Concerning Israel: Supreme Self-centeredness

Amos 2:6-16

Israel probably thinking they had it made, Amos would stop with judgment on Judah. Besides, knew which side his bread buttered on. Might be from Judah but income from job mostly came from Israel. Simply not safe for life or livelihood to be critical of Israel, bite hand that fed him. Then God through Amos unloads on them, sadly to little avail. Leaving nothing open to interpretation, God laid it all out in specifics how they had repeatedly willfully sinned against him and against one another. Don’t need to look outside present text to know exactly why God was displeased. If you want more, though, stay tuned for rest of Amos! Focus remains fixed on Israel for duration.

During time of divided kingdom, Judah had 20 different kings in almost 350 years… 8 identified by God as having done what was right. That included Uzziah, ruling at time of Amos. In only 200 years, Israel lived under 19 kings… described by God as having done evil, with only one exception. And his (Jehu) review was a mixed one. Jeroboam II (Amos 1:1), along with 14 others, described as being evil like Jeroboam I, first king of Israel after kingdom divided. Was prototype the rest followed, to whom they were compared.

Track record of kings important for this reason: Judah had ups and downs, periods of evil leadership, also periods of genuine revival. Israel not so much – started out badly, stayed the course even in face of strong warning until the end. God judged both Judah and Israel, but Judah given reprieve because at least made some repeated effort to do right. Eventually after defeat of 10 Tribes by Sennacherib and run of 4 evil kings in row in Judah, God’s patience ran out.

Israel now in spotlight, Amos declares God’s evaluation on their habitual sinfulness, sets the tone for remainder of his prophetic ministry. Uses the opposite approach to Habakkuk – why do wicked prosper here at home in Judah? How can you possibly use those evil neighbors to discipline your people? Amos had different message – wicked may prosper for now, God will eventually bring judgment. Since Israel to be focus of Amos’ ministry, much more detail given about their situation. This warning of judgment follows pattern of previous 7 with addition of compounding factors – reminders of what God has done that makes their kind of sinfulness even more despicable.

A. particular, egregious sin – supreme self-centeredness v.6b-8, 12

not identified directly, instead external symptoms listed pointing to root cause

important note: how you self-identify valid only so far as evidence backs it up – God is privy to all evidence, so don’t try to bluff

Israel loudly claimed to be God’s special people but… patterns of behavior not consistent with claim; continues true today

often, the evidence proves the opposite – applies to all sorts of self-appiled labels; God is concerned with true reality

in all their history, Jews never came right out and told God to get lost, never claimed they had moved on to god w/better offer – is exactly what actions declared, though

value money above godliness

all you gotta do to get your way is find a crooked judge – some money under the table and encouraging the righteous… ya right! don’t look at this hand, look at the other

those who should be promoting justice and righteousness instead promoting self-interest and cause of those w/similar values

gain more important than personal liberty

if a choice of buy shoes or pay rent, required poor to pay up or lose their liberty – short-term object of getting pound of flesh higher priority than long-term profitable relationship

this and previous charge – those who have resources striving to get even further ahead by perverting justice and business practices that take undue advantage of righteous / poor

no consideration for others

“trample the head of the poor into the dust of the earth” – walking over not around, further oppress the already oppressed

taking mantra of “looking out for #1” to its logical conclusion – do whatever it takes to get ahead without regard for others

hinder access to goods and services

requiring certain classes of people to “go the long way” – imposing extra conditions, delaying tactics, adding costs, often fueled by pride

place pleasure before morality

purposeful poke in God’s eye – doing what knew at deepest level was sin against God, one another, and partner in crime

encourage indebtedness

God permitted taking of collateral on loan, but was to be short-term – this more like practice from popular song 16 Tons

practice idolatry

wanted to keep Yahweh around for emergencies, be able to cry out to him when needed; otherwise gave time/treasure/worship to gods that promised to satisfy desires

using “earnings” from oppressive immoral practices to subsidize relentless pursuit of pleasure right under God’s watchful eye

all of this for sake of satisfying self rather than pleasing God

number of elements in play; a primary one: God cannot be trusted to satisfy me, have to do it on my own cuz I know me best

perhaps added to by common way of thinking: boy, you have to give up a lot to follow Christ; way we think about missionaries sometimes (and those in “Christian service”)…. and not the best way

B. compounding factors v.9-11

can almost hear God saying: seriously? you need to re-think this, remember a few things from your past – who you are, who I am, what I have done for you

destroyed enemies

wasn’t only their beginning as nation that God accomplished, He was reason they were still a people distinct from their neighbors

from beginning was God fighting battles for them (didn’t start at Jericho) – Amorites listed here as first of Canaanite people

was God himself who “went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so as to go by day and night.” Ex. 13:21

delivered from slavery

would have remained stuck indefinitely in slavery in Egypt had not God overpowered Pharaoh and his people

consider effect plagues had on Egyptians – without power of God, Jews would have been destroyed rather than released

sustained in the desert

patiently graciously supplied all needs – daily manna, water, protection from all sorts of predators, place of worship, unfailing guidance to eventual destination

and… didn’t just drop them off at the doorstep – dammed up Jordan so they could cross, continued to go with and fight for them

supplied with leaders

appointed those men with whom he would speak, prophets beginning with Moses who would be God’s mouth to his people

would not lack for spiritual and practical guidance, correction when necessary, continuing to lead his people by prophets

their eventual response: tried to muzzle God by silencing his prophets – wanted to hear only what would further course they had already set for themselves

for generations, God met all their needs, many of desires… in overwhelming abundance – why would they look elsewhere

same question can still be asked today… and has same answer – have all same temptations to push boundaries as Eve

and… God has same right to be hurt and offended by rejection after granting such immeasurable blessings

C. consequences v.13-16

“The judgments are fixed and inevitable, and none can escape except by repentance, the door of which is never shut in these Divine threatenings.” Wolfendale

oppressed

would be crushed in place by irresistible force – regardless of specific instrument used, God the one bringing pressure to bear

overcome

unable to run away – even fastest no match for God; heroes will lose strength (through fear); defenders unable to defend with or without weapons

defeated

no one will escape, all will suffer defeat at hands of God’s appointed instrument of judgment – in case of Israel, the Assyrians

D. today

parallels with America throughout history and in present abound – sadly, don’t really need to work at finding examples

E. why a problem

unbelievable ingratitude

turned their back on one who had taken perfect care of them, always faithful, blessing abundantly in all situations

insulting pridefulness

thought they knew better than God what they needed and how to get it – set aside his promises while believing lies of the idol

amazing unbelief

God already promised abundant blessings in return for obedience… and had proven track record; idols had nothing to show for all promises made for them

all they had to do was ask God – he would supply needs and desires… from standpoint of perfect knowledge of them and circumstances, as well as their future

God must remain the focus – loyalty, worship, obedience, gratitude, hope. God graciously showed rightness of that thinking to Jews by plainly showing hopelessness of their solution. Here is God’s redemptive purpose at work – bring Israel to point where only reasonable option is looking to God, who stands ready to receive all who turn to him. And… as Christians, here’s what we need to remember:

Matt. 16:24-27Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.“For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.“For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? “For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works.”

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