Summary: Israel missed each opportunity God gave them. Each time Amos interceded, God held off on afflicting them. Finally, He had enough—He afflicted them with almost complete destruction. God is faithful to respond to the intercessory prayers of His people.
1. The first pitch was a fastball of grace.
2. The second pitch was a fastball of mercy.
3. The third pitch was a changeup of affliction.
I think everybody here knows how much I enjoy sports. Mostly football, but I like other sports too. I like watching NASCAR. I’m a frustrated basketball player so I enjoy watching college basketball. I say I’m a frustrated basketball player—I love to play the game, but I don’t play it very well. My brain works like Michael Jordan, but my body works like Michael Moore. Another sport I really enjoy is baseball. As a matter of fact, my wife and I both like baseball. Of course, she wouldn’t have anything to do with it until our son started playing. Probably my favorite part about baseball is watching how good pitchers will work a hitter. I remember when John Smoltz was the closer for the Braves a few years ago. If the Braves had the lead, he would come into the game in the 9th inning. When he really needed a strikeout, you could just about mark down what he was going to do. He would throw a 98 mph fastball right past the batter for the first strike. Then he would throw another 98 mph fastball. Usually, the hitter would begin to catch up to it and foul it away for the second strike. Then he’d throw his strikeout pitch. He’d throw a 75 mph changeup. Of course the batter would swing and miss. The difference in speeds would almost make his strikeout pitch unhittable. No batter in the league wanted to be down two strikes to John Smoltz. It was a terrible position to be in. In our passage tonight, Amos reports three interactive visions he has with the Lord. Each vision begins the same way. God shows him something. Then the differences in the visions come out. In the first two visions, God threatens judgment on His people, Israel. In each case, immediately after seeing what God could do in judgment, Amos interceded on behalf of Israel. And in each case, God responded to Amos’ intercession by staying His hand of affliction. That wasn’t the case the third time. Instead of interceding for Israel, God now asks Amos to be a witness to His standard, their sinfulness and the devastating affliction He was going to bring on them. Israel missed each opportunity God gave them. Each time Amos interceded, God held off on afflicting them. Finally, He had enough—He afflicted them with almost complete destruction. God is faithful to respond to the intercessory prayers of His people. But only up to a certain point. We don’t know when that point is, but when it is reached, He will no longer offer gracious and merciful opportunities to repent. And when that happens, He offers His final opportunity for repentance—He afflicts. In a sense, God offers repentance to His people like a baseball pitcher offers runs to a batter. He throws the ball across the plate in order that the batter might hit it. But if the batter misses the first two pitches—look out. Here comes the strike-out pitch. The analogy isn’t perfect because it breaks down on one point. In a baseball game, the pitcher doesn’t want you to hit the ball. But God wants you to repent. So He sends His pitches right down the middle of the plate. He sets them up so anyone can hit them. So anyone can turn to Him in repentance. All we have to do is swing. But when we don’t swing on the first two, His strike-out pitch is devastating. As we sit here tonight, I don’t want any of us to strike out. I want each of us to make the swing of repentance on the first pitch God gives us. And if you fail to hit the first pitch, I want you to hit the second one. Don’t wait for God’s strikeout pitch. In order to keep from striking out we’re going to do a little scouting report tonight. Anytime a big-league hitter is going to face a pitcher, he scouts him. He looks at the kinds of pitches he throws. So we’re going to do a scouting report on God tonight. We’re going to look at three pitches God uses to bring His people to repentance. The first pitch He uses is a fastball of grace. Look with me at Amos’ first vision in verses 1-3: