Intro: There are some words that the preacher does not want to hear. (“We called a special business meeting while you were away.”
- “You can’t preach that here”. These are words of burden to the man of God. They voice the opposition he faces in his preaching. They also demand a decision on his part. Will he preach it or will he go away.
I. The Burden of Amos: Amos, whose names means, one who bears a burden, faced these words
- Read Amos 7:10-13 – Then Amaziah the priest of Bethel sent to Jeroboam king of Israel, saying, “Amos has conspired against you in the midst of the house of Israel. The land is not able to bear all his words. 11 For thus Amos has said: ‘Jeroboam shall die by the sword, And Israel shall surely be led away captive From their own land.'” 12 Then Amaziah said to Amos: “Go, you seer! Flee to the land of Judah. There eat bread, And there prophesy. 13 But never again prophesy at Bethel, For it is the king’s sanctuary, And it is the royal residence.”
A. Amaziah was an idolatrous priest of the altars established in Dan and Bethel by Jeroboam I. The Jeroboam of Amos’ day was Jeroboam II, who reigned some 175 years after Jeroboam I established calf worship in the northern kingdom of Israel. He was not God’s priest.
B. Amaziah’s threat in Amos 7 was filled with falsehoods and innuendos.
1. Amos was not conspiring with the king of Judah. That was a lie. He had been commissioned by God Himself to preach judgment to the northern kingdom of Israel.
2. He had not prophesied that King Jeroboam would be killed. (Only that God would send the sword against his house.) It is the tactic of Satan to distort the words of those who speak God’s message. They did it to Jesus. (“He said he would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days.”) Make the preacher seem like a fanatic and dismiss his message.
3. Amaziah implied that Amos was preaching against Israel for money. (“there eat your bread” – v. 12). This is what motivated him, so he assumed this about Amos.
4. Amaziah implied that Amos was politically motivated. Amos’ words were a threat to his occupation and livelihood (like Demetrius the Silversmith in Acts 19). But he does not take on Amos himself. He appeals to the king Jeroboam on the grounds that Amos’ words were a conspiracy against the King and the state.
a. The politicians of Jeremiah’s day made the same accusation against him when he prophesied the fall of Judah to the Babylonians – Jer. 38:4 – Therefore the princes said to the king, “Please, let this man be put to death, for thus he weakens the hands of the men of war who remain in this city, and the hands of all the people, by speaking such words to them. For this man does not seek the welfare of this people, but their harm.” He is unpatriotic and does not love his country. Jesus was accused of being a threat to Caesar. Amaziah’s tactics are still popular today.
b. So Satan today turns moral issues, such as homosexuality and abortion, into civil rights issues and those who speak God’s words are condemned as being bigoted and opposing the welfare of the state.
c. “..for it is the king’s sanctuary, and it is the royal residence” – The words of Amaziah about Bethel unwittingly revealed too much. He uses the same word (sanctuary) God used to describe the Temple in Jerusalem as His sanctuary. God had authorized worship there, and thus it was the Lord’s sanctuary. But Bethel was the place of humanly authorized false worship. Barnes says…” the sanctuary at Bethel had no other sanction, than what it had from the king”. Amaziah issued hi state-sponsored cease and desist order as though he had jurisdiction in the matter. in the end, Amaziah’s boast revealed the true problem with Bethel, and Israel – it was just the king’s residence. God no longer lived there.
C. Amos’s response: Amos 7:14-17 – 14 Then Amos answered, and said to Amaziah: “I was no prophet, Nor was I a son of a prophet, But I was a sheepbreeder And a tender of sycamore fruit. 15 Then the Lord took me as I followed the flock, And the Lord said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to My people Israel.’ 16 Now therefore, hear the word of the Lord: You say, ‘Do not prophesy against Israel, And do not spout against the house of Isaac.’ 17 “Therefore thus says the Lord: ‘Your wife shall be a harlot in the city; Your sons and daughters shall fall by the sword; Your land shall be divided by survey line; You shall die in a defiled land; And Israel shall surely be led away captive From his own land.'”
1. Amos is not intimidated. He reveals to Amaziah his common heritage and complete lack of human credentials (“I was no prophet.. God took me as I followed the flock”). But the Lord told me to go preach to Israel, and here I am. His emphatic reply was designed to do more than just refuse the Amaziah’s order to go home. He spoke the words of God personally to Amaziah: Your wife will be forced to live by becoming a prostitute in the streets; your children will die by the sword; your land taken from you; and you will die in a foreign land; and your beloved country will be taken into captivity. Ouch!!!
D. Why speak when people do not listen? It must have been tempting for Amos to just go back home. It seemed evident that the people were not going to repent. Amos’ answer to that question is… “A lion has roared! Who will not fear? The Lord God has spoken! Who can but prophesy?” (Amos 3:8)
1. We must be faithful to our burden as well. We must speak what we are given from the Lord, and trust in His purposes. Someone wrote… If an entire biblical book seems to have been preached in vain to a nation, don’t think it strange that sometimes your own testimony falls on deaf ears. The justification for speaking the Word of God is not the certainty of converts but the certainty of God’s call.”
2. Amos’ message of certain judgment (“Prepare to meet your God”) included its own justification. This too speaks to us today… What was the sin of Israel?
II. The Sins of the Nation: What was God’s complaint against His people? Why would He not “turn away its punishment?” (2:6) Israel had forsaken God in more than one way. We will identify the sins that Amos exposed for the purpose of looking at ourselves. Do Amos’ words describe us? If so, what then?
A. The Peril of Prosperity: Things in Israel were looking up. The nation was enjoying rest from its enemies and prosperity within. Although this prosperity was not wrong in itself (God had provided it), it was the seedbed of rebellion for God’s people. It still is.
- God’s warning: Deut. 8:10-14– Then you have eaten and are full, then you shall bless the Lord your God for the good land which He has given you. 11 “Beware that you do not forget the Lord your God by not keeping His commandments, His judgments, and His statutes which I command you today, 12 lest — when you have eaten and are full, and have built beautiful houses and dwell in them; 13 and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and your gold are multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied; 14 when your heart is lifted up, and you forget the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage; vs. 17-19 – then you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gained me this wealth.’ 18 “And you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth, that He may establish His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day. 19 Then it shall be, if you by any means forget the Lord your God, and follow other gods, and serve them and worship them, I testify against you this day that you shall surely perish.
1. Israel’s prosperity led to a false sense of security and self-satisfaction. In Amos 6:13, the prophet reflects their attitude. – “Have we not taken Karnaim for ourselves By our own strength?” A nationalistic spirit of exceptionalism without a humble reverence toward God who made you exceptional is a recipe for judgment. (“I will raise up a nation against you”)
a. Wealth and comfort are sources of false security. 1 Timothy 6:17 – As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy.
2. Israel’s prosperity led to an addiction to luxury. Notice how the prophet denounces the attitude of materialism. Amos 6:1 – Woe to you who are at ease in Zion, And trust in Mount Samaria.. vs. 4-6 – who lie on beds of ivory, Stretch out on your couches, Eat lambs from the flock And calves from the midst of the stall; 5 Who sing idly to the sound of stringed instruments, And invent for yourselves musical instruments like David; 6 Who drink wine from bowls, And anoint yourselves with the best ointments, But are not grieved for the affliction of Joseph. Does this describe what we see today? – people who live for comfort, and do not grieve over the lost; people who spend and consume to provide for their pleasure with little regard for anything else. There is a warning of Amos which may hit close to home here in SW Florida. Amos 3:15 – I will destroy the winter house along with the summer house; The houses of ivory shall perish, And the great houses shall have an end,” Says the Lord. Are we addicted to luxury? How has our prosperity affected our spirituality?
3. Israel’s prosperity led to their unjust treatment of the poor. Mistreatment of the poor is a major complaint in the prophecy of Amos. It seems evident that the wealth of some led to the unjust treatment of others. God was not going to overlook this sin. Amos begins his exposure in Amos 2:6-7 – Thus says the Lord: “For three transgressions of Israel, and for four, I will not turn away its punishment, Because they sell the righteous for silver, And the poor for a pair of sandals. 7 They pant after the dust of the earth which is on the head of the poor, And pervert the way of the humble.
a. In 4:1 Amos gives a graphic picture of the wealthy women of his time: “Hear this word, you cows of Bashan, who are in the mountains of Samaria, who oppress the poor, who crush the needy, who say to their husbands, ‘Bring, that we may drink!'”
b. Then in 5:11-12 he shows how corruption and callousness mingle: “Therefore, because you tread down the poor And take grain taxes from him, Though you have built houses of hewn stone, Yet you shall not dwell in them; You have planted pleasant vineyards, But you shall not drink wine from them. 12 For I know your manifold transgressions And your mighty sins: Afflicting the just and taking bribes; Diverting the poor from justice at the gate.
c. And finally, in 8:4–6 we see how religious hypocrisy and love for wealth, dishonesty and hardheartedness all combine: Amos 8:4-7 – Hear this, you who swallow up the needy, And make the poor of the land fail, 5 Saying: “When will the New Moon be past, That we may sell grain? And the Sabbath, That we may trade wheat? Making the ephah small and the shekel large, Falsifying the scales by deceit, 6 That we may buy the poor for silver, And the needy for a pair of sandals — Even sell the bad wheat?” 7 The Lord has sworn by the pride of Jacob: “Surely I will never forget any of their works.
B. The Sham of Hypocritical Worship: Another arena in which Israel had forsaken God was in their worship. Amos calls for the people to worship but there is a twist to his call. Amos 4:4-5 – “Come to Bethel and transgress, At Gilgal multiply transgression; Bring your sacrifices every morning, Your tithes every three days. 5 Offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving with leaven, Proclaim and announce the freewill offerings; For this you love, You children of Israel!” Says the Lord God.
1. He calls them to their places of worship in order to sin and transgress. It is a sarcastic call to worship. Their attempts at worship only multiplied their sin!
2. The sin of their worship involved the idolatrous practice of calf worship that characterized the altars at Bethel and Dan. But there seems to be more in this indictment.
a. “Proclaim and announce the freewill offerings; For this you love, You children of Israel!” Says the Lord God”. They were proud of what they did in worshipping God. They bragged about it. This boasting betrayed a selfish motive that sabotaged any act of humble worship. Notice that the people were bringing their tithe every three days. Moses declared that the tithe of the produce of the land would be paid in the third year (Deuteronomy 14:22,28; 26:12). They were certainly doing a lot more outwardly, but for the wrong reason. Worship is not about us. It is not even about getting through the 5 “acts of worship”. It is about drawing near to God in humility.
b. Amos is a devastating book for people who give token attention to God through assemblies and outward activities, but whose hearts are much more genuinely engaged by sports, or business, or family, or hobbies. If your outward acts of worship are a mask to give you some respectability while your heart is really attached to the world and to your own comfort, then God hates your worship and despises your solemn assemblies and offerings and songs. Amos 5:21-24 – “I hate, I despise your feast days, And I do not savor your sacred assemblies. 22 Though you offer Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings, I will not accept them, Nor will I regard your fattened peace offerings. 23 Take away from Me the noise of your songs, For I will not hear the melody of your stringed instruments. 24 But let justice run down like water, And righteousness like a mighty stream.
Conclusion: The burden of Amos was enormous. But he did not run away from it or lay it down. He spoke boldly the coming judgment of God. In that message he speaks to us as well, both as a nation blessed by God, and an individuals who belong to Him. “Prepare to meet your God”.