Summary: Where Are You Leading God’s People? 1) Into foolish boasting? 2) Into self-indulgent living? 3) Into danger of God’s judgment?
I’m sure that everyone here has at one time or another played the game “follow the leader.” I remember it being a favourite for my classmates and me in grade one. We spent countless hours leading each other up, over, and around playground equipment during recess. While you might think that it’s been a while since you’ve played a rousing game of follow the leader do you realize that as Christians this is something that God wants us to do? Of course! God wants us to follow his Son Jesus who is our Saviour.
But did you know that God has also made us leaders, not just followers? For example as your pastor I have been called to lead you in your walk with God. Husbands and fathers you have been called to lead your family in godly living. Mothers are to lead their children, while children and young adults are to be examples for siblings and friends.
Since that is the case let me ask you this question. Where are you leading God’s people? In our text this morning we’ll see that during the time of the prophet Amos the people of Israel and Judah were leading God’s people into foolish boasting, self-indulgent living, and therefore into danger of God’s judgment. Are we guilty of such shoddy leadership? If so what should we do about it? Let’s take some time to find out.
Amos was a prophet who lived about 760 years before Christ was born. He hadn’t always been a prophet. He was first a shepherd and a farmer before God called him from his home near Jerusalem and told him to go to the northern kingdom of Israel to preach to God’s people there. Amos lived during a time of peace and prosperity. Both King Uzziah of Judah, and King Jereboam II of Israel had extended their territories to a size it hadn’t been since the days of David and Solomon.
As the leaders looked around at what had been accomplished it seemed as if things couldn’t get any better. There was no one left to fight, the economy was booming; what was there to worry about? In reality things couldn’t get much worse. Instead of giving God credit for their victories the leaders thought that success was something they had orchestrated. Peace and prosperity had brought about foolish boasting.
Amos warned that such boasting could only lead to God’s judgment. He urged the leaders to look at the cities they had destroyed and realize that God could do the same thing to them if they continued to remain unfaithful. Amos said, “Woe to you who are complacent in Zion, and to you who feel secure on Mount Samaria, you notable men of the foremost nation, to whom the people of Israel come! 2 Go to Calneh and look at it; go from there to great Hamath, and then go down to Gath in Philistia. Are they better off than your two kingdoms? Is their land larger than yours? 3 You put off the evil day and bring near a reign of terror” (Amos 6:1-3).
What lesson are we to learn from this warning? Can we say that we in North America who have foolishly boasted in our military strength, technology, and our riches while ignoring God are in danger of his judgment just as the people of Judah and Israel were? Could we even say that just as the Israelites suffered God’s judgment when they were carried off into captivity so we have seen God’s judgment in the terror that was September 11th?
We might be tempted to make those comparisons but before we apply Amos’ words to present politics we need to apply them to ourselves here at St. Peter’s. That’s because while Amos spoke his words to the nations of Judah and Israel he spoke to them as God’s chosen people – the visible church of the Old Testament. Therefore if we are going to properly apply Amos’ warning we must first direct it to the visible churches of today – including this very one we call St. Peter’s.
Since Amos is speaking to those of us who call ourselves Christians we should evaluate whether or not we have been guilty of leading our fellow Christians into foolish boasting. For example have we boasted in the strength of our faith thinking that it’s strong enough that we don’t need to continue to study and absorb God’s Word? If so has our cavalier attitude rubbed off on our children or spouse so that they have stopped being in the Word?
Have we led others into foolish boasting by giving the impression that salvation depends on what we do for God rather than what he has done for us? Have we led others to believe that if they just show up to church and pray, pay and obey then God will be happy? That’s what the people of Amos’ day thought and listen to what God had to say to them. “I hate, I despise your religious feasts; I cannot stand your assemblies. 22 Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them. 23 Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps. 26 You have lifted up the shrine of your king, the pedestal of your idols, the star of your god— which you made for yourselves” (Amos 5:21-24, 26).