Summary: Amos shows that the "Day of the Lord" will be a great reversal for those who expect to be immune to God’s judgment.
Let me ask you a question: How many of you here this morning would like to win the lottery? Sounds good doesn’t it? Just go into the Circle K, buy a ticket, watch the drawing on TV and see all your numbers drawn and then all your problems are gone. Couldn’t get much better, right?
That’s what William “Bud” Post thought, too. He won $16.2 million in the Pennsylvania lottery in 1988 but ended up only a few years later living on his Social Security. "I wish it never happened. It was totally a nightmare," says Post.
A former girlfriend successfully sued him for a share of his winnings. It wasn’t his only lawsuit. A brother was arrested for hiring a hit man to kill him, hoping to inherit a share of the winnings. Other siblings pestered him until he agreed to invest in a car business and a restaurant in Sarasota, Fla., - two ventures that brought no money back and further strained his relationship with his siblings. Post even spent time in jail for firing a gun over the head of a bill collector. Within a year, he was $1 million in debt.
Post admitted he was both careless and foolish, trying to please his family. He eventually declared bankruptcy. He ended up living quietly on $450 a month and food stamps. "I’m tired, I’m over 65 years old, and I just had a serious operation for a heart aneurysm. Lotteries don’t mean (anything) to me," said Post. He died on Jan 15, 2008 of respiratory failure. [MSN Money: “8 lottery winners who lost their millions”]
For Bud Post, and for many other lottery winners, for that matter, the actual experience of winning the lottery certainly didn’t measure up to his expectations. In fact, it was a complete reversal of what he thought it would be.
For Amos’ audience, that same principle applied to the “Day of the Lord”. Certainly the people of Israel were familiar with the concept of the “Day of the Lord” and they were looking forward to it as a time when God would bring judgment on all their enemies. But as we’ve seen already from the sermon in chapters 1 and 2 and the three visions in Chapter 7, Amos wasn’t just bringing a message of God’s judgment on the other nations, but also of judgment on Israel itself. It was a great reversal of what the people were expecting.
Before we get to our passages that we’ll be examining this morning, let me take a moment to make an important observation about the structure of the Book of Amos that is also going to be quite significant when we get to the Book of Revelation.
As we’ll see quite clearly this morning, the Book of Amos is not linear, or chronological. In other words, you can’t just take the book as we have it and neatly arrange all the events on a timeline that corresponds to the order the events are recorded in the book. As we saw last week, the first six chapters of the book record Amos’ sermons to the people and the last three chapters contain five visions that he saw. But there are some clues in the text itself that make it clear that those events didn’t necessarily occur in that order. So we can’t assume that Amos preached a sermon, or a number of sermons, and then when he was finished, God gave him five visions, which were interrupted after the third vision for an encounter with Amaziah.
When the Book of Amos was written, the material was grouped by function, not necessarily recorded in the order in which the events occurred. So all the sermons are grouped in one section and all the visions are grouped in another section. The sermons and the visions are obviously all related, but there is absolutely no way to determine when they occurred. It is only my opinion, and I can’t prove it definitively, but it seems to me that it is likely that Amos received the visions from God first and then developed his sermons based on what God had showed him in the visions.
With that background, we’re going to begin this morning with a passage that really provides us with the box art, or the overall theme of the entire book. In hindsight, perhaps this is where we should have started our look at Amos a couple of weeks ago. Let’s read these three verses out loud together:
Woe to you who desire the day of the Lord!
Why would you have the day of the Lord?
It is darkness, and not light,
as if a man fled from a lion,
and a bear met him,
or went into the house and leaned his hand against the wall,