Saturday, February 23, 2008

Amos 7 (part 2)

2. Can you avoid judgement by not listening to it?
This third cycle triggers this question, and the events of v10-16. A clash with the authorities. A new voice appears. It too seeks to avoid judgement. We're introduced, v10, to Amaziah the Priest of Bethel, Vicar at the Church of the Golden Calf. The Cow-priest. What’s significant about Bethel? At Bethel Jacob wrestled God for blessing – tragically now at Bethel God’s curse is falling on his people. It’s like the beaches of Thailand – heaven on earth on Christmas Day 2004. Hell on earth on Boxing Day.

Amos is charged with conspiracy. Why? For speaking the word of God. Reformer Martin Luther said he was accused of being a pestilent fellow who stirred up trouble. His crime? To revive the gospel! Those born of the Spirit are always persecuted. Same today? Claims that Jesus is Lord are probably not considered as political conspiracy, but rather as conspiracy against scientific progress or human freedom. The word of God always conflicting with what we consider to be “our human rights”.

But, Amos did no wrong and so the charges can’t stick. Amaziah tried a different angle. See v12: “go prophesy in Judah” Spout judgement against them! Don’t interrupting our services with your hell-fire talk! We’re a healthy, growing church. Amos, we’re evangelicals!! v13. Can you see what Amaziah is doing here? Amos has observed this before, in 2v12 - silencing the prophets. Amaziah puts God on mute! It’s one thing to ask a child to be quiet. This is God! No-one tells God to shut up. How dare he tell God to zip it? How dare he tell the Holy Spirit not to examine his people?

John Calvin was right, Amaziah is “…worthy of being destroyed by God a hundred times.”
What would you do if you were Amos? Wouldn’t you sneak away quietly? Look what happens. He speaks. Like Peter and John centuries later when they’re ask to be silent – they must speak of what they have heard and seen. This isn’t human courage. The word of God compels him. Amos responds, v14: “I'm just a shepherd - I was no prophet, or son of a prophet, but the LORD sent me to prophesy.” No prophecy originates with man. Prophets speak from God, carried along by the Holy Spirit. Did you see that in v1, v4, v7? The Lord shows Amos something – and asks, v8 – what do you see? Say what you see! Amos didn’t wake up and think – “I want to speak judgement!” He says what God shows him – he speaks God’s word. The prophets words are God’s words. As such, “to disobey what the prophets say, is to disobey God.” (Grudem)

So, v16: "You say don't prophesy, don't preach THEREFORE the LORD says judgement on you and certain exile for Israel." He hated the word of God and so hated God, therefore, v16 is judged. The house of Jeroboam falls and now also the house of Amaziah – his wife, his children, his land, and himself. All of them complicit in sin. The LORD is establishing his kingdom and the old order must fall. Cut off from God for idolatry until Jesus, Son of David, comes to rebuild the house of David. Punished for their idolatry and the itching ears of their Cow-Priest.
True worship sidelined. Sound doctrine ignored. Calvin rightly called it “sacrilegious audacity.”
Amaziah is stealing God’s job, and doing it badly. The resurrected Jesus is the judge, not the Cow-Priest. Therefore, v16 he is judged.

Putting God on mute doesn’t stop God speaking. The word of God doesn’t return empty. God speaks to stake His claim on every single person in His creation. The Cow-Priest is out of his league as he sits pondering “what would I like to hear from God?” rather than “what does God require of us?” Much more than a parking ticket or whether forecast do I like it is irrelevant when it comes to God’s word. Jonathan Edwards asked - What are we that we should think to stand before him, at whose rebuke the earth trembles, and before whom the rocks are thrown down?”

Yet we stand, not allied to God and his word like Amos – but opposed to him. Mistaking the roaring lion for a pussycat. Passing over parts we don’t like as if they were mere advice and human words. Not to grumble… or to be patient… even the simplest commands seem to be too much for us! Or, I can be clear about how the word applies to someone else, but casually unaware that God is addressing me. Even preparing the sermon it’s something that can happen - I’m good at it, aren’t we all? Ever done it? Of course you have – Oh, we say – I hear it – and isn’t it so clear how X needs to apply it! We’re fools like Amaziah! The Lion roars – his words shot through with wrath for those who wont listen. Tremble as the lion roars. Tremble at his word.

Can you avoid judgement by not listening?
No. Jesus will judge his world and we should take that word seriously.

Can you avoid judgement by seeking grace?
Yes. Emphatically yes, because for all our light handling of God’s word, our idolatry, our deceit against our God – the blood of Jesus is enough! His blood gives permission to admit we’ve failed and to come and take him at his word afresh. There are hints of grace in Amos 7, but for the Christian we see grace in it's fullness. We hear the word of his grace calling for our repentance, calling us to Jesus.

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