Concerning Judah: God’s Laws Despised

Amos 2:4-5

Amos from Tekoa, town in Judah, 10 miles south of Jerusalem, prophesying to residents of Israel (northern kingdom). Probably spent most of his time prophesying near one of Israel’s worship centers in Bethel. Hadn’t raised too many eyebrows so far, had been pronouncing judgment on enemies of God’s people. Focus shifts now from Gentile neighbors to God’s people – Judah, then Israel. May have been plenty of clapping and whistles for previous declarations. Now starts to get quiet – what’s with this, he’s talking about his own neighbors!

And yet, right at the moment, Judah and Israel are at odds with each other. At least to some extent. Not enough to get in the way of making a few bucks, but officially are by no means allies. So… if God wants to humble Judah a little, that could be good for Israel. And they dodge the bullet once again. Should have kept in mind that in God’s eyes, they were one people with single heritage. Only temporarily divided into competing tribal groups.

Both Judah and Israel a people supremely blessed by God, especially as governed by terms of covenant. God made promises to Hebrew children like no other, started them off with clear instructions on how to benefit from those promises – read Rom. 3:1-2. They received God’s law first-hand! But wait, there’s more! Read Rom. 9:4-5. If anyone ought to be getting it right, should be Jews. Our text says differently – Judah had repeatedly despised treasure of God’s law. There would be severe consequences if they refused to repent. Are principles relevant to us today.

As we consider this text and next week, good to remember who God is speaking to – his covenant people. God’s charges against Judah and Israel just a little more pointed toward the church – those who have the truth, know the truth, should love and want to follow the truth.

A. particular, egregious sin – God’s Laws Despised v.4

as indicated by explanatory comment, focuses on actions that express attitude

showed contempt for God’s law by willfully not keeping it – not accidental, not from ignorance, was ongoing purposeful action

God through Amos gives three things to consider: attitude, action, root cause – attitude is displayed by action, both result from root cause

teaches us something about relationship between attitude and action – attitude shows in action, actions confirm attitude

put another way, only God can see the heart but actions clearly indicate what is present in it – may try to hide bad attitude, but will come out eventually

will see more about it later in minor prophets – even though some of Judah’s actions looked right, hearts were rotten

e.g., followed many of external forms of religion… practicing all required rituals but only half-heartedly

could tell that by what they brought for sacrifices and… who else they brought sacrifices to – inferior sacrifices to God, worshiping other gods

eventually, not even half-hearted “obedience” – chuck that for total disregard for God’s law, basically Moab’s problem

so why the difference for Judah? had benefit of revealed law, not relying solely on natural law like Moab: read Rom. 2:14-15

part of what means to be made in image of God – knowledge / comprehension of bottom line principles of right and wrong

Moabites possessed that much – was not enough for “salvation”, was enough to give guilty conscience for their habitual lawless behavior

roots of Judah’s sin two-fold: self-deception for purpose of self-satisfaction – perpetuated from one generation to next

showed further contempt for God’s law (and associated promises) by willfully believing lies sourced in idol-worship

notice where that took them: believing/following lies “led them astray” – God’s law has built-in guard rails, limits we are to respect

Judah intentionally jumped the guard-rail, purposely went outside the bounds God has set – results in failing to do what God commands, doing what he forbids

their reason for doing so: satisfy desires of self, what Satan in guise of an idol promises, what every system of false worship claims will do for followers

is that not the ultimate lie / deception — that what is not-God can out-perform true God

defies logic, in fact is truly irrational belief – problem is logic and reason cannot fix sin-corrupted mind… only Holy Spirit through conversion and repentance

B. consequences v.5

greater responsibility because greater light – Luke 12:48; Rom. 2:17-24

Jesus: servant who knows master’s will, does not do it = many stripes; one who does not know, does not do = few stripes – much given, much required

Paul, ch. 9, lines out all benefits Jewish people had, including “giving of the law”; ch. 2, rebukes them for boasting in having/knowing it while disobeying

“You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law.For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”

fire of God’s judgment on Jerusalem/Judah including leadership

also greater consequences for those with greater responsibility – Jerusalem the place of political and religious leadership

Holy City supposed to be light to nation and world by faithful devotion to God who “lived” there – instead, were bringing darkness by unholy example

a people’s rejection of God results in God’s rejection of the people Hos. 4:6

because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you from being a priest to me. And since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children.”

fulfilled 2 Ki. 25:8-11

Babylonian army captain Nebuzaradan “burned the house of the LORD and the king’s house and all the houses of Jerusalem; every great house he burned down”

carried off into exile, did break Jews of one sin, worshiping idols like Baal and Moloch; changed attitude toward law, too

instead of worshiping God who gave the law, worshiped their scrupulous keeping of letter of law (while disregarding its spirit)

important note: secular histories dealing with rise and fall of empires in ancient world only get part of story

true regardless of format – Hollywood, History channel, textbooks, historical novels, fictional accounts

they cover (maybe) social, economic, political, military aspects of succession of governments, movement of peoples

God’s word makes clear is more to it – was God directing those various ambitions to bring about his purpose for Judah

same is true in every other situation – good to keep in mind when studying ancient and world history, also current events

a Christian’s analysis and conclusions may not be correct, but… guaranteed… secular analysis is incomplete, usually even further away from truth

C. today

government: making laws that permit/sanction what God forbids or forbid what God requires

true the world over regardless of form of gov’t – all gov’ts w/o exception fall short in implementation of God’s law, either accidentally or purposely

most notable in places with non-biblical worldview – Hindu, Buddhist, socialist, communist, Muslim, animist… in rest, too

examples abound: “legalized” abortion, euthanasia, gambling, drug use; restrictions on: religious meetings, speech, prayer

home: using parenting methods endorsed by world contrary to God’s word; pursuit of possessions; absence of male headship

failing to train/discipline, require respect toward parents; making decisions based on child’s wants or world says should have rather than what Bible says he/she needs

expecting a little bit more/newer to satisfy, setting spending priorities accordingly; dad/husband not leader of home

church

documentary hypothesis, reinterpreting/mythologizing Scripture, Jesus Seminar

“in the judgment of the Jesus Seminar Fellows, about 18 percent of the sayings and 16 percent of the deeds attributed to Jesus in the gospels are authentic.”

sanctioning what God does not – same-sex relationships, women / homosexuals in leadership – and not sanctioning what God does – fidelity to biblical truth

requiring what God does not – legalism in various forms, confessional subscription – and not requiring what God does – holiness

if we narrow focus to God’s people: too many Christians have a god-shelf

sure, God is there… large and in charge, but often not alone – in close company with other gods of human making

spend too much time listening to / following world’s advice on “how to…” instead of listening to God’s Word, Spirit, people

D. why a problem

God’s laws perfectly designed on multiple levels for mankind’s good (and complete) (Psa. 19:7-11)

is without both fault and lack – it will never steer into sin, when followed will never fail to keep from sin… in all areas of life

God’s laws reflect God’s character

Psa. 119.68 – “You are good and do good; teach me your statutes.” – God gave law because he is good, his law for our good

to despise God’s law is to despise God

“Every one ought to dread this as the most monstrous thing; for we cannot despise the law of God without insulting his majesty.” Calvin

it doesn’t start out all or nothing – is result of creep: God alone, God + one thing, + a few more, eventually no God

begins with viewing God’s law as somehow imperfect – doesn’t speak to this issue, this time, this circumstance

Regardless of what laws of land forbid/permit/encourage, our first loyalty must be to God and his law alone. Recognize it is perfect sufficient rule of faith and practice that needs no addition or alteration. Then in full dependence on God and his strength, do our part to obey… because we love the one who gave it to us, equips us to understand, enables us to follow.

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