Book of Amos 3:4-8
In this passage, through all of the imagery we see contained therein, what we ultimately see is the fact that the Lord has always warned His people of any upcoming judgment. It’s important to notice this because it’s ever important to recognize that the Lord always gives His people the opportunity to repent before He judges, lest His judgment be found unfair. “Will a lion roar from his lair if he has no prey, will a snare be sprung if it has caught nothing.” Each of these are images of the predator seeking prey, but never striking if none is present. If there is no prey, no natural enemies, then the lion would never roar from within it’s lair, neither would a snare be sprung were there nothing within to spring it. So too, the judgment of the Lord will never strike out if there are none who are deserving of it. So, the question then becomes, who would become the prey of the Lord? Who would become His enemy? Through the Prophet Jeremiah, we hear the word of the Lord, “”Cursed is the man who will hear the words of this covenant, which I commanded your fathers…hear My voice and do all I command you.” (Jeremiah 11:3-4). Jesus further asks us, “Who is My mother and My brothers? Whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother.” (Matthew 12:48,50). See, it’s very much this image that he who would hear and do the will of the Father is the brethern of Christ, thus he who would become an enemy of the Lord is he who would turn away from Him, the one that would walk in his own ways, ignoring the ways of God. We see this all through Scripture, particularly in reference to the nation of Israel. “”The sons of Israel did evil before the Lord” (Judges 6:1), “he did evil before the Lord, and walked in the way of his father and in the sins by which he caused Israel to sin.” (3 Kingdoms 15:25), “all we like sheep have gone astray. Man has gone astray in his way, and the Lord delivered him over for our sins.” (Isaiah 53:6). Compared to Jesus’ words that those who walk in the Lord and obey Him are His brothers and sisters, we see that when we choose our own ways, we make ourselves an enemy of the Lord. Be it straying from His Church, walking in sin, ignoring His commands, whatever the case may be; so often we choose our own ways and make ourselves to be our own lords instead of truly accepting Him as our Lord.
The Lord goes on to say that “if a trumpet has sounded, will not the people be alerted?” See, the Lord will never randomly bring down judgment upon His people, but instead warns us. I think of Noah and the Ark, Noah who spent years building this ark with all of the people’s knowledge of it. I think of the numerous questions that Noah would have endured with people mocking him for his faith in the Lord. I think of Abram, who was told to leave his land, and he obeyed his Lord, but then I think of those who were left behind, those who mocked him for his faith. I think of the numerous prophets who, all throughout the Old Testament, delivered words of warning to the people of God, who were mocked, ignored, punished, tortured for the very message of repentance that they carried forth. I think of the time that Paul spent imprisoned for preaching the gospel of Jesus, and his ultimate execution, and of John the Baptist who also faced imprisonment and execution for offering the warnings of the Lord.
The world has the warnings of the Lord, they just choose not to hear them. I think of our generation, where we deliver constantly the warnings of the Lord to the world and they imprison, mock, persecuted and execute us for those same messages. And yet, we have received the warnings that they choose to ignore, and far too often, we join them in their ignorance. Through His Scripture, through His Prophets, through His very Church of which we are members, He warns us. And how do we respond, but through denial and apathy. On the day of the Lord, He will come as a thief in the night, and yet, on that day none of us can ever say that we weren’t warned. He has given us no date, but an expectation and an admonishment. He admonishes us to “watch therefore, for you do not know what hour the Lord is coming.” (Matthew 24:42), and elsewhere all throughout Scripture. He has warned us a thousand times over. Jesus’ entire ministry was built upon the very warning to “repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” And that is always His warning to us. He warns us to “deny ourselves, pick up our cross, and follow Him,” and yet so often we refuse to do exactly that. We, in our own wisdom, instead argue and debate what He is truly saying. We assume that His commands could never be for this age, after all, how can we worry about feeding the poor? See, they didn’t have cell phone bills in Biblical times, so it must not be for this generation. Love your neighbor? God, have you ever even met my neighbor? Surely I don’t have to love him…he called the city on me. Obey governing authority? But, look at our government. They legalized this and outlawed that.”
But, there’s a problem with this mentality. God doesn’t make these exceptions. Actually, He does the exact opposite. He challenges us to willingly choose to “pray for your enemies and love those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:14) and takes it even further with this very strong warning, “if you forgive men their trespasses, then your heavenly Father will also forgive your trespasses. But if you do not forgive men their sins, neither will your Father forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6:14-15). Have you ever truly contemplated that passage? If you aren’t willing to forgive someone who sins against you, then the Father won’t forgive you your sins against Him. That’s a hard message to hear. It’s hard because it goes against our normal response to injustice. If someone hits you, your reaction is to hit back. If someone steals from you, your reaction is to seek restitution and retribution. And Jesus says, “no.” He says that you have to be willing and able to forgive them, to love them, to pray for them.
The Lord concludes this passage in Amos by saying, “the Lord God speaks and who will not prophecy?” It’s important to remember that Amos was neither a prophet, nor the son of a prophet. He was a shepherd, whom the Lord had chosen to call the nation to repentance. He had never gone to seminary, had never trained under the watchful eye of some big-named theologian. He never sold a million copies of a book. He was “unqualified” in the eyes of the prominent scholars of his time, and yet, the Lord Himself qualified him to deliver this message to the nation. There were the scholars and scribes of his time who were being made wealthy from the faith of the nation, and they wished to silence Amos’ message. See, Amos was speaking God’s truth, which is never easy. It’s not the message that draws the most people, so those seeking personal financial gain from the name of God hate when someone comes along and ruins that. The priests and prophets of his time were preaching this easy, popular message that God loves you and would never demand anything of you. This message that there was no judgment, “peace, peace” when there was no peace. Amos comes along with the true message of the Lord, teaching judgment, obedience, true repentance, and it seems to ruin this financially profitable racket that the mega-tabernacle priests had going on.
It’s funny how so few things from Scripture have changed. Jesus warns constantly that to be His follower requires sacrifice, it requires obedience. It will lead to persecution. Jesus warns us that the path that leads to the kingdom is narrow and hard and few will find it. It will always lead to persecution, to pain, to suffering; but that he who endures to the end will be rewarded. So, we always have to ask; is the path that we are following this hard and narrow path? Jesus tells us that we must deny ourselves, pick up our cross, and follow Him. Is that the path that we are on? How often must we deny ourselves on our walk of faith? See, there remain so many who teach that the road to salvation is easy, pray a prayer, acknowledge that Jesus is God, and we are done. Dietriche Bonhoeffer defines cheap grace as “the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline. Communion without confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ.” And those who teach that brand of “Christianity” will stop at nothing to silence the true word of God.
But the Lord will not be silenced. I’ve often said that the best way to offend people and be branded a heretic would be to read the word of God to people. Not give a sermon on, not exposit away the meaning, just read the word of God and allow that to speak for itself. Stand before a congregation and read some harder passages to hear. Read chapter 14 of the Gospel of John. Read 1 Corinthians chapter 6 to a room full of “Christians” and see how many immediately try to explain away the warnings therein. We must always remember that the message of the Lord will not be silenced, and He has delivered that message to us through the Holy Spirit, through Whom we are able to understand His Holy Scripture. Go before a Church with the name grace in the title and, again, just read James 2. Watch a pastor perform a theological contortion act to explain away the fact that, according to Scripture, faith and works are two halves of a whole, something even CS Lewis affirmed when he taught that faith and works were the equivalent of the two blades on a pair of scissors. Which blade is more important? John tells us that we should no longer love in word or tongue, but in deeds and actions. So, to display our love to someone should lead us unto action. And, if our foremost love is the Lord, then there should be actions befitting the object of our love. Not as a means of acquiring the grace of the Lord, but as a result of it.
We have been warned, by the word of the Lord Himself, and we must choose whether or not we will walk with Him. We are personally responsible for our decision to abide in the Lord or not. The Lord stands at the door knocking, and “if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in.” (Revelation 3:20). The grace of God invites all, but compels none, for the Lord seeks sons, not slaves. Cyril of Jerusalem states “It is for God alone to grant His grace, your task is to accept that grace and guard it.” As Athanasius once stated, God does not save us without us. No, we have received His warnings as well as His blessings and we must choose whether or not we will obey them. Will we obey His warnings, or will we go our own way? “A lion shall roar and who will not fear? The Lord God speaks and who shall not prophesy?” As His followers, “Him we proclaim, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.” (Colossians 1:28). It is our duty to not only obey the Lord but to spread His teachings throughout the land. To make disciples of all nations. And in proclaiming this Truth, many will try to silence you. Much as each of the prophets, many will try to silence this message. They will try to convince you that you are wrong. They will say “did God really say that? Surely that’s not what He meant.” But allow the word of God to speak for itself, and when those many turn against you, remember the words of our beloved Jesus, “Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for so did they speak of the false prophets who came before.” (Luke 6:26). Think about the words of Scripture, think about what the Lord says to us in His word, and then think about your life. If the two don’t line up, then one of the two of them is off track. And be careful not to get so lost in interpretation and wisdom that we miss what is actually said in the Scripture. Jesus says that “whoever believes in Me shall have eternal life” (John 3:16); Jesus also says “whoever believes in Me will do the works that I do.” (John 14:12). Same word “to believe” in the Greek. So, whoever believes in Him and does the works that He does will have eternal life. Paul says “we are saved by grace through faith” (Ephesians 2:8) and that we are “saved for good works” (Ephesians 2:10), and James says that “faith without works is dead” (James 2:17). Thus, we are saved by grace through a faith that is strong enough to produce good works, and without those good works, one’s faith isn’t true saving faith, thus that faith is dead, since “even the demons belive and tremble.” (James 2:19). We’re not saved through our works, but through faith in our Lord, faith strong enough to produce those works for which we are saved. A faith strong enough to say, “Lord, not my will, but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42).
“Now therefore, fear the Lord, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served…and if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served…but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:14-15). The choice is ours, and because that choice is ours, so is the responsibility of our convictions ours. If we choose the Lord, then we are liable to abide in the Lord; but if we do not choose the Lord then we are responsible for whatever outcome that leads us to. There is no in-between. Scripture tells us that God will say one of two things to us on the day of the Lord, either “well done, good and faithful servant,” or “depart from Me, I never knew you.” There is no room for the lukewarm in the Kingdom. The words of our Lord, “Whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:33).
May the grace of the Lord be with you, my beloved family.