Summary: In this funeral lament for Israel, God reminds them that He is on His throne and it is only in seeking Him that they will live.
1. Destruction is coming (5:1-3; 16-17)
2. Hope is waiting (5:4-6; 14-15)
3. Evil is abounding (5:7; 10-13)
4. God is reigning (5:8-9)
I know it’s July, but it’s never too soon to start thinking of Christmas. How many of you remember the old Charles Dickens play, A Christmas Carol? You remember, it’s the one with Ebenezer Scrooge and Jacob Marley and Bob Cratchet and Tiny Tim. Ebenezer Scrooge was a wicked, wicked man and his business partner Jacob Marley had died a few years before. Well, on Christmas Eve, Scrooge went home and Marley’s ghost came and visited him. And the story goes that Scrooge was visited by three ghosts that night—the ghost of Christmas past, the ghost of Christmas present and the ghost of Christmas future. During their visits, he saw his wickedness for what it was. He saw the love and kindness of those he mistreated. And he saw his own death. After seeing those things, he woke up on Christmas morning a changed man. He had seen the bleak future of his wicked life and changed his ways. When Charles Dickens wrote that play, he used a theme that has been around forever. What would happen if we saw our own death before it actually happened? How would we respond? In our passage tonight, God reveals Israel’s death to them. In essence, He inspires Amos to preach their funeral to them while they’re still alive. He preaches a funeral for the living dead. This passage is an example of what’s called a lament. A lament is a poem of mourning that was usually connected to the death or funeral of a loved one. A lament wasn’t known for celebrating the life of a loved one like many Christian funerals are. Instead, it was known for its words of grief, regret, sorrow and pain. The most obvious example of this kind of poem in the Bible is the book of Lamentations. It was written by Jeremiah as he lamented the destruction of Jerusalem when they were carried off into captivity. The thing about a lament is that it is always given after the fact—kind of like a funeral. That makes sense—you can’t lament someone who hasn’t died yet. That was always the case, except here in our passage tonight. Here in our passage, God lamented Israel even before they were dead. I want you to picture the scene. Here’s Amos prophesying in this tremendously prosperous land. The economy was booming. The military was strong. Everything was great in Israel. And here comes this poor, low-class outsider lamenting their death. I imagine they reacted like old Scrooge reacted to Marley the first time. I imagine they completely rejected him. As a matter of fact, we know they did because of their failure to repent and turn back to God. Tonight, as we look at this funeral lament for Israel, I want us to heed the warning that they ignored. The warning that God is on His throne and it is only if we seek Him that we will live. In order to do that we’re going to look at God’s four point funeral for the living dead. His first point is that destruction is coming.
Before we get into our first point, I want to tell you a little bit about the structure of this passage. This lament is an example of Hebrew poetry. I never did do well in English class in school when it was time to look at poetry. I didn’t get it. I thought it was silly and made easy things hard to understand. But the Jews loved poetry and apparently God does too, because Scripture is full of it. This particular poem was written with a very common Hebrew structure called a chiastic structure. But instead of making things more difficult to understand, it makes it easier. Don’t get hung up on the technicality. Just take your pen and put an A next to verses 1-3. Then put another A next to verses 16-17. Put a B next to verses 5-6. Put another B next to verses 14-15. Put a C next to verse 7. Put another C next to verses 10-13. Finally put a D next to verses 8-9. That is how a chiasm is structured. The two outside parts are parallel. The next two are parallel, etc. The beauty of a chiasm is that it was written that way to put all the focus of the poem on the middle section. In other words, the whole Oreo cookie points to the most important crème filling in the middle. Our four points tonight are those three parallel sections and the middle section. I didn’t want to get too technical, I just wanted you to know why we’re looking at it this way. Now that we know about the poetic structure of our text, let’s look at the first point of God’s four point funeral for the living dead. Look with me in verses 1-3 and then skip down to verses 16-17: