Summary: Israel was guilty of oppressing the poor and needy and perverting justice, despite ritually worshipping God in sacrifice and worship. Are our actions backed by an authentic heart? Are we displeasing God despite 'doing all the right things'?
What can we learn from this shepherd and fig-tender - turned - prophet?
Given at Glorious King Jesus (GKJ), March 13, 2011
Sterling C. Franklin
Text: Amos 5:1-27
This is a very serious message from Amos! What were the people doing?
We see here in the text:
Amos 5:12 - For I know your manifold transgressions And your mighty sins: Afflicting the just and taking bribes; Diverting the poor from justice at the gate.
Amos 8:5 - They were using dishonest scales to take advantage of every cent of the poor and needy.
Remember that dishonest scales are an abomination to the LORD. The LORD desires honesty, even in settings in which people are often dishonest!
Proverbs 11:1 - Dishonest scales are an abomination to the LORD, But a just weight is His delight.
They also were unreceptive to the LORD's message when it was spoken to them --
Amos 7:10-13 - Amaziah the priest and Jeroboam the king (of Israel) tell Amos to leave, because they don't like his message.
10 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.
11 "For thus Amos has said: 'Jeroboam shall die by the sword, And Israel shall surely be led away captive From their own land.' "
12 Then Amaziah said to Amos: "Go, you seer! Flee to the land of Judah. There eat bread, And there prophesy.
13 But never again prophesy at Bethel, For it is the king's sanctuary, And it is the royal residence."
5:1-3 - Things are really bleak. This message is literally a 'lamentation', as Amos points out. At this point, as this prophecy suggests, the people of Israel have fallen and can't get up! They are without hope.
5:4, 5:6 - Seek Him and Live!
- God desires for His people to thrive
- He is the only source of spiritual prosperity, as well as the source of life itself
5:8 - He is Creator
5:11-12 - People are treading upon the poor
- God is concerned with our actions
Our actions -> God's response
Regardless of what you do, and how well off you think you're making yourself, you're desolate in God's sight if your heart is not right with Him.
This is true then, as well as true come Judgment Day!
5:14 - Seek right action…
Verse 15 is very clear -- hate evil and love good!
As a result of this evil, the LORD says that the people will be carried off into exile. The people of Israel would fall in 722 BC to the Assyrian empire, so it was clear that the people did not repent.
Imagine the reaction of the people to God's message:
21 "I hate, I despise your feast days, And I do not savor your sacred assemblies.
22 Though you offer Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings, I will not accept them, Nor will I regard your fattened peace offerings.
23 Take away from Me the noise of your songs, For I will not hear the melody of your stringed instruments."
The LORD desires mercy and not sacrifice...
God would rather see His people following His ways with a right heart than to see them doing everything to the letter without a transformed heart.
We will never be perfect. For that reason (and especially for the reason of God desiring us to be merciful), our duty is never condemnation. Our duty IS to be God's representatives.
Many today would see Amos' 'negative' message and call it 'judgmental,' yet God's message was indeed one of judgment. Amos was obedient, and the people had hardened hearts toward the message that God actually had for them.
It is our duty to be responsible in obeying God. It is also our duty to be obedient and confident in speaking His truth. It is also our duty to be humble in approaching those who are found to be sinning (cf. Galatians 6). We all have sinned and still stumble, and we are all able to fall into any sin. God desires for us to proclaim His way of mercy.
The LORD cares nothing for mere ritual...
In verses 22-23, even with sacrifices and songs of worship, we see that God won't accept from people who act corruptly out of a wicked heart. The people were acting wickedly and their heart was far from them. Yet what many would look at as what the LORD wanted -- sacrifices, feast observances, assemblies, etc. is what the LORD did not consider due to the condition of the people's hearts!
Good practice is fine, but if it's done from a stance of hypocrisy, God is aware of it.