Amos: Stop Playing Church!

Read: Amos 5:17-9:15

The words of Amos continue to convict Israel, even among threats from Jeroboam’s priest. It’s only the last few verses where we find hope for some distant future.

Sometimes I think we fit the description of Israel when we read about the people mislead by Jeroboam and his successors. When our corporate gatherings bear the title of Worship Services, but hearts are not changed, lives are not redeemed, souls are not restored. Instead, lists are checked, people come and go with the notion that they have participated in worship and done their duty. I want no part of this.

Away with the noise of your songs!
I will not listen to the music of your harps.
But let justice roll on like a river,
righteousness like a never-failing stream!
Amos 5:23-24

You strum away on your harps like David
and improvise on musical instruments.
You drink wine by the bowlful
and use the finest lotions,
but you do not grieve over the ruin of Joseph.
Therefore you will be among the first to go into exile;
your feasting and lounging will end.
Amos 6:5-7

Stop playing games! There are songs from the heart that need to be sung, words and music the fill the emptiness of false promises.

The Sovereign Lord has sworn by himself—
the Lord God Almighty declares:
“I abhor the pride of Jacob
and detest his fortresses;
I will deliver up the city
and everything in it.”
Amos 6:8

Chapter 7 begins with two examples of the past when the Lord rescued Jacob, memories of good days when people repented, but these are not those days, the Lord will not change his mind.

Then the Lord said,
“Look, I am setting a plumb line among my people Israel;
I will spare them no longer.
Amos 7:8

The plumb line doesn’t lie. Either the wall is straight or it is not. The house of Jeroboam and all the atrocities within will be destroyed.

Amaziah, one of Jeroboam’s self-defined priests, spoke against Amos and told him to go away. Amos repeats his heritage as a shepherd and explains he is a prophet called by God. Essentially, this wasn’t his dream job, but he is doing what he was called to do.  Amos’ response is bold:

“Therefore this is what the Lord says:
“‘Your wife will become a prostitute in the city,
and your sons and daughters will fall by the sword.
Your land will be measured and divided up,
and you yourself will die in a pagan country.
Amos 7:17

Chapter 8 continues the harsh words against Israel, as if Amaziah’s provocation stirred up anger in an angry bear. Dishonest scales, leaving nothing for the poor and needy, the people will be lost in their pride and invented religions. There is nothing left but the destruction of Israel, its imminent demise: “Not one will get away, none will escape.” (Amos 9:1)

There is very little relief in this prophecy, few words that offer hope.

“Surely the eyes of the Sovereign Lord
are on the sinful kingdom.
I will destroy it
from the face of the earth.
Yet I will not totally destroy
the descendants of Jacob,”
declares the Lord.
Amos 9:8

Some will be left, but it seems only a handful will survive. Just five verses are offered for hope of restoration at the end of Amos:

“The days are coming,” declares the Lord,
“when the reaper will be overtaken by the plowman
and the planter by the one treading grapes.
New wine will drip from the mountains
and flow from all the hills,
and I will bring my people Israel back from exile.
Amos 9:13-14

The words of Amos are bold and difficult, but they are not from a prideful heart. He is simply doing what God has called him to do, even though it is difficult and risky. How about today? Are we willing to get close enough to God to hear his voice and do what he says? There is no place to run or hide. Lord, give us the strength and courage to do that which you have called us to do.

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Let the Word evoke words. May your life encourage lives.

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