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Amos 1-3
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30 Amos - 2005

In this study of the book of Amos, Skip Heitzig takes a look at how this uneducated prophet pronounced judgment on the prosperous yet corrupt nation of Israel and called for them to turn from their sin.

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You may be seated. Let's turn to the Book of Amos Chapter 1 as we continue our journey through the Bible. Amos Chapter 1. Back in 1957, a Christian man by the name of Wally Amos was enthusiastic about making cookies. And his brand of cookies became known as Famous Amos.

Well, unfortunately, more people have heard about that Amos than this Amos. And we aim to correct that by going through this book tonight. Amos was a prophet from Judah. That is down south. Yet God sent him up north.

A lot of times we read about these prophets who were living in the very area that they prophesied in, not Amos. Amos was from a town called Tekoa, which is out in the wilderness overlooking the Dead Sea area about 12 miles south, southeast of Jerusalem, about 6 miles from Bethlehem-- not much there. In fact, I think it was Amos who put it on the map. Nobody would have heard of Tekoa, probably, were it not frame.

Yet the Lord called Amos from that little wide area of the road, that hick town down in Judea, to leave that area and go up to Bethel, which was headquarters for the northern Kingdom of Israel. And there he was to prophesy. There he was to speak to them.

J. Vernon McGee says of Amos that he was the country preacher who came to town. That's how he would say it. And he was a country preacher.

And what's interesting about this country preacher Amos is that he wasn't a professional prophet. He will say in chapter 7, I'm really not a prophet by profession. I'm not the son of a prophet. But I was a herdsman from Tekoa and a picker of Sycamore figs.

And the Sycamore fig tree was a tree about 25 to 50 feet tall, very broad tree. And about three to four times a year, it produced this fruit that really wasn't the fig like you and I know the fig, but this fig-like fruit, the poor man's fig. And the kind of sheep that he was a herdsman of wasn't even the great sheep like you have in the temple sacrifices or what you would think of this soft cute fluffy white wool sheep, but a scraggly long-haired type of sheep, like a hippie sheep.

[LAUGHTER]

So to get a guy like Amos who kept those kinds of occupations to go up without any real formal background and give these messages to the sophisticates of Bethel in the northern kingdom is just like the Lord. God has chosen the foolish things of this world, the weak things, to confound the wise. It doesn't matter the instrument.

It matters whose hand the instrument is in. And so often, history will show that God takes just simple people who will say, Lord take me, use me. And he will use them for His glory.

Amos was a contemporary of another prophet. We read about him a few weeks back, Hosea. Hosea the prophet, though he spoke to the same area, the same vicinity of the 10 northern tribes of Israel, he had a very different style of message.

While Hosea was more from the heart emphasizing the love of God in the midst of judgment, Amos was more in your face speaking about the majesty of God, the justice of God, the holiness and righteousness of God-- representing the same Lord, but with a different emphasis in the message. So the words of Amos, who was among the sheep breeders of Tekoa-- which he saw concerning Israel in the days of Uzziah, the King of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam-- this is Jeroboam the second, not the one that we read about when the kingdom is split-- Jeroboam the second, the son of Jehoash, the King of Israel two years before the earthquake. The name Amos, well, even that sounds like kind of a country hick name, doesn't it?

But Amos means a burden or the bearer of a load. And God is burdened over his people and sends somebody who, as a missionary, would leave his home town and speak, speaks with the kind of burden that he is bearing for the judgment that is coming. Now, it mentions in verse 1 two years before the earthquake.

We're not sure exactly what and when that was. But the Jewish historian Josephus tells us that this earthquake happened when King Uzziah-- who for the most part was a pretty good king, a great leader for several years. But there was a time in his life when his heart was exalted.

He became prideful. In fact, it says in Second Chronicles 26, his heart was lifted up to his own destruction. He disobeyed God by going into the temple and acting like a priest, burning incense on the altar of incense.

That was a mistake he finds out as God judges him physically on his body. And it's Josephus that says an earthquake happened during that time. We're not sure. That's his take on it.

But it mentions an earthquake that was pretty notable, because it's still in their memory. So some great earthquake, what they would have called the big one, they recall. And it's written in verse 1.

And he said, the Lord roars from Zion. Now, remember once again, he's not in Jerusalem. He's not in Zion.

Zion is down south. That's an expression for Jerusalem. The Lord is roaring from Zion. Now, he comes from 12 miles southeast of Mount Zion. But the Lord is speaking not from Israel, but from Zion, from the temple. Because that is the central part of the worship system.

Israel up north, they have perverted it. They have their own worship system, their own altars, their own style. God has something to say, says this prophet. And he's roaring from Zion.

And he utters this voice from Jerusalem. The pastures of the shepherds mourn. And the top of Carmel-- now, that is up in the north-- withers.

You remember last week while we were studying Joel, there is a similar wording in the third chapter of Joel that the Lord roars. Back in Joel chapter 3, the Lord was roaring for Israel, against Israel's enemies. Here, the Lord is roaring against Israel herself, because of the sin.

Amos being a shepherd or, more precisely, a sheep herder, one who would breed these gnarly hippy sheep, he was familiar with what it was like to be a shepherd and to protect his sheep from the critters like the lions. And so much of the picturesque language, the idioms that he uses in this book, is from the language of a shepherd. And he was acquainted with the roar of a lion.

And he knew that if a lion roars, it means that's stage one. Whenever there's a roar of a lion, uh-oh, look out. The second stage is he will leap upon his prey, overtake them, and destroy them.

So the Lord is roaring in judgment. It can only mean one thing. God's about to judge. Now, we noticed that he says the top of Carmel withers.

Mount Carmel is that great and noticeable promontory in the northern parts of Israel that juts out toward the Mediterranean and today is the port of Haifa at the foot of Mount Carmel. It's a lush area. Today, it's been forested since 1948.

But it's always been a green verdant area known for growing grapes. The vineyards are lush in that area. It's rich pasture land. And it's just a great green belt area for Israel.

If Carmel withers, which is a little bit higher in elevation and closer to the coast, a place that has abundant rainfall, if Carmel is going to wither, imagine what the rest of the country will look like. So God from Jerusalem is proclaiming a judgment toward the north saying that they're most verdant places will be withered. Verse 3-- "thus, says the Lord, for three transgressions of Damascus and for four, I will not turn away it's punishment, because they have thrashed Gilead with implements of iron."

Let me just give you a little bit more setting so that you understand what he is saying and why he is saying it, so that as we get into it, it will make more sense. This prophet Amos is speaking of the Lord roaring from Zion with a message of judgment. At the time that Amos is giving his series of messages to the northern kingdom, they probably were experiencing the greatest peak of prosperity since the days of Solomon.

They had it made. Their borders had been expanded. And they enjoyed more land. They enjoyed more economic stability and freedom since the days of King Solomon.

Here's what was happening around them. The nation of Assyria came in and took over the nation of Syria or Iran, which is just north of Israel. And as some of you may remember, Israel and Syria were at odds for hundreds of years, having skirmishes, taking land, the other taking it back from the other, et cetera, until the Assyrians took over Syria.

When that happened, that allowed Israel to expand her borders east and northward, taking more land, having more prosperity, and enjoying the trade that would go from the north of Syria and all the way down to Egypt. It became a caravan route. So they were growing in wealth.

As they started prospering, they also started relaxing some of their restrictions, like the Sabbath day. Merchants thought, hey, why should we even bother with the Sabbath? They do that down in Jerusalem.

We have an alternate worship system. And we could get more money by working on the Sabbath. So from more prosperity and more prosperity, they started sinking into moral laxity.

They probably never were higher economically. They probably were never lower spiritually speaking. And so this prophet comes to peel off the veneer, the veneer of prosperity, the veneer of everything looks great.

He says, well, actually, it doesn't. And the Lord has a message. But here's his style. He has a message for Israel, but he doesn't begin with Israel.

We just read that the first prophecy is against Damascus. So this is what Amos does. He goes from Tekoa. He marches up toward Bethel. And he gathers a crowd around him.

And he begins by proclaiming God's judgment on the enemies of Israel. This would get them to go, yes, preach it. Right on, amen.

Oh, this guy's good. Don't you love Amos? What a great preacher.

So he starts with Damascus. He'll speak about the Philistines, Gaza. He'll go up north and speak about Tyre. He'll go east and speak about Edom and Ammon and Moab.

And he's drawing a circle of judgment around Israel. And then he'll move a little bit closer and go to Judah just down south. And what he is doing is effectively drawing a bullseye until he ends with Israel and sinks the arrow of the spirit right into their heart.

Just when they're going, yes, right, oh that's good, then he nails them. And you'll see that in chapters 1 and chapter 2. It's a back door approach.

So he begins with Damascus. And there will be seven nations before he gets to the eighth, which is Israel. He says, for three transgressions of Damascus and for four.

Now, you're going to notice that phrase repeated over and over again by Amos with all of the nations that he prophesized against. It's his style. And it's to be taken not arithmetically, but idiomatically.

Don't say, OK, I've got to count four sins. It's just a figure of speech. It would be equivalent to our modern figure of speech-- you've sinned one too many times or that's the straw that breaks the camel's back. So for three transgressions and for four, or enough is enough.

I will not turn away its punishment. Because they have thrashed Gilead with implements of iron. But I will send a fire into the house of Haza-el, which shall devour the palaces of Ben-Hadad. These were rulers up in Syria, Damascus.

I will also break the gate bar of Damascus and cut off the inhabitant from the valley of Aven, the valley of Ay-ven or Ah-ven is the modern day Beqaa Valley in that area. And the one who holds the scepter from Beth Eden or the House of Eden, the people of Syria, will go captive to Kir, says the Lord.

Some people have called Damascus the oldest city in the world. Of course, there's a few cities over there that people will say that about. They say Jericho's the oldest city in the world. So I guess it just depends what country you're in.

But it is an old area. That we know. It first appears in the Bible around Genesis 14. Damascus shows up. It's already been occupied.

It's been there a long time under Canaanite rule even before Abraham gets there. Damascus is, oh, about 135 miles to the north of Jerusalem. It is the capital.

Well, let me rephrase that. It was the capital of the ancient Aramean or Syrian empire. And, again, it hassled Israel for a long period of time.

What is the sin? Well, you'll notice in the text it's the cruel treatment of the Jews of Gilead. They treated them horribly. They mangled their bodies. He pictures it like an implement iron that they would thresh with.

Gilead, if you've been to Israel, is just across the Jordan River from the town we visited called Beit She'an. And if you gaze over toward the east as the hills start to rise, that's the area of Gilead. And so God pronounces judgment, and judgment came.

Around 732 BC, that area fell to the Assyrians. Now, in verse 6, thus says the Lord, for three transgressions of Gaza and for four, I will not turn away its punishment. Because they took captive the whole captivity to deliver them up to Edom.

But I will send a fire upon the wall of Gaza, which shall devour its palaces. I will cut off the inhabitants from Ashdod, the one who holds the scepter from Ashkelon. And I will turn my hand against Ekron. And the remnant of the Philistines shall perish, says the Lord God.

The Lord, through this country hick fig-picking preacher, is speaking to the people of Israel and enumerating the sins that Israel already knew about from the other nations. So you've got to picture the audience as he's speaking. They're going, yes, that's right.

Yes, amen. Shame on Gaza. And shame on the Syrians for what they've done to us. He mentions transgressions over and over again.

It's a strong Hebrew word, [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]. And it speaks about a deep-seated rebellion. It's not that they've just missed the mark.

It's just not that they have failed to be all that God wanted them to be. But it was several deliberate actions for which God is calling them into account. And here he speaks to Gaza or, really, the area of the Philistines.

The Philistines settled, you remember, along the sea coast even before the time of David, at the time of the Judges. They were an aggressive group of people who wanted the best of their land when they came in. And they took a strip of about 50 miles long by about 15 miles wide and established five cities. Four of them are mentioned here, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Gaza, Ekron. And the fifth not mentioned here is Gath.

And so we wonder. Since they're all mentioned, why isn't that one mention? And it's probably because it has already fallen to King Uzziah of Israel-- or of Judah, excuse me. And so it doesn't hold the same kind of sway anymore. So these four are mentioned.

And what is their sin? Well, it says that he will not turn away punishment, because they took the captive, the whole captivity, to deliver them up to Edom. That is, it was a wholesale expatriation, a movement of all of the Jews they had taken captive, and sold them for economic reasons to the long-standing enemies of the Jews, the Edomites.

So it's slave trade. They were all sold for commercial purposes to the cruel Edomites to make a profit. Just a word about the Philistines and Gaza-- it's interesting as you read this.

Because just as the Syrians with implements of iron came over into Gilead, for a long period of time the modern day Syrians have also, with their implements of iron, i.e. tanks, crossed over and flooded the land of Galilee through Gilead. So I just read that as then, boy, it's like a modern story that has happened within the last few generations. And then there's the mention of the Philistine area or the Gaza area.

And that's in the news these days, isn't it? Just recently-- that pull out of all of the Jews. All of them had to leave the area. And now, it's all under Palestinian control.

By the way, the word Palestine comes from the word Philistine. You see, the Philistines came in, settled the land, and they were conquered. And the town, the city, the area, was never called the land of the Philistines ever again.

They were sort of an extinct race until years later. 70 AD-- the Romans came in, destroyed Jerusalem. And about 135 AD when the emperor Hadrian came in and changed the name of the city of Jerusalem to Aelia Capitolina, to demoralize the Jews, he wanted to take away the name Israel and give them the ancient name of their enemies. So he called the land [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH], or land of the Palestinians, land of the Philistines. And so this same kind of dynamic that was happening then we're still seeing remnants of it these days.

Verse 9 is a prophecy, in the ears of the people of Israel, about Tyre. Thus says the Lord, for three transgressions of Tyre and for four, I will not turn away its punishment. Because they delivered up the whole captivity to Edom and did not remember the covenant of brotherhood. But I will send fire upon the wall of Tyre.

It rhymes, doesn't it? I'll send fire upon the wall of Tyre, which shall devour its palaces. If you go from Mount Carmel, which we mentioned in verse 1 and you go up the coast about 35 miles, you will come to the city of Tyre, the ancient Phoenician capital.

And their sin is much like the previous nation that is mentioned. That is, they took the Jews who were there and sold them to their long-standing enemies, the Edomites. However, what the Lord is really angry about is a broken covenant, a broken deal-- as he calls it here, the covenant of brotherhood.

You remember that King David was a good friend of the King of Tyre named Hiram. There was an understanding between them. It was almost like a brotherhood.

And though Hiram never helped David like he helped Solomon, that brotherhood lasted into the reign of Solomon. So that the materials of the temple, because of David, because of that relationship that Hiram and David had, he supplied so many of the materials for the building of the temple in Jerusalem. There was an understanding. They were giving each other help, giving each other helpers, giving each other goods.

But here, it's mentioned you didn't remember the covenant of brotherhood. That was broken. You sinned against me by breaking the friendship that Hiram, your old King, and David, Israel's old King, had. And you sold his people to the Edomites.

God is a God who holds integrity in high esteem. You have a covenant. You sign a contract. You have an understanding. You give your word. You keep your word.

And here, the covenant was broken. Just an important note-- no King of Israel ever had attacked Tyre. This was the first time there was this overt animosity. And it came from Tyre against Israel.

Well, God promises their fall. I will send a fire upon the wall of Tyre, which shall devour its palaces. And it came.

It came via the missiles that were launched into that city by the Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar. And he effectively wiped out the city, not totally, but dismantled it as far as a power was concerned. Now, they rebuilt the city once Nebuchadnezzar had taken them.

But they moved the city about a half a mile out into the sea. We've already discussed this in previous prophecies. When Alexander the Great came years later, around 332, 333 BC, as he was marching across the world and taking over kingdom after kingdom, he came to Tyre and asked for supplies to help him move in his journey of taking over the world.

The Tyrians refused to help him. So because they did, he thought, well, then let's just sort of camp here and destroy this city since they didn't help me. But he knew the Phoenicians were skilled fighters at sea. So he didn't want to approach that island that they had built out in the sea.

And he built a causeway by taking the debris from the Babylonian battle years before and dumping it into the ocean-- effectively, made a walkway to this new island city, now a peninsula, and destroyed the city, scraping it clean. And it was never rebuilt to that extent again. 6,000 people were immediately slaughtered. Another 2,000 were crucified. And 30,000 were taken as slaves.

Even as predicted, I will send a fire on the wall of Tyre. And it will devour its palaces. So Nebuchadnezzar and Alexander fulfilled that.

Now, verse 11-- Edom is in view. So we're going east of the land. Thus says the Lord, for three transgressions of Edom and for four, I will not turn away its punishment. Because he pursued his brother with the sword and cast off all pity. His anger tore perpetually. And he kept his wrath forever.

But I will send a fire upon Teman. That is one of the chief cities of the area, which will also devour the palaces of Bozrah. Edom descended from Esau. And Esau, you know, was the brother of Jacob.

We know that Esau was a man of the flesh. He sold his birthright to his brother Jacob. He didn't care about spiritual things.

And so Jacob got the blessing, because his brother really didn't care, sold it, wasn't interested in spiritual things, but rather personal gratification. And here, one brother, one group of relatives who came from that offspring, fought against this other group to destroy them. So the mention of-- he pursued his brother with a sword and cast off all pity. So the judgment is against that area as well.

Now, Ammon is mentioned. We're still on the east side. Thus says the Lord, for three transgressions of the people of Ammon and for four, I will not turn away its punishment. Because they ripped open the women with child in Gilead that they might enlarge their territory.

The policy of the Ammonites was extermination for the sake of expansion. Be brutal. Go in and kill anyone and everyone, even those pregnant with child.

They were indiscriminate in their attacks. Why? Because they wanted to expand their borders. So they so devalued human life that God took notice of this. And God will judge them.

By the way, that was the same policy called [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH] that the Nazis used in World War II. Kill anyone. Kill everyone who doesn't go along with our expansion of the borders of Europe.

But I will kindle a fire in the wall of Rabba. And it shall devour its palaces amid shouting in the day of battle and a tempest in the day of the world when their kings shall go into captivity, he and his princes together, says the Lord. Rabba was the chief city. It's modern day Amman, Jordan. If you fly into Amman, Jordan where the airport is, that's the modern rebuild of the city of Rabba.

And God says, I'll kindle a fire there, which happened five years after the destruction of Jerusalem, which happened in 586 BC. So we're years out here in this prophecy, since he's prophesying, oh, about 760 BC.

Israel will fall and about 722 BC, Judah will fall in 586 BC. And five years after that, the Ammonites will fall and really never come back to power after that.

Now, so far we notice in all of these predictions, all of these judgments, a common thread. God is judging these nations, because they ill-treated the Jews. And the Lord promised whoever touches you, touches the apple of my eye.

The Lord promised Abraham, I will bless those who bless you. I will curse whoever curses you. When was the last time you met a Canaanite? When was the last time you had lunch with a Philistine?

The Babylonians lost all world dominion. All of the nations virtually, even those who had great, great sway and authority over nations on the Earth, pale in comparison, even nations like England who ruled the seas, Egypt who at one time ruled the world, Germany and their stand against the Jews. All of those nations have diminished considerably.

And here, God promises, in some cases, an all out extinction of these peoples. It leaves us with a lesson. If ever we side with the world in their ill-treatment of other believers or whenever we go out of our way to attack other believers those who belong to the Lord, watch what you're doing.

The Lord takes it very seriously as if you're attacking him. When Saul of Tarsus was going from Jerusalem up to Damascus and he was, in his heart, doing the right thing-- he was Jewish. And he was sort of like the apologist for the Jewish faith.

I'm going to protect Judaism from this new sect, this cult called Christians. And I'm going to do it to the glory and honor of God. When he was going up to arrest them and throw them into prison and the Lord got his attention and he's there on the ground looking up, the Lord Jesus spoke to him and said, Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?

Now, that threw him for a loop. He was already on the ground. And he said, who are you, Lord? So he had a hunch God was speaking to him.

The Lord said, I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. Now, in his mind, he wasn't after Jesus. He was after the people who called on Jesus.

But Jesus is, in effect, saying, you touch them, and I take it personally. You are persecuting me. So these, in the Old Testament, God's people, the Lord is after.

Now, we continue in Amos 2 with the sixth nation, and that is Moab. Now, you've got a picture, again, the audience that Amos is speaking to. He's giving these bold messages of judgment.

And all the people in Bethel are going, right on, like this country preacher. He's got something to say. Let's invite our friends next time he preaches.

But just hold on. He's going to draw that bullseye in a little bit closer each time. Now, he's at Moab just next to them. Thus says the Lord, for three transgressions of Moab and for four, I will not turn away its punishment. Because he burned the bones of the king of Edom to lime.

But I will send a fire upon Moab. And it shall devour the palaces of Kirioth. Moab shall die with tumult, with shouting, and trumpet sound. And I will cut off the judge from its midst and slay all its princes with him, says the Lord.

Moabites were descendants of Lot along with the Ammonites, that incestuous relationship just after the fall of Sodom and Gomorrah. The Moabites had been long-standing enemies of the Jews. And you remember according to the law, the Torah, Deuteronomy says that the Moabites were cursed so that up to the 10th generation, they were not to enter the house of the Lord.

The Moabites worshiped a God by the name of Chemosh. And in their worship, it must have been their worship system that made them treat people very cruelly. Because there was cruelty in their worship.

They would take first born babies and sacrifice them to the God Chemosh. So their worship system was not even humane. It was cruel from the get-go.

So not only were these guys cruel in their worship, they were also cruel in the way they treated people after death. For the indictment against them is that he burned the bones of the King of Edom to lime. That is, he desecrated the body of the King of Edom after death.

Now, in those days at death, burial was a very sacred time. And those peoples took it very seriously to desecrate the human corpse after death. Because they always thought that a person when he dies, in fact, you'll see the phrase over and over again, was gathered to his fathers. And that family resting place, that burial place, shouldn't be disturbed.

So the cruelty in their worship, the cruelty in their treatment of people after death-- and the reference here to the way they treated the King of Edom, it could be that there is a scripture that refers to this specifically. Let me read it to you. It's in Second Kings Chapter 3. And this is what it says.

"And when the King of Moab saw that the battle was too fierce for him, he took with him 700 men who drew swords to break through to the King of Edom. But they could not. Then he took his eldest son, that is the son of the King of Edom, who would have reigned in his place and offered him as a burnt offering upon the wall. And there was great indignation against Israel. So they departed from him and returned to their own land."

That could be the very incident that is referred to prophetically here. And God promises that he would judge them. Now, Amos is getting closer and closer to Israel.

Now, he's going to get even closer and go down south and bring an indictment against Judah, where the temple is, his own homeland. Tekoa was not far from Jerusalem. And he's going to bring a judgment against Judah.

Now, up to this point, the audience has been nodding their heads thinking this guy's doing a good job. He's a good preacher. He's speaking God's judgment against our enemies.

Now, he's touching Judah. They may start to squirm a little bit at this point. But they still didn't like Judah.

There's always been a rivalry between the south and the north. There's been this civil war going on. So that's OK. And they can tolerate this.

Judah verse 4-- thus says the Lord, for three transgressions of Judah and for four, I will not turn away it's punishment. Because they have despised the law of the Lord and have not kept his commandments. But their lies, referring to the idols that they worship, their lies lead them astray, lies which their fathers followed.

But I will send fire upon Judah. And it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem. Now, if they were smart, at this point in the message, they'd start connecting the dots.

Because they would have thought, OK, Judah is the place of the temple. We broke away from them. Our worship isn't what the law prescribes.

Judah has the temple worship, the priesthood, et cetera, et cetera. If God is going to indict them for breaking his law, hm, I wonder where that leaves us. Now, if they were thinking that in their minds, soon they'll not have to think about it any longer. Because this prophet will nail dead on and speak about that in the next section.

But here, he speaks against Judah. Now, there is a principle here. And it is one of the important principles of the Book of Amos. And it's this.

Jesus said, to whom much has been given, much shall be required. The very reason that God is going to judge Judah and Israel is because you've got these pagan nations that didn't have the law of God. Judah had the law of God.

Israel, originally, was abiding by the law of God. These other nations didn't have it. God will judge them according to their sins of conscience about the way they treated people and just their own world view, their own conscience. God will judge Judah and Israel based upon their rejection of his revealed law.

And so verse 6-- well, no, look back in that verse before that. He says, there lies lead them astray, lies which their father followed. The lies are referring to the idols that they worshipped.

And he calls the idols lies. Why? Because idolatry deceived them. They may have said things like, well, it doesn't matter what we worship as long as we worship something and are very sincere-- lie.

Well, these images that we make, these statues, these are the gods that will help us-- lie. And their whole system was built upon deception so that God calls the idol worship a lie, which is interesting to me for a couple of different reasons based in scripture. In the book of Romans, Paul speaks about false worship of the nations around.

And he says, they exchanged the truth of God for the lie-- the lie-- and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forevermore, amen. It's the same definition of deception, false worship. Then Paul in Second Thessalonians as he speaks of the coming judgment upon the Earth during the time of the Anti-Christ, says God will send them a strong delusion that they should believe the lie.

And again, the lie refers to the false image that will be set up by the false prophet of the Anti-Christ in the holy place in Jerusalem, the lie of false worship. Now, verse 6, if they were squirming in their seats at this point, they would surely be very angry. Beginning in verse 6, he puts the red dot in the middle of the bullseye.

Thus says the Lord, for three transgressions of Israel and for four, I will not turn away its punishment. Because they sell the righteous for silver and the poor for a pair of sandals. I heard about a woman who was at a meeting, an evangelistic meeting.

What drew her to this meeting was she heard that the preacher really preached against sin. And she liked old-fashioned preaching fire and brimstone, hell and damnation. She loved it.

And so the preacher started ranting and raving against the sins of the culture. And she loved it. He started speaking out against alcoholism, and she shouted out, amen.

And he started speaking out against tobacco. And she said, preach it, brother, until he talked about a third sin that made her very uncomfortable. He started talking about the great sin of gossip.

And she started squirming a little bit. And then she leaned over to her neighbor and said, now, he's not preaching. He's meddling.

[LAUGHTER]

At this point, Amos was meddling with Israel. He's preaching about the sins of all the other nations, and then finally Judah. And now, he comes to them, Israel.

And he nails them. He says, they sell the righteous for silver and the poor for a pair of sandals. They pant after the dust of the Earth, which is on the head of the poor and pervert the way of the humble. A man and his father go into the same girl, that is the temple prostitute in one of the temples of Ashtart to defile my holy name.

So Israel in prosperity had more outwardly, economically, than ever before. But they have sunk inwardly, spiritually, to such a low level-- idolatry, oppression of the poor, and unbridled lust. They lie down, verse 8, by every altar on clothes taken in a pledge and drink the wine of the condemned in the house of their God.

Three times in this book Amos will center his messages against Israel's treatment of the poor, their oppression of the poor. And here is a very grievous sin. Sometimes the poor would have to give a pledge, that is a promise of paying off debt. And he'd have to give the only thing he really owned, and that was his outer garment.

The law in Deuteronomy chapter 24 forbade the Jews from keeping a poor man's cloak overnight, because it was his warmth. It was his only way of protecting himself from the elements. So the requirement is give it back before sunset. It's the only thing he has to sleep in.

But they would abscond with these garments, and then sleep on them at the base of these pagan altars when they were worshipping. So just that combination of degradation after degradation-- and drink the wine of the condemned in the house of their God. Now, there's a great point to be made.

All of these nations that God was condemning, they would have understood. After all, they treated us, the chosen people, so poorly. But now God is getting after Judah and Israel.

And it's for this reason. These other nations didn't have what Judah and Israel had. The other nations didn't have the revelation of God that came through the prophets, the revelation of God that came through the representatives that God sent to them.

They didn't have that. Yes, they sinned against nature. Yes, they sinned against their conscience. But these Jewish people, God revealed time and time again. And God promised great blessings.

And yet, after all of that, they forsook the Lord. Paul said in Ephesians chapter 5 that we are to be imitators of God as dear children. That is, our own life and our own walk ought to resemble God, not resemble the other nations around us. There ought to be a difference.

There ought to be a family resemblance. Because they had taken themselves down to the level of other nations and even worse, because they sinned against the light. Their judgment will even be more severe.

Now, in verse 9, God will point back to his care and how much he loved them and what he's done for them and their ingratitude in the midst of it. Yet it was I who destroyed the Amorite before them, whose height was like the height of the cedars. And he was as strong as the oaks. Yet I destroyed his fruit above and his roots beneath.

The Amorites mentioned were the largest and most notable of the Canaanites. So when we read the term Amorites, he's taken collectively all of these Canaanites under that one name Amorites, just like he'll say to Ephraim a message of judgment. And that could mean the entire 10 northern tribes-- so the Amorites or the Canaanites that were there on the land.

Now, notice their description-- their height is like cedars. Now, that hearkens back to the incident back in Numbers 13, when spies were sent into the land from the Sinai area to spy it out. And the 12 spies came back. And 10 of them said, oh, these guys over there are huge. And we are grasshoppers in their sight.

We can't go in and take this land. There's too many of them. And they're too big. Except-- Joshua and Caleb, who said, oh hey, the bigger they are, the harder they fall. Surely, we can do this. The Lord will be with us.

The 10 saw the giants through their strength. The two saw the giants through God's strength. Let's take the land. Let's be men of faith. Let's march in.

But the 10 were fearful of it. So here's the logic of God's judgment. In spite of my goodness, in spite of my promises, in spite of all of that, you have refused. You have spurned my goodness to you even though I delivered you from Egypt, I kept to you, et cetera.

Also, it was I who brought you up from the land of Egypt and led you 40 years through the wilderness to possess the land of the Amorite. Now, they, that is this generation of the Israelites in Bethel, would have no living memory of that. They'd heard of this episode, of course. They all did.

But they weren't around. So look at the next verse. I raised up some of your sons as prophets and some of your young men as Nazarites. Is it not so, oh, you children of Israel, says the Lord?

But you gave the Nazarites wine to drink and commanded the prophet saying, do not prophesy. God is saying, I was faithful by precept and by practice to get my message to you. By precept, I sent you prophets.

They made declarations. They gave you encouragements. They brought strong denunciations. Then I also sent you people who would exemplify separation and holiness, the Nazarites.

Those were those men who took a vow and would live that life of separation in the midst of their brethren. So that the children of Israel were able to hear God's word and see what God-- I pointed to the wrong eyes-- see the example of these men before them. But once again, though they heard, though they saw, they treated the prophets in a mocking fashion and tried to get the Nazarite, who said I can't drink any wine or have anything of the grape or the fruit of the vine, tried to get them drunk.

Now, we'll read later on that Amos himself is the object of scorn. They will say, leave us. Flee from us, prophet. They did it to Jeremiah. The men of Anathoth treated him scornfully, reproached him, threatened him.

So all of those messengers that God sent time after time were scorned by these people. They had so much. And they pushed God away so often.

Verse 13- "behold, I am weighed down by you as a cart full of sheaves is weighed down." Here's that picturesque farming language, just as those wood carts would be laden with the materials from the harvest. "Therefore, flight shall perish from the swift. The strong shall not strengthen his power, nor shall the mighty deliver himself.

He shall not stand who handles the bow. The swift of foot shall not escape, nor shall he who rides a horse deliver himself. The most courageous men of might shall flee naked in that day, says the Lord."

In other words, there is no turning back from the judgment of God after this repeated offense of turning God's prophets, God spokesmen, and forfeiting God's grace time after time. Now, let's just apply that. We live in what they call the age of grace.

And indeed, God is pouring out his grace on Israel and on anyone who will call upon his name. However, if you refuse God's offer of grace and salvation freely through Jesus Christ, there is absolutely no alternative but the judgment of God. If you live and continually push away the movement of the spirit to bring you to Christ in this age of grace, then the only thing that is left is an eternal hopeless future banished from God in hell forever.

So God offers grace. But behind that grace is also the possibility of judgment if his grace is pushed aside. Now, in Amos chapter 3, we have a little bit of a change.

If chapters 1 and 2 are the roar of God in judgment, chapters 3 through 6-- and 5 and 6 and 7 we'll cover next week-- are the reasons that God gives for judgment. And basically, God gets a little bit more in detail as to the reasons why he is going to judge the people.

And there is a series of five messages. And a few of them begin with the phrase, "here the word." So in chapter 3, 4, and 5, the messages all begin with that little phrase, "hear the word." Those are the first three messages.

And the second two messages will begin with the phrase "woe to you." So-- five messages where God will list the reasons for his judgment. Verse 1-- "hear this word that the Lord has spoken against you, oh, children of Israel against the whole family which I brought up from the land of Egypt saying. You only have I known of all the families in the Earth. Therefore, I will punish you for all of your iniquities."

No doubt some of the people were saying, Amos, excuse me, I take offense to your very pointed message of judgment against us. After all, are we not God's chosen people? And why would God go to all the trouble of giving us prophets and giving us the law and making us his chosen people? He wouldn't judge us.

And Amos will say, that's the very reason God will judge you. Because you of all the peoples of the Earth were specially selected to have an intimate beautiful relationship with God. And you wouldn't have it.

God gave you the prophets. God gave you the law. You disobeyed the law. You made fun of the prophets. You mocked the Nazarites.

And because you were given so much, much is required. Now, that is also a principle in part that is in the New Testament. Peter says in First Peter chapter 4 verse 17, the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God.

So we find it interesting and in character, as the early church is birthed and it is pure and growing and beautiful, that the very first time that corruption enters the church in a monumental demonstrative way with an Ananias and Sapphira, God kills them. Doesn't mean he sends them to hell.

He's just showing that impurity has come to my vineyard, my flock, my church. And this is God responding to it. Judgment begins at the house of God. They've been given so much.

Now, that is a singular incident. We don't find that repeated every time chicanery goes on in the church. But it certainly did at its inception.

God has the right to clean up. And he does that here with Israel. And in part, we see that principle even in the New Testament. Now, there's a series of several questions beginning in verse 3.

And it's to prick their conscience and to get them to think as he goes through these reasons. Can two walk together unless they are agreed? If you see a couple of people walking down the street, it's because there's some sort of agreement.

They agreed to be together. They agreed to go in the same direction. They may have agreed on a special time to meet and a special place that they would walk to.

It shows an agreement if they're going to walk together. And what God is basically saying is, how can I walk with you favorably when you've decided to walk in sin? How can two walk together, except they are agreed?

Will a lion roar in the forest when he has no prey? Will a young lion cry out of his den if he has caught nothing? Now, again, Amos was a shepherd.

And he knew the practice of the lions. As they would go out and hunt their prey, they would roar, and then they would pounce. But also, when the lions who hunted would bring their prey back to the den, the young lions who were in the den seeing mom bring home the food, they would also get so excited and aroused. And they would start roaring as well.

And so he is saying, do you think God's going to roar like this through me, his profit, and not intend to follow through with judgment? It's going to happen. "Will a bird--" verse 5-- "fall into a snare on the Earth where there is no trap for it?

Will a snare spring up from the Earth if he has caught nothing at all? If a trap springs, it's because something has been caught. And so, too, the traps or the instruments of God's judgment will find their prey.

If a trumpet--" verse 6-- "is blown in the city, will not the people be afraid? If there is a calamity and the city, will not the Lord have done it?" And so the trumpets sometimes blown for festivals, sometimes blown for holy convocations, or meetings, or the beginning or the end of a Sabbath-- there was also the alarm or the trumpet that was sounded, because of an impending doom.

The alarm bell went off, the alarm clock. The enemy is approaching. And Amos is sounding the alarm to notify of God's approaching judgment by the Assyrian Empire.

So the first reason that Amos gives is because Israel has occupied such a high and privileged position and, in that position, didn't take it seriously, didn't take it responsibly, but refused God's overtures of grace and mercy and revelation. God will judge. The second reason is because of Israel's prophetic revelation, verse 7.

Surely, the Lord God does nothing unless he reveals his secret to his servants, the prophets. A lion has roared. Who will not fear? The Lord God has spoken. Who can, but prophesy?

So often, when God was about to do something, he would fill in his representative, a prophet, somebody who would be able to understand what God was doing, and then to convey to others what has been revealed to him by God. So before God judged the Earth with a flood, God told Noah exactly what he was going to do. And Noah was called the preacher of righteousness, who proclaimed to his generation the soon and coming judgment of God, which they laughed him to scorn over that.

And he was one of the eight that survived. God told Abraham about the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah before he went down to check it out and judge those two cities. In fact, the Lord was talking to himself and perhaps the two angels that were with them there in Genesis 18. Shall I not reveal these things to Abraham, my servant?

The Lord told Joseph in a dream the famine that was coming upon the world and principally Egypt before it came. And even Jesus told His disciples about the coming fall of Jerusalem, which happened in 70 AD. All of these were told to the representatives of God before they happened.

So a lion has roared. "Who will not fear?" Verse 8-- "the Lord God has spoken? Who can but prophesy?" So just as fear results when the lion roars, the prophet has spoken, prophesied, because God has stirred him up. And that should bring fear in the hearts of the people.

And this is what the bottom line, the prophet, is saying. Listen, Israel, God's judgment shouldn't surprise you, because you have been forewarned. You've been told in advance. Here I am, a prophet, telling you what's going to come down.

Now, the third reason-- and we close with this for judgment-- Israel's persistent oppression of the poor. Proclaim in the palaces in Ashdod and in the palaces and the land of Egypt and say, assemble on the mountains of Samaria and see great tumults in her midst and the oppressed within her. So it is as if the Lord is summoning all of this nation to come and scope it out. Watch what I am about to do to my own people.

Come and gather. Come close, and watch what's going to befall these places, Sumeria. For they do not know-- or excuse me, "for they do not know to do right, says the Lord, who store up violence and robbery in their palaces. Therefore, thus says the Lord God, an adversary shall be all around the land. He shall sap your strength from you. And your palaces shall be plundered."

They were enjoying opulence and prosperity and great affluence. And all of those palaces, some of them very ornate, would be destroyed. The first 12 for me is very interesting, very intriguing.

"Thus says the Lord, as a shepherd takes from the mouth of a lion two legs or a piece of an ear, so shall the children of Israel be taken out who dwell in Sumeria in the corner of a bed and on the edge of a couch." The message to me here is that in wrath God remembers mercy. You see, a shepherd whose job it was to protect the flock, if a sheep was taken, he had to go out and search for it.

And he had to bring whatever remnant of that sheep, if the sheep had been eaten by some adversary, a lion or a wolf or a coyote. He had to take the pieces of that lamb and bring it back and show the owner. This is what happened, and I can prove it.

I tried to protect this little thing. It got away. This animal tore it to pieces. And here's the proof.

But what the Lord is saying is that, yes, the Assyrians will come down. You will fall. 722 BC is a-coming. But a remnant will be spared. Not every one, not the totality of the population, will go into captivity or be destroyed.

A remnant, as seen here as parts of a devoured sheep, will remain. Herein, testify against the house of Jacob, says the Lord God, the God of hosts, that in the day I punish Israel for their transgressions, I will also visit destruction on the altars of Bethel. And the horns of the altar shall be cut off and fall to the ground.

I will destroy the winter house, along with the summer house. So there's some pretty well-to-do, folks that could afford both. And God will be indiscriminate. The houses of ivory shall perish. The great houses shall have an end, says the Lord.

So Amos, a country bumpkin from Tekoa used to be a bold, courageous faithful representative of God in downtown Bethel. With all of the educated wealthy folks, he gives a very, very dangerous, but needed, message. In the Chinese language, the word for crisis is a combination of two words, [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH].

And each is a word that has its own meaning, but in combination is taken for the word crisis. [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH] means dangerous. [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH] means opportunity, so that the Chinese definition of an opportunity is a dangerous crisis. The prophet Amos saw this as an opportunity to take God's message.

He was just used to sheep, hippy sheep. And to go up and speak to God's flock, God's wayward flock, oh, it would be dangerous. He would face a hostile crowd, especially when he speaks to them directly about their sin.

But it was an opportunity to tell them that they have offended a holy God in hopes that they would heed the message. The Lord has given us a wonderful dangerous opportunity to be his light, his witness, in this world, to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ. The world won't want to hear it. The world may laugh at you.

You might get fired because of it. You might be mistreated because of it. You might not get the raise because of it. But what the Lord might do through a faithful bold, courageous, witness-- wonderful to see what might happen this week as we face our crises, dangerous opportunity, to get the gospel out.

Let's pray together. Lord, how we thank You for the example in Your word of such strong, bold men like Amos, simple people really, a fruit picker, a fig picker, a sheep herder from Tekoa, the backwaters of Judah, an overlook point out toward the wilderness. Yet, You got a hold of his life, and he was open to You. And You used him powerfully.

Lord, I think of all of the men and women who have left this fellowship over the years and You have used so mightily on the mission field, starting up churches, mission organizations, ministries, et cetera, who have seized the opportunity, who have been your spokespersons. Lord, I also believe that here in this room tonight and those listening by radio, You're speaking to and You're calling to be spokesman, to get the message out. Lord, use them. Fill them with Your spirit. In Jesus' name, amen.

Let's stand. The pastors are down here at the front to minister to you tonight who are going through issues that you need prayer. You'd like someone to pray with you and to pray for you. So we'd encourage you, as soon as we're dismissed, come on down. And they're here to minister to you tonight.

May the Lord watch over and keep you in his love and cause you to just draw close to him this week, closer than you have ever been before. May the Lord go with you and keep you in his love and fill you with his spirit and enable you to do his work in his way for Jesus' sake.

(SINGING) Sing alleluia to the lord.

(SINGING) Sing alleluia to the lord.

(SINGING) Sing alleluia to the lord.

(SINGING) Sing alleluia.

(SINGING) Sing alleluia, sing alleluia, sing alleluia to the lord.

(SINGING) Sing alleluia to the lord.

(SINGING) Sing alleluia to the lord.

(SINGING) Sing alleluia to the lord.

(SINGING) Sing alleluia.

(SINGING) Sing alleluia, sing alleluia, sing alleluia to--

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10/30/2005
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Amos 4-6
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11/6/2005
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Amos 7-9
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