Amos is called to point out our faults
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Amos 7:7-7:15 (NIV, NIRV, TNIV, KJV)
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We have just heard a passage from the book of Amos. I always try to imagine what the person was like. I find it fascinating to try to conjure up an image of the person in the passage. I believe that Amos is best described as a man of God. He was a man whose life was spent serving God and his life style reflected this. Yet he was no mighty high priest, just a person who tended to his sheep and his sycamore fig trees. He was a contented man who was happy to worship God in his own way. For him life was spent in the fields without a real care in the world. Then suddenly God came to Amos in a vision and told him to take a message to the people of Israel and so all of his life changed quickly. The message which he had to take was “Let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream.” In this book, which was written some 750 years B.C. Amos caused the Israelites to look back at what they had become and to realise how far away from God they had moved, and that they needed to come back to God.
In our reading we find Amos having a vision, which is in three parts. It is a vision, which sees the foretold destruction of the people of Israel. It is God punishing them for their sinful ways. The first punishment is a threat of an invasion of locust. The second is the threat of fire destroying the earth and the third is of God standing beside a wall with a plumb line in his hand testing it’s accuracy and uprightness. On the first two parts of the vision Amos prays to God not to send the locusts and fire upon the earth and indeed God relents. But the third part is a different matter entirely. God is determined that his people should be brought into line. The measuring device that he uses is a plumb line. It was a device that was used by all people who built any kind of structure, it was recognised by people across the land. They knew it was an instrument of accuracy. This is why God chose it to measure his people by.
If we are to build any kind of structure that is to stand firm for many years we have to ensure that firstly it has a good foundation and secondly that the walls that are raised up are straight and in line. If the wall is leaning or is fixed on a base that is always moving then it will not stand for very long. It will become weak and very soon it will fall down. Now some people are very good at getting the foundations right and others are poor. Some can raise it up so far then suddenly go all wrong. I am afraid that I fall into the latter description. I am not what you would call a successful D.I.Y. enthusiast. If I take 6 screws out of something then I always manage to put it back together again using only 5 screws. I always seem to have one left over. If there is a right way and a wrong way of doing something then I will find the wrong way. So you see I don’t find it easy when it comes to D.I.Y. I want to have an extension built onto my home and my wife asks why don’t you build it yourself. My answer is because I want it to stand up for many years to come.
Israel - the wall. Israel had been founded by God as a wall or rampart. This was to support his sanctuary. Israel was special and had a very important role to perform. The people of Israel had to be a leading light to the rest of the world so that they could be seen by others to be steadfast in all that they did. They were the chosen people. This role was performed for many years and it was performed well. But now the time had come when God was standing by the wall and in his hand was a plumb line, which he was using to measure Israel’s uprightness. The people of Israel were being brought to trial. They had strayed from the ways of God, they had sinned and now the wall that had been so upright and erect was beginning to lean and had to be put right. God was there to see that it was put back into line. If it had to be pulled down and started again then so be it. He was standing by it and this alone denotes his firmness and determination to make it right again. In the first two visions he had relented and changed his mind but this was an issue on which he stood firm and would not be swayed. He would make them his chosen people again. He had something to measure them by and they either fitted or they didn’t. They would be destroyed if they did not fit the measure, their possessions would be scattered and lost forever. But if they turned back to God then they would be saved. Amos was going to be that plumb line which would be set amongst the people. He was to be the one that would go amongst them and prophesy. He would be calling on them to see how far they were really leaning over away from true plumb.
People some times start to lean and they never notice it, that is until they nearly fall over. Sometimes it takes someone like Amos to come amongst us and to make us stop and take a good long hard look at ourselves to see if we are upright in God’s eyes. It is very easy to see the faults in others yet miss them in ourselves. Do we need to stop and look at ourselves and ask have we began to lean away from the true and upright ways of God and do we need to put things right and rebuild what we have already built. It may even be that we are so wrapped up in ritual that we are not getting the true message home to people. People are seeing something spectacular and different and yet it is far away from what God is teaching us. Are we actually able to listen to what others say, even though the words that they speak are not what we want to hear or do we turn our backs and dismiss them and their ideas. It is all too easy in our churches to listen to those who talk the loudest but we need to listen to those who sit quietly at the back and never say a word for it is those people who may have something really valuable to contribute to the life and progress of the church and it’s fellowship.
Amos is persecuted. Amos was very effective in the role that he performed. So good was he that he caused some fear amongst other men. Amaziah, who was the priest of Bethel, must have been very concerned about what Amos had to say because he sent word to Jeroboam, king of Israel to say that Amos was raising a conspiracy against him. It was a regular thing that if someone was speaking out and exposing sin then very soon the King would be identified as a sinner and would be targeted as being sinful and made out as being no longer fit to rule. So it was a matter of course that the King would become suspicious of Amos. Amaziah was spreading untrue gossip about Amos. Amos was condemning the altars that Amaziah was serving. He was telling people that the ways of Amaziah were not the ways of God. For if the people of Israel saw what Amos was saying was right then very soon the false altars would be deserted and so too would Amaziah. It is often said that attack is the best form of defence. It appears that in this case this is what Amaziah was doing. He was worried about losing his own standing and did not want to hear the true word of God. He even tried to get Amos to go to another area, so that he could be left alone to get on with his own ways.
He tried to make Amos see that Judah was the place where he should be prophesying and not Bethel. But Amos made a very simple yet impactive reply to Amaziah’s suggestions. He simply stated that he had been called by God to do this work. Amos was not a prophet or the son of one he was a shepherd like many before and after him. Yet he had been one who God had recognised as being still true to his ways and one who could go amongst others and tell them of their evil ways. Because he had been called and had not set himself up he had more standing and was able to remain in the area he had been called to speak to. The difference between him and Amaziah was that Amos had been selected by God Amaziah had selected himself and established himself and there we can see a great difference.
We should ask ourselves are we like Amaziah and have we set ourselves up and do we have things standing in our way, which stop us coming close to God. Do we have a desire for prestige, authority or money, which keeps us tied to a job or position that we should leave? If we have then it really is time that we look and see what it is that is coming between God and ourselves. With the barrier in place we are being prevented from obeying God and following him as closely as we ought.
Occasionally it takes an Amos to come into our midst to make us realise our faults. It may be that we are blind in the direction our church is heading. It may be that we are heading one way when we should be going in the opposite direction. I am afraid that I am unable to give you the answer to that. But the one who can answer it is God. Listen to his word, which is our plumb line. For it is that which will keep us in line upright and true to God in every sense of the word. Also let us remember this that if we lean too far away from God then we will fall down. So let us do as God wants. Let us stop and take a good look at ourselves and where there is fault let us put it right, where there is sin let us confess it so that we may once again become true subjects of our sovereign Lord. Amen.