Hear This Word – You Are Too Comfortable

Amos 4:1-13

Church in many parts of world has much in common with brothers and sisters of early (post-apostolic) church – in constant danger from powerful determined enemies of the Gospel quick to use violent means to suppress it. Western church not so much – has become comfortable, even complacent. Living much more like settled residents than strangers and nomads. Fuss when creature comforts are at risk. Act surprised when pagans act like pagans. Show greater dependence on / loyalty to family and state than church. Most true of those who self-identify as Christians, still true in part for those Christ would identify as his.

God had brought Jacob’s extended family out of Egypt, made them into a nation, settled and established them in a homeland. Put up with their complaining, provided for their needs in abundance, continually reminded them where loyalty should be directed. What did they do? Wanted more – more freedom, more stuff, more of their own way. Went about trying to get it in ways displeasing to God. Further away from God they got, less their sin bothered them, more they came to depend on things they could see and touch.

Israel experienced much that seemed good – became comfortable in excess, security, worship, and denial. But according to God’s sovereign plan, time would come when comfortable no more, and only one suitable response.

A. comfortable in excess v.1

fat cows! – Bashan, in modern day Syria, northern portion of half-tribe of Manasseh – “proverbial for its rich pastures and thick forests. In New Testament times, Bashan numbered as one of the great granaries of the Roman Empire” Ency. Britannica

had grown fat and lazy, accustomed to excess, being indulged, wanting for nothing and demanding even more… simply because they could

party at expense of poor – no consideration for how desires would be satisfied

had little understanding of economics, cared even less – attitude of superiority, total disregard toward others less fortunate

acting as if entitled to particular standard of living

was their due because they desired it, because of who they were – in this case those who at least displayed appearance of wealth

not only rich, similar attitude of entitlement can be present among poor also – poverty means they deserve special treatment

God-ordained order in family turned upside down

pursuit of pleasure becomes the end, justifies any means no matter how oppressive, wife’s desire becomes tail wagging dog

husband no longer head of home with wife satisfied to make do with what he provides; she becomes tyrant driving him

ultimately becomes wasteful way of life

takes away from those truly in need, grinding them down even further – usually ends up with much thrown away: fickle tastes, changing desires

picture here in many ways similar to NT rich man and Lazarus, both attitudes and behavior

B. comfortable in security v.2-3

relying on material defenses – wall and gates

could not envision force that could penetrate defenses once gates closed and secured – think Jericho – probably true unless God overruled, or extended siege

looking to temporal things for safety and satisfaction

relied on alliances with other nations – iow, counting on heathen idol-worshipers to act with integrity, keep terms of treaty

no hint of reliance on God, even inquiring about wisdom of their own plans – acted as if they had all knowledge and wisdom

whether defensive strategies of ancient Israel or those highlighted in last election, same principles apply: those who trust in chariots and horses instead of remembering the Lord our God are destined for disaster

their world will be turned upside down – treated with same callous disregard they extended to others

everything they trusted in will be swept aside; all they relied on for pleasure will be devoted to someone else’s use

probably not exaggeration here – Assyrians known to drag off subjugated people into captivity with hooks in noses – e.g., Manasseh, 2 Chr. 33:11

when became more of liability than asset to those who conquered them, would be discarded like garbage – Assyrians who would overcome them 40 years later among most barbaric of Israel’s enemies

confirmed by absolutely unviolable oath – “sworn by his holiness”

sad truth borne out by later Scripture – didn’t matter how seriously God took things, Israel completely disregarded the warning

continued on merry way, using time to grow even more sinful and distant from only one who could deliver from destruction

C. comfortable in worship v.4-5

lavishly offer wrong sacrifice

thank offering; should have been sin offering – gave as much or more credit to fertility gods for their prosperity, total hypocrisy to make this kind of show

hard to imagine how such action could even be thought of as some kind of religious devotion

leavened bread should have been unleavened bread; leaven forbidden (Lev. 2:11)

blatant disregard for God’s expectations – this is what I feel like bringing, God will have to accept it; even cultural Jews knew about unleavened bread

in the wrong way – at place of their choosing, to god of their choosing

Bethel and Gilgal, not Jerusalem – alternate places of worship, set up so northern 10 tribes need not go to Jerusalem for worship

Jeroboam I concerned about loyalty issues if people went to Judah – might decide not to return home; also easier to pursue idolatry at distance from Jerusalem

places of idolatry, not true worship

Jeroboam set up golden calf idols at Bethel and Dan, other high places devoted to worship of Baal and others

with wrong attitude

drawing attention to self, not God – ostentatious public display; see Matt. 6:2

clearly did not have proper attitude: true worshiper does not announce, does make sure to offer acceptable sacrifice

God challenges… sarcastically – go ahead, see what good it does

sacrifice to wrong god certainly ineffectual; same true also for wrong sacrifice offered wrong way to true God – God not obligated to accept unworthy sacrifice or from unworthy individual

is God who decides what worship is acceptable, has not left his followers in dark either – have prescriptive and descriptive instruction for both old & new covenant

D. comfortable in denial v.6-11a

denied there was problem with them even in face of judgment – if any problem, must be with lower classes; reality… were acts of God, not natural disasters

judgment of famine – previous famines affected only specific geographic areas (Jacob, Ruth), intended to have particular result

judgment of drought – clearly not natural causes for disruption to accustomed patterns, should have been obvious God @ work

judgment of crop failure – not only annual crops, affected trees/vines also; seems to have been multi-year problem

notice how judgments becoming more severe – shortage of food, drought that affected crops and people, pests that devour crops for several seasons

judgment of pestilence – direct affect on people, in particular their future: young men, and security: captured horses

made even more serioius by disease from carcasses not properly attended to – think Haiti, following earthquake, hurricane

judgment of defeat – military actions gone wrong, loss of territory and people, total defeat the certain outcome unless God intervened

sought help from Baal, god “responsible” for fertility, not God

God’s assessment: “yet you have not returned to Me” in face of overwhelming reasons to do so – should have been obvious that covenant God doing what should get their attention

if they knew Bible and history, could not see connection

were experiencing covenant curses for disobedience – every one of these judgments explicitly promised by God as consequence for disobedience – Deut. 28:15ff

without repentance, God obligated to act according to his “promise” – could not justly overlook their sin forever

should be food for thought for God’s people… when similar things occur today: God still sovereign over weather, creatures, politics

is there just cause for this hardship, that disaster to be “act of God” – if so, treat it as such, repent and seek his help

E. comfortable no more v.11b-12

since you did not return… therefore… – God will do whatever is necessary to make them uncomfortable

the end God has in view – repentance and restoration; his intent not to exterminate his people, rather to redeem them

prepare to meet your Maker… the real one

could be read as a threat, could also be read as call to repentance – time is coming quickly when will be face-to-face with God, make sure you are ready for that

F. one suitable response v.13

doxology – who is really in charge

reminder: is true God alone who deserves worship and praise; should be response when we see God at work

should also be one to whom his people go for help, especially when God has done things to get attention

can only come after repentance

cannot simply add Yahweh to god-shelf – must turn from all other gods and seek him exclusively, worship him alone

1) If a Christian is known for excess, should be giving not consuming. 2) The Christian should seek security only in God’s keeping. 3) The Christian should strive to worship God at all times in the way he prescribes. 4) The Christian should evaluate self first in time of hardship. 5) The Christian should continually respond to the Gospel – repentance, confession, forgiveness.

Gospel just as important to Christian as anyone else, just as much a comfort to Christian. We can take comfort from truth that God is always quick to receive his children, to hear their confession, forgive their sin and cleanse them from unrighteousness.

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