Well, good evening to you all. It's a delight to be back with you in Portrush Presbyterian Church for the CPA Summer Bible Week. I have fond memories of being here, I think it was six years ago, and sharing ministry with the Rev Tom Shaw who is here tonight - and it's a delight again to be here sharing ministry with the Rev Noel Darragh. I really appreciated the study of God's word this morning, and I'm looking forward to the rest of the week - it's not often preachers get the opportunity to sit under other men's ministry, and it's something that I'm really looking forward to the rest of the week.
I'm here with you to preach the word of God each night this week, and I want to take as a series in the evenings a study of the book of Amos. So I have asked you to turn to it, I know what happens when you pick a wee minor prophet - everybody starts to panic! Don't be afraid, by the way, to look at the contents of your Bible, I do it often - but if you're embarrassed to do that, find Ezekiel and Daniel, and then go three books after Daniel and you'll get the prophet Amos. So that's what you're all doing now, isn't it?!
Now I have to bring to you the message that I believe God would have me preach. I was down here for a holiday about three weeks ago, and God, I believe, very heavily impressed upon my heart to bring to you an exposition on the prophet Amos. Now there will be some gospel application here, but mainly I have to say the message is applicable to believers. I've entitled this series: 'The God of Justice' - and tonight we are in chapters 1 and 2. We'll not read them all, but we'll read the first four verses of chapter 1, and then from verse 4 to the end of chapter 2.
So Amos chapter 1, and I'm reading from the New King James Version: "The words of Amos, who was among the sheepbreeders of Tekoa, which he saw concerning Israel in the days of Uzziah king of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel, two years before the earthquake. And he said: 'The LORD roars from Zion, and utters His voice from Jerusalem; the pastures of the shepherds mourn, and the top of Carmel withers'. Thus says the LORD: 'For three transgressions of Damascus, and for four, I will not turn away its punishment, because they have threshed Gilead with implements of iron. But I will send a fire into the house of Hazael, which shall devour the palaces of BenHadad". Then, if you were to read down the rest of chapter 1, you would see in verse 6 that the prophet of God repeats another judgement upon another nation: "Thus says the LORD: 'For three transgressions of Gaza, and for four, I will not turn away its punishment", and Gaza was really the Philistines. Then you go down to verse 9, and you will see another proclamation of judgement: "Thus says the LORD: 'For three transgressions of Tyre, and for four, I will not turn away its punishment". Then verse 11, another nation: "Thus says the LORD: 'For three transgressions of Edom, and for four, I will not turn away its punishment". Verse 13, another nation: "Thus says the LORD: 'For three transgressions of the people of Ammon, and for four, I will not turn away its punishment".
Chapter 2 and verse 1: "Thus says the LORD: 'For three transgressions of Moab, and for four, I will not turn away its punishment". Then in verse 4, the prophet, inspired by God, turns to a seventh nation - the nation of Judah, the southern kingdom: "Thus says the LORD: 'For three transgressions of Judah, and for four, I will not turn away its punishment, because they have despised the law of the LORD, and have not kept His commandments. Their lies lead them astray, lies which their fathers followed. But I will send a fire upon Judah, and it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem'. Thus says the LORD: 'For three transgressions of Israel, and for four, I will not turn away its punishment, because they sell the righteous for silver, and the poor for a pair of sandals. They pant after the dust of the earth which is on the head of the poor, and pervert the way of the humble. A man and his father go in to the same girl, to defile My holy name. They lie down by every altar on clothes taken in pledge, and drink the wine of the condemned in the house of their god. Yet it was I who destroyed the Amorite before them, whose height was like the height of the cedars, and he was as strong as the oaks; yet I destroyed his fruit above and his roots beneath. Also it was I who brought you up from the land of Egypt, and led you forty years through the wilderness, to possess the land of the Amorite. I raised up some of your sons as prophets, and some of your young men as Nazirites. Is it not so, O you children of Israel?' says the LORD. 'But you gave the Nazirites wine to drink, and commanded the prophets saying, 'Do not prophesy!'. Behold, I am weighed down by you, as a cart full of sheaves is weighed down. Therefore flight shall perish from the swift, the strong shall not strengthen his power, nor shall the mighty deliver himself; he shall not stand who handles the bow, the swift of foot shall not escape, nor shall he who rides a horse deliver himself. The most courageous men of might shall flee naked in that day', says the LORD".
Let us pray for a moment please, and as we pray together do ask the Lord, if you're in touch with God, that He might speak to us - and if you're not as close to the Lord as you'd like to be, why not draw near to the Lord now and ask Him to come and speak into your life. We need God, don't we? We really need God - a sermon won't do, we need the Holy Spirit of God to come and to minister to all our hearts. So let us unite together in prayer.
Our Father, we thank You for Your word. We thank You that it is sharper than a two-edged sword. It is able to divide the very soul and spirit, bone and marrow, it is the discerner of men's hearts. Lord, we cry before it: 'Woe is me, for I am undone!'. Lord we pray that the Holy Spirit will come. O God, without the Holy Spirit, we're useless, we're wasting space and time - but, O God, if You come tonight and take Your word and apply it to our hearts, what a difference it will make to each of us as individuals and to this congregation. Lord, what great potential is here tonight - and yet it all would be for nothing, Lord, if You don't come and show up in this place and minister to our hearts. O God who is holy, and God who is just, God of grace, come and meet with us - and meet with me, Lord, now I pray - in Jesus' name, Amen.
I want you to come with me on a journey. The nation we are travelling to is the nation of Israel which, of course, at this point in time in Scripture is a divided kingdom. The northern part, the ten tribes, are in the north, the kingdom of Israel; and Judah and Benjamin is in the south, and because Judah is the larger tribe the south is called 'Judah'. We are going to the northern kingdom of Israel, and the city in particular that we're journeying to is Bethel. 'The House of God' is what 'Bethel' means - it has an illustrious history in Scripture, but at this moment in time there is the Palace of Jeroboam II and his private religious chapel, and there resides his private priest, Amaziah. That's where we're going. The time is about 25 years before the fall of the northern kingdom of Israel to the nation of the north, the Assyrians - we heard a bit about that this morning. It's 25 years before that awful event where the Jews of the northern kingdom were taken into captivity - but at this moment in time, 25 years before that, the nation of Israel finds itself in peace. There is great prosperity, in fact we could go as far as to say that people are living in luxury. Added to that, if that wasn't enough, there is a renewed interest in religion - we might say a revival of religion of sorts.
As we journey there, the religious service is about to start. It's in the King's Chapel, Amaziah stands to his feet in charge - he's about to begin the program, we would say - and all of a sudden that holy, sacred moment is disturbed by a commotion outside of that religious building. This is what you hear: 'Woe to those who are at ease in Zion!'. A voice is crying from outside, and as we run outside to see what's going on, there is a man and he cries further: 'God is going to send judgement on this wicked nation of Israel!'. As you rush out to see what's going on, you find there what you didn't expect, perhaps, to see: an uninvited rustic hillbilly preacher who is actually a farmer, a herdsman, a sheep breeder from Tekoa, which is about 11 miles from the holy city of Jerusalem.
This man's name is Amos. His name actually means 'burden'. He is not a professional prophet, he's not the son of a prophet, he didn't attend a prophetic school. In fact, if you turn with me to chapter 7, we did this on Saturday evening but for the benefit of those who weren't at that introductory night, we see that Amos says himself, chapter 7 and verse 14: 'I was no prophet, nor was I the son of a prophet; but I was a sheep breeder and a tender of sycamore fruit. Then the LORD took me as I followed the flock, and the LORD said to me, 'Go, prophesy to my people Israel''. He's just a farmer, but he was God's man, who God called, with God's message - and, you know, that's how God often works. He chooses ordinary people, often who find themselves in common jobs, and He chooses those ordinary people to do extraordinary things in His kingdom and for His glory.
We could look at many other great giants from Scripture who were exactly the same, even farmers. Moses, you remember, was out with the flock of sheep in the Midianite desert when God appeared to him in the burning bush and called him to be the deliverer of the people of Israel in bondage in Egypt. David was out feeding the flock and tending it when he was called to be the King of Israel - and it's still God's way! What an encouragement that is! We read in the New Testament, in 1 Corinthians 1: 'God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise; and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things that are mighty'. Now I don't know who you are tonight, and I don't know how insignificant you feel yourself to be, I don't know what your everyday job or occupation is, if you have one - but God can do something with your life if you will place your life in His hands, if you will listen for His voice, if you will hear His call, if you will be obedient. It's not about what you can offer God, it's about what the great God of heaven can do with your willingness.
Amos isn't mentioned anywhere else in the Bible, yet he is God's man. He has come to Bethel to preach the message of God, which is: 'Judgement is coming to Israel'. Now we might pause here for a moment and ask the question: why was judgement coming to Israel? Did I not say they were very wealthy? And they were, and in those days they construed that wealth equated God's blessing - and that often was the case in the Old Testament covenant. But the children of Israel did not realise that God was blessing them in spite of their sin. Their wealth was actually in spite of their iniquity and transgression against God. Did I not say earlier that there was a revival of sorts in religion? Yes, I did, but what Amos teaches us is that the religion was superficial, the religion was shallow - we could say it was hypocritical. The reason why Amos had come at God's behest to preach judgement against what we would say was an economically and ecclesiastically successful state, was because their faith did not affect their lives.
They were making money, and making much religious fervour and noise, and yet they were not worshipping God in spirit and according to truth. In fact, making money had become more important to them than worshipping God. If you look at chapter 8 for a moment, and verse 5, we see that clearly emphasised. Chapter 8 and verse 5: 'They say, 'When will the new moon be past'', the religious feast, ''that we may sell grain? And the sabbath, that we may trade wheat, making the ephah small, and the shekel large?''. You see, God's people were getting rich, and with that wealth came complacency and carnality. The rich were getting richer, they were exploiting the poor; and the poor of the land had none to defend them. Injustice was flourishing, and so the prophet of God, Amos, was sent to preach a revelation of the God of justice.
The supreme tragedy for Israel was that the sins of Israel were the same as the sins of the nations. Let me repeat that: the sins of Israel were the same as the sins of the nations roundabout. If we could imagine being brought by Amos into God's courtroom, the God of justice, what you're going to hear tonight in the message is 'The Accused'. God is showing who the accused is in His courtroom. First of all Amos starts his message by looking around at the nations roundabout Israel and Judah, and announcing judgement on six of them. But before he does that, and we look at it, look at his introduction in verse 2. He says: 'The LORD', Jehovah, 'roars from Zion, and utters His voice from Jerusalem', and he depicts, he reveals God like a lion roaring in His wrath. In fact, in chapter 3 verse 8 you get that image again: 'A lion has roared! Who will not fear? The Lord GOD has spoken! Who can but prophesy?'. Have you ever imagined God like a lion roaring in His wrath?
Do you know something? God is roaring today. He is roaring against the Western world that lives in relative peace, the Western world that is up to its neck in capitalism and is wealthy and prosperous, the Western world that is living in luxury. God is roaring at a wealthy people, and much of that people has enough religion to drown themselves! God is roaring at a people in the West, even who take the name of Christ, who have wealth, and who have religion, but neither affects their lives to make any difference in the communities in which they live - a people for whom making money has become more important than worshipping God! The God of justice is roaring, can you hear Him? He is roaring to get the attention of the nations of our modern world, just like He did the nations roundabout Israel in Amos' day - but no one is listening! Maybe that's why you can't hear Him tonight.
It says here in verse 2: 'He utters His voice from Jerusalem' - that's very significant. Where was Amos? He was up north in Israel, he was at Bethel. Jerusalem was down in the south in Judah. What Amos was saying was: though Israel is the Northern Kingdom, they had established their own way of religion, their own religious centres of worship in Dan and Bethel and Gilgal, they had devised their own approach to God, but the prophet of God was reminding these people that God has not changed. They may have changed location, they may have changed their inclinations as to how they felt they should worship God, but God had not changed - He was still roaring from Jerusalem! What a message for the world in which we live. I believe God would be reminding the nations roundabout this world of ours that all roads do not lead to God. There is great pressure for us today in the 21st-century to accept that teaching. We live in a pluralistic, politically correct society - but God roars today, still from Jerusalem, and this holy God that we've been hearing about in the mornings, this God of justice, He is still a jealous God who will have no other gods before Him. That's the first commandment, and you know that's New Testament teaching - 2 Timothy 2:5: 'For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus'.
Well, Amos begins each of his indictments in this manner. If you look at it, you see it in verse 3 of chapter 1 and all the rest of the judgements against these nations, he says: 'For three transgressions, and for four, I will not turn away its punishment'. Now that's a strange expression, 'for three transgressions, and for four', and it's really what we call an idiom, an expression of language that doesn't equate exactly. So what Amos is not saying is that these nations each committed three or four transgressions literally, it's a term that is used for an indefinite number of transgressions that had finally come to an end. In fact, the Bible teaches that before God the nations have a cup of wrath, and that wrath comes to overflowing and then God executes judgement. We praise God that He is long-suffering, but this expression teaches us that even His patience comes to an end. You see, to try God's patience is to tempt the Lord, and when we try God's patience and tempt the Lord we're inviting judgement. I hope there is no one here tonight, maybe someone who has wandered in, come with a friend and you're not a Christian, and you've heard the gospel many many times, or maybe you're in a backslidden state, and you're trying the patience of God, you're tempting God. Do you know what you're doing? You're inviting His judgement. It's as if you're saying, like the wee fellow on the football pitch: 'Come on! Come on and get me!'.
So God, through Amos, pronounces, first of all to Syria, judgement in verses 3 to 5 of chapter 1, and He accuses them of awful cruelty in war. It's implied by this expression 'they used iron instruments'. Then He speaks to Gaza in verses 6 to 8, Philistia, the Philistines, and He condemns them for the sin of slavery. Then He speaks in verses 9 to 10 to Tyrus, which is the Phoenicians, and He judges them for the cruelty of slavery. Then He speaks to Israel's old enemy, Edom, in verses 11 and 12, and accuses them of not showing pity but maintaining a constant hatred. Then He speaks in verses 13 to 15 to the nation of Ammon, who is judged for bitter cruelty and selfish greed. Then in chapter 2 verses 1 to 3 He speaks to Moab, and He judges them for cruelty against Edom. Now this is very interesting, because He has already judged Edom for their cruelty, but we would say, 'Two rights don't make a wrong' - and what a lesson there is in this! Edom were guilty of cruelty, but that did not legitimise crimes against them. You see, what Amos is communicating here is: God is a God of justice. He is just, He is impartial, He must judge iniquity. Then He comes to Judah in verses 4 and 5, and He judges them for rejecting God's law.
Now before we look at His pronouncement to Israel, let's learn a few principles here from what we've already looked at. First of all we need to learn about the God of justice, that He takes note of what is going on in the nations of this world. Before pronouncing judgement on Judah and Israel, Amos pronounces judgement on six Gentile nations. Now, please remember, God did not give His law - you might say the 'Ten Commandments', the first five books of the Bible - He didn't give them to Gentile nations. He gave them to His covenant people, Israel - and yet He still expected the nations of the world to be accountable for their sins against humanity. We might be forgiven in thinking that in the Old Testament God was only interested in Israel and Judah, and that's the case to a large extent - in verse 4 of chapter 2 He indicts Judah for disregarding His law, in chapter 2 verses 9 to 12 He indicts Israel for disregarding His love of them, His covenant love - but God is the God of all flesh! Even these Gentile nations roundabout Israel and Judah, God was indicting them for their sin and their breaking of His law - because, though they didn't have the two tables of stone with the Ten Commandments, God had written the requirements and the expectations of His law upon their hearts.
Turn with me to Romans chapter 2, so that you can see this with your own eyes. Romans chapter 2 and verse 11, Paul there writes in Romans 2:11, what an opening statement in keeping with our theme: 'For there is no partiality with God. For as many as have sinned without law will also perish without law, and as many as have sinned in the law will be judged by the law (for not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified; for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them)'. You see, people around us who are unconverted, who don't know God, who aren't God's people, they know instinctively not just how to do bad, but they also know how to do good. They do the bad more often than the good, but they know, with the conscience that God has given them and the law written on the inner man - and therefore all the nations of the world need to sit up and know that God takes note of all that is done, of all that is committed, both nationally and, my friend tonight, individually. If you're in this congregation you need to know that God takes note of how you have broken His law.
Nationally that's an awesome message for the countries and kingdoms of our world, for the nations that are poor on human rights like China, that our nation and Western nations are cosying up to. Other totalitarian states, nations guilty of ethnic cleansing, and genocide, and state-sponsored terrorism. States that are guilty of war crimes upon soldiers, forces and civilians. Nations that culturally have a caste system, or have endemic or institutionalised racism, or sectarianism, or discrimination, or general abuse of political power. Or even in our type of free society, so-called, the murder of the innocents in abortion and the mass destruction of human embryos - the just God of heaven takes note! It has not bypassed Him. What is the case nationally is the case individually. My friend, you have got a conscience, and that conscience intuitively tells you what is wrong and warns you about wrong and immoral personal behaviour - and if you disregard it, God takes note and you will answer to God one day! What a lesson this is for us in our modern society, that this God of justice takes note of what goes on in nations, and what goes on in homes, and in lives.
A second lesson is that this God of justice holds nations accountable. He's not turning a blind eye. Kings, presidents, prime ministers, military generals, politicians, chancellors are all accountable to the God of heaven. We read in the book of Genesis that Abraham could not enter into the Promised Land at that point because the iniquity of the Amorites was not full yet - that cup of wrath that was being stored up for that Gentile race was not full. God holds nations accountable to this very day, and I wonder, and I ask you the question: what is the limit of iniquity for our nation? What is the quota for our United Kingdom or for this island of Ireland, the quota of sin before God will come in judgement? Or could I even ask this question: has the judgement started already? I believe it has.
A third lesson is that this God of justice judges nations when it pleases Him. You see, each time He brings an indictment to the accused nations here, He repeats this statement - look down at it, you'll see it in verse 3 of chapter 1 and right throughout: 'I will not turn away its punishment, I will send fire' - I will not turn away its punishment, I will send fire. Do you know, our God is a consuming fire - and that is a New Testament text, by the way. Yes, praise God for the Gospel, and as New Testament believers in the new covenant, partakers of it, we celebrate God's grace. We are evangelical Bible believers, we celebrate the cross, we celebrate the shed blood, we celebrate redemption and justification through that efficacious sacrifice that our sins are put beyond return for us - as far as the East is from the West, buried in the sea of God's forgetfulness. That's what we celebrate and we sing, and He rose again the third day to justify us and all whosoever will freely believe - but God's justice and holiness is still intact! God has not ceased to be just, and when He revealed Himself to Moses, you remember in Exodus 34, this is how He revealed His person: 'The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, 'The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin'' - but listen to this - ''by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children's children to the third and the fourth generation''. This is Moses' reaction to that of revelation: 'So Moses made haste and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshiped'.
I don't know whether you're aware, but modern evangelicalism today has seen a revival of what we once knew as universalism. That is, that all will be saved in the end because God is too loving, God is too forgiving - and what that is, though we celebrate the grace of God, His forgiveness, and if you're not converted you can know by simple faith that wonderful transformation of grace tonight - but such a view that says everyone eventually will be saved is an imbalanced, unbiblical view of this God. God is just. If Amos teaches anything, it is that. But do you know what the sobering fact is for us as a nation tonight? Our nation is guilty of many of the crimes that these nations were guilty of. I wonder if I was to ask you what our list of national sins were, what they would be for you? Greed - you only have to cite the bankers for that one. Excess in every sense, food, drink, drugs. The exploitation of the vulnerable. Sexual permissiveness on every hand, and sexual perversity celebrated. We could go on and on, but we don't have time.
Now up to verse 5 of chapter 2 the focus was on six Gentile nations, and then the nation of Judah, the southern kingdom. It must have pleased the Israelites in Bethel that Amos was condemning filthy Gentiles and the southerners of Judah, but then he changed his tune and he turned on the northerners of Israel. He began to preach that the sins of Israel were the same as the sins of the nations and the sins of Judah, and his eighth judgement is reserved for Israel. Look at verse 6: 'Thus says the LORD: 'For three transgressions of Israel, and for four, I will not turn away its punishment'. Our God is a just God. Now wait for this, Christian, sit at the edge of your seat: our God, when He finds the same sins wilfully present in His people, He judges them. They were shocked, maybe as you're shocked tonight, to hear such a message. In fact, I would go further to say, on the basis of this book and other prophets, that God is in fact more severe on His own people, Israel and Judah, because of their privileged position. Privilege brings responsibility! They were in covenant to God, the Gentile nations weren't. The law of God was the basis of that marriage in covenant, and yet in one way or another Israel had broken every one of the Ten Commandments and disregarded God's law. There is a principle here: God is coming to them in judgement, and if God judges the lost, the nations around, for injustices and broken commands, their sins; what will He do with those who claim to know Him?
Oh my friend, what a message Amos brings to the church. With every privilege there is responsibility. Jesus said: 'To whom much is given, much will be required'. Where there is responsibility, there will also be accountability. My friend, lest you think that I'm stuck somewhere in the wrong dispensation in the Old Testament, this is New Testament teaching. For when you come to Paul's letter to the church at Corinth, and you see the things that they were up to - oh yes, they were saints of God, they were in relationship, in covenant with God in Christ Jesus - yet they were committing sins, sins of sexual immorality, Paul says, that were not even named among Gentile unbelievers! Yet they were tolerated, the sins were tolerated in the church - but look for God's judgement, listen: 'Let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord's body. For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world'.
Do you see it? Is it true that there is little difference in many quarters today between the church and the world? Can I tell you better than that? At times the church, and those who name the name of Christ, are worse! That's the way it was in Amos' day, and I am fearful that that is the way it is rapidly becoming in our day. In verses 6 through to 16 the prophet names the sins of Israel, let's look at them quickly. One, the first is found in verse 6, the latter part of it, and the start of verse 7: 'because they sell the righteous for silver, and the poor for a pair of sandals. They pant after the dust of the earth which is on the head of the poor'. They are accused of bribery and greed. I don't know most of you people here, but could it be said of Christians today that their business dealings are straight up? That the taxman is paid up and not diddled? That we keep our word in our transactions? Are our business ethics superior to that of those around us? As an employer, how do you treat your employee? As an employee, how do you treat your boss? God's people in Amos' day, there was no difference between them and the world - is that where we're heading?
Not only were they accused of bribery and greed, but we see in verse 7, the latter part: 'they pervert the way of the humble. A man and his father go in to the same girl'. They were guilty of adultery and sexual sin, fathers and sons were visiting the same prostitutes. Surely the sexual ethics of the church and professing believers is to be higher than that of the world? You would expect fathers to be better in the examples to their sons than this! We heard this morning from a serving police officer, and it was reported on the BBC just in June past, that last year in Northern Ireland men spent half a million pounds a week on prostitutes. We heard this morning that there are at least 88 brothels in Northern Ireland, which means that there is more demand for prostitution in Northern Ireland than any other nation state in Europe! And you're sitting there maybe saying: 'But Christians...!?' - wait till I tell you: Christians, at least professing ones. 'No!', you say, 'That can't be!'. Well, even if they're not visiting those type of establishments, Internet pornography is at epidemic proportions. It is the secret sin of the evangelical church, and we're afraid to name it. It's rife, and 57% of pastors in the United States testify that porn addiction is the most sexually damaging issue in their congregation! If you've got a problem here tonight with that, I sympathise with you greatly, but you need to get help, and you need to repent, and you need to renounce it - and none of us are 6 feet above contradiction, any of us could fall in any of these areas, but the church needs to be cleansed! God's people have got to the stage where we're no different than the world! Are our sexual ethics any different? Well, I preached in an evangelical church not that long ago - it would have been considered conservative, maybe even fundamentalist of a kind - and I preached on Romans chapter 1 about God's view on homosexuality, and I got a phone call from one of the elders after the series of meetings. He was astounded himself to tell me that some of the young people came to him after that series and said to the elders that they didn't realise that the Bible had anything to say about homosexuality - that was in Newtownards.
The third thing He indicts them for in verse 8, the start of it, is: 'They lie down by every altar on clothes taken in pledge', selfishness. This is alluding to a law in Deuteronomy where, if a garment was given as a pledge that you were going to pay your bills, that garment had to be given to you before night time because it might be your only garment to keep warm with, like a blanket. But in Amos' day they were keeping those garments, inflicting misery on the poor - selfishness! People were living for themselves at the expense of others. Now that is being reflected in the church in our lack of giving, particularly to mission work, and our lack of going to the far-flung corners of the world to take the banner of Christ. Selfishness.
The fourth thing He indicts them for in verses 9 and 10 is ingratitude, where He says: 'I'm the one who drove out the Amorites before you, I gave you the Promised Land, I took you out of Egypt and delivered you - and yet you're so ungrateful for it'. Is there a lack of gratitude in the church today, shallow praise in prayer and remembering of the Lord's death till He comes? Look further, fifthly, verse 12, there was drunkenness among God's people: 'You gave the Nazirites wine to drink, and commanded the prophets saying, 'Do not prophesy!''. They were forcing Nazarites, who had taken a vow to touch no strong drink, forcing them to drink. Can I tell you: you only need to talk to some of the police officers here tonight to understand what a problem alcoholism is in our society, and how it is behind so many crimes. But wait till I tell you something: it's becoming a real problem in the church. As social drinking becomes more acceptable, this is becoming more of a bondage and an avenue out for troubled Christians.
They were guilty of bribery and greed, adultery and sexual sin, selfishness, ingratitude, drunkenness - something else: they were guilty of rejecting God's revelation. Verse 12: 'You command the prophets saying, 'Do not prophesy!''. Is it any wonder the people's values were all mixed up, because they questioned God's revelation - they told the prophets to shut up! 'We don't want to hear that!'. George Barna in 1981 took a poll, you've heard of the Barna Polls, it was entitled 'What Americans Believe'. They surveyed 1000 Americans, and 825 of them claimed to be Christians. He uncovered some disturbing facts about their view on absolute truth. He found that 28% of those interviewed strongly agree with this statement, listen: 'There is no such a thing as absolute truth' - 28% agreed with that, no such a thing as absolute truth. Another 38% said they agreed - 28% strongly agreed, 38% agreed - that in total makes 66% in all. Most surprisingly, 23% of those people claimed to be born-again Christians, and they strongly agreed that there is no such a thing as absolute truth! Have we a problem rejecting God's revelation? I say we do.
It ought to be no surprise that Barna reported that only 58% of Christian adults claim to read something from the Bible each week. This is a very serious thing. We're hearing this week of some good things that are happening in our nation, and we praise God for it, in the higher echelons of the police force. But can I tell you: on a weekly basis Gideon Bibles are being removed from hospitals in our nation, in our land, even in our own towns, mine included. The revelation of God is being rejected - and wait till I tell you something: that is disastrous for a nation! As an individual, if you reject God's revelation you'll be lost forever - but there are consequences of judgement for a nation that rejects God's revelation. Have you heard of 'biblical higher criticism'? It questions the authenticity of the history of the Bible as the Bible presents it. It had its rise in Germany from the mid-18th century to the early 20th century. It's incredible when you think that it was from the land of Reformation, the land that translated the Bible into the language of the people, the land of Luther, the land that rediscovered these great truths of the Gospel - from that land came a questioning of God's revelation. I heard Derek Prince on a recording say this, remarkably: 'Also from that land that rejected God's revelation came two of the greatest monsters the human race has ever seen, Karl Marx and Adolf Hitler'.
There are consequences for a nation when they reject God's revelation. Amos cries, Amos whose name means 'burden', he cries: 'I am pressed under this burden of sin'. My friend tonight, are we burdened, are we burdened about the presence of these very sins in our nation? Perhaps in our businesses, in our professions, whatever they may be, our careers? In our churches? In our homes? Maybe even cherished in our hearts? Oh, do you hear the message of Amos? 'God is roaring!'. I hope this week, as I preach to you from this prophet, that you will hear the roar of God who is crying: 'There is no longer any difference between My people in the world'. Or is the problem that we are deafened because our ears are plugged, like the Israelites, by affluence, by aimlessness, by apathy, by even our religious services? We think all is well, and like Amaziah and Jeroboam at that Chapel, they're wondering what this boy is talking about.
Amos was God's man under God's burden with God's message, and it is my prayer that this week - for our nation, and for our homes, and for our individual lives - all of you, all of us will get under the burden of God.
Let us all pray please, and just before I close this meeting in prayer I'm conscious that God's roar might have come to you where you are in this meeting, in your circumstances, in your sins perhaps. Maybe you're even one who calls yourself a child of God, but you know there are things in your life that may be worse than those whom you know who are unbelievers. There is grace if you will repent, confess your sins, and renounce those things you have been involved in, and come to the foot of the cross afresh - there is cleansing in the precious blood to cover all your sin, but you must repent. This God is a God of justice. Believers in the meeting, will you come on this journey with me this week, under the burden of God for our land, for our churches?
Father, how we need You, how we yearn for You to come suddenly into Your Temple, to come and possess and inhabit Your church again, and to fill the lives of Your believing people so that we will be that shining light Israel failed, Lord, and we have failed so often. If we do not put our light under a bushel, we allow our lights to be extinguished with the sins of this world. O Lord, we pray that You will teach us this week to distinguish between that which is holy and that which is unclean - O God, not for legalistic reasons, but Lord for love of You! For You beseech us, by the mercies of God, to present our bodies living sacrifices because of what Jesus has done, that we might give our all to Him, unreserved and unrestrained, without any regrets. Lord, meet with us this week. Take us now with Your blessing, and bring us back again in the morning to hear Your voice. In Jesus' mighty name we pray, Amen
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at the Annual Christian Police Association meetings in Portrush, Northern Ireland, by David Legge. It was transcribed from the first recording in his 'The God Of Justice' series, entitled "The Accused" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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