Famous Amos

God is good. God is just. God is the ultimate judge. He is also exceedingly patient. However, in order to be a good judge, He cannot let the guilty go free. That would be neither good nor just.

Famous Amos ~ February 03, 2019 ~ Amos 1:9-10

When you carry your Bible around, you are not carrying a book. You are actually carrying a library of books. Sixty-six of them to be certain – 39 in the Old Testament, 27 in the New Testament. In the Old Testament, the first five books are known as the Pentateuch – Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy, also known as the books of Moses. There are also, in the Old Testament, twelve historical books, seventeen prophetic books, and five books of wisdom literature. Within the prophetic works, there are five major prophets and twelve minor prophets. Now, that is not a qualitative designation. The major prophets aren’t better prophets than the minor prophets, all prophets of God are the same. That is actually a quantitative designation. The major prophets are called major prophets because their books are bigger. It’s the truth. The prophet Isaiah’s book has 66 chapters, the prophet Joel’s book has three. Isaiah is a major prophet, Joel is a minor prophet. So, if you ever hear those terms used, please don’t think the prophet Joel or the prophet Amos (who we’re going to talk about this morning) is any less important than Isaiah and Jeremiah and some of the major prophets.

Anyway, Amos falls into the category of minor prophets. Would you please join me in the unison prayer as we prepare to study the Word of God. Let us pray.

Lord, upon the pages of this book is your story. It is also our story. Open our eyes that we may see, our ears that we may hear, our minds that we may understand, and our hearts that they may be transformed. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

The prophet Amos, chapter 1:9:

This is what the Lord says:
“The people of Tyre have sinned again and again,
and I will not let them go unpunished!
They broke their treaty of brotherhood with Israel,
selling whole villages as slaves to Edom.
So I will send down fire on the walls of Tyre,
and all its fortresses will be destroyed.”
(Amos 1:9-10)

Wow! That’s pretty depressing, huh? That’s not exactly what you’d put on a bumper sticker and stick it on your car. “The people of Tyre have sinned again and again, and I will not let them go unpunished!” Who is this Amos character?

Well, Amos was a farmer, a fig farmer to be specific. He was also a shepherd. He lived in the southern kingdom of Judah. And then he had a vision. This is what the book of Amos is about. He’s explaining to you the words that the Lord gave him in his vision. In this vision, God tells him to leave his flocks, to leave his fields, and go to Bethel in the northern kingdom of Israel, and while you’re there, I want you to deliver a message. So, Amos is asked to leave something he was good at – farming, husbandry – and go do something he was completely unfamiliar with – evangelizing – in a strange new place – Bethel.

God kind of does do that to us frequently. He will often ask us to get out of our comfort zone and do something we are neither trained nor prepared for. That’s what being a Christian is all about at times, folks. Trusting the Lord. Peter had to get out of the boat in order to walk on the water, right? He couldn’t just stick his leg over the side and kind of dabble his toe in there and say, “Hey, Lord, if you say I am going to walk on water, I’m good, I believe you! Everything’s cool!” No, he had to do something he was completely unprepared for – get out of his comfort zone and get out of the boat. We need to trust in God’s will.

The Bible says in Proverbs 3:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.
Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.
(Proverbs 3:5-6)

Trust in the Lord. Step out of that boat. Get out of your comfort zone. Trust that He knows what He’s doing. You may feel untrained or unprepared. With the Lord on your side, you’ll be fine.

Now, just in case Amos’ assignment wasn’t tough enough – leave your flocks, leave your fields, go to a strange land and do something you’ve never done before – the message He asks him to deliver? “The people of Tyre have sinned again and again, and I will not let them go unpunished.” And if you read the rest of the chapter, you will find that this message for Tyre? It’s the same message He wants Amos to deliver to the villages and cities of Edom, and Bozrah, and Ammon, and Rabbah. Same thing. Nice, huh? Anybody want Amos’ job? You people have sinned, and I will not let you go unpunished! That’s a way to make friends.

Amos could not have been the most popular person in Bethel. And we all want to be popular, don’t we? We all want to be liked. Being popular is not a sin. Jesus is pretty popular. But there’s a difference, there’s a fine difference – if you do something really well, and because of what you’re doing you find that you become popular, that’s kind of an addition, a side-note. But if you do something just to be popular, just to be famous, that’s vanity. That’s pride. Your goal is, “Oh, look at me, aren’t I wonderful!” A desire to be popular, to be liked, is what leads so many people to do such colossally stupid things, and then post them on YouTube. I don’t even know what Birdbox is, but I know it’s pretty stupid. Let’s do things like drive my car blindfolded!

We want hits. We want to be popular. We want to be famous. You know what? Pastors get seduced by a desire for popularity too. I don’t know a pastor who does not want to pastor a megachurch. Some people claim that they do – they’re lying. They can criticize Joel Osteen and Lakewood Church all they want, but most of them, the vast majority of them would trade places with him in a heartbeat. Who would not want 37,000 people to visit their church over the course of a weekend? They want to be popular. The question is, what is a pastor willing to do in order to make that happen? In order to draw thousands and thousands of people to their church? The answer to that question reveals whether or not they really want to be popular, or if they want Jesus to be popular.

Let me explain. God says through the apostle Paul in the letter of 2 Timothy:

A time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. They will reject the truth and chase after myths.
(2 Timothy 4:3-4)

There are all kinds of pastors, all kinds of churches here in this city, in this state, in this nation, all over the world who are willing to tell people whatever it is they want to hear in order to have them come. There is no such thing as hell! We’re all going to heaven, it doesn’t matter what you believe or what you do. I mean, have you ever told a lie, ever? It’s okay! Don’t worry about it! Everything will be fine! Have you ever stolen anything, taken anything that wasn’t yours, even if it was a candy bar when you were five? It’s okay, don’t worry about it. Have you ever looked at the opposite sex, at someone with lust in your heart? It’s okay, don’t worry about it! Have you ever murdered anyone? Oh, no pastor! Certainly not! (Most people get this one right). I have not murdered someone, I’m all set there. Really? The Bible says anyone who hates another brother or sister is really a murderer at heart. Have you ever hated someone?

See, never mind that these are just four of the Ten Commandments. The “don’t worry about it” they say, people will say “don’t worry about it, God is good, and because of His goodness, He will overlook all of our sins!” Can you see how that message would be very popular? How people would flock to a church by the thousands to hear a pastor preach no accountability? “Don’t worry about it, it doesn’t matter what you believe or what you do, we’re all going to heaven!” That’s what some pastors will tell you. God is good, and He will overlook all sin. A message like that can fill a church and make a pastor very popular. Amos’ message? Not so much.

But the problem with the “don’t worry about what you do or what you believe, everything is all rainbows and unicorns” message is that the thing that so many people are counting on to save them – God’s goodness – sadly will be the very thing that ultimately will condemn them in the end.

Let me explain. God is good, that is absolutely true. God is also our final judge. That too is absolutely true. And think of it this way. Let’s say you are a court reporter for a newspaper, so you’re at the courthouse every single day, and often you get this judge, and this judge is always letting people go free. So, you embezzled $10,000 from your company? Well, that’s okay, you teach Sunday school and you go to church on a regular basis. Not guilty. Oh, you got caught selling methamphetamines to high schoolers? That’s okay, most of your life you’ve been generally a good person, so, not guilty. Would you call that judge a good judge or a bad judge?

God is good, and a good judge cannot let the guilty go free. If they did, they wouldn’t be a good judge. So, God tells Amos to remind the people of Tyre, “You have sinned again and again, and I will not let you go unpunished.” A good judge follows the law. God is good. That means He will follow His laws. God gave His laws on Mount Sinai, Moses brought them down, revealed them to us. He puts it right out there. God will follow His laws because He is a good judge. So, the question is, are we innocent or guilty? The truth is we have an incredible – instinctive almost – capacity to rationalize our behavior and the consequences.

When I was playing in my band years ago, my lead singer was a guy by the name of Dave. Dave is a good guy, he really is. One night he was late for rehearsal. When he finally shows up, he’s just sputtering. He’s all upset and frustrated and angry. And we let him sputter for a few minutes and then said, “Dave, what’s the matter?” And he went on and on and on and on about this police officer in Raleigh who pulled him over for speeding and he’s a good driver, never had any infractions, and goes on and on and on. And after a few minutes, I finally said, “Dave! Just one question. Buddy, you either broke the law or you didn’t break the law. Were you speeding?” “Well, yeah, but…”

We love to rationalize it when it comes to us. I live on Nott Street in Wethersfield. It’s a straightaway. So, cars fly up and down this road, and every time you see a car fly through my living room window, you just kind of pray there’s a police officer down the bottom of the street ready to pull them over, put the law on them, right? Except when I’m late for my dentist appointment, and I really gotta get going, and I’m in a hurry! So, I peel off down the street, and if I get pulled over it’s like, “Well, look, I’m a good guy, I never speed. I’m a pastor!” Did I break the law or did I not break the law? That’s the only question. And one day, when my buddy Dave and I stand before God, He will determine my guilt – our guilt – or innocence, based upon whether or not we broke His laws. If we have (and I assure you we have), then we, just as the people of Tyre, Edom, Bozrah, Ammon and Rabbah, God will not let us go unpunished either. Because He is good. Because God is a good judge, He will punish those who have broken His law. He has to, or He is not good.

Now, can you see where this is not as popular a message as, “It’s okay! Do whatever you want to! There’s no accountability! Everyone’s going to heaven! God wants to overlook all our sins!” The problem is that’s not true. The people of Tyre have sinned again and again, and I will not let them go unpunished.

I mean, it’s not true. This is true. Would you rather hear the truth? Let me ask you this. Would you rather hear the truth from your doctor? Imagine – go back to 2006. I show up at the doctor’s office. He gets the results of all my blood work, and he says to himself, “Oh my gosh, this guy’s got diabetes. But if I tell him he’s got diabetes and I tell him he has to change his diet and he has to lose some weight and he has to exercise and he has to stay away from carbohydrates, and no sugar, and no candy, he is not going to like me! I will not be popular!”

“Mr. Soderberg, you’re fine! Go ahead! Eat whatever you want. You don’t have to exercise. Take two aspirin and call me in six months.”

I think this guy is the greatest guy on earth… I’m going to die. Do you want to hear the truth from your doctor or not? Even if it’s tough?

Well, you see, because I can wish all day long to not have diabetes. But I do. That’s the funny thing about wishes. There’s no such thing. I don’t want to burst anybody’s bubble, I’m sorry, but when you blow out the candles on your birthday cake, it doesn’t mean anything. And if there are a few candles leftover, it has nothing to do with how many children you’re going to have. I’m sorry. Wishes don’t exist. It’s not real. Just like crossing your fingers or knocking on wood – why do I even do that?

I can wish all I want, but the truth is the truth. Well, when it comes to your eternal salvation, would you rather have me tell you whatever you wanted to hear, or the truth? The truth is Famous Amos is right. God, because He is good, will not let our sins go unpunished. Now, that message may not lead to a megachurch. But this one might: My sins, your sins – sins which we deserve to be punished for because we’re the ones who broke God’s law – have not gone unpunished. Isaiah 53:

But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins.
He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed.
All of us, like sheep, have strayed away…

Did whatever we wanted to do…

… We have left God’s paths to follow our own.
Yet the Lord laid on him the sins of us all.
(Isaiah 53:5-6)

God, because He is a good judge will not overlook our sins. He did not overlook our sins. He carried out the proper punishment, but because He loves us so much, He inflicted your punishment, He inflicted my punishment upon His Son, Jesus. All we need to do is confess our sins and believe. Believe in what He did for us on the cross, and we’re saved. That’s the Good News. That’s why we call it Good News. Because of what Christ did on the cross, we will not suffer the same fate as the people of Tyre, Edom, Bozrah, Ammon, and Rabbah. That’s not depressing, that’s Great News! And you know what? You can tell who has believed and who has not. You can. Let me give you some hints, some inside baseball information.

Those people who continue to believe there’s no such thing as hell, that we’re all going to heaven no matter what you believe or what you do, that God is good and will overlook all sin; those who reject His truth, His word, and continue to do whatever they believe is right and moral and just; they have not listened to Famous Amos, or Jesus, and have continued to listen to whatever it is they want to hear. They don’t want a ticket on Nott Street. Those folks, Jesus has already told us what those folks will hear in Matthew chapter 7. Here’s what they’ll hear on judgment day:

“Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. On judgment day many of you will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’”
(Matthew 7:21-23)

The people of Tyre have sinned again and again and I will not let them go unpunished. You may still not want Amos’ job. You probably still feel neither trained nor prepared for it. You probably remain way out of your comfort zone when it comes to evangelism, but you know what, actually, there’s only one requirement necessary; one, to do Amos’ job: Tell the truth. That’s it. That’s not always the most popular thing to do, but the truth is what sets you free.

Look, would I love for this meeting house to be filled so much so that we needed to have multiple worship services because we couldn’t fit everybody into one? Absolutely! But not by giving people a very popular, but false, sense of security that it doesn’t matter what you do, it doesn’t matter what you believe, we’re all going to heaven anyway. No. I would like to see it filled by giving them the Good News. The truth. That God showed His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners; and therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ, our Lord, has done for us. Wow. That is in my opinion by no means depressing. That is great news. So, tell your friends. Tell your family. Invite them to come with you some Sunday to hear the Good News. To hear the truth that God has to punish bad behavior, has to punish sin, because He is a good God, but that He did so here. He did so on His Son, so you wouldn’t have to suffer, rightly.