Summary: Times have changed and the names on the map have changed, but God remains the same and man’s response to Him remains the same. God’s pattern of judgment remains the same also.
1. God’s grace
2. Man’s response
3. Man’s conviction
4. God’s judgment
How many times have you ever heard a sermon that you thought, “Boy, I wish so-and-so was here.” Or, “I hope so-and-so is listening.” One thing, preachers love hearing Amens. So much so, that some will fall into the trap of pulling out amen lines. What are amen lines? Well, a sure way to get amens is to preach against somebody else’s sin. Something that I don’t have a problem with. If you want to get real loud amens, preach in front of a ladies group about how their husbands are supposed to act. That’ll work every time. That’s why Amos was getting such a willing audience. Now remember who Amos was. He had the deck stacked against him. He was a no-name, nobody from nowhere. And he was an outsider. He was from Judah and God called him to preach in Israel. So imagine how well received he would have been if he had come right in with guns blazing preaching against Israel. They would have thrown him out without even listening. So, what did he do? He started off preaching about other people’s sin. As you look through the first and second chapter, Amos preached against each of the nations that surrounded Israel. He started with those dirty rotten Syrians. Their capital was Damascus and they were northeast of Israel. Amen! God needs to judge Damascus. Then he moved to the Philistines in Gaza. They were southwest of Israel. Well, you know what a pain the Philistines have been. They’ve been causing problems since before Goliath. Amen! Get ‘em God! Next was Tyre. Tyre was on the coast, northwest of Israel. They were no good, too. Right Amos—God can get them too. Then Edom and Ammon and Moab. Those nations formed a triangle off to Israel’s southeast. Israel had had problems with each of them throughout their history. Amen Amos. All of them are bad—judge ‘em God! Damascus, Gaza, Tyre, Edom, Ammon, and Moab. That was six nations. Hebrew literature is very dependent on numbers. And they viewed six as an incomplete number. So no preacher in his right mind would have had a sermon with six points. So Amos’ listeners knew one more was coming. And they knew it was going to be a big one. The seventh and last point was always the biggest. Hebrew tradition called for saving the best for last. So, who was Amos’ seventh point? Judah. Amos’ home country. Israel’s closest neighbor. The other half of the divided kingdom. Those people who thought they were so special because they had Jerusalem and the temple. Now we know what God really thinks about them. He’s going to judge them just like all the other nations around us. Amen—good sermon Amos! Boy, you really stepped on some toes there! You can almost hear the Bible covers zipping, can’t you? Israel was done listening, but Amos wasn’t done preaching. Oh, by the way Israel, I’m not quite finished yet. I have an 8th point. Chapter 2 in the first part of verse 6 says: “Thus saith the LORD; For three transgressions of Israel, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof.” Oh, yeah Israel—God’s going to judge you too. I imagine you could’ve heard a pin drop. There were certainly no amens anymore. In this passage that runs from 1:3 through the end of chapter 2, Amos is telling Israel about God’s pattern of judgment. And God displays His pattern in how He pronounces judgment on the nations, on Judah, and finally on Israel. Times have changed and the names on the map have changed, but God remains the same. But not only does God remain the same, man’s response to Him remains the same. And because of those two things, God’s judgment remains the same also. Tonight, I want each of us to avoid God’s judgment by responding to His grace in the right way. In order to do that, we’re going to look at four elements in God’s pattern of judgment. The first element is God’s grace.
In His grace, God displays amazing longsuffering. One of the charges that people will often throw against Christianity is that the God of the Old Testament is so mean. They bring up His righteous judgment on people like those in our passage tonight. They say, “how can a loving God promise to burn and break and cut off and devour people?” But when they ask that question, they forget about how long God allowed them to live in rebellion. Look at 1:3
God says the same thing in verse 6 and 9 and 11 and 13 and 2:1 and 2:4 and 2:6. For three transgressions and for four. Like I said, in Hebrew thought, numbers were very important. They meant something. Remember when Peter asked Jesus how many times they were supposed to forgive someone? Peter thought he was being gracious when he said seven. But what did Jesus say? 70 times 7. Now, by that, did Jesus mean that we only have to forgive someone 490 times? Should we keep a little counter with us to keep tabs on how many times we forgive? No. When Jesus said 70 times 7, He was making the point that the number is incalculable. Forgive to the fullness. Seven was a number of completion. So was three. Three was a number of completion and fullness. So when God said that the nations committed three transgressions, He didn’t mean that they had only done three things wrong. God isn’t a baseball umpire. He doesn’t work on three strikes and you’re out. They had committed transgressions to the fullest. They had sinned to their capacity of sinning. God had mercifully and graciously allowed them to exist until their rebellion against Him had reached its max capacity. And then what did He do? Did He judge them? No, He let them have a little more time. And they used that time to overflow in their sin. For three transgressions—the max capacity of sinfulness. And for four—your overflowing iniquity. Now God is going to judge. His grace allowed them time. Time to repent like Nineveh did under Jonah’s preaching. Time to turn away from their sin and turn to Him. But how did they use that time instead? They used it to rebel even more. But what if God had given them more than time? What if He had given them more opportunities? More advantages? Well, He did with His people. He gave Judah and Israel every opportunity in the world. Judah and Israel were His chosen people. Chapter 2:4 says that He gave them His Word—His Law—His commandments. But in God’s grace, He gave them even more. Look in verses 2:9-11: