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Cheap Grace

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Cheap Grace
Amos 8

September 23, 2007

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German Christian who was killed by Hitler, coined this term.  The grace of God does not mean that we keep on sinning and then repent and go on about our business.  If that is what we think grace is; we don’t understand what the Bible means by grace. 

That is, the Grace of God as in:

Ephesians 2:8 (ESV)
{8} For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,

is not cheap!  This grace of God, according to Titus

Titus 2:12 (ESV)
{12} training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age,

The people of Israel are examples of ‘cheap grace.’  They could care less about the Word of God, yet they assemble regularly for temple services; they claim the protection of God, yet there is absolutely no concern to please God. 

Chapter 8 of Amos (we’re skipping 6-7) is a different kind of literary device than we saw in chapters 3-5 – which were a series of oracles or pronouncements.  Chapter 7 begins a series of visions, one of which we have in chapter 8.

If this chapter seems repetitious, it is.  Only, Amos appears to be taking this warning to people who have not yet heard it.  But it is the same message that in chapter 7, (we didn’t read this one) caused one Amaziah to ask King Jeroboam to send Amos back to his home.

Amos 7:12-14 (ESV)
{12} And Amaziah said to Amos, "O seer, go, flee away to the land of Judah, and eat bread there, and prophesy there, {13} but never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king's sanctuary, and it is a temple of the kingdom." {14} Then Amos answered and said to Amaziah, "I was no prophet, nor a prophet's son, but I was a herdsman and a dresser of sycamore figs.

It is a sad chapter, because we now sense that the people of God are beyond warning.  We are given the marks of a community which has passed the point of no return.  A key phrase is in

Amos 8:7 (ESV)
{7} The Lord has sworn by the pride of Jacob: "Surely I will never forget any of their deeds.       

The pride of Jacob has become such an immovable and unchangeable feature of the nation that it can only be dealt with by judgment. 

It is a persistent refusal to listen to God which becomes an inability to hear his voice any longer.  It is both the cause and consequence of the ‘famine of hearing the words of the Lord’ (v 11) which is the inevitable consequence of judgment.

This vision of judgment is in two parts:  The Vision (1-3) and the Explanation (4-14)

Point One:  The Vision:

Amos 8:1-3 (ESV)
{1} This is what the Lord God showed me: behold, a basket of summer fruit. {2} And he said, "Amos, what do you see?" And I said, "A basket of summer fruit." Then the Lord said to me, "The end has come upon my people Israel; I will never again pass by them. {3} The songs of the temple shall become wailings in that day," declares the Lord God. "So many dead bodies!" "They are thrown everywhere!" " Silence!"

This summer one of our visitors was shocked by a statement I made – which statement I’m going to make again.  There may come a time when, after our persistent refusal to listen to the Lord, that God exercises his judgment by leaving us to ourselves.  He abandons us. 

She said, ‘God doesn’t do that.’  Yes, he may do that. 

The Hebrew word for ‘summer fruit’ sounds like the Hebrew word for ‘end.’  The summer fruit would be associated with the Feast of Booths – a feast of rejoicing over God’s provision and protection of his people and looked to future blessings from the Lord.

But, this time, there is no future. 

Jeremiah 8:20 (ESV)
{20} "The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved."

There will be death instead of life. 

Let’s be clear.  Grace and mercy are offered.  Indeed, up until this point, Amos had offered them life, if they would turn to him.  But if grace and mercy are rejected; there remains death and judgment. 

Moses had said:

Deuteronomy 30:19 (ESV)
{19} I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live,

Or

Romans 6:23 (ESV)
{23} For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

They had chosen death, and the evidence would soon be all around them.  For in 722 BC, some 30-40 years from the time of Amos’ prophesy, the Assyrians would be the instrument of God’s wrath on his recalcitrant, self-seeking people.

Further, the judgment of 722 will be a preview of the Last Day itself.

What about verses 8-14. 

Point Two:  Judgment 8-14

1, False Religion and Injustice  8:4-6

 

Amos 8:4-6 (ESV)
{4} Hear this, you who trample on the needy and bring the poor of the land to an end, {5} saying, "When will the new moon be over, that we may sell grain? And the Sabbath, that we may offer wheat for sale, that we may make the ephah small and the shekel great and deal deceitfully with false balances, {6} that we may buy the poor for silver and the needy for a pair of sandals and sell the chaff of the wheat?"

The indictment is of their false and empty religion.  The new moon festival was held monthly – it apparently got in the way of their economic endeavors. 

Ex.   I had a friend who found work an intrusion into his private life.  However, in this case, it is the worship of the Lord God which is in the way of handsome profits.

Do you see what is going on?  God is not at the center of their life.  They are!  This is not a God-centered existence, despite the prevalence of temple worship festivities which in one sense marked their lives.  But it was empty and worthless.

Ex.  People will say, ‘church is so boring…’  Well, there may be some truth to that statement.  But consider this.  Might anything which takes the focus off me, and my interests prove to be boring?  In other words, our boredom may be simply an expression of self-interest and self-love.  We are bored whenever I am not at the center of the world.

And this same self-interest finds expression in the exploitation of others – v 5 & 6.  The poor are treated as commodities to be bought and sold. 

There are social consequences to idolatry! 

When God becomes simply one of our interests he will soon become irrelevant, diminished and boring because we have ceased to honor him, and tremble at his Word.

2.  Judgment 7-10

Look especially at 7b

Amos 8:7 (ESV)
{7} The Lord has sworn by the pride of Jacob: "Surely I will never forget any of their deeds.

There is the judgment…I will never forget their deeds

 

Creation is in line with the will of God – v 8

 

They have failed to know their God; but they will not fail to know that the God of the universe is also the judge of all.

3.  Culmination:  Famine of hearing the words of the Lord

This is no arbitrary withdrawal.  Amos already has noted that in 2.12, for instance, the leaders ordered the prophets not to preach.  In Amos 5.10 he said they abhor him who speaks the truth.

Dostoyevsky who said that when persons ceases to believe in God, they do not believe in nothing; they believe in anything.  When we cease to regard the Bible as authoritative – we do believe in nothing as authoritative, but everything. 

So, in our Episcopal Church, our leaders now regard culture as authoritative, and then they go to the Bible – which of course is to reject the Bible as authoritative.  Do you not see this happening?  It is everywhere.

And when you reject the Bible, guess what?  You reject God!  You may not think you do; but you do – I love you honey; I just never want to speak to you or listen to you again – but I love you…

The famine of hearing the word of the Lord, which is what the people of God want, mind you – results in verse 12-14

Amos 8:12-14 (ESV)
{12} They shall wander from sea to sea, and from north to east; they shall run to and fro, to seek the word of the Lord, but they shall not find it. {13} "In that day the lovely virgins and the young men shall faint for thirst. {14} Those who swear by the Guilt of Samaria, and say, 'As your god lives, O Dan,' and, 'As the Way of Beersheba lives,' they shall fall, and never rise again."

A frantic and fruitless quest, because having lost contact with God, the people do not know where to begin looking for him.  The results will also be seen in young people. 

The young, full of energy and enthusiasm for living and their eagerness to hear new things, they are vulnerable to the peddlers of lies.

Example:  Christian Science –

Verse 14 ends with a lapse into idolatry and false religion.

Summary

Judgment is fair.

Judgment is inevitable

Judgment results in withdrawal of the word of the Lord

And the judgment of God which we so richly deserve, has been borne by another.

1 Peter 2:24 (ESV)
{24} He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.

Or

1 Peter 3:18 (ESV)
{18} For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God…

Amos has brought the indictment and the verdict; but in Jesus’ death, the verdict, having been borne in death on a tree, now opens to us forgiveness of sins and restoration to fellowship with God and others.

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