Amos 7:7-15 (7th Sunday after Pentecost—Series B)
Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield CT
July 15, 2012
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Our text for this morning is the Old Testament reading from Amos 7:
This is what he showed me: behold, the Lord was standing beside a wall built with a plumb line, with a plumb line in his hand. And the LORD said to me, “Amos, what do you see?” And I said, “A plumb line.” Then the Lord said, “Behold, I am setting a plumb line in the midst of my people Israel; I will never again pass by them; the high places of Isaac shall be made desolate, and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste, and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword.” 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. For thus Amos has said, “‘Jeroboam shall die by the sword, and Israel must go into exile away from his land.'” And Amaziah said to Amos, “O seer, go, flee away to the land of Judah, and eat bread there, and prophesy there, but never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king’s sanctuary, and it is a temple of the kingdom.” Then Amos answered and said to Amaziah, “I was no prophet, nor a prophet’s son, but I was a herdsman and a dresser of sycamore figs. But the LORD took me from following the flock, and the LORD said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’
None of this was Amos’s idea. As so often was the case throughout history, God chose yet another undistinguished individual to carry His divine Word to His people. And once again God’s message and messenger were rejected. But before we go pointing fingers too quickly, let us take time to learn about ourselves in the relationship we have with God’s message through the example and witness of Amos.
Hear Amos in his own words: “I was no prophet, nor a prophet’s son, but I was a herdsman and a dresser of sycamore figs. But the Lord took me from following the flock, and the Lord said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’”
Amos was not a professional prophet. It was not his career choice, nor did he have a degree from the prophet’s school of theology. Amos was never a member of the prophets’ schools, a pupil of those who had been trained to prophesy. He was a shepherd and he took care of sycamore fig trees. That’s how Amos made a living—he owned sheep and a fig orchard. Amos had no intentions of his own to stand before anyone, much less the king of Israel, to prophesy anything, especially God’s punishment against the house of King Jeroboam and against the false worship of Israel. But God had a need for Amos to speak His Word to His people—a word of warning, a call to repentance, a message of punishment, and a declaration of restoration. So the Lord took Amos from following the flock and told him to go and prophesy to the Lord’s people. And Amos went and told the people the very words the Lord Himself gave Amos to speak.
As you might imagine, Amos met with resistance. Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, reported inaccurately to King Jeroboam what Amos had said. Amos prophesied that God was going to destroy the high places of Israel where worship of the idol Baal was taking place. They would be left desolate because the people would be taken away into exile. But Amaziah told the king that Amos had said that Jeroboam would die by the sword. Not true. Amos spoke God’s word—the Lord would rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword (through the invading army of the nation of Assyria.) Then Amaziah called Amos out and told Amos to pack up and leave town because he didn’t like what he had heard. “O seer, go, flee away to the land of Judah, and eat bread there and prophesy there, but never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king’s sanctuary, and it is a temple of the kingdom.”
A temple of the kingdom? Bethel was a place of idol worship. It is where the king of Israel and the people of Israel went to worship Baal, a golden calf, a fake god. It is precisely one of the places that God was going to get rid of because Israel was to fear, love, and trust in God above all things, not some fanciful cow-god. The kings and people of Israel had rejected the one true God in favor of some other god. The Lord’s judgment was against them and punishment was going to come. It just happened to be that God had chosen Amos to be the bearer of that news. As he explained to Amaziah, “This isn’t my idea. I am a shepherd and a sycamore-fig orchard man. But God has a message that Israel must hear and he sent me to tell it to you straight. Israel is going away into exile because they have rejected the Lord and His promises and covenant with them. They have made a habit of worshipping fake gods and the Lord will not let it go on any further.” So Amos lays it on the line with Amaziah. “You’re not rejecting me or my prophecy as if I am a professional prophet or a member of the school of the prophets. No, you’re rejecting the Word of the one true God of Israel, whose covenant you have broken. You are throwing out the Lord.”
Shame on Amaziah! Shame on the house of the king! Shame on the people of Israel! Shame on you and shame on me! Remember, I cautioned you earlier not to point fingers too quickly. We are no better than Amaziah, Jeroboam, or Israel. How often do you and I reject the Word of the one true God and throw Him out of our lives?
Ungodliness is not interested at all in the Word of God. Ungodliness despises everything that is of God in order to keep its own things safe. What do you and I try to keep safe—our false gods, the objects of our fear, love, and trust? What do we attempt to hold on to at all costs that stands in direct opposition to God’s holy Word? Popularity, status, money, possessions, sex and pornography, drugs, abuse of alcohol, abuse of food, cursing, lying, hatred toward others? We often react like Amaziah did against Amos when we hear God’s Word of truth that condemns us in our sins. God’s Word points out our false gods and we fight against Him to hold onto them because we enjoy the feelings, the self-worth, the power, the prestige.
The punishment for our sins of lust and greed and desire for the things of this world is exile, but not to a foreign nation. It is exile from the very presence of God Himself, to be cast off into hell forever, the place where God is not. But God, in His grace and mercy, decided not to pass us by and to cut us off from Himself. He sent us His Son, Jesus, to suffer our punishment and exile in our place. God the Father “passed by” Jesus as His Son bled, crying out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” God the Father allowed Jesus to suffer the full condemnation of hell as Jesus hung on the cross so that you and I might receive admission into His heavenly kingdom without fear of condemnation. With Jesus’ death comes the forgiveness of all of our sins. With Jesus death comes our cleansing from the worship of false gods.
Jesus’ death on the cross means that we receive a new life in Christ that is able to let go of worldly attachments and find our complete hope and joy and comfort and peace and life in Jesus Himself. Our sins are forgiven and we are made into new people whose desire it is to love and serve the Lord with all that we are. Our former attachments and idols don’t hold the same meaning for us anymore. They didn’t give up their life so that we could live forever. God did in the person of His Son. All the things that we claimed as more important than God suddenly pale in comparison with His unconditional love that sent our Lord to a cross, to a bloody death, so that you and I could come home with Him in heaven. Temporary pleasure isn’t all that important when compared to eternal pleasures with the God who alone loves us so much that even when we ignored Him, He made us His own in Christ. Being popular and powerful just doesn’t claim our hearts they way being a servant and special child of God does, knowing we always have His approval because of the work of Jesus on the cross for us.
Finally, there is God’s Word. Because we are new creations in Christ, the Word of God is a lamp to our feet and a light for our path. It is not a burden to do the Ten Commandments because we are not under law, but under grace. Christ, through the Holy Spirit, empowers our faithful obedience to the Lord’s Word. And when we do fall into sin because of the nature that still clings to us, it is the Holy Spirit that moves our hearts to repentance and faith as we receive and rejoice in the forgiveness that we are guaranteed because Jesus died and rose for us. In Jesus we are forgiven and restored, never cast away.
No, none of this was Amos’s idea. All of it was God’s idea, motivated by His gracious love for His creation. It was His love that moved God to take Amos and send him as His prophet to His people. It was God’s love that moved Him to send His one and only Son to be the world’s Savior and Lord. It is God’s love for you that moves Him to fill you with His Holy Spirit through His Word that you may be guarded and kept in faith in Christ until that day when you are with Him in the glories of everlasting life. Let us then hear God’s Word faithfully as it is given to us in the Bible. Let us receive from God’s own Word spoken by Amos and all the prophets and apostles the Lord’s gracious love in the forgiveness of sins and life everlasting won for you and me by Jesus Christ. Amen.