Amos 3:1-15
The verse of scripture I have chosen for our Church motto for 2013 is the third verse of Amos chapter three. Imagine the Creator of the universe, the Lord God Almighty, choosing a human being to be His companion …… Imagine His choosing to walk and talk and share with man …… Yet this is exactly what the Lord has done for the His people. He has offered them the wonderful privilege of knowing Him personally and intimately …… of fellow-shipping and communing with Him in the closest bond imaginable.
In addition, the Lord offers them the privilege of His care, provision, protection, peace, purpose, and fulfilment—all the good and perfect gifts of life (James 1:17) …… BEING CHOSEN BY GOD IS THE GREATEST PRIVILEGE GIVEN BY THE GREAT CREATOR.
The present Scripture shows how God chose the Israelites and, sadly, how the Israelites rejected the privileges God gave them. They refused to follow the Lord and rejected His Holy Word and commandments …… Instead of obeying the Lord they chose to live selfishly and unrighteously. As a result, God pronounced judgement on His chosen people ……
In these first fifteen verses of this third chapter of Amos we see two points set before us:
1. God’s three reasons for punishing His chosen people (vv. 1-10).
2. God’s coming judgement upon His chosen people (vv. 11-15).
God summoned His chosen people to listen closely …… this is stressed in the words“Here this word that the Lord has spoken” …… Through Amos, God gave three reasons why He would punish them.
Look closely at the Scripture:
a. The Israelites ignored God’s salvation (vv. 1-2). Amos addressed this message to the entire family of Israelites, both the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the Southern Kingdom of Judah. By far, most of the people rejected God’s glorious salvation …… They dishonoured His Holy Name and His wonderful deliverance of the nation down through the generations …… Centuries earlier God had saved them from Egyptian bondage, a symbol of the world and its enslavements.
Among all the families of the earth, the Lord had reached down and chosen the Israelites for the high privilege and supreme honour of being His holy people.
They were chosen for two primary purposes: firstly; to be the channel through whom the Lord would send His Holy Word and the Saviour (Messiah) into the world, and secondly; to bear strong witness to the world that the Lord—He and He alone—is the living and true God
Nevertheless, the people dishonoured the privilege given them …… They did not respond by loving God, nor did they offer up thanksgiving and praise for what He had done. They refused to follow God …… Although they professed to know the Lord … they did not live for Him. They did not live righteously nor obey His holy commandments.
Their profession was false; consequently, they degraded their witness and brought shame to the Name of the Lord in the eyes of the world …… As a result, the Lord would punish the Israelites for all their sins (v. 2).
b. The Israelites did not walk with God (vv. 3-8). To the contrary, they chose to walk through life without God …… Tragically, the course chosen by the Israelites was entirely different and in the exact opposite direction from the righteous path laid out by God for the human race …… For that reason, they stood condemned and were to face the judgement of God.
Standing before the congregation, Amos used a series of rhetorical questions to stir the people to think …… The questions explained why judgement was to fall upon them …… God’s judgement was aroused because of their disobedient behaviour.
Note how these questions are an argument for cause and effect:
If the people were to suffer God’s judgement (effect)
It was because they stood guilty before God (the cause)
Quite simply the Israelites were guilty of not walking with God.
Several facts showed this to be the case:
The people did not agree with God nor follow Him (v. 3)…. Therefore the question was asked:
TWO PEOPLE CAN ONLY WALK TOGETHER IF THEY AGREE TO FOLLOW THE SAME PATH AND TO WALK SIDE BY SIDE. The Israelites did not agree to follow the Lord’s path of righteousness or to walk through life with the Lord …… They did not agree with His Holy Word and commandments.
The people aroused the roar of God’s judgement (the lion) and became the target of His punishment (v. 4). As verses 9-10 show, it was their sin that aroused God and caused them to become His prey.
The people fell into the trap of sin just like a bird falls into a snare; therefore, the spring of the trap—God’s judgement was to snap shut and catch them (v. 5) …… Getting out or getting away was no longer an option. However … the people did not fear the warning of God (v. 6a). When they heard the trumpet sound of God’s coming judgement  they should have trembled …….They should have immediately joined the Lord as He walked along the path of righteousness …… But they ignored and rejected the warning signs of impending doom.
The people did not know that disasters are a warning from God (v. 6b). God uses trials and trouble to arouse people either to repent and turn back to Him or, if they already know Him, to draw closer to Him ……But the Israelites rejected the idea that God would bring disaster upon them.
After all, they professed to know the Lord, and they possessed His Holy Word …… Hence, they felt eternally secure. They felt that no matter how they lived, their profession and God’s Word assured them that He would never judge them. They ignored the fact that a person who truly believes in the Lord will cast himself upon God, trusting and following Him along the path of righteousness.
True belief involves both trust and righteousness …… Since the Israelites did not walk with the Lord, they failed to know that disasters were a warning from God. The problem was that the people rejected the warnings of the prophets (v. 7). God revealed His plans (secrets) of judgement through them over and over again …… But when the prophets proclaimed the revelation of God’s coming judgement  the people rejected both the messages and the messengers …… They refused to repent, refused to turn back to God and walk with Him in righteousness.
The people stubbornly refused to fear the roar of God’s warnings (v. 8). Although the lion—God Himself—had given fair warning of coming judgement  the people refused to tremble, refused to walk with the Lord. Nevertheless, Amos shouted out that he would continue to warn the people …… The Sovereign Lord Himself had spoken, and once He had spoken, His prophet was constrained to proclaim God’s message.
THOUGHT: As we walk throughout life, we are to walk with the Lord. We are to follow the path of righteousness laid out for us by God …… Remember, Satan is out to trap us with every snare imaginable …… For this reason, we need to keep close the Lord in order to know Him better and to understand His will for us.
THOUGHT: We need to pray for wisdom to discern what God is trying to say to us through the events happening in our lives …… God loves and He will do everything in His power to draw us to Him.  That is not to say God’s power is limited or insufficient to draw us to Him …… How far from the truth! …… He has given us so many reasons to follow Him: ……. His love …… forgiveness …… deliverance …… salvation …… mercy ….. compassion …… care, and protection …… to name but a few.
But often our hearts become hardened and our ears are tuned to the world …… we think that we know best. As a result, we so often choose to walk down our own path, feeling secure in our self-righteousness, ignoring all the signals and warnings God sends our way ……. For this very reason, we must stop and pay attention to what God is saying.
If we ignore God … if we stray from God … if we reject … disobey … or fail to fear God … we too will face His righteous judgement …… Therefore, we should no longer walk in the sinful ways of this world.
c. The Israelites set a horrifying, evil example before the world (vv. 9-10). Their sins were so utterly shocking that Amos summoned the surrounding nations to witness the scandalous behaviour of Israel’s citizens ……
Keep in mind that Israel professed to know the Lord, the only living and true God ….. Therefore, when Israel’s behaviour differed so much from what the people professed, their neighbours were astounded.
How could a people claim to know the Lord and to possess His Holy Word, yet do the very opposite of what they professed and what the Lord’s Word commanded? In the eyes of the world, the profession of the Israelites was a sham …… They were nothing but hypocrites, far worse than the other surrounding heathen nations ……
What they saw was appalling …… a society guilty of unimaginable evil …… Unrest and turmoil permeated all of society …… turmoil within the hearts of individuals as well as within the communities and cities.
Extreme oppression was a common trait in society. …… Not only did the rich oppress the poor …… but also nearly everyone oppressed someone weaker (v. 9c). Righteousness could scarcely be found, with very few people even knowing how to do right (v. 10a).
NOTE THAT THIS WAS A CHARGE THE LORD HIMSELF MADE …… The people were ignorant of His Holy Word; therefore, they simply did not know God’s commandments nor how to go about living righteously. Citizens thought nothing of taking what did not belong to them; thus people everywhere were stealing (v. 10b) Violence, assaults, and robbery were widespread …… People hoarded their wealth and neglected the poor and needy.
THOUGHT: We must not disobey the Lord or break His holy commandments …… If we profess to know the Lord and live sinfully before the world, we dishonour and bring shame to the Name of the Lord.
Tragically, we also damage our testimony before others …… often shattering any chance we might have of ever leading unbelievers to Christ.
For these reasons and so many more, we must not follow the evil examples of this world.
God summoned His chosen people to pay close attention: judgement was coming upon them due to their horrific sins …… LISTEN TO GOD’S HOLY WORD:
a. A cruel enemy, the Assyrians, would attack and overrun the land (see outline and notes—2 Kings 17:1-41 for more discussion) …… They would destroy all the defence and fortress cities of Israel (v. 11). Scripture actually says the enemy would totally devour the nation like a lion devours its prey, and Israel would cease to exist (v. 12). Only a mutilated remnant would be saved and survive the brutality of Assyria’s armed forces …… Only a few would be left to serve as proof of the Israelites’ destruction.
Yet, note the wonderful promise of God: despite His terrifying judgement  He would leave a remnant or small number of survivors through whom He could fulfil His promises. The promise of salvation through the coming Saviour and of His Holy Word would be fulfilled …… God could not and would not violate or break His holy promises (Word).
b. The nations who had been summoned earlier (Ashdod and Egypt) would testify against Israel (vv. 13-15). Then God would execute His judgement against the entire nation of Israel.
The major worship centre at Bethel—the place where so much false worship was offered up to God—would be destroyed (v. 14) …… In addition, the horns of the altar would be shattered. No longer could the guilty find sanctuary or protection by fleeing to the altar …… The people’s houses would be demolished and left in shambles, even the houses of the wealthy.
The winter and summer houses as well as the houses filled with ivory or extravagant furnishings would all be reduced to rubble …… No palace or mansion would be left standing.
THOUGHT: God’s judgement upon Israel was utterly devastating, and it was final …… Never again did the Northern Kingdom of Israel rise as a nation.
So it will be when Jesus Christ returns to execute judgement upon the earth …… All the cities and nations of this world will be brought down, ruined; …… every human being who has ever lived will stand before God in judgement ……
We will all give an account for our behaviour …… there will be no escape …… no hiding place …… our self-righteousness will be of no protection …… how devastating will it be to hear the voice of the Great Almighty declare …… “AND THEN WILL I PROFESS UNTO THEM, I NEVER KNEW YOU: DEPART FROM ME, YE THAT WORK INIQUITY”.……. Matthew 7:23 (KJV)
The message from God to Israel is still the same message He gives to His people today ……“CAN TWO WALK TOGETHER, EXCEPT THEY BE AGREED?”
 (Preached by Rev David G. Farrow – Pastor)


The Death of Thomas Bilney – Martyr of the Reformation

220px-Thomas_BilneyEach year in early September the Protestant Alliance organise a Memorial Service for Protestant Martyrs of Norwich, there were ten of them in total, all burned at the stake in the Lollard’s Pit off Riverside Road, Norwich, the site had been excavated as a chalkworks and that the time was owned by the Bishop of Norwich, a memorial marks the place of execution today. The best known of the Norwich Martyrs was Thomas Bilney who was ordained in 1519 by the Bishop of Ely to the title of St Bartholomew’s Priory, Smithfield. The following is an account of the execution as detailed by J.H. Merle d’Aubigné.

The Death of Thomas Bilney
Martyr of the Reformation
Burnt at the Stake at the Lollard’s Pit, Norwich
Saturday 19th August 1531.

by J. H. Merle d’Aubigné

[Thomas Bilney, ‘whose conversion had begun the Reformation in England’ was, in God’s hands, the instrument of Hugh Latimer’s conversion. The story of his life ‘in strength and weakness’, leading to his martyrdom in 1531, is eloquently recorded in The Reformation of England, volumes 1 and 2 by J. H. Merle d’Aubigné. These volumes trace the history of the Reformation from its earliest origins to the end of the reign of Henry VIII. Written in a lively evangelical spirit, they are both instructive and heart-warming. The following extract comes from volume 2.]

A few of Bilney’s friends went to Norwich to bid him farewell: among them was Matthew Parker, later archbishop of Canterbury. It was in the evening, and Bilney was taking his last meal. On the table stood some frugal fare [ale brew], and on his countenance beamed the joy that filled his soul. ‘I am surprised’, said one of his friends, ‘that you can eat so cheerfully’. — ‘I only follow the example of the husbandmen of the country’, answered Bilney, ‘who having a ruinous house to dwell in, yet bestow cost so long as they may hold it up and so do I now with this ruinous house of my body’. With these words he rose from the table, and sat down near his friends, one of whom said to him, ‘To-morrow the fire will make you feel its devouring fierceness, but the comfort of God’s Holy Spirit will cool it for your everlasting refreshing.’

Bilney, appearing to reflect upon what had been said, stretched out his hand towards the lamp that was burning on the table and placed his finger in the flame. ‘What are you doing ?’ they exclaimed. — ‘Nothing’, he replied; ‘I am only trying my flesh; to-morrow God’s rods shall burn my whole body in the fire.’ And still keeping his finger in the flame, as if he were making a curious experiment, he continued: ‘I feel that fire by God’s ordinance is naturally hot; but yet I am persuaded, by God’s Holy Word and the experience of the martyrs, that when the flames consume me, I shall not feel them. Howsoever this stubble of my body shall be wasted by it, a pain for the time is followed by joy unspeakable.’ He then withdrew his finger, the first joint of which was burnt. He added, ‘When thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned.’ These words remained imprinted on the hearts of some who heard them, until the day of their death, says a chronicler.

Beyond the city gate—that known as the Bishop’s gate—was a low valley, called the Lollards’ Pit: it was surrounded by rising ground, forming a sort of amphitheatre. On Saturday, the 19th of August, a body of javelin-men came to fetch Bilney, who met them at the prison gate. One of his friends approaching and exhorting him to be firm, Bilney replied: ‘When the sailor goes on board his ship and launches out into the stormy sea, he is tossed to and fro by the waves; but the hope of reaching a peaceful haven makes him bear the danger. My voyage is beginning, but whatever storms I shall feel, my ship will soon reach the port.’

Bilney passed through the streets of Norwich in the midst of a dense crowd: his demeanour was grave, his features calm. His head had been shaved, and he wore a layman’s gown. Dr Warner, one of his friends, accompanied him; another distributed alms all along the route. The procession descended into the Lollards’ Pit, while the spectators covered the surrounding slopes. On arriving at the place of punishment, Bilney fell on his knees and prayed, and then rising up, warmly embraced the stake and kissed it. Turning his eyes towards heaven, he next repeated the Apostles’ Creed, and when he confessed the incarnation and crucifixion of the Saviour his emotion was such that even the spectators were moved. Recovering himself, he took off his gown, and ascended the pile, reciting the hundred and forty-third psalm. Thrice he repeated the second verse: ‘Enter not into judgment with thy servant, for in thy sight shall no man living be justified.’ And then he added: ‘I stretch forth my hands unto thee; my soul thirsteth after thee.’

Turning towards the officers, he said: ‘Are you ready ?’ — ‘Yes’, was their reply. Bilney placed himself against the post, and held up the chain which bound him to it. His friend Warner, with eyes filled with tears, took a last farewell. Bilney smiled kindly at him and said: ‘Doctor, pasce gregem tuum [feed your flock], that when the Lord cometh He may find you so doing.’ Several monks who had given evidence against him, perceiving the emotion of the spectators, began to tremble, and whispered to the martyr: ‘These people will believe that we are the cause of your death, and will withhold their alms.’ Upon which Bilney said to them: ‘Good folks, be not angry against these men for my sake; as though they be the authors of my death, it is not they.’ He knew that his death proceeded from the will of God. The torch was applied to the pile: the fire smouldered for a few minutes, and then suddenly burning up fiercely, the martyr was heard to utter the name of Jesus several times, and sometimes the word ‘Credo’ [‘I believe’]. A strong wind which blew the flames on one side prolonged his agony; thrice they seemed to retire from him, and thrice they returned, until at length, the whole pile being kindled, he expired.


The Protestant Martyrs of Norwich

A booklet entitled “The Protestant Martyrs of Norwich” compiled by Charles Scott-Pearson has been published by, and is available from The Protestant Alliance, 77 Ampthill Road, Flitwick, Bedford MK45 2TT. The author of this booklet has researched all the details of all ten of the Protestant Martyrs who died at Lollard’s Pit, Norwich. Full contact details for the Alliance can be found on their web site