Hear This Word – Your Illness Is Terminal

Amos 5:1-17

Is the rare individual who relishes moment doctor says “your illness is terminal”. Nearly all who hear those life-changing words wait anxiously for some sort of qualifier: “but… you have lot of good years left”; “we’re gonna fight this will everything available”; “you’re in good health, you can beat it”. And then it becomes apparent… no qualifier forthcoming. What comes next? Variety of responses – diagnosis defines and consumes life, withdraw from surroundings and wait for the inevitable. Take doctor’s note as free pass to live life as if no tomorrow with consequences – nothing else matters except what I want, how I want, when I want. Treat warning as gracious gift from God, make sure things are in order, then live each moment to fullest for glory of God. Pretend like doctor gave clean bill of health, continue established pattern of life as if nothing wrong, iow, denial.

In effect what Amos passionately communicates to fellow Jews – takes up a lament, a song of mourning for Israel. As if he were reading aloud their obituary in morning paper. This lament (1-17) and following message (18-27) have chiastic structure (see handout), form of inverted parallelism found frequently in Bible.

Even in middle of dire warning, God through prophet graciously calls wayward people to repentance. If they heed call, otherwise certain disaster will be averted.

A. Lament: certain judgment (1-3)

funeral song – perhaps two purposes: show Amos’ depth of passion, shock listeners to attention (1)

lamentation typically primary part of funeral ceremony – easily recognized by Jewish hearers, shows how serious Amos sees situation

certainly should have caused listeners to sit up and pay attention – as if were hearing their own death notice read

abandoned – allies she counted on have ditched her (2)

one of Israel’s bad habits – seeking help from surrounding nations rather than God – she will fall in battle and have no one to come to aid, is totally abandoned

contrast with true God could not be more profound – God had never forsaken his people, never in a million years would he

defenses decimated (3)

nine of ten soldiers killed in battle, shredding their protection… and also their future – was young and strong who went to war

even more significant: casualties the backbone of their economy (farmers, laborers) and source of next generation of leaders

how many family/friends/neighbors is this true for? looking for help in all wrong places, sacrificing their future and children’s in process

B. Call: Seek God and Live (4-6)

not a done deal… yet

countless times throughout history God issues announcement of doom followed immediately by call to repentance – if his people do not heed warning, judgment will come; if they do, God is merciful and just

repent

turn to true God – never any question in God’s mind… only one path to safety, through him alone; every other option ends at hell

and reject false gods

iow repentance and right worship – not good enough to turn and face true God, at same time clutching idols for safe keeping

big idea: God will show his absolute supremacy

is also repeated characteristic of work-up to God’s judgment – one by one takes away objects of confidence / worship

shows his people the utter folly and futility of trusting anything other than true God who is God over all other gods

repeat: disaster will be averted if you repent

makes it perfectly clear – is Yahweh they must worship and follow; others are not different names for same god

C. Accusation: no justice (7)

justice turned to bitterness

justice essential consequence of God’s holiness – cannot help but be just, expects those made in his image to be just – Mic. 6:8He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God?”

instead Israel perverted justice, turned on its head – bribery, corruption, power brokers selling judgments to highest bidder

righteousness trampled

judgments not made on basis of ethics, right and wrong – no longer governed by principles established in God’s law

opposite of God’s intent (Rom. 13:3-4)

intends rulers to be terror to bad conduct, not good; to encourage righteousness, carry out God’s wrath on wrongdoer

D. Hymn to a sovereign God (8-9)

identity of one calling declared plainly

no god-shelf deity, no “Mother Nature” type – will not share his glory, worship, authority with any other god; will not be summoned at will or manipulated either

the real deal: sovereign Creator of stars, ruler of day and night, who called forth Flood – who answers to no other deity

they can change justice to bitterness, God can change change day to night – go ahead, beat that!

and so you don’t forget, his name is Yahweh – God of Moses, covenant-making and keeping God, who does not forget terms of covenant he made with Israel

just as surely as God judged world in Noah’s day, same God will bring judgment to his people

powerful reminder that true God has all necessary power to bring calamity on his people – their idols pose no threat to him

unlike “provincial gods” of their neighbors, Israel’s God sovereign over all the earth… and beyond – to limits of universe

he has power and authority over all his creation – no thing or person can frustrate his purpose

God governs land, sea and sky according to his will / pleasure – this is the One calling nation to turn away from sin, back to him

E. Accusation: no justice (10-13)

again, God through prophet declares threatened judgment is warranted by blatant sin of Israel – principles apply to other settings

yes, God acting toward Israel according to terms of covenant; also according to his character – they not only broken covenant, had sinned grievously against God and one another

resist criticism (10)

those who love darkness because their deeds are evil despise those who represent light, who by righteous deeds and words draw attention to evilness of others

is not simple dislike, not always shown outwardly – is very strong loathing of righteous, will do all they can to silence criticism

anything that interferes with pursuit of power, pleasure, possessions becomes target that must be neutralized immediately

attempts to profit at expense of poor will be frustrated (11)

upper class preying on lower class – oppressing with burdensome taxes, taking food out of mouths in order to grow own holdings

taxing poor to further enrich already wealthy without concern for true need – either their own or those being oppressed

ironic twist of judgment – would not be allowed to enjoy ill-gotten gains: either destroyed or given over to use of others by God

injustice tip of iceberg (12)

echoes of Isaiah’s charge – “Your princes are rebellious, And companions of thieves; Everyone loves bribes, And follows after rewards. They do not defend the fatherless, Nor does the cause of the widow come before them.” Isa. 1:23

unbelievable corruption from top down further addressed by Isaiah: “”Woe to those who decree unrighteous decrees, Who write misfortune, Which they have prescribedTo rob the needy of justice, And to take what is right from the poor of My people, That widows may be their prey, And that they may rob the fatherless.” Isa. 10:1-2

so bad righteous do not even seek justice (13)

hopeless situation for those committed to doing right – even if case open and shut, would not pursue it knowing would lose what little they had, no hope of redress

F. Call: Seek God and Live (14-15)

repent – turn to righteousness and hate evil

iow repentance and right doing – present circumstances exact opposite: loved and pursued evil, hated and avoided right

can’t “just say no” – must say yes to right things, changing way of thinking and doing to bring in line with God’s principles

God not taken in by insincerity – that was where they already were… pretending right worship, loyalty

requires they not only profess righteousness but also demonstrate its fruit – situation not hopeless if they genuinely return to God and his ways

G. Lament: certain judgment (16-17)

not only disastrous, no one escapes untouched (16)

since Israel persists in rebellion, won’t be enough professional mourners – only a remnant will survive coming certain judgment

not by chance, God himself brings judgment (17)

just as God “passed through” land of Egypt, would do same to Israel – would only “pass over” those who repented

God not pleased to enter covenant relationship with other nations / people groups like he did w/Israel. However, just because no formal covenant between God and particular nation no cause to think God will overlook habitual practice of evil at either national or individual level. Has a track record, too! On more than one occasion, God used one nation as agent of justice on another. Means we shoiuld be just as attentive to Amos’ message as immediate audience should have.

God is both just and merciful – cannot and will not tolerate sinful behavior forever yet extends mercy as soon as sincere repentance forthcoming. Must be genuine – repentance demonstrated in actions.

One way to help lost avoid certain judgment: show how God alone is answer to their need. God “commands all men everywhere to repent”, not simply because he can. Is enough reason, yet one who does repent can rest assured: will lose nothing of eternal value, will gain everything to live life to the fullest now and next life. Our task: to communicate by word and life how that is true. Many will mock, others will say “we will hear you again on this matter”.

 

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