Amos 2 – Week One
How many times have you heard a parent say to an unruly child, “Do that again and you’re getting a spanking” or “I’m warning you!” Next time you do that, you’re going into timeout?” And yet, the child continues doing it over and over with no consequences. Or my personal favorite. “You get yourself down here by the count of three or else! One, two, two and a quarter, two and a half, two and three quarters, two and two-thirds, three! Did you hear me? Don’t make me count again”
Children with those kinds of empty threats aren’t usually well-behaved and they usually grow into adults that aren’t much better.
We have spent the past few months discussing and learning about the kings who reigned over Israel and Judah. If we count Saul, David, and Solomon, there were 42 kings. (Technically, one of those was a queen who appointed herself – Queen Athalia). The names of the kings and what they did are difficult to keep up with, to say the least. But one thing that is easy to comprehend is that only a handful of those rulers were considered to do what was right in the eyes of the Lord.
We’ve spent these weeks discussing the things that all the kings did – right or wrong – and how we can make applications to our own lives.
– We discussed that we should use what God has blessed us with to bless others, not be self-minded.
-Remembering to stand up for God and what His Word says.
– Praying for God’s will even though it may be uncomfortable, inconvenient, or downright painful.
-We talked about listening for God’s whisper of assurance when life gets overwhelming.
-One week we focused not on a king, but rather on a well-respected military commander who was also a leper and was taught to expect the unexpected when it comes to God.
-We discussed the importance of Godly influences.
– We talked about the fact that it is God Who defines sin and not us.
-We also focused on being vulnerable and the importance of having a personal relationship with God and not just riding on the coattails of others’ spiritual life.
-Last week, we considered the state of having “spiritual amnesia” by forgetting Who God is and what He’s done.
If I had to summarize 1 & 2 Kings in two sentences it would be this:
God’s chosen people were disciplined and divided, conquered, and punished, because they no longer feared Him, honored Him, or worshipped Him nor did they take the threats and warnings seriously. What began with King Solomon’s betrayal of God ultimately ended with the destruction of their nation.
We are going to spend the next 13 weeks studying some of the minor prophets that were used by God as messengers to warn the Israelites countless times that they were getting in over their heads. But before we do that, let me ask some ridiculous questions.
Do you believe that Scripture is God-breathed?
Would you agree that Scripture is intended not just for historical purposes, but for application to our own lives?
2 Timothy 3:16 NLT “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.”
All throughout 1 & 2 Kings, the Israelites were warned and alerted by prophets that unless they repented and returned to honoring God and worshipping Him and Him alone, they would be severely disciplined. There would be nationwide suffering.
Here’s another redundant question.
Do you feel that there is anything for us to learn from the messages of these prophets or do you believe that these Scriptures are just there to help us understand more about God’s character, His patience, His mercy, as well as His discipline?
I ask these questions because sometimes I think we study the Bible (especially the Old Testament) more for historical value rather than self-analysis.
We’ve spent these past weeks studying the various rulers that, for most of them, didn’t do a very good job in ruling God’s people. As a result, God allowed their enemies to come in and wipe the floor with them and their Promised Land was snatched away. But none of this happened without warning. God is known for issuing warnings before He delivers judgment. But the Israelites of both kingdoms didn’t listen and they continued to reject and defy God. As a result of their obvious defiance against God, He responded, and after many years of patience and many attempts of warning them, He responded with wrath.
2 Chronicles 36:15-16 GNT “15 The Lord, the God of their ancestors, had continued to send prophets to warn his people, because he wanted to spare them and the Temple. 16 But they made fun of God’s messengers, ignoring his words and laughing at his prophets, until at last the Lord’s anger against his people was so great that there was no escape.”
The title for our lesson this week is “Listen to God”. That kept replaying in my mind all week. Listen to God. Listen to God. And here’s what I feel as if God is saying through these upcoming lessons. We need to listen to the words given to these prophets many years ago because the warning that was given to God’s children could just as easily be directed at us today.
“The United States is a Christian nation due to its historical ties to Christianity and its commitment to upholding biblical values throughout history.
The Founding Fathers were very outspoken about their Christian faith and the importance of Christianity to maintain good values for our country.”
I’m guessing it’s been a long time since you’ve read the Declaration of Independence. I know it has been for me. There is a phrase in the first paragraph that refers to the Laws of Nature and Nature’s God.
“The ‘Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God’ had been defined by historic legal writers, such as Sir William Blackstone and others, as the laws that God, the Creator of the universe, established for the governance of people, nations, and nature.”[i]
Here’s where I’m going with this. Israel was God’s nation. It was populated by His people. The very foundation of Israel was God. But they ventured out on a slippery slope and didn’t heed the warnings of the prophets that God sent. They started off strong, but soon found themselves weakened and vulnerable to their enemies. They mocked God and His laws and before long, God’s favor was removed from them. They suffered because of their compromises, their lack of loyalty to God, and their indifference to the worshipping of idols. They suffered because they simply refused to listen to God.
What about our nation? Are there any similarities between us and the Israelites from the Old Testament?
Some of the things that the Israelites did that angered God were:
-they adopted the behaviors of pagan nations
Other than idol worship, they began seeking out seers, and mediums and practicing witchcraft. Just for fun, I pulled up Walmart.com and entered “tarot cards” in the search bar and there were more than a thousand items. “A National Science Foundation survey from 1999 found that just 12 percent of Americans read their horoscope every day or often, while 32 percent read them occasionally. More recently, the American Federation of Astrologers put the number of Americans who read their horoscope every day as high as 70 million, about 23 percent of the population. Anecdotally, enough people read horoscopes to be angry when they’re not in their usual place in the paper.”[ii]
-they allowed other gods (or idols) to be worshipped instead of and alongside the One True God
John Piper defines an idol as “anything that we come to rely on for some blessing, or help, or guidance in the place of a wholehearted reliance on the true and living God.”
There are more than 18.6 million self-help books sold each year.[iii] The number one best-selling self-help book is titled “Think and Grow Rich”. [iv] Wealth is certainly an idol, isn’t it? The good news is that 20 million Bibles are sold each year. [v] A little more than self-help books, but not by much.
Our hidden idols are those things that we don’t recognize as idols, but they certainly can be. We are given 24 hours each day. On average, Americans will spend 5.4 hours per day on their smartphone.[vi] They’ll spend an additional 3 hours watching television.[vii] The phone, television, as well as computers are not only idols themselves but also serve as a gateway through which we access other idols such as pornography, gambling, social media, shopping, etc.
“Technology becomes an idol when we start to believe that humanity’s hope, humanity’s future, will be found in more and better technology. It becomes an idol when we place greater hope in technology than in God and when we measure human progress, not by the state of our hearts, but by new innovations in technology…We can make an idol of technology as we flip through the weekly advertisements, looking for something, anything, that will make our lives just a little bit better and fill the void in our hearts. ” — Tim Challies[viii]
-they sacrificed their children for their own benefit
Every hour, there is an average of 106 abortions performed in the United States.[ix]
-they practiced sexual immorality
“In simple terms, sexual immorality is essentially the engagement in sexual acts outside of the sanctity of marriage, the divine union of creating and fostering life.”[x]
Considering all of that, tell me how different we are from the Israelites.
Could it be that the words of warning that were given to Amos and the other prophets that we will discuss are also directed at us? Individually and corporately, are God’s words of caution something that we need to not only study and discuss but also words that we need to listen to and make some changes?
I think we would all have to agree on some level that God is trying to get our attention in a lot of different ways. The question is: Are we listening? Are we taking Him seriously? And most importantly, how many more warnings will He give us?
“Most who think they are following the Bible and Jesus Christ unknowingly embrace a corrupting mixture of Christian and pagan traditions as their beliefs.”[xi]
Jesus describes this in Mark 7:7 NLT “Their worship is a farce, for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God.”
Amos was one of the prophets sent to issue a warning. He was an ordinary man. In fact, he was a sheep breeder who also raised figs. He wasn’t recognized as a prophet; he wasn’t even a priest. He lived in the Southern Kingdom but was sent by God to the Northern Kingdom. That alone would have made him unwelcomed. Amos comes at a time when there is much peace and prosperity. It’s not unusual to think that when things are going well then God is pleased with us and how we are living. When everything seems right with the world, we don’t want to hear that it’s not. “They thought they were right with God when in reality they were in danger and far from Him.” And the message Amos was given to deliver was not going to be pleasant.
Amos, this unknown foreigner who seems to be nothing more than a farmer, speaks and he begins by saying, “Amos said, “The LORD roars from Mount Zion; his voice thunders from Jerusalem. The pastures dry up, and the grass on Mount Carmel turns brown.” (Amos 1:2 GNT) In this one verse, Amos is identifying God as the source of information, and his saying that the Lord roars signifies God’s anger. And he is warning them as to what is going to take place. Not what might take place, but what WILL take place!
Interestingly, Amos starts out by pointing out the wrongdoings of Israel’s neighbors and the things they’ve done to displease God. Amos repeats what God has said as far as what God intends to do about it. There is much talk about burning down gates, palaces, and city walls. He tells them that God says people will be taken captive or killed.
I wonder. After he starts speaking ill of Israel’s enemies, do you think they may have started to welcome him a little more warmly? Because let’s be honest, there’s a part of our human nature that delights us even just a little when our adversaries get what we think they deserve. Especially as Americans, we have always prided ourselves on being the most powerful, the most privileged, and the most sought-after place to live. We like to think of our country as being superior to our neighboring countries. There’s no reason to think that the Israelites were any different.
But before they start embracing him and listening to him spill the tea about their enemies, Amos starts talking about closer neighbors. Judah. Amos 2:4b NLV “They turned away from the Law of the Lord. They have not obeyed His Laws. They have gone the wrong way, following the lies of their fathers. 5 So I will send fire upon Judah, and it will destroy the strong-places of Jerusalem.”
The listeners would not this, but this prophecy is fulfilled roughly 200 years later in 2 Kings 25:9 NIV “He [Nebuchadnezzar] set fire to the temple of the Lord, the royal palace and all the houses of Jerusalem. Every important building he burned down.”
And before the Israelites could feel a little bit better about themselves after hearing about their wicked neighbors, Amos has a message from God specifically for them.
Amos 2:6 ERV “6 This is what the Lord says: “I will definitely punish Israel for the many crimes they have done. They sold honest people for a little silver. They sold the poor for the price of a pair of sandals. 7 They pushed their faces into the ground and walked on them. They stopped listening to suffering people. Fathers and sons had sexual relations with the same woman. They ruined my holy name. 8 They took clothes from the poor, and then they sat on those clothes while worshiping at their altars. They loaned money to the poor, and then they took their clothes as a promise for payment. They made people pay fines and used the money to buy wine for themselves to drink in the temple of their god.”
Amos follows the listing of their iniquities with an account of what God has done for them. He destroyed their enemies. Delivered them from slavery. Provided for them. Gave them their enemies’ land in which to live. Provided prophets to deliver His message. And then He asks them. “Is it not so?”
“Jesus paid the price for you. You get to keep the change.”Unknown
Have we forgotten what God has done for us? Do we take for granted that which He provides daily? Have we become such spoiled brats that we no longer appreciate Him but, instead, view Him as merely a means of getting what we want? Do we live our lives like overindulged kids that have no worries about consequences because we belong to a rich Father who will always pay our debt? Tell me, please! How different are we from the Israelites to whom Amos addresses the warnings?
God is still speaking even today. Are we listening? What will it take for us to listen before it’s too late?
Amos 2 to be continued next week.