Good evening, wonderful to be here again tonight to preach the word of God and to join in fellowship with one another around His truth. We're turning again tonight - if it's your first time, we're in the book of Amos, which is three books away past the book of Daniel, the prophecy of Daniel - a little book of nine chapters that we're seeking to work through these nights. Not primarily preaching the Gospel, although the Gospel application is through the message, but primarily bringing the word of God to all - and much of it has been applicable to those of us who would consider ourselves Christians, because this is a prophecy that comes to God's ancient people, Israel. Tonight we're looking at chapters 5 and 6. Now, if you were here on Monday night we looked at 'The Accused', that was six Gentile nations that God was pronouncing judgement upon, and then the southern kingdom of Judah and the northern kingdom of Israel - and that made it up to eight. God was judging His own people because their sins were the same sins, and indeed worse than the nations roundabout.
Then on Tuesday night we looked at God's first charge to Israel, and that was the sin of 'Aimlessness' - can two walk together except they be agreed? Then last night we looked at God's second charge, which was 'Affluence', and how they were valuing the valueless. Tonight we're looking at the third charge, which is 'Apathy', and how the God of justice - and that's the theme we've taken throughout the week - the God of justice brings this third charge of apathy to God's people, Israel. We'll not read both chapters in total, but a number of verses from each.
Chapter 5 then, and reading from verses 1 to 9 first of all: "Hear this word which I take up against you, a lamentation, O house of Israel: the virgin of Israel has fallen; she will rise no more. She lies forsaken on her land; there is no one to raise her up. For thus says the Lord GOD: 'The city that goes out by a thousand shall have a hundred left, and that which goes out by a hundred shall have ten left to the house of Israel'. For thus says the LORD to the house of Israel: 'Seek Me and live; but do not seek Bethel, nor enter Gilgal, nor pass over to Beersheba; for Gilgal shall surely go into captivity, and Bethel shall come to nothing. Seek the LORD and live, lest He break out like fire in the house of Joseph, and devour it, with no one to quench it in Bethel; you who turn justice to wormwood, and lay righteousness to rest in the earth!'. He made the Pleiades and Orion; He turns the shadow of death into morning and makes the day dark as night; He calls for the waters of the sea and pours them out on the face of the earth; the LORD is His name. He rains ruin upon the strong, so that fury comes upon the fortress".
We'll look down now, please, to verse 14: "Seek good and not evil, that you may live; so the LORD God of hosts will be with you, as you have spoken. Hate evil, love good; establish justice in the gate. It may be that the LORD God of hosts will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph". Down to verse 18: "Woe to you who desire the day of the LORD! For what good is the day of the LORD to you? It will be darkness, and not light. It will be as though a man fled from a lion, and a bear met him! Or as though he went into the house, leaned his hand on the wall, and a serpent bit him! Is not the day of the LORD darkness, and not light? Is it not very dark, with no brightness in it? 'I hate, I despise your feast days, and I do not savour your sacred assemblies. Though you offer Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings, I will not accept them, nor will I regard your fattened peace offerings. Take away from Me the noise of your songs, for I will not hear the melody of your stringed instruments. But let justice run down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream".
Then into chapter 6 verse 1: "Woe to you who are at ease in Zion, and trust in Mount Samaria, notable persons in the chief nation, to whom the house of Israel comes!", verse 3, "Woe to you who put far off the day of doom, who cause the seat of violence to come near; who lie on beds of ivory, stretch out on your couches, eat lambs from the flock and calves from the midst of the stall; who sing idly to the sound of stringed instruments, and invent for yourselves musical instruments like David; who drink wine from bowls, and anoint yourselves with the best ointments, but are not grieved for the affliction of Joseph. Therefore they shall now go captive as the first of the captives, and those who recline at banquets shall be removed" - and we'll end our reading there at verse 7 of chapter 6.
Unite with me in prayer, and I've requested each night, please, that you do pray with me - don't leave me up here on my own, whatever you do! I need you to pray for me and pray with me, and pray for one another, that God may speak. There might be unconverted people in the gathering, and we want God's Spirit to come, bring conviction of sin, of righteousness, and judgement to come, and witness Jesus to their mind and heart as the only Saviour. We want the Holy Spirit to do the same work for us, for we all need it, and we all need God to draw near, to speak to our hearts - we want to hear what He has to say. So do come and unite with me in prayer to that end, that we will have a meeting with the Almighty tonight.
Father, we thank You for even the stillness that is in this gathering already as we have worshipped, and as we have read Your word. Oh God, we seek to meet with You. Lord, we thank You for friends, and our brothers and sisters here, we thank You for the strangers that may have gathered in. Lord, we thank You for fellowship that we can enjoy - but, Lord, we long to meet with our God. We long that the Holy Spirit should come in mighty power and unction, that we might hear with our ears not a man but God. Lord, we need You tonight, we need You to speak, we need for You to rend the heavens and come down - that the mountains that are in our lives, the obstacles, whatever they may be, they melt at Your presence. Those things that appear insurmountable, Lord, that they would just dissolve before Your presence. Oh God, come, whatever our need is, come and meet it - oh God, we cry in Jesus' name, the crucified, but freshly slain Lamb, risen from the dead and interceding for us, in His name we cry to You, Father, help us by the Spirit of God now. For Christ's sake, Amen.
Now though Amos, we saw, was not a typical prophet in that he was not an attender to any prophetic school, neither was he in the lineage of prophets - his father wasn't a prophet - he was typical of a prophet in this much: that he spoke for God, that's what prophets do, but also what was typical of him being a prophet was that though he spoke for God, and though he has, as we have seen, a very judgemental message from this God of justice who was bringing wrath upon His own people for their misdemeanours, just like all the other prophets Amos' heart broke for the people that he was speaking to. That's characteristic of many a prophet - they spoke for God, but their heart broke for the people. They were sort of pulled between the two: they were loyal to God, but they were from among the people and they loved them. As the great prophet Jeremiah, and indeed the greatest prophet of them all, the Lord Jesus Christ, Amos wept.
What you have before you tonight in chapter 5 and chapter 6 is really a lament, a funeral lamentation as the prophet of God weeps over the state of God's people - just like Jeremiah, who said in chapter 9 of his prophecy: 'Oh, that my head were waters, and my eyes a fountain of tears, That I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people!'. You remember our Lord Jesus Christ asked the question of the disciples: 'Whom do men say that I am?', and one of the characters of the Old Testament that they thought had come back from the dead was Jeremiah - and I believe that they mistook Jesus for Jeremiah because of His compassion, because of His breaking heart over His people. He had come to His own, but His own received Him not. We read in Luke 19: 'Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, 'If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes'' - and He wept as He broke His heart.
All God's choice servants were men and women of tears. Albert Smith said: 'Tears are the safety valve of the heart when too much pressure is laid on'. Of course Amos, his name means 'burden', and we've seen, haven't we, how he came under the burden of God as he cried judgement to the people of Israel. He wept as he preached - tears were the safety valve, as the pressure of that burden was so great that there had to be an outlet. So this was the distillation of the soul, liquid prayers if you like, streaming forth like a river from God's prophet because, though he spoke for God and he didn't hold back, he put the trumpet to his mouth and he blew the warning, yet internally his heart was breaking for a people who would not hear, and for whom judgement was hastening.
I believe dry-eyed syndrome pervades the church of Jesus Christ in the West today. There are few tears in the eyes of preachers, this one included; few tears in the eyes of the people in the pew. Somewhere along the way we have allowed our tear ducts to become cauterised by the spirit of the age - whether it is materialism that we talked about last night, or religious pluralism, or post-modernism, eternal realities are no longer real enough to make us want to cry over them. Is that not true? But not God's man, Amos - God's man with God's message, chapter 5, chapter 6. He is lamenting in tears. Here's the reason, we saw it on Tuesday night: he was walking with God, he was in agreement with God, and because he walked and had made his appointments with God - that's what that word 'agreement' means, by the way, to make an appointment with God - he was hearing from God, and his heart was bearing and sharing the burden of God for his people.
So he brings this third charge, a lamentation about their apathy. It's really, as I've said, a funeral dirge for a people who were about to be judged. It was as if Amos was preaching to them, and as far as he was concerned they were already dead, but they were left unburied! That's the sense we get from verse 2, if you look at it, in chapter 5: 'The virgin of Israel has fallen; she will rise no more. She lies forsaken on her land; there is no one to raise her up'. Israel saw herself as a fair virgin, but as far as God was concerned she was a fallen corpse left to rot unburied - you couldn't get much different! Was it last night we said: we must learn to see the way God sees, not the way things seem to be, but the way they really are. The only way you can know that is getting close to God, and walking with God, and hearing what God is saying. Here He says: 'No, you're not like a fair virgin' - and He might say to the church tonight, 'You're not like a chaste bride, you're like a rotting corpse!'.
The tragedy of this judgement is seen in verse 3, is it any wonder the prophet's heart was breaking because we read there: 'Thus says the Lord GOD: 'The city that goes out by a thousand shall have a hundred left, and that which goes out by a hundred shall have ten left to the house of Israel''. What that means, at least it's suggesting that there would be 90% of the nation would die, and only 10% live! That's why his eyes were soaking with tears, that's why his heart was breaking: because judgement was coming against the people of God. Now, last night in our study in chapter 4, we saw a sad refrain five times, where God said - having sent much chastisement and discipline - He said to His people: 'Yet you have not returned to Me, you have not returned to Me'. We saw last night that God's chastening always has restoration in view. He wasn't doing this because He was getting some sadistic kick out of chastising His children, but because He loves them, because He wants to lavish grace upon them, because He wants to bring them to His bosom and reveal His heart - but over and over again He had to say: 'You have not returned to Me!'.
In chapter 5 we find again God's grace, for there is a repetition of an invitation, and it's 'Seek Me and live'. Look at it, verse 4 of chapter 5: 'Thus says the LORD to the house of Israel: 'Seek Me and live; but do not seek Bethel''. Verse 6 of chapter 5: 'Seek the LORD and live, lest He break out like fire in the house of Joseph'. Verse 14: 'Seek good and not evil, that you may live'. We've taken as our title 'The God of Justice', that's what Amos is all about - but Amos doesn't just present to us a God of justice, but he reveals to us a God of grace, aren't you glad of that? Romans chapter 3 and verse 26 says: 'God is just, and the justifier of those who believe in Jesus'. Praise God, we heard about it this morning, the Man of Calvary. We were meditating on Isaiah 53 with Mr Darragh - and it was wonderful, as we came to Calvary, and how he explained to us that we are saved by grace. How my heart leapt as he brought that illustration out, that He was bruised for our transgressions, and that word 'bruised', he said, means 'crushed', it actually means Christ was bent for us that we might become straight! Not only being justified, but that we may walk upright - wonderful! He emphasised this point: that not only are we saved by grace, not through our works, but we are sanctified by God's grace - holiness is a gift of God. It's not something, necessarily, to be striven after in the flesh, but it's something that is a gift of God. That's why Paul came to the Galatians and said: 'Have you begun in the Spirit, and are you now trying to continue in the flesh?' - no! It's all of the Spirit, it all of grace!
We celebrated this morning how the blood cleanses; how the sacrifice of Calvary straightens you up; how, with His stripes, we are healed. But not only does the blood heal us morally, but do you know something on top of that is this: the Holy Spirit was given at Pentecost to empower us. Listen, I struggle with temptation, as we all do - but can I tell you tonight: the New Testament Gospel, as I read it in the word of God, is that not only are our past misdemeanours forgiven, but God the Holy Spirit, through the sacrifice, resurrection, and impartation at Pentecost, can give the Christian victory now and in the future! It's not a half a gospel! When we're preaching these nights, what God requires of us - we heard it this morning - God empowers us to do it. He's not requiring you to do it - He's requiring you to cooperate, yes - but He does it!
But what happens when we don't cooperate? Well, turn with me to Hebrews chapter 12, again I emphasise: this is New Testament truth. Here in Hebrews chapter 12 the writer speaks about the chastisement of God, His discipline upon His children. Verse 5 of Hebrews 12: 'And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: 'My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; For whom the LORD loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives'. If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live?'. Does that sound familiar? Amos says: 'Seek Me and live', we are to be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live - and if we don't subject ourselves to Him, we come under His discipline. 'For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness'. He chastens us for the purpose that we might be holy. Verse 11: 'Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness' - the peaceable fruit of righteousness, holiness - 'to those who have been trained by it. Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed. Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord'.
When we are wayward, and when we need more holiness - there's the negative, when we're doing things we ought not to do - but also when we need to improve, and we all need that, the Lord brings chastisement and discipline in our lives because He loves us! We saw it the other night: why was God chastising Israel? Because they were elected! They were saying: 'We're God's chosen people, He can't judge us!' - that was the very reason He was coming to judge them and chastise them. Because He loves us, the Lord chastens us - and it's not with a purpose to make us miserable, it's with a purpose to make us holy!
Amos wanted them to see that their chastening was in order to seek the Lord, that's my first point tonight. They needed to see that their chastening was in order to cause them to seek the Lord. He was giving them a way out, hallelujah! That is our God! Let's not water down His character: He is a God of justice, and He's a God of holiness, and that's a side of His character that you hear very little about today - but it's not all about Him. He is a God of love, He is a God of mercy, He is a God of grace, He's a God of deliverance, He's a God of salvation, He's a God who gives a way out! He makes very clear where it is to be found, verse 4: 'Thus says the LORD to the house of Israel: 'Seek Me and live; but do not'', verse 5, ''seek Bethel, nor enter Gilgal, nor pass over to Beersheba' - but seek Me and live, not Bethel. The people flocked to their services, we saw that, didn't we? They heaped sacrifice upon sacrifice in offerings, but God wasn't to be found in any of it - it couldn't save their soul, nor could it sanctify them. I want to tell you tonight - I hope to God that you have not misunderstood anything I have said these evenings, and I know I've been preaching against sin in all our lives, but I don't want you to think for one moment that I'm expecting you to go out and, with a spiritual bar of carbolic, clean yourself from head to toe - because you cannot! You cannot make yourself acceptable by good works, you cannot make yourself acceptable by legalistic ritual or rite or rule, it is only by seeking the Lord and seeking His grace!
Is that what we do? Sometimes I feel - and I identify with this, I'm talking about myself - sometimes when my back's against the wall, the last thing I do is seek the Lord! When things are bad, what do you do? Do you go to church? That's not a bad thing to do, but sometimes we seek solace in church, or we bury ourselves in some kind of activity. Or maybe it's our denomination, and we're head and ears in it? Or maybe it's a movement that we're involved in? Or maybe we run to a personality preacher, or a prolific author? Or maybe we take solace and security in the sacraments, or in some kind of charitable deeds? A lot of people, instead of seeking the Lord, they seek a new doctrine, or they even seek a true doctrine, and it takes the place of seeking the Lord. Or maybe an ecstatic experience, they want the hairs to go up the back of their neck, they want the bright lights to shine for them - sensuality - but there are very few people, very few people who truly seek the Lord for the Lord's sake, that He might be seen by them and they may share in His likeness, holiness.
Duncan Campbell said: 'Do you know what our problem is in this modern church age? We have everything but God'. Do you know why that is? Sometimes we seek everything but God. Well when things are as bad as this, as they were in Israel - and I believe they are in the Western church today - do you know what we would really be better doing? Now this might shock some of you: sometimes I think we'd be better cancelling our normal programs, and we'd be better calling a solemn assembly, and we'd be better getting on our faces - like the prophet - with the tears tripping us, broken, crying out to God: 'We want to seek You and live again! Where have we gone wrong? What is the reason for Your divine chastisement on the nation?'. It's there! You're blind if you don't see it! 'What is the reason for Your displeasure in the church?' - but what do we do? We go on doing the same. I've said before that if the Holy Ghost didn't turn up at 11 o'clock on Sunday morning, we would be able to go on right ahead and we wouldn't notice hardly any difference half the time. We go on in our activity, and what the prophet Amos is saying is: 'No, don't! Stop! You Israelites are living in denial, you're thinking God is well pleased with your activity, you're thinking God is well pleased and satisfied in His heart with your half-hearted devotion!'. What Amos was preaching - and I think what needs to be preached today - is that the church needs to take radical action in seeking the Lord, to hear what the Lord says. We've got all the answers, we can buy all the paperbacks and watch all the DVDs from America on how to fill your church with people, how to have seeker sensitive services, how to get the community in - but friends, most of it is a sham! God isn't in any of it! We need God! We need to find out how to get God back! Who is there who knows how to get God down, to seek Him that we might live, and that our people might live?
You see, we need to seek Him to hear what He's saying - that's what the Psalmist spoke in Psalm 85: 'Will You not revive us again, that Your people may rejoice in You? Show us Your mercy, LORD, and grant us Your salvation' - listen - 'I will hear what God the LORD will speak, for He will speak peace to His people and to His saints; but let them not turn back to folly'. You see, he cried 'Revive us, O Lord', and he waited on God and he sought the Lord to hear what He will say. What do you think we need to do to revive the church in the United Kingdom? What do we need to do? You know, people would give you a list, here's the ABC - you need to put this in the right place, and do this, and we need to be preaching this way, that way, and the other way - and all of it is fine and dandy, but wait till I tell you: I really don't know where we would start, I honestly don't know. There are things we could do better, but I do know this: what we do need to do, collectively, across denominational boundaries, we need to seek God! We need to put everything on hold! Who will do it? What churches will do it? What denominations will do it? Who of them will unite together and say: 'We will put everything on hold, and we're going to seek God, and say 'Lord, what's happened? Where have we gone wrong? Where is our blindspot? What sin is in the camp, Lord? What do You want us to do?''.
In the island of Lewis, before the awakening, did you know that they were in dire straits spiritually on the isles? A place that once had experienced refreshing from the presence of the Lord had now begun to grow cold and indifferent. That burden was shared by the Free Church Presbytery of Lewis who, in the following declaration that I'm going to read that was posted in the Stornoway Gazette and West Coast Advertiser, publicly expressed their deep concern. This is verbatim what they said, listen: 'The Presbytery of Lewis, having taken into consideration the low state of vital religion within their own bounds, and throughout the land generally, call upon their faithful people in all their congregations to take a serious view of the present dispensation of divine displeasure, manifested not only in the chaotic conditions of international politics and morality, but also and especially in the lack of spiritual power from Gospel ordinances, and to realise that these things plainly indicate that the Most High has a controversy with the nation. The Presbytery affectionately plead with their people, especially with the youth of the church, to take these matters to heart and to make serious inquiry as to what must be the end should there be no repentance! They call upon every individual, as before God, to examine his or her life in the light of the responsibility which pertains to us all - that haply, in divine mercy, we may be visited with a spirit of repentance and may turn again unto the Lord whom we have so grieved with our iniquities and waywardness'. Is there not a low state of vital religion in our land? True Christianity? Do we not need to take a serious view of the present dispensation of divine displeasure manifested? Do the conditions of international politics and morality not drive us to see that the Most High has a controversy with the nation?
They saw it in their day, and I tell you: it's far worse in ours. Isaiah tells us what seeking the Lord involves, Isaiah 55: 'Seek the LORD while He may be found, Call upon Him while He is near' - here it is - 'Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; Let him return to the LORD, and He will have mercy on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon'. He's a God of grace, He's a God of mercy - thank God that stream from Calvary still flows, and we might plunge in and be cleansed, but there is repentance! There is repentance that God requires, and it's not a work - it's the other side of the coin of faith, it's believing you're not good enough, and that you haven't reached the standard, and that you change your mind about your sin and about yourself. Is there an unsaved person here tonight? Have you ever repented and believed? I'm not asking you where you worship, what denomination you are, or what creed you recite - I'm asking you: are you born-again? Have you repented and believed the Gospel?
In verses 8 and 9 we see a parenthesis in the passage: 'He made the Pleiades and Orion; He turns the shadow of death into morning and makes the day dark as night; He calls for the waters of the sea and pours them out on the face of the earth; The LORD is His name. He rains ruin upon the strong, so that fury comes upon the fortress'. This is the God of the heavens with whom we have to do! The pagans worshipped the stars and the constellations and the planets, but our God made them, our God flung them into space! He is the God of creation, He is the God of justice, He is the God of holiness - and we have all got to face up to our sin, and the Israelites wouldn't do it! What was stopping them? Two things: something theological and something moral. This is the second thing that Amos wants them to see in this third charge of apathy. He needed them to see that their chastening was in order to seek the Lord and live, but second: he needed them to see that they had confidence in a spurious security. Confidence in a spurious security.
You see, some were saying: 'The day of the Lord will come, and when the day of the Lord comes then all our enemies will be defeated, and God will deliver us!'. Look at verse 18 of chapter 5: 'Woe to you who desire the day of the LORD! For what good is the day of the LORD to you? It will be darkness, and not light. It will be as though a man fled from a lion, and a bear met him! Or as though he went into the house, leaned his hand on the wall, and a serpent bit him! Is not the day of the LORD darkness, and not light? Is it not very dark, with no brightness in it?'. Do you know what Amos was saying? 'You're crying for the day of the Lord, but for you, do you know what that's going to be like? It's going to be like meeting a lion, and then you dodge the lion, and you dodge him to go into the path of a bear. Then, when you're able to sidestep the bear and get in your back door, and you lean on your wall and take a puff of breath, a snake bites you on the wall!'. You're crying out for the day of the Lord, but you don't realise that the day of the Lord, it's going to be for you from the frying pan into the fire - as we would say. You're saying: 'Our enemies are going to be judged', but you don't realise that you will meet your God! We saw it last night: 'Prepare to meet your God, O Israel!'.
I believe - and it's only my belief - that the day of the Lord is still a future time when the nation of Israel will be tested and purified, and God will still fulfil His word in all these prophets, major and minor. But applying this to Christians today, many Christians - and I'm one of them - who long for the fulfilment of prophetic Scripture, many of them are not ready to meet their Lord! Are you one of them? Many Christians view the Lord's return as an escape to heaven, as judgement on the wicked nations, all the saints living happily together for ever after - and there's no doubt about it, the New Testament presents the truth of the second coming of Jesus as a cause for Christian hope, 1 Thessalonians 4, 'Comfort one another with these words'. I don't want to take anything away from that, but all I will say to you tonight is: make sure your personal hopes on that day are not false hopes! Make sure you're not making the mistake, first of all, of not being genuinely born-again. Make sure, if you are saved, that you're prepared and ready to meet the Lord - because what Amos teaches us, and what the whole of the New Testament teaches us is that judgement begins at the house of God! And even when God takes us to heaven, and the trumpet sounds, and Jesus takes us home, I believe the sequence is that there will be this 'bema' judgement, and we will have to answer to God as to how we have lived our lives.
Even the layout of the book of Revelation - and I'm not going to fall out with anybody if you have a different understanding than me, that's not the point. The point is this: even the layout of Revelation testifies to this, that He starts off, this Judge-Priest Jesus Christ, walking among the candlesticks - before He judges this world and pours wrath, vials of wrath, upon it, He deals with the church first! I love prophecy, I really do, and I'm not ashamed of it either. I think there's a neglect of preaching and teaching on the second coming of Jesus, probably because there are so many views - but it was never ever intended to be a form of escapism for the children of God. It was never intended that we should use prophecy as a confidence in a spurious security to get us out of what God requires of us today.
The key verse in this whole book is verse 24 of chapter 5: 'But let justice run down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream'. When you pray: 'Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name, Thy kingdom come' - do you understand what you're praying when you say 'Thy kingdom come'? If the Lord should return today, what would it mean for you? Would it upset your plans? How would He find you? Do you know the New Testament teaches that some Christians will be ashamed when the Lord Jesus returns again? First John 2: 'Now, little children, abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming'. I rejoice in the second coming of Jesus, the joyful anticipation, but it's not meant to be a cause for apathy! It's meant to be a great motivation for holy living. John said it again in his little epistle: 'Everyone who has this hope in Him' - capital 'H' - 'purifies himself' - small 'h' - 'even as He is pure' - capital 'H'. The hope of Jesus' return ought to make us holy, 'Seeing all these things shall be dissolved', Peter says, 'What manner of persons ought we to be in all holiness and conversation' - it's meant to be a motivation for faithful service. Jesus said: 'Blessed is that servant whom his Lord will find so doing when he comes'.
It's amazing how, in Amos' day, God's people could use theology, and even verses of the Bible, to disobey the declared will of God. You know, the same thing is going on today - it is. We can find a confidence in a spurious security that gets us out, we think, of what God requires of us now. The third thing he speaks to them in this third charge of apathy - he wants them to see the chastening of the Lord that they might seek the Lord, he wants them to see their confidence in a spurious security, but thirdly he wants them to see that they were complacent in carnal comfort. Verse 1 of chapter 6: 'Woe to you who are at ease in Zion!'.
Amos continues his tears and his lament over their sins, and in verses 1 to 6 he speaks about their indifference and their indulgence. In verses 7 through to 14 he speaks about their injustice, their morality, their idolatry - they are at ease in Zion. Tell me that's not a description of 21st-century Christendom in the Western world today. A woe is pronounced to all those, look down the chapter, all those who lie on beds of ivory, who stretch out on their couches, eat all they want, who sing idly to the sound of stringed instruments, who drink wine from bowls, who anoint themselves with the most expensive perfumes and recline at banquets - and all of this at the expense of the kingdom of God in Israel, and today at the expense of the kingdom of Christ's church!
I'm not the only one who thinks like this. William MacDonald, if you can get any of his writings - I quoted a book last night and, by the way, it's not a hard book, 'Revolution in World Missions', it's not a hard book to read, it's not a big tome, it's for everybody - but if you want to read any other good books, 'True Discipleship' by William MacDonald, and many other books that he has written that are life changing. He says this: 'Luxury living abounds on every hand while souls are dying for the want of the Gospel. Christians are wearing crowns instead of bearing a cross. We become more emotionally stirred over sports, politics, television, than we do over Christ. There is little sense of spiritual need, there is little longing for true revival. We give the best of our lives to the business world, and then we turn over the remnants of a wasted career to the Saviour. We cater to our bodies, which in a few short years will return to the dust. We accumulate, instead of forsake. We lay up treasures on earth instead of heaven. The general attitude is, 'Nothing too good for the people of God! If I don't pamper myself, who will? Let's get ahead in the world and give our spare evenings to the Lord''. MacDonald says: 'This is the condition on the eve of Christ's return'. Another prophet of social justice was James the apostle - I don't have time tonight, but if you go home and read chapter 5 verses 1 to 6 of James' epistle, it will fall on you like a hammer blow - it's devastating!
Isaiah said: 'There is no one who calls on Your name, who stirs himself up to take hold of You; For You have hidden Your face from us, and have consumed us because of our iniquities'. Leonard Ravenhill, in his book 'Why Revival Tarries', put it into a poem, Amos 6 verse 1, like this:
'Could a mariner sit idle if he heard the drowning cry?
Could a doctor sit in comfort and just let his patients die?
Could a fireman sit idle, let men burn and lend no hand?
Can you sit at ease in Zion with the world around you damned?'
One of the most touching stories I've ever read, and with this I close, is told by Amy Wilson Carmichael who served her Lord as a missionary to India. One night in her diary she wrote these words, listen carefully, if you can and wish to, close your eyes and picture this. She says: 'I could not go asleep. So I lay awake and looked; and I saw, as it seemed, this: that I stood on a grassy sward and at my feet a precipice broke sheer down into infinite space. Back I drew, dizzy at the depth. Then I saw people moving single file along the grass. They were making for the edge. There was a woman with a baby in her arms and another little child holding onto her dress. She was on the very verge. Then I saw that she was blind. She lifted her foot for the next step - it trod air. Oh, the cry as they went over! Then I saw more streams of people from all parts. They were blind, stone-blind; all made straight for the precipice edge. There were shrieks as they suddenly knew themselves falling, and a tossing up of helpless arms, clutching at empty air. Then I saw that along the edge there were sentries set at intervals. But the intervals were too far apart, too great, and too wide, there were unguarded gaps between. And over these gaps the people fell in their blindness, quite unwarned, and the gulf yawned like the mouth of hell. Then I saw, like a little picture of peace, a group of people under some trees, with their backs to the gulf. They were making daisy-chains. There was another group. It was made up of people whose great desire was to get more sentries; but they found that very few wanted to go. Once a girl stood alone in her place, waving people back; but her mother and other relatives called, and reminded her that her furlough was due. Being tired and needing a change she had to go and rest for a while; but no one was sent to guard her gap, and over and over the people fell, like a waterfall of souls. Once a child caught a tuft of grass that grew on the very brink of the gulf; it clung convulsively and it called, but nobody seemed to hear. Then the roots of grass gave way, and with a cry the child went over. And the girl who longed to be back in the gap thought she heard the little cry and she sprang up and wanted to go, at which they reproved her; then they sang a hymn. Then through the hymn the pain of a million broken hearts rung out in one full drop, one sob. It was the Cry of Blood'.
I know these are hard messages I'm bringing each night, believe me I'm aware. Will we receive the word of God as it is? Is the Lord chastening you this evening that you might live? Is He calling you tonight to flee from complacency in carnal comfort? Are there those here tonight whom God has spoken to, who will say with Charles Wesley:
'I want an even strong desire,
I want a calmly fervent zeal,
To save poor souls out of the fire,
To snatch them from the verge of hell,
And turn them to a pardoning God,
And quench the brands in Jesus’ blood'.
Is there one, is there one? Let us pray. Our God is the God who longs for restoration and reconciliation. He wants you to come tonight, if you're not saved. Jesus took your judgement that you might be never judged. God has not appointed us to wrath, but to deliverance, salvation. But Christian, there is bema - if you judged yourself you would not be judged. Could it be said tonight that all this congregation at the close of this meeting would be seeking the Lord? Some of you church leaders here tonight, maybe you think I'm just a young fellow that's very zealous and that I'll calm down when I go into my 50s or something? Would any of you be prepared to hold the program, to press pause, and to unite with brothers and sisters in Christ - even of other churches that maybe you look down on perhaps - for this nation that is on its way to hell, in order that God's people would seek Him again with all their hearts?
Father, I pray that this message which You have given will not be wasted on me, the giver, or on these dear people. Lord, I am the chief of sinners, I have no business talking down to people - I just, Lord, ask that we would be what we are destined to be, that we would stop fighting with Your chastisement, with Your discipline, but embrace it that all the quicker we might be holy, that we might see the Lord. For His glory and for the extension of His kingdom 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 fourth recording in his 'The God Of Justice' series, entitled "The Third Charge, Apathy" - Transcribed by Preach The Word.
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