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"Amillennialism 101" -- Audio and On-Line Resources
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"Hear This Word That the Lord Has Spoken" -- Amos 3:1-4:13

Sermons on the Minor Prophets:  The Book of Amos (3)

Everyone dreads the thought of being sued.  It is an unnerving thing to get a summons informing you that you must appear before the municipal court.  Image what it would like to be sued by YHWH, the covenant landlord of the Promised Land.  It falls to the prophet Amos to announce the terms of YHWH’s lawsuit from the heavenly court to the people of Israel.  In our text (chapters 3 and 4 of the Book of Amos), we find two parts of such a covenant lawsuit–stern words of warning (chapter 3) and frightening words of inevitable judgment (chapter 4).  Since Amos functions as a heavenly process server, this raises the question, “what exactly does it mean to be “sued by YHWH?”  Whatever it means, it cannot be good.  In fact, it is a declaration of the worst  thing imaginable–YHWH’s wrath is soon fall upon his disobedient people, Israel.  

YHWH’s verdict and words of indictment do come in a legal form grounded in his covenant made with Israel.  But at this point whatever analogy exists between a heavenly court and an earthly court breaks down.  Judge Judy, the People’s Court, and Law and Order are of little help to us as illustrations.  YHWH’s judgments are altogether righteous, made in light of his perfect holiness and justice.  His decrees are issued in conformity to both his promises and his commands.  He is a judge unlike all earthly judges.  As creator of all things, he is the sovereign king whose judgments reflect his divine nature. YHWH alone has the right and the power to execute justice as he sees fit.  YHWH has a perfect record of dealing righteously and patiently with his disobedient, rebellious, covenant subjects, Israel.  Unless we keep this in mind, the words we read may strike us as foreign, even cruel.

It is common to hear people say things like, “My God would never do such a thing.”  Or “I think God is like . . .”  Or even, “God is love, he would accepts everyone, he wouldn’t judge people.”  A passage such as the one before us should disavow us of all such wrong headed notions about God.  God is not “your” God.  He is the God who dwells in unapproachable light.  He is your creator–you are his.  It doesn’t matter what we think God is like because God reveals himself to us in his words and judgments, such as the judgment about to come upon Israel.  As for the notion that God accepts us as we are without judging us, such a notion attempts to evade the truth that God judges everyone according to the standard of his holy law.  We may not like it, but this is the God who is, not the God we want and then invent.  God is love–the reason why he provides a means of salvation for his rebellious creatures.  But God is also holy and must judge and punish all people for their sin.  Given the heightened sensitivity people have today to any form of personal criticism (“who are you to judge me?”), we must acknowledge that what we are about to hear from YHWH through the mouth of the prophet Amos are difficult words.  But they are YHWH’s words nonetheless.

This is why it is vital that we place Amos’ oracles of warning and impending doom in their historical context (as we labored to do in those weeks when we covered background to the Minor Prophets).  Recall from our brief survey of the closing chapters of Deuteronomy (28-34), before Joshua led the nation of Israel into the promised land (Canaan), Moses (on the day of his death) presided over a covenant renewal ceremony on the plains of Moab with the assembled nation, rehearsing in detail the blessings and curses of the covenant which YHWH made with his people.  The blessing-curse principle is a simple as “obey and receive God’s blessing,” or “disobey and come under God’s curse.” 

To read the rest of this sermon, Click here

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