DUE TO THEIR SINS AND UNRIGHTEOUSNESS.
(A SERMON PREACHED AT HETHERSETT REFORMED BAPTIST CHURCH)
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).
1. (3:1-10) THREE REASONS FOR PUNISHING HIS CHOSEN PEOPLE:
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:
“CAN TWO WALK TOGETHER EXCEPT THEY BE AGREED?”
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.
2. (3:11-15) GOD’S COMING JUDGEMENT ON HIS CHOSEN PEOPLE.
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)