Summary: God may lose patience with us, and we may strike out, but we’re still on the team.
Three Strikes - Yer Out!
Maybe you’ve seen those T-shirts and stickers with the words "No Fear." It’s the name of a
company associated with motor sport racing and NASCAR. I guess this could be the slogan of
the drivers....they supposedly drive and compete with NO FEAR. This attitude could have deadly
consequences when applied to any number of situations. Riding a motorcycle without a helmet.
Doing drugs. Bungee jumping. Mountain climbing. Driving on the highway. Breathing. But it’s
even worse when a nation’s people turn their backs to God and have no fear of Him and His
Israel has been ignoring God. He’s been sending His prophets to warn them to get back on the
straight and narrow. But the people haven’t listened. The rich have been living in luxury while
the poor are downtrodden. They’ve taken for granted their status as God’s chosen people for so
long that they seem incapable of understanding their problem; of understanding that God might
be just a little bit upset with them. They continue to do evil in the eyes of the Lord. These are
words we’ve heard before all through the book of Judges; “...continued to do evil in the eyes of
the Lord.” They have no fear. And so God is preparing to bring judgement on them.
So God sends a sheep herder and a farmer to Israel to warn her. Amos did not come saying “I”
have something to tell you. No, he came and said, “This is what the Lord God showed me....”
You see, God was going to give Israel 3 more chances, kind of like in baseball where you get 3
strikes before you’re out. These are warning signs.
The Bible is full of warnings from God. Proverbs contains some of the Bible’s
strongest warnings against overindulgence. The prophet Samuel warned Israel
about the consequences of having human kings. When he was 480 years old, 120
years before the Flood, God warned Noah that the world would be destroyed by
water. Israel was warned not to worship the sun, the moon, and the stars. God
gave him a solemn warning through an unnamed prophet who came to Bethel from
Judah. In spite of this terrible warning from God, Jeroboam continued in his
evil way. Moses warned the Israelites that their courage came too late, and
that God would not support them, they went anyway--and were soundly beaten.
Moses warned the Israelites not to hate the Edomites. But for the rest of
biblical history, there were wars and hatred between the two nations.
Lot and his family found it hard to leave their adopted home of Sodom, despite
its immorality. Angel messengers warned them to hurry, not even stopping to
look back. Just before the dramatic crossing into the promised land, God gave
a clear statement of his priorities and a warning of what would happen if the
Israelites failed to obey. His words would one day come back to haunt them,
for they failed to carry out fully any of his orders.
These are just a few from the Old Testament. All these ignored warnings carry
with them consequences.
So ch. 7 begins with the approach of a swarm of locusts, which will destroy the harvest, leaving
the people to starve. That’s strike one.
Now our passage talks about The king’s mowings--which is the first-fruits of the mown grass,
taken by the king from the people. Kind of like taxes. The latter growth--namely, of grass,
which comes up after the first mowing. In the East they don’t mow their grass and make hay of
it, but cut it off the ground as they require it. So locusts come in a strip the land clean.
Amos sees this and prays to God to forgive them; to have mercy on them. And God relents.
Then he sees a vision of a great fire coming that will be so great that it will devour the great
deep. That’s strike two. Again he prays for mercy and God relents.
Now in baseball, when a hitter has two strikes on him, they say he has to “protect the plate”.
This means that he only has one strike left and he’d better be careful or he’ll get called out. He
had better be careful or he’ll get a third strike. But in reading our passage today, it’s clear that
the people of Israel weren’t “protecting the plate”. They had no fear. In 7:7 God shows Amos a
plumb line set against a wall, to show that the wall had been built true to plumb. And he says I
am setting a plumb line in the midst of my people Israel; I will never again pass them by; the
high places of Isaac shall be made desolate, and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste, and