I have been spending the week in the book of Amos as I tag along on a work trip with my husband in New Orleans. This is our fourth visit to New Orleans. I love this city. I also grieve over this city. It’s a city full of depravity and deception on the most evident level, but it is also a city of beautiful architecture and personality. I use the reality of this city to keep me awake in my own because what you see lived out loud and in public display in this city is the same sin and brokenness that hearts in every home town are struggling with in their own private corners of darkness. There is nothing new under the sun. What you see in one place is happening in another. Whatever it is we are struggling with, we are never the only ones.
Amos chapter six begins with, “Woe to those who are at ease in Zion and to those who feel secure in the mountain of Samaria.” The book of Amos is a book of God’s pronounced judgment on His people. His people who had forgotten that their blessings were not of their own hands, but of the Lord. His people who had taken His blessings and used them to build their own names, their own houses, their own comforts, and to praise their own selves. They wrote songs to glorify themselves and anointed themselves with the finest of oils while they refused to care for others. They went through the motions of the Sabbath, but grumbled about it as they were anxious to get back to their businesses where they were able to cheat people to fatten their own pockets.
For three transgressions and for four is a repeated phrase in the first two chapter of the book of Amos as the Lord sends him out to prophecy against the nations. When we read these chapters we see that the transgressions are concerning how these nations have treated people. The Lord is judging these nations because they took advantage of hurting people. They took advantage of others struggles in order to profit from them for themselves. They even went so far as to break covenants of brotherhood in order to gain power. Eight nations are spoken against in the first two chapters of Amos and two of those eight were the Southern Kingdom of Israel (Judah) and the Northern Kingdom of Israel (Israel).
Through Amos we see that the people of Judah and the house of Israel were included in the nations facing the judgment of God. Amos 2:6 through Amos 9:10 is dedicated to the Northern Kingdom of Israel. The LORD, through Amos, shares with us how they did not care for the poor, but robbed them instead. They did not speak up for the afflicted. They sold the righteous for money. They trampled on the helpless. They rejected the law of the Lord and commanded His prophets to stay silent. They hated those who reproved in the gates and abhorred anyone who spoke with integrity. They turned justice and righteousness into wormwood as they ruled according to bribes. They didn’t just ignore the needs of others, but they saw them and used them against them in order to gain wealth and possessions. They not only forgot that they were blessed by God to be a blessing, but they became a curse to others and a source of evil instead of good.
In the days of Amos there were few who grieved over the ruin of the nation. The people had become apathetic. As long as they were secure in their own home and had what they needed they had no concern for the suffering of others. They had no concern for the lack of integrity and righteousness in the courts. They had no concern for the idolatry that was rampant in the nation even in the so called priests of God. They were not grieved that the name of the LORD was being blasphemed and that the people of God who were supposed to be a holy nation set apart to display HIs glory were far from holiness and sought only their own glory not the glory of the LORD their God.
We read of the warnings that the Lord sent the nation in Amos 4, but no matter the warning, the nation refused to return to Him. In Amos 5 we see the heart of God as He continues to call out to His children to seek Him that they might live. Through Amos, a simple herdsmen and grower of sycamore figs, the Lord cries out to a nation that has turned their back on Him in the hope that individuals in that nation will return to Him and be saved from the judgment that is to come. Will anyone hear? Will anyone be prepared to meet their God (Amos 4:12)?
As I read through this book I ask myself am I prepared? I mean I know Jesus. I am a believer. I am His child. I know all this, but am I prepared to have His holiness pass over me?
Am I grieved by the apathy and arrogance I see in the church among those who profess to be children of God?
AM I APATHETIC?
AM I ARROGANT?
Will I be brave enough to ask the Lord to open the eyes of my understanding that I might see my heart as He does?
Is my heart broken for what breaks the heart of the LORD God and if it is, what am I doing about it?
“Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord God,
“When I will send a famine on the land,
Not a famine for bread or a thirst for water,
But rather for hearing the words of the Lord.
“People will stagger from sea to sea
And from the north even to the east;
They will go to and fro to seek the word of the Lord,
But they will not find it. (Amos 8:11-12)
In the days of Amos the nation of Israel had forgotten that their might was in their righteousness and their righteousness was in their obedience to the word of the LORD God of hosts. They bought the lies of their flesh that convinced them that they were mighty in themselves. They looked around them and convinced themselves they were better than others and looked down their noses on the humble as they lifted their hearts even higher in their pride. They had no consideration for their Creator and turned to worship false gods that were fashioned by their own hands. They trusted in gods that were not living, but dead, and the simple reality is that we always become what we worship.
Do we take inventory of our church, of our home, of our own lives in such a way that we step back and say if I was lost and broken would I know how to find hope and healing here? Is my life, my family, my church focused on meeting the pressing needs of others (Titus 3:14)? Do we defend the helpless and the weak or do we stay silent for fear of drama and losing deep pocket members (Isaiah 1:17, Jeremiah 5:28)? Are we more concerned with ministries than actual ministry (Matthew 7:21-23)? Do we dismiss the Word of God in order to maintain our own power and control over others and our own self-made kingdoms (James 4:17-5:6)? Do we claim we exist to share the gospel and fulfill the great commission, but does that translate to us simply puffing one another up Sunday after Sunday (1 Timothy 6:17-21)? Do I hunger and thirst for the Word of the Lord or am I really only after the words of popular voices in our current culture?
There are so many questions to ask ourselves as we read through the book of Amos and really any of the prophets. As I stated in the first paragraph, there is nothing new under the sun. The same traps, the same sin, the same transgressions that captured the hearts of the children of Israel and led to their deception and destruction are the same ones that threaten to deceive and destroy us today. Let us be strong and courageous enough to allow the Spirit of God to have His way in us. Let us be broken enough that we are willing to allow the Light of Life to penetrate the darkest areas of our soul that we might be made whole and holy and fit for every good work. Our great and glorious Creator and Savior has given us everything we need to live godly and sensibly in this present age, in our generation, that we might be zealous for good deeds. (Titus 2:11-14). He has made us partakers of the Divine Nature through Jesus Christ His Son and His divine power has granted us everything we need to walk in obedience to His word and will (2 Peter 1:2-4).
We are without excuse.
Therefore, let us at the very least, begin with grieving over the ruin that we see before us. Let us grieve and let us seek our God and offer ourselves up as the Amoses of our day. Let us offer our bodies as living sacrifices holy and pleasing to the Lord that we might demonstrate the love of God to a skeptical yet still watching world while they are still willing to watch. As far as it be with me Lord let my life prove You as the True and Faithful One that I know You are.