Summary: An interpretation of the word of the Lord given through Amos to our own situation of spiritual famine today in America.
7-21-13 Amos 8:1-12 “The Coming Storm”
The new minister was asked to teach a boys’ class in the absence of the regular teacher. He decided to see what they knew, so he asked who knocked down the walls of Jericho. All the boys denied having done it, and the preacher was appalled by their ignorance. At the next deacons’ meeting he told about the experience. "Not one of them knows who knocked down the walls of Jericho," he lamented. The group was silent until finally one seasoned veteran of disputes spoke up. "Preacher, this appears to be bothering you a lot. But I’ve known all those boys since they were born and they’re good boys. If they said they didn’t know, I believe them. Let’s just take some money out of the repair and maintenance fund, fix the walls, and let it go at that."
There is an epidemic in the America today among the young and not so young. It is an epidemic of ignorance of the Word of God. It doesn’t seem to matter from which denomination they may hail. Baptist, Lutheran, Catholic, United Methodist--the one thing most Americans have in common today is that they have only a very limited understanding of the Bible.
It’s time for that to change. But it’s going to be difficult if pastors themselves are not deeply committed to preaching the Word of God. There is an online discussion among the United Methodist pastors going on in our Southern Prairie District. Last week one very intelligent young pastor wrote that she thinks of her sermons as pa-limp-sests. A pa-limp-sest is a reused medieval manuscript. On the surface this is a fairly sophisticated metaphor for preaching today and I’m sure she will be applauded because of it. However, she has it more than a little bit wrong. In the case of the medieval manuscript, it was scraped and written over not because the original content had become obsolete, but parchment material was so scarce. Our tasks as preachers is not to make the word relevant by changing it to fit the times, but rather to faithfully re-present the word to new generations so as to change them by showing them the way into new life in and through Jesus Christ.
If you look around at churches in America today, and especially youth groups, most of them are geared toward entertainment rather than Christian discipline. And it’s not so different for efforts to reach adults. Get them in by any means possible—that’s the goal. And along the way the church has lost its integrity. It’s time for a change.
We are today in the midst of great and profound changes in our culture and the result of this change seems to be a growing hostility toward the word of God.
As we continue reading from Amos today, we read that the problem wasn’t that that there was no one to teach the people. There was. And I suspect there are many in America today who are seeking to faithfully preach the Word of God. The problem in Amos’ day was that the people had hardened their hearts to what God was saying. And this is the problem today. As a result, we are very much a nation at risk.
How did this happen? How did America get to this place? Because the majority of people in this nation have disregarded the Word of God in the scriptures and have begun to practice, accept and tolerate every form of religion, thinking that no religion is the one true way. This is exactly what had happened in Amos’ day, and America is at that point right now, today.
Our society in general has hardened their hearts so that the Word of God has no place. For many in our land, the Bible is no longer relevant. Here in America, and it was in Israel in Amos’ day, the famine is not because the Word of God isn’t going forth. It is because so many people simply to not want to hear it, and the result is that there is a great ignorance of the word even in the churches of this land.
The story is told of a woman who waited after the church service to speak with the Pastor and to thank him for the help she received from his sermons. "You do throw such wonderful light on the Bible, pastor," she said. "Do you know that until this morning, I had always thought that Sodom and Gomorrah were man and wife”.
In addition to not knowing the Word, even those who know it are ignoring it. Amos writes, “Men will stagger from sea to sea and wander from north to east, searching for the word of the LORD, but they will not find it. The word that is translated as “stagger” in the NIV or “wander” in the KJV means to waver, to vacillate in one’s opinion. Because people cannot decide upon the truth they will be so hungry for a word from God that they will literally search from the east to the west, the north to the south looking for it and won’t find it.