Not fearing fear

RE Verse reading–Amos 4:1-5, 5:1-24 (day two)  “You will be taken away with hooks, and the last of you with fishhooks”  (4:2)  Unacceptable language for polite society!  Outrageous!  What possible purpose could Amos have had for using such graphically violent words?  You mean, except that they were true?  Amos didn’t apologize.  He knew that sometimes we avoid feeling fear to our own harm.  We forget that “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”  (Proversb 9:10)  Following the wisdom of man, we avoid thoughts of a Holy God or His promised judgement and forfeit the corrective strength that it provides.  Never entertaining such possibilites, we fail to heed the wisdom to “test yourself, to see if you are in the faith” (2 Corinthians 13:5) Until we know the great danger can we ever appreciate our great salvation?  Admitting that “God has not given us a spirit of timidity” (2 Timothy 1:7), Amos still believes that fear is not something that we should be afraid of.

Decimated

RE Verse reading–Amos 4:1-5, 5:1-24  (day one)  “The town that marches out one hundred strong will only have ten left”  (5:3)  The English word decimated comes from a form of military discipline in ancient Rome.  Cowardly or mutinous cohorts were gathered to have one soldier in ten selected by lot and executed.  (decem is ten in Latin)  Amos predicts something worse for Israel, a military defeat more disastrous than decimation.  Rather than one of ten being destroyed, only one in ten will be saved when the day of God’s fury arrives.  Some argue that God hates the sin and not the sinner.  Perhaps so, but the distinction is hard to support with scripture.  Refusing His mercy, sinners will experience the “wrath of the Lamb” ( Revelation 6:16)  With both the promise of His judgement and the offer of His grace, we have strong incentive to turn to the Lord in these days of warning.  “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. . .

To whom much is given

RE Verse reading–Amos 1-2 (day seven)  In 2 Corinthians 6:1, Paul introduces a scriptural concern, that we would “take for granted” the grace of God and be doubly accountable as a result.  “We urge you not to receive the grace of God in vain“,–ie. without effect, without repentance and gratitude.  Perhaps this explains why Amos had 5xs as many words of warning/judgement for Israel as he had for the other neighbor nations.   God’s blessings obligate us!  We are held to a higher standard if we continue in sin.  Amos mentioned that God had given “prophets and Nazirites” (vs 11)  From these dedicated lives, Israel heard the word of God and saw an example of holy life.  Ignoring the prophet’s words and asking the Nazirites to “have a drink” (vs 12) the people of Israel treated the grace of God with contempt and proved His justice when He stood in wrath. Wonderful truth. . .terrible truth. . .  To whom much is given, much is required.  (Luke 12:48)

War no more

RE Verse reading–Amos 1-2 (day six)  “And they will hammer their swords into plowshares. . .never again will they learn war”  (Isaiah 2:4)  Part of God’s judgement on the nations is for their behavior in war.  Amos called out Damascus for the cruelty to “thresh Gilead with sledges having iron teeth”.  (vs 3)  He condemned Ammon for “ripping open pregnant women to extend his borders”. (vs 13)  Is our world different?  When the negro spiritual sang “I ain’t gonna study war no more” it was a confession that we do. . .study war.  Much of our research is toward better weapons.  Many of our private thoughts are justifications for continued fear/anger toward our enemies.  Sometimes war is just and necessary, but the Christian heart must never surrender the hope that the cruelty of war will someday cease and the world will know the Prince of Peace.  Friend, does your heart break with the report of every new atrocity?  Do you feel angry?  God does.

What does the Lord hate?

RE Verse reading–Amos 1-2 (day five)  “For three sins of Israel, even for four, I will not turn back my WRATH”  (vs 6, chapter 2)  For those of us schooled on John 3:16, it is a strange word.  Not as rare as we may think, but unfamiliar none the less.  Wrath translates the Hebrew word pequddah which means “visitation”.  It speaks of the day when God comes for a painful, corrective reckoning.  Amos is very aware of this gathering wrath.  He declares God’s hatred for things that DESTROY.  Cruelty in war (1:3)  Broken promises of brotherhood (1:9)  Injustice to the poor (2:7)  He also declares God’s hatred for things that DISTRACT.  “I hate your religious feasts. . .away with the noise of your songs, but let justice roll down like a river and righteousness like a never-failing stream.”  (5:21-24, next week’s lesson)  With a clear vision for the potential of the human race, God rightfully hates the things that destroy or distract us from His high holy purpose.

Slow to anger

RE Verse reading–Amos 1-2 (day four)  “For three sins of Damascus, even for four, I will not turn back my wrath”  (vs 3)  One of the expressions of God’s mercy is His patience with us.  He does not act in response to our first sin.  Not the second or third.  He waits. The specific numbers may change but the attribute doesn’t.  Ultimately,  out of holiness and love (for others if not for us), He reaches a point where He must act.  “The man who remains stiff-necked after many rebukes will suddenly be destroyed without remedy” (Proverbs 29:1) Our comfort?  He reaches this point slowly.  “The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger”  (Exodus 34:6)  From this truth we learn two things.  1) Whenever He does discipline us, we MORE than deserve it.   2) While He waits we have an opportunity to repent.  God’s mercy is real.  His patience is proof.  May we be fast to repent because He is slow to anger.

Ordinary man–extraordinary life

RE Verse reading–Amos 1-2 (day three)  “The words of Amos, one of the shepherds of Tekoa–what he saw concerning Israel two years before the earthquake” (vs 1)  The Amos story is extraordinary.  Not because he is different than we are.  Just the opposite.  He is the “poster child” of ordinary life.  He is a “little bit country”, but learns truth and courage from God that catapults him into kingdom service.  As a shepherd, I suspect Amos had some initial hesitation.  No seminary training.  Perhaps he felt the sting when Amaziah treated him with disrespect and kicked him out of the country (chapter 7)  The extraordinary thing?  He didn’t give up!  He went back to Tekoa and wrote his message down.  The first prophet to do so.  The door into a new era.   Irrepressible!  Martin Luther said, “A simple layman armed with scripture is to be believed above a pope or a council without it.”  I think Amos would have agreed.  Extraordinary!

Our blind spot

RE Verse reading–Amos 1-2 (day two)  “This is what the Lord says, ‘for three sins of Israel, even for four, I will not turn back my wrath” (vs 6)  It is an old trap–seeing the sins of others but not our own.  The people who listened to Amos enjoyed the first part of his sermon better than the last.  For several minutes, he listed the sins of the neighboring nations. Nodding heads and amens.  Finally, he came to the real point–the sins of Israel.  The wrath of God is a strange subject.  Most of us feel like it is uncalled for where we are concerned.  Aren’t we different?   The Bible says no.  “There are no distinctions“, says Paul as he develops this same theme in the book of Romans.  “For ALL have sinned (past tense) and fall (present tense) short of the glory of God”  (Romans 3:22-23)  Forgivness is possible, but blindness to sin in ourselves is the deepest blindness of all.

A lion has roared

RE Verse reading–Amos 1-2 (day one)  “The Lord roars from Zion” (vs 2)  “A lion has roared!  Who will not fear?”(Amos 3:8)  Ever hear a lion roar?  I have a friend who makes regular trips to Africa to hunt.  He says if you ever hear a lion roar in the wild (not having the assurance that he is in a cage) you will NEVER forget it.  He say it is bone-chilling to realize that you are not just hunting him, HE IS HUNTING YOU!   Amos knew.  The first words in his book, repeated later in chapter 3,  paint a verbal picture of a God whose holy wrath has finally reached a crisis.  He roars to warn us of danger.  He roars to call us to repent.  Does God ever reach such a moment with His own people?  Are we exempt from such holy/hard discipline?  Amos says no.  “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked.”  (Galatians 6:7)  THE Lion has roared!  Anyone listening?

The Great Comfort

RE Verse reading–Matthew 28:16-20 (day seven)  “and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age”  (vs 20)  Sometimes I feel overwhelmed.  As a Pastor, a father, a husband, a citizen.  The darkness seems so deep.  My stength seems so inadequate.  It is not an unhelpful moment! As strange as it seems to self-absorbed, self-sufficient people, feeling powerless is often the beginning of a new/better chapter.  In Matthew 28, Jesus spoke words to shift the disciples’ focus from themselves (and their challenges) to Himself.  “I will be with you always”, He said.  The lesson was Christ-confidence.  The same Lord who walked on the water and healed blind eyes and answered angry Pharisees promised (then and now) , ” I am with you when death comes”.  “I am with you are weary”. ” I am with you when you fail others and yourself”.  “I will stay near”.  What a great comfort!  What a great Savior!. . . for us who are sometimes overwhelmed.