that entered my mind. I pray the thought was from the Holy Spirit. The thought didn’t relieve my tiredness. Quite the opposite! The thought placed an incredibly heavy burdened on my shoulders. The thought was this: God judges a nation not because of the misdeeds of pagans, but because of the misdeeds of His people.
The Apostle Peter put it this way, “For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (1 Peter 4:17, NIV).
Pogo put it like this, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”
I often hear believers proclaim God’s judgment on our nation because of all the wickedness of those horrible people who do not believe in God. Their attitude seems to be, “God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers…” (Luke 18:11, NIV).
What struck me, while meditating, was that if and when God judges our country, it will not be because of the evil policies of our President (whomever that may be), or because the State has decided to legalize marijuana and same-sex marriage, or because the public school doesn’t teach Creationism as a science, or because of all the immorality and violence in the media, or because my co-worker likes to use the “F” word.
Nope, not at all. That’s not why God will judge us.
If, and when, God chooses to being judgment on our nation, it will be because we (us church going people and pastors) have neglected to do what God has asked us to do. We have refused to live out His kingdom in the hear and now. We have refused to sacrificially give our lives in services to our neighbors. More specifically, based on Amos’ prophecy, God’s judgment will be because we have neglected to take care of the poor. Even worse, we have blamed the poor for their poverty, and thus we have oppressed them. “Hear this word, you cows of Bashan on Mount Samaria…who oppress the poor and crush the needy and say…’Bring us some drinks!'” (Amos 4:1).
I recently came across the following quote: “On all levels and in every aspect of our society, the poor are rejected, mistreated, and forced more deeply into their poverty. Christianity should have taken up the cause of the poor; better yet, it should have identified with the poor. Instead, during almost the entire course of its history, the Church has served as a prop of the powerful and has been on the side of exploiters and states”(Jacques Ellul)
May God have mercy on us all.