Concerning Damascus: Cruelty

Amos 1:2-5

Don’t have to look far to find cause to wonder about our world – what is wrong with people? What possesses people to think and act way they do? Even well-meaning folks who maybe get carried away.

Missouri woman, dog chewed shoelaces. Tied one around muzzle, posted pic on facebook. Dog only “punished” for 45 seconds. Complaints, arrested for animal cruelty.

Probably no surprise: 1990 – 6 states w/felony provisions in animal cruelty laws; 2010 – 46 states. Why is that? Number of reasons – discovery of prevalence of evolutionary thinking, “animal rights”, e.g. In 2008 ASPCA formed nation’s first Mobile Animal Crime Scene Investigation Unit. Also other factors:

“another significant reason for the increased attention to animal cruelty is a mounting body of evidence about the link between such acts and serious crimes of more narrowly human concern, including illegal firearms possession, drug trafficking, gambling, spousal and child abuse, rape and homicide. …in a 1997 survey of 48 of the largest shelters in the United States for victims of domestic violence and child abuse, more than 85 percent of the shelters said that women who came in reported incidents of animal abuse; 63 percent of the shelters said that children who came in reported the same.”

Multiple emails just in last week from Church Mutual:

Bullying is a serious problem for many churches, schools and youth ministries around the country. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to reduce its effects. To begin with, make sure your organization has an anti-bullying policy and that it covers the three critical areas.”

Cruelty, whatever the form, a kind of evil that is offensive to God. Cruelty is behavior that deliberately causes pain to another. May include indifference to suffering, even pleasure from inflicting it. Clearly contrary to nature of God on numerous levels, consequently is morally wrong by its nature. Yet that is what God denounces Syria for practicing toward Israelites.

a. reprise – Yahweh roars v.2

God is serious about evil

without introduction to soften his statement, Amos declares purpose in speaking plainly – God is on the attack against evil and evildoers

important to remember – evil does not exist apart from evildoers – if it did, God would send evil to hell, let people go free

God not quiet about his advance against evil – he roars, he gives voice to his displeasure and unchanging intent to deal with sin

God has a history – remember Elijah

showdown between prophets of Baal and prophet of God – true God spoke loudly / clearly from heaven, turning sacrifice, stones and water into pile of cinders

God’s thundering would bring curses to bear on Israel and surrounding nations for breaking / failing to keep terms of covenant

think of God’s covenant as being only with Israel – true to extent; however, as Israel was light to surrounding nations, if any one of them committed to obeying terms of covenant, God would have blessed them too

first, his people in view… and accountable

Implicitly the poem declares that the covenant has been violated and that Yahweh must enforce its punishment provisions. Like a predatory lion, his voice “thunders”—not a thunder producing rain, but a thunder producing devastation.” Word

absence of pillar of cloud / fire not equivalent to absence of God from among his people – very much present, expecting them to follow his decrees just as before

not just his people – all nations accountable to God

God’s law as visible expression of his character applies as rule of life to all people in all of God’s creation

will deal with other nations first, then ultimately judge his people – perhaps will heed warning, make personal application

A. sin upon sin v.3a

I will punish Syria for countless crimes, and I won’t change my mind.” CEV

not one time stepped over the line, is for habitual wrongdoing – characteristic of all those identified in litany of nations

consequences also not immediate – enough time passed to establish behavior pattern, stubborn persistence in it

Syria’s crimes under Hazael from previous century, during time of Elisha – read 2 Ki. 8:7-14

God not angry with Syria because they attacked Israel – is provoked with them because of war crimes

they were God’s agent to bring about change in Israel: read 2 Ki. 10:32-33 – Israel had shown her own pattern of rebellion

not once, but repeatedly, disobeyed God’s laws beginning with Ben-Hadad and his army during siege of Samaria

B. particular, egregious sin – cruelty v.3b

unnecessary harshness, especially in conduct of war with neighbor and its aftermath

unbelievable hardship on Samaritans because of Syrian siege – read 2 Ki. 6:24-29

Hazael learned lessons well: 2 Ki. 8:15 – began his reign in israel by murdering Ben-hadad, smothered with wet blanket

Elisha used literal language to describe predatory behavior of Hazael: “Their strongholds you will set on fire, and their young men you will kill with the sword; and you will dash their children, and rip open their women with child.”

Amos used figurative language: “they have threshed Gilead with implements of iron.” – “slaughter was as cruel as if someone had taken an iron-toothed threshing machine used on grain threshing floors to free the grain for winnowing, and run it over helpless people instead.”

C. consequences v.4-5

profit from cruelty consumed

whatever additional gain Syrians might have realized from their sinful behavior – God was going to strip it away

at one point in career, Jehoash (Judah) used everything of value in Temple to buy peace from Hazael (2 Ki. 12:18) – lasted for all of a year, then Hazael advanced again

God’s consuming fire would remove all that from Syria’s use, also anything else they had acquired from hostilities in Israel

made vulnerable to other “predators”

not simply case of palace tragedy, making king homeless – his dynasty would come to an end; will be on receiving end of war that ends badly for them

both defenses and leadership removed – unable to resist invasion from outside enemy, vulnerable to attack, no leader to mount defense or counter-attack

no longer possibility for cruelty to be passed down line of kings, each one more evil than one previous – see 2 Kings 21:20ff, Manasseh on with one exception, Josiah

ultimately reduced to slavery

those who had boasted in superiority, used it to evil advantage now object of another’s cruelty, slaves to their enemies

exactly what God brought about when Assyria made move toward Israel 25 years later – read 2 Ki. 16:5-9

D. today

perhaps not practiced in same way on national level with actual bloodshed, but takes place in other ways and on personal level

nationally

any form of real oppression is form of cruelty – the powerful take pleasure in making others dependent, keeping them that way

social programs, income redistribution, economic slavery present in 3rd world countries, caste system in India

sub-nationally: ISIS, Boko Haram, al Quaeda reveling in cruel barbaric behavior simply for its own sake

personally

bullying – at least perceived epidemic enhanced by media attention, yet where there’s smoke there’s fireh has some basis

pranks/AFV – amusement or entertainment at expense of someone else, often involving (at least potential) for serious harm/injury

along same lines, behaviors associated with pornography, gratuitous violence that is central premise in many movies/video games/music

home-based abuse – spousal, child, physical, verbal – willful behavior intended to cause pain and enable control of another

E. why a problem

God’s character – God is love (1 John 4:8) and love seeks what is best for the other person, takes pleasure when they get it

flip of that also true – “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” Rom. 12:15 – no room for cruelty there

God’s kindness/grace/mercy

keep going in 1 John, v.11, “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” – obviously applies to love, also to other emotions/actions

God has showed great kindness to us, we must be kind to others… the exact opposite of cruelty

God is gracious to us, not only giving what we don’t deserve and cannot earn, doing so when we were his enemies – we must be gracious to others, even our enemies

God has been merciful to us, not giving us what we do deserve – we must do same in interaction with others

when our responsibility to issue consequences for wrong behavior (parent, supervisor, etc.), must be sure consequences are never more than is warranted, never a source of pleasure for us

the antidote – humble service

read Phil. 2:5-8 – having mind of Christ puts on totally opposite end of spectrum from cruelty – keeps our priority on what is good for other person, how we can supply that

also keeps our attitude right toward those who demonstrate cruelty toward us – should we expect better treatment than Jesus received? NOT!

and – Syria’s history gives us cause for hope: God was not deaf to cries of his people centuries ago, is not deaf today

God acted decisively by means of neighboring nation to bring dire consequences on Syria for their cruelty once, can certainly do so again – pray he will do so in his time, in his way

Meanwhile, pray that God would help us have the mind of Christ, keep a servant’s heart in all dealings with others.

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