A Message for our Country on the Fourth of July. From Amos 5.
An 80 year old man was having his annual checkup and the doctor asked him how he was feeling.
“I’ve never been better!” he boasted. “I’ve got an eighteen year old bride who’s pregnant and having my child! What do you think about that?”
The doctor considered this for a moment, then said, “Let me tell you a story. I knew a guy who was an avid hunter. He never missed a season. But one day went out in a bit of a hurry and he accidentally grabbed his umbrella instead of his gun.” The doctor continued, “So he was in the woods and suddenly a grizzly bear appeared in front of him! He raised up his umbrella, pointed it at the bear and squeezed the handle.”
“And do you know what happened?” the doctor queried.
Dumbfounded, the old man replied “No.”
The doctor continued, “The bear dropped dead in front of him!”
“That’s impossible!” exclaimed the old man. “Someone else must have shot that bear.”
“That’s kind of what I’m getting at…,” replied the doctor.
One morning I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got into my pajamas, I’ll never know. Groucho Marx
Last week, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) issued their Long Term Budget Outlook for 2011. CBO reports that the national debt is already the highest in history except for World War II, reaching roughly 70% of GDP this year. On our current course, CBO projects the national debt held by the public will climb to 100% of GDP by 2021, equal to our entire economy. By 2023, it will break the World War II historical record of 109% of GDP. It will then continue to rocket upward to 190% of GDP by 2035, which is higher than the level suffered by Greece when it collapsed into national bankruptcy.
Bankruptcy is defined here and in my book as when the federal government can no longer borrow enough in the credit markets to finance its budget deficit, which is precisely what Greece has been suffering. President Obama’s own 2012 budget projects the federal deficit for this year at $1.645 trillion, the highest in world history by far.
Already this year, 43 cents of every dollar the federal government spends is borrowed. Spending for Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and the income security programs (mostly welfare), will consume 95% of all federal revenues. What is left will not even be enough to pay interest on the national debt, equal to 10% of federal revenues. All the money for everything else the federal government does, including all of national defense, law enforcement, transportation, agriculture, indeed, for every cabinet department outside of spending for the above entitlements, all will have to be borrowed.
Amos has a tough job. He is a shepherd and a small-town guy and yet somehow he hears a call from God to speak a prophetic message to the people of Israel. Amos’ job is to reveal the hypocrisies of Israel’s worship of God. Amos lived and prophesied between 790 and 740 BC. The key date is 722 – the year that Israel, the northern kingdom, was devastated by the Assyrian Empire – and many of its people deported.
Now, the problem for Amos is that this is a period of prosperity in Israel’s history. The military was strong, as was the economy. They are at the height of their territorial expansion and economic influence. In addition, the people of Israel see this time of prosperity as a sign of God’s favor. And so, unfortunately, it is Amos’ job to speak a reality that no one wants to hear. The reality is that Israel is NOT in God’s favor.
God’s judgment was just 20 years around the corner and Amos’ words were largely ignored by Israel.
THE LAMENTATION (QIYNĀH)
In fact, as we read Amos 5, Amos is telling the people that his message is indeed a ‘lamentation’, “a song or poem composed to recognize and to mourn the death of a person”
Read our Text
Amos 5:1-27 (ESV) Hear this word that I take up over you in lamentation, O house of Israel: “Fallen, no more to rise, is the virgin Israel; forsaken on her land, with none to raise her up.” For thus says the Lord God: “The city that went out a thousand shall have a hundred left, and that which went out a hundred shall have ten left to the house of Israel.” For thus says the Lord to the house of Israel: “
Seek me and live; but do not seek Bethel, and do not enter into Gilgal or cross over to Beersheba; for Gilgal shall surely go into exile, and Bethel shall come to nothing.”
Seek the Lord and live, lest he break out like fire in the house of Joseph, and it devour, with none to quench it for Bethel, O you who turn justice to wormwood and cast down righteousness to the earth!
He who made the Pleiades and Orion, and turns deep darkness into the morning and darkens the day into night, who calls for the waters of the sea and pours them out on the surface of the earth, the Lord is his name; who makes destruction flash forth against the strong, so that destruction comes upon the fortress.
They hate him who reproves in the gate, and they abhor him who speaks the truth.
Therefore because you trample on the poor and you exact taxes of grain from him, you have built houses of hewn stone, but you shall not dwell in them; you have planted pleasant vineyards, but you shall not drink their wine.
For I know how many are your transgressions and how great are your sins— you who afflict the righteous, who take a bribe, and turn aside the needy in the gate.
Therefore he who is prudent will keep silent in such a time, for it is an evil time.
Seek good, and not evil, that you may live; and so the Lord, the God of hosts, will be with you, as you have said.
Hate evil, and love good, and establish justice in the gate; it may be that the Lord, the God of hosts, will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.
Therefore thus says the Lord, the God of hosts, the Lord: “In all the squares there shall be wailing, and in all the streets they shall say, ‘Alas! Alas!’ They shall call the farmers to mourning and to wailing those who are skilled in lamentation, and in all vineyards there shall be wailing, for I will pass through your midst,” says the Lord.
Woe to you who desire the day of the Lord! Why would you have the day of the Lord? It is darkness, and not light, as if a man fled from a lion, and a bear met him, or went into the house and leaned his hand against the wall, and a serpent bit him. Is not the day of the Lord darkness, and not light, and gloom with no brightness in it?
“I hate, I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the peace offerings of your fattened animals, I will not look upon them.
Take away from me the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps I will not listen.
But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.
“Did you bring to me sacrifices and offerings during the forty years in the wilderness, O house of Israel? You shall take up Sikkuth your king, and Kiyyun your star-god—your images that you made for yourselves, and I will send you into exile beyond Damascus,” says the Lord, whose name is the God of hosts.
The Words of Amos were never taken seriously. I imagine the people soon resorted to a rolling of the eyes gesture combined with the circling finger beside their head. Amos was crazy, they were in no danger of “God’s Judgment!” God was blessing them.
THE FALSE CONFIDENCE OF THE PEOPLE
1. God is our God and we are His people.
a) They thought that the privilege demanded continued blessing
b) They closed their eyes to the responsibilities God expected of them.
2. God brought Israel out of Egypt. (Amos 2: 10)!
a) Confident of God’s protection: God will not forsake us now.
b) God hates presumption – No place for complacency.
1 Samuel 15:23 (ESV) For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has also rejected you from being king.”
Nehemiah 9:16 (ESV) “But they and our fathers acted presumptuously and stiffened their neck and did not obey your commandments.
Romans 2:4-5 (ESV) Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.
3. We Worship God Regularly!
a) We keep on God’s good side by going to the Temple
b) God demands Righteousness rather than Religious Rites
Amos 4:4 (ESV) “Come to Bethel, and transgress; to Gilgal, and multiply transgression; bring your sacrifices every morning, your tithes every three days;
Amos 5:5 (ESV) but do not seek Bethel, and do not enter into Gilgal or cross over to Beersheba; for Gilgal shall surely go into exile, and Bethel shall come to nothing.”
JUSTICE AND RIGHTEOUSNESS ARE DAMMED UP
Amos 5:7 (ESV) O you who turn justice to wormwood and cast down righteousness to the earth!
Amos 5:15 (ESV) Hate evil, and love good, and establish justice in the gate; it may be that the Lord, the God of hosts, will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.
Amos 5:24 (ESV) But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.
Amos 6:12 (ESV) But you have turned justice into poison and the fruit of righteousness into wormwood—
The people have become proud and presumptive, and away from God.
They were living for themselves and their interests
This has resulted in the justice and righteousness of God being dammed up.
“You who turn justice into bitterness and cast righteousness to the ground….”
“You hate the one who reproves in court and despise him who tells the truth. You trample on the poor and force him to give you grain. Therefore, though you have built stone mansions, you will not live in them; though you have planted lush vineyards, you will not drink their wine. For I know how many are your offenses and how great your sins. You oppress the righteous and take bribes and you deprive the poor of justice in the courts. Therefore the prudent man keeps quiet in such times, for the times are evil.”
I WANT TO POINT OUT THREE THINGS IN THESE VERSES.
HE REMINDS THEM WHERE THEIR HEARTS ARE.
Self-focused hearts will always pervert justice and righteousness
1. They have corrupted justice and righteousness.
People matter to God, and the way we treat people matters to him, too. But this nation turns a blind eye to issues of justice and righteousness.
Man turns justice into bitterness. Other versions use the word “wormwood”. The Hebrew word is la`anah, which means: “to curse,” “wormwood,” or “poison.” The same word is used in Deuteronomy: “Make sure there is no man or woman, clan or tribe among you today whose heart turns away from the LORD our God to go and worship the gods of those nations; make sure there is no root among you that produces such bitter poison”.
The natural taste of justice is sweet and not bitter. For a person who knows fellowship with God, righteousness and justice provide deep satisfaction. Even a person who has strayed away from God has not completely lost the taste of it. For some people, though, awareness of justice is rather subjective. Justice is turned into wormwood if the outward appearance is maintained, if it is continued to be called “justice” but it tastes bitter. That which owes its existence to the character of God is violated and made into a caricature. For justice is part of God’s character. Justice is applied as a measuring rod that draws a comparison between
2. The corruption is so bad that those who speak up for righteousness are persecuted.
Those who speak for righteousness and justice are ridiculed and told to shut up. So the prudent man, the one who is trying to do right, keeps his mouth shut because the times are so evil. Voices for righteousness are quelled. Not only is the nation plummeting headlong into injustice, but also those voices that would call them back to righteousness are dampened.
3. The rich are living opulently on the backs of the poor.
With rigged scales, they are manipulating the poor economically. Out of that, they have created opulent lifestyles. But his word to them is, “You’re not going to live in your mansions, and you’re not going to drink the wine from your vineyards, because judgment is coming”.
GOD IS OUR ULTIMATE SOVERIGN JUDGE
Amos 5:8-9 (ESV) He who made the Pleiades and Orion, and turns deep darkness into the morning and darkens the day into night, who calls for the waters of the sea and pours them out on the surface of the earth, the Lord is his name; who makes destruction flash forth against the strong, so that destruction comes upon the fortress.
This is the God with whom we have to do. Right in the middle of this, he says, “Yahweh [translated “the LORD”], the covenant God, is his name.” He points to the fact that Yahweh is sovereign over all creation. He places the constellations in the sky, he brings darkness from light and light from darkness, he is the controller and orchestrator of all that has been created. In verse 9, the One who is the Lord of the entire universe is also therefore the righteous Judge of all things. What Amos is saying here at the core of this message is, “Don’t forget with whom you are dealing!”
UNDERSTAND WHAT GOD DELIGHTS IN
Jeremiah 9:23-24 (ESV) Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.” chesed, mishpat, tsedaqa
1. God is a God of Hesed (Lovingkindness):
Translated – Loving-kindness, mercy, steadfast love
Active Force – doing, showing, keeping based on loyalty to a relationship
Three Integral Components:
The Active force of God whereby he actively seeks to come to the aid of those whom He has established a relationship. He displays His strength in showing mercy and loving kindness in a steadfast way. His love and mercy never fail because it is impossible for God to be weakened to the point of failure.
There are three elements of God’s hesed. Take one away and His hesed is not complete. God shows hesed in His “strength,” in His “steadfastness,” and in His “love.”
God Abounds in Hesed
2. God Delights in Mishpāt (JUSTICE)
Justice is the best word we use to translate mishpat
The basic meaning of this word is “to establish the heavenly norm or pattern on earth”. Normally this concept is applied to society, i.e., the bringing of society into the right order or arrangement. In this sense it is translated “justice.”
But in three passages, its meaning is applied to a building.
In Exodus 26:30; 1 Kings 6:38; and Ezekiel 42:11 this word is used in reference to the design of the tabernacle, the temple of Solomon, and the future temple prophesied by Ezekiel, respectively. Significantly, in all these passages it refers to the design or arrangement of God’s dwelling place.
God has a Kingdom in His heart, a kingdom of justice, of order, a kingdom that is at work in heaven and his desire is for it to be so on earth.
The Tabernacle was an earthly type of the Justice that God seeks on the earth.
When His Son came to earth, He did what was necessary to empower this justice on earth. One day He will claim this inheritance and establish God’s Justice on earth. Until that day, we as His children, have an earthly tabernacle in which the Holy Spirit dwells.
God can establish His justice in our lives. His Son can reign in our hearts and everywhere our feet trod.
Note: The breastplate worn by the high priest is called a “breastplate of judgment” (Exodus 28:15, 29-30), not from any alleged revelation given by the stones Urim and Thummim but because the breastplate covered Aaron’s heart and “they shall be upon Aaron’s heart when he goeth in before the Lord and Aaron shall bear the judgment (mishpāṭ) of the children of Israel upon his heart before the Lord continually.”
(Exo 28:30) And thou shalt put in the breastplate of judgment the Urim and the Thummim; and they shall be upon Aaron’s heart, when he goeth in before the LORD: and Aaron shall bear the judgment of the children of Israel upon his heart before the LORD continually.
Only those who are in Right Relationship with God will enjoy God’s Mishpat. There must be a relationship with Him, and that relationship means your life has changed, you wear a Robe of Salvation. God has dealt justly with your Sin through the cross of Christ, You are now clothed with His Justice, New Garments. New Relationship. Born AGAIN!
3. God Delights in tsedaqa (righteousness)
We use Righteousness to translate this word.
Translated – Righteousness
It Is Right Behavior And Attitudes Based Upon A Right Relationship
Because Of Tsedaqa One Is Delivered And Triumphs
Conquering Righteousness In Action
“ṣedāqâ implies relationship. A man is righteous when he meets certain claims which another has on him in virtue of relationship”
It is that which “triumphs and prospers” deliverance, salvation or triumph — ṣedāqâ (reaches, relates, rewards– delivers, saves and causes to triumph))
The word describes the attitude and actions God had and expected His people to maintain. He is unequivocally righteous;
FIVE MARKS OF SELF-FOCUSED RELIGION
1. It leaves you exposed to the final judgment (18-20)
Prophecy without profit
Hope with security
2. It never arrives at fellowship with the Lord (21-23)
Worship for tradition’s sake
3. It never conforms you to Christ (21-24)
To walk as the children of God
To live as the servants of men
4. It never settles the issue of lordship (25-26)
Divided hearts are hereditary
Divided hearts are chronic
5. It leaves you empty of the Lord’s blessings (27)
Israel lost her spiritual distinction
Israel lost her land
Israel was lost among the nations
RIGHTEOUSNESS IS NOT “ME RIGHT” IT IS “ME WRONG – YOU RIGHT”
Romans 3:21-24: Now, separate from works of the law, the justice of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets, the justice of God through [the faithfulness of] Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction, since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they all are now justified by God’s grace as a gift through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.
Amos tried to challenge his people and nation on what the religion of Yahweh essentially meant to them.
His challenge was in the form of questions: “Is not justice the essence of religion? Are not the cultic practices, rituals, sacrifices and music merely the external forms of a religion?” Amos finally called for an end or cessation of the external, shallow belief of a religion that often neglected internal relations with God and God’s people.
The heart of Amos’ justice message was, ‘only a nation in which justice flows like a river,’ can be a people in covenant with God.
Therefore, for Amos, the future of Israel wholly depended upon her in-depth relationship with God.