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If God is Against Us

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If God Is Against Us
Amos 3
August 26, 2007

We are familiar with Romans 8:31 (ESV):

31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

Today’s warning from Amos is the opposite of this.  If God is against us, who can be for us.

 

Amos, the shepherd, become prophet, appears in Israel in about 760 BC or so.  It is a time of peace and prosperity in all of Israel.  Everything, outwardly, was very good.  But trouble lies ahead – trouble from God because his people have become worldly, corrupt and faithless. 

There are many images of God in the Bible; but Amos introduces another one – that of a lions roar when he is about to attack. 

However, before the Lord brings his people to book or before he holds them accountable, he warns them to turn back to him while they have time.  Otherwise, they will perish. – because they have been wicked and unfaithful. 

Further the Lord has given them so much – which they gladly receive – but refuse to live according to the Lord’s law…

Amos 2:4 (ESV)
4 Thus says the Lord: "For three transgressions of Judah, and for four, I will not revoke the punishment, because they have rejected the law of the Lord, and have not kept his statutes, but their lies have led them astray, those after which their fathers walked.

Why even look at this:  We the church in this country, are also enjoying a time of unprecedented material success; and we too face the peril of complacency, arrogance, and the gulf that often exists between what we profess and who we are.

Point One:  God’s Judgment is Fair  Amos 3.1-2

Notice what the Lord says:

           

            You only have I known of all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities.

Israel is the chosen people. 

Deuteronomy 7:6-8 (ESV)
6 "For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. 7 It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, 8 but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.

They enjoy two great privileges that no other civilization knew:  They were chosen by God to be his people out of his sheer love and mercy, and secondly; proof positive of which is the exodus – an event of immeasurable importance. 

However, their great heritage will not protect them in the future if they turn against the Lord. 

Ronald Reagan said:  “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction,” and that “it must be fought for,  protected, and handed on [to children] for them to do the same.”

 

It is also true that the church is one generation away from extinction.  We cannot rely on the faithfulness of our forbears.  We must take up the mantle ourselves.  We are foolish to be ignorant of the past, and more foolish to assume all will go in the future, since it did in the past.

Certainly, a brief glance at the prophets or at the admonitions of Paul should indicate that `feeling comfortable’ in church is more likely to be a sign of woeful complacency built on a faulty doctrine of God and sin, than of an effective evangelism policy.

 

The Israelites had been lulled by this short season of prosperity into complacency and apathy. 

Amos stirs them up to the reality of God’s judgment, because of their apathy.

Point Two:  Judgment is Inevitable 3-8

What follows is a series of rhetorical questions to show two things I think.  One, there is time for Israel to turn back to the Lord; but if they do not, judgment is inevitable.

First, look at 3-5

Amos 3:3-5 (ESV)
3 "Do two walk together, unless they have agreed to meet? – Answer NO

 4 Does a lion roar in the forest, when he has no prey? Does a young lion cry out from his den, if he has taken nothing? Answer - No

5 Does a bird fall in a snare on the earth, when there is no trap for it? Does a snare spring up from the ground, when it has taken nothing? Answer NO

We might answer a question which has an obvious answer in a similar kind of way:

            Hey, is the Pope Catholic? Is Bill Gates rich? Of course!

However, in the case of Amos’ rhetorical questions, they correspond both to their privilege and to the upcoming judgment.

They are walking together, because the Lord has called them to be his people.  But, of course, now they seem to be walking apart. 

Further the lion roars – is an image already used of a lion ready to attack its prey – which means judgment will fall on Israel if they don’t repent and turn to the Lord.

Each of these questions begins with a result, followed by and cause. 

Now, in 6-8, the cause is stated first, and then the result – the point is the same. 

            Is a trumpet blown in a city, and the people are not afraid?

 

They should!  Trumpet sounds trouble – beware.  That is what Amos is doing – can they not hear!  Look also at verse 7

            The Lord does nothing without revealing his secret to his servants the prophets

            The Lion has roared; who will not fear?  The Lord has spoken, who can but prophesy?

Ezekiel 18:23 (ESV)
23 Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord God, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?

Amos is giving them a wake up call.  Think of the flood – a judgment of God, but one that the world knew was coming.  It wasn’t a secret.

Or the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.  Warnings everywhere about what God was going to do. 

Then, look at verse 6.  Does disaster come to a city unless the Lord has done it?  Of course, in one sense, the soldiers are the ones in war who destroy and kill and are the cause of the disaster.  But in an ultimate sense, God, is behind all of these events.

For instance:  ESV Amos 2:1 Thus says the LORD: "For three transgressions of Moab, and for four, I will not revoke the punishment, because he burned to lime the bones of the king of Edom.

 2 So I will send a fire upon Moab, and it shall devour the strongholds of Kerioth, and Moab shall die amid uproar, amid shouting and the sound of the trumpet;

 3 I will cut off the ruler from its midst, and will kill all its princes with him," says the LORD.

 4 Thus says the LORD: "For three transgressions of Judah, and for four, I will not revoke the punishment, because they have rejected the law of the LORD, and have not kept his statutes, but their lies have led them astray, those after which their fathers walked.

 

Then look:

ESV Amos 3:1 ¶ Hear this word that the LORD has spoken against you, O people of Israel, against the whole family that I brought up out of the land of Egypt:

 6 Is a trumpet blown in a city, and the people are not afraid? Does disaster come to a city, unless the LORD has done it?

ESV Amos 8:7 The LORD has sworn by the pride of Jacob: "Surely I will never forget any of their deeds.

 

Point Three:  God’s Judgment is All-Embracing 9-15

The Lord calls Israel’s enemies to see how bad his own people are!

Look at the confusion, the violence and the panic that is going on.  They have become so hardened to God’s word, and his ways have become so foreign to them that in verse 10, they do not know how to do right. 

            They store up violence and robbery in their strongholds.  The fortified parts of the Jerusalem temple will be destroyed. 

An adversary – Assyria in the north; Babylon in the South – will surround the land and bring down your defenses…

The destruction will be total

Amos 3:12 (ESV)
12 Thus says the Lord: "As the shepherd rescues from the mouth of the lion two legs, or a piece of an ear, so shall the people of Israel who dwell in Samaria be rescued, with the corner of a couch and part of a bed.

A shepherd whose sheep was lost in an attack would be quick to show his owner a part of the lamb that was left, so the owner would know that the shepherd did not steal the sheep.  So too, after the day of destruction, there will be only a few things left behind.

He concludes this section by saying that the altars used in offering sacrifices which atoned for sins, would itself be gone; therefore, their religious pretense will be gone.

Their winter house, their summer homes and houses of ivory will perish.  There will be no protection, no security from the Lord when he exercises his judgment against his people. 

Their financial security will not save them; neither will their citadels protect them from the intruder who, after all, is God’s instrument to bring justice to the land.

Conclusion

What do we learn from this? 

1.  Will we, who have enjoyed God’s grace and forgiveness, see this as a one-sided commitment – him to us?  Ephesians 2:8-10 is well to remember.

Ephesians 2:8-10 (ESV)
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

2.  The principle of cause and effect, as presented by Amos reveals that God is behind the events which led to Israel’s destruction.  Amos makes that abundantly clear.  That presents problems for us, as well as we try and extend this principle to the whole world. 

The Bible teaches that while God may ‘permit’ evil people and evil events to happen, he does so for the greater good of us all and for his glory.  James tells us that from his hand come only  James 1:17 (ESV)
17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

I’ve always enjoyed the Heidelberg Catechism at this point. 

It asks:

Question 28.

What advantage is it to us to know that God has created, and by his providence does still uphold all things?

Answer

That we may be patient in adversity;

thankful in prosperity;

and that in all things, which may hereafter befall us, we place our firm trust in our faithful God and Father,

that nothing shall separate us from his love;

since all creatures are so in his hand, that without his will they cannot so much as move.

—Heidelberg Catechism, The

3.  Most importantly of course, is that we see the need of a savior who can deliver us from the wrath of God.  And that wrath, as we have seen, is absolutely right and just.  And that Savior has come. 

Romans 5:9 (ESV)
9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God
.

In verse 14, Amos refers to the day I punish Israel for his transgressions, has in one sense already come.  And the wonderful news is that God, in the person of his Son, has out of love for us, taken this punishment in our place, on our behalf. 

It finally shows me that we cannot properly understand the OT without looking to its fulfillment in the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ, our Lord. 

But the OT helps us to see the reality of sin; and the amazing grace of the rescue. 

Let us pray

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