Amos 9 – Week Four
Let’s play a game.
I’ll give a movie quote and you tell me what movie it came from.
“Toto, I’ve got a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.” – Wizard of Oz
That was easy. How about “Mama always said life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get.” – Forrest Gump
“Frankly my dear, I don’t give a ….” – Gone With the Wind
“Here’s Johnny” – The Shining
“I’m the king of the world!” – Titanic
“You can’t handle the truth!” – A Few Good Men
Sometimes it’s not easy to handle the truth. There certainly are times when it’s not comfortable speaking the truth especially when we aren’t sure how the truth will be received. Some people have an easier time telling the truth than others; in fact, it may even appear that they enjoy speaking the truth even if it hurts the listener. On one end are those who are unashamed to be brutally honest and at the other end of the scale are those who tend to sugar-coat the truth. Where do you see yourself?
I tend to be a little more on the sugar-coat end. I’ve always thought I did that because I want people to feel good about themselves. I don’t say things I don’t mean; I’m not insincere with compliments. But I try to be kind and word the truth so that it’s a little bit more pleasant to hear. I’ve considered that a good thing; a way of looking out for the feeling of the listener. But I read something this week that was like slamming into a brick wall.
“You’re not doing anyone a favor by withholding a truth from them, even if it’s difficult for them to hear.
The only person you’re protecting is yourself. Because you’re afraid of the consequences to you.
But it’s not about you.
Being honest is about making sure your audience has the information they need to make good decisions. That includes information they may not like.
You may convince yourself it’s “nicer” to hide or obfuscate things that are difficult for them to hear, but it’s not.
Ignorance doesn’t lead to bliss, it leads to bad decision-making. There’s nothing “nice” about that.”[i]
We are finishing up our study on Amos today. And if there’s one word I would use to describe Amos, one of the first words that come to mind is “honest”. Amos didn’t sugarcoat God’s message. He didn’t add in his own opinions or viewpoints. He delivered it just as God intended. It may sound harsh or jarring at times, but all that he said was what God gave him to say.
You may recall that Amos’ first words were quite descriptive of God’s message. Amos 1:2 GNT “2 Amos said, “The Lord roars from Mount Zion; his voice thunders from Jerusalem.”
Amos doesn’t sweeten God’s words to the Israelites. Amos 2:6 GNT “6 The Lord says, “The people of Israel have sinned again and again, and for this I will certainly punish them.”
There seems to be no kindness spoken in Amos 4:1 TLB “Listen to me, you “fat cows” of Bashan living in Samaria—you women who encourage your husbands to rob the poor and crush the needy—you who never have enough to drink!”
He continues to call the Israelites out for their unrighteous living. Amos 5:12 ERV “This is because I know about your many sins. You have done some very bad things”
If there was any doubt that Amos was ruffling some feathers, in chapter 7 of Amos, a priest by the name of Amaziah tries to send Amos back down to his hometown in Judah. The priest doesn’t like what Amos has to say so he wants him out of Israel.
Amos 7:12 ERV “12 Amaziah also said to Amos, “You seer, go down to Judah and eat there. Do your prophesying there. 13 But don’t prophesy anymore here at Bethel. This is Jeroboam’s holy place. This is Israel’s temple.”
14 Then Amos answered Amaziah, “I am not a professional prophet, and I am not from a prophet’s family. I raise cattle and take care of sycamore trees. 15 I was a shepherd and the Lord took me from following the sheep. The Lord said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’ 16 So listen to the Lord’s message. You tell me, ‘Don’t prophesy against Israel. Don’t speak against Isaac’s family.’ 17 But the Lord says, ‘Your wife will become a prostitute in the city. Your sons and daughters will be killed with swords. Other people will take your land and divide it among themselves, and you will die in a foreign country. The people of Israel will definitely be taken from this country as prisoners.’”
I guess Amos wasn’t too concerned with whether Amaziah could handle the truth or not because he certainly served it to him piping hot.
Two chapters over in Amos 9:8a GNT the message God gives to Amos is scathing. “I, the Sovereign Lord, am watching this sinful kingdom of Israel, and I will destroy it from the face of the earth.”
I thought about how I might have reworded that had I been asked to deliver that message. “Um, so listen. God spoke to me and wanted me to tell you something. Remember these words are from God, they’re not from me. I’m just the messenger. But He wanted to let you know that He kind of sort of knows everything that you do and although He loves you so very much, He’s a bit disappointed in some of it. Mind you, He loves you unconditionally. That won’t ever change. But I’m sure you can recognize that maybe all of you haven’t exactly done the right thing always. And He wanted me to let you know those bad decisions have consequences so don’t be surprised if you experience some kind of punishment at some point.”
The difference between those two deliveries is like the difference between coming across a rattlesnake or coming across a mosquito. A person doesn’t normally forget crossing paths with a rattlesnake, but we swat at mosquitoes all the time without thinking about it. When we sugarcoat God’s expectations then are we delivering God’s messages in a way so that they’ll be remembered? Or do we try to minimize the authority, the judgment, and the wrath of God so as not to hurt someone’s feelings? Are we more concerned with a person’s eternity in heaven or hell, the consequences of their unrighteous living or do we place more importance on how someone might feel about us if we shared the truth of the gospel with them?
Amos wasn’t concerned with the Israelites liking him or what he had to say. Amos’ mission was to deliver the Word of God as God directed. He spoke in truth, and he spoke directly. There should have been no misunderstanding of what Amos was saying.
We may think that Amos was being brutally honest, but the truth was what was brutal; not the delivery. And the truth was only brutal because that’s what the Israelites deserved.
Here’s more insight from that article I read. “Many people think that the point of brutal honesty is to shock someone into hearing you. They think that the point is to be so harsh that the other person can’t help but hear the truth.
But that’s not really how it works. Treating people harshly will only make them less receptive to what you have to say, not more.
The point of brutal honesty is to be completely honest and let the truth speak for itself. It’s about not holding anything back — about not telling white lies to make a person feel better, or withholding information they might find hurtful. Those are things we do on a regular basis, and the point of brutal honesty is to stop doing that.
You see, the emphasis in brutal honesty should be on the honesty, not on the brutality.
It is the truth that you need to deliver, and not your delivery itself, that needs to be brutally unrestrained.
Of course, the problem is that being brutally honest isn’t just hard to do—it’s hard to do well. That’s because it’s not just about what you say; it’s also about why, when, and how.”[ii]
That’s where we stumble. When it comes to speaking the truth in a way that glorifies God, increases His kingdom, and purifies the sinfulness that has become so standard, it’s difficult. We struggle to find that balance between not wavering from God’s Word and His definitions of sin and on the other side, trying to not come across as being judgmental or sound like a Pharisee. But God has equipped us. Jesus says in Luke 12:12 HCSB “For the Holy Spirit will teach you at that very hour what must be said.” Our role is to plead with the Holy Spirit to intervene, to give us the words to speak, to give us the way in which to speak, the opportunity to speak, and to prepare the heart of the one to which we speak. 2 Corinthians 5:20 WE “So we are messengers for Christ. God is using us to call people. So we are standing here for Christ and begging people, `Come back to God!’
The message that God wanted Amos to deliver to the Israelites was a dark and gloomy warning. This wouldn’t have been an easy message to deliver, but it was the truth. To sugarcoat the impending judgment would have been cruel and unloving. That’s not Who our God was or is. He wanted His people to return to Him, and recommit their lives to Him.
I was a little girl in a large department store with my mom and my brother. I can remember that something caught my eye; something I wanted to take a closer look at. I took a few baby steps away from my mom. Then I got distracted by something else and took a few more baby steps. Unbeknownst to me, my mom was very much aware of my straying away from her. She let me do it so that I’d learn a lesson. I ended up a good distance from where I had previously stood with my mom. When I was done with my distractions, I looked up to see that my mom was no longer by my side. I was scared and started to cry. I didn’t know which way to turn. I wanted to run but didn’t know which direction I needed to go. All I did know is that I had wandered away and I just wanted my mommy. I heard the announcement on the PA that a little girl named Diane was lost. Someone noticed me standing there crying. They came up to me and asked if I was Diane. When I nodded my head in the middle of my sobs, they took my hand and walked me to the front where my mom stood ready to take me in her arms. That experience stuck with me and my mom later confessed that she and my brother had their eyes on me the whole time, but she knew it was important that I learned the consequence of walking away from her so that I’d never do that again. And I didn’t.
Hebrews 12:8 ICB “If you are never punished (and every son must be punished), you are not true children and not really sons. 9 We have all had fathers here on earth who punished us. And we respected our fathers. So it is even more important that we accept punishment from the Father of our spirits. If we do this, we will have life. 10 Our fathers on earth punished us for a short time. They punished us the way they thought was best. But God punishes us to help us, so that we can become holy as he is. 11 We do not enjoy punishment. Being punished is painful at the time. But later, after we have learned from being punished, we have peace, because we start living in the right way.”
Amos was used by God to warn the Israelites that they had taken so many baby steps away from God that they were so far from where they had started in their relationship with Him that they didn’t realize it. His message was truthful, prophetic, and condemning, but it was also necessary, caring, and important.
Amos wasn’t concerned with offending the Israelites. He was more concerned with their relationship with God. But he doesn’t leave them without a word of hope. Amos assures them that those who are faithful will be sifted from those who choose sin. Amos 9:9 CEV “At my command, all of you will be sifted like grain. Israelites who remain faithful will be scattered among the nations. And the others will be trapped like trash in a sifter.” There is hope for the faithful.
Our lesson titles for these four weeks sum up the message God wanted to get across. Four easy steps that apply to us today.
-Listen to God
-Turn to God
-Hope in God
Amos 9:13 ERV “The Lord says, “A time of great blessing is coming.”
I love the fact that Amos’ primary mission was to admonish the Israelites and warn them of their consequences but ends with the promise of God’s mercy for those who return to God. When we are hesitant to risk offending someone to suggest that perhaps they’re living a life that offends God, we need to remember that they also need to be told or reminded of God’s mercy. God’s truth is not ours with which to boast or condemn, but rather God’s truth is ours to share in love and tender-heartedness.
“Lord, where we are wrong, make us willing to change; where we are right, make us easy to live with.”- Peter Marshall