Good evening. Where does a week go? Hard to believe it's all over, almost! We're almost finished a week of ministry under the sound of God's word morning and evening, and I know that it's been a blessed time for me, and I hope and trust that all of you can testify to that as we have not only met together, but I believe met with God.
I want to thank, just before I begin my message tonight, the CPA for the invitation to return to this convention to preach the word of God. I do count it a great privilege, and I want to thank them for asking me to come and share in this very special occasion. I want to thank them also for inviting the whole family, and the accommodation that they set up for us was tremendous, and it was a real blessing to have the family with me as I was ministering this week - it would definitely have been very different to be running up and down from Portadown each day - but it combined a bit of a break, especially for the children, with ministry here. We do appreciate that very greatly.
Also the S.O.S. Club that is going on now, that have been looking after my children, that has been a real blessing, especially for my wife, allowing her to come and enjoy the ministry of God's word. It's a tremendous idea - so many churches, even up to now, don't have creches, would you believe it, and it's a very blessed thing particularly for mothers, to hear the word of God - especially when the husband and the father is the preacher!
I really have enjoyed fellowship with the Rev Noel Darragh. He said this morning that I was only a name to him before this convention, and he was really the same - though his reputation went before him, and I have some friends who know him and love him dearly, and I have grown to love him over this week in the sweet ministry that we've had from the prophet Isaiah. I do count him now as a good friend after this week and enjoying fellowship with him.
Thank you to you all. You know, it would be some job to stand up here and preach, and nobody in the pews! You've been here - some of you have been here every morning and every evening. At the door, when the preacher has given all that he can, and he's shaking hands, it's wonderful to have your encouragement and to have the assurance of your prayers. I do appreciate some of you intimating that you will pray for us from here on in - and thank you for that. Some of you didn't get our prayer letter, they ran out of them on the table, there might be some left now, we brought a few extra and you can get that this evening. I'm sure I've forgotten to thank someone, but forgive me for that - but we give all the praise and glory to God, don't we? If we have anything, every good and perfect gift comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no shadow of turning, no variableness - and we give Him all the praise and all the glory.
We're turning to the book of Amos again tonight. As I've said, I haven't really been preaching straight Gospel messages each night - I do believe in it, by the way, I believe when we're preaching the Gospel, we are to preach the Gospel straight. I follow Spurgeon's exhortation that: 'If your objective is to win souls, take everything out of your message that isn't toward that objective' - but I really felt of God, as I told you at the beginning of this week, as I was up here a couple of weeks on holiday (people do come to Portrush on holiday, believe it or not! If you've been here this week you wouldn't think it!) - but the Lord impressed upon me to preach from the prophet Amos, particularly to believers. We have been applying some truths to unconverted folk - so if you're here tonight and you're not a Christian, there will be something for you - but primarily the message has been to the people of God.
On Monday night we looked at 'The Accused'. 'The God Of Justice' is the theme we took for Amos the prophet, but we looked at 'The God Of Justice' under the first heading on Monday night, 'The Accused'. The prophet accused eight nations, six Gentile and then the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah, for their sins. Then we saw on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, three charges that the prophet Amos brought from God to the people over their sin. The first charge was 'Aimlessness', they were wayward - can two walk together except they be agreed? The second charge was 'Affluence', they were valuing the valueless, they were living for material things rather than the kingdom of God. The third charge, last night, was that of 'Apathy' - woe to you who are at ease in Zion! They were not stirring themselves up to seek the Lord and live.
Tonight we're looking at 'The Sentence' that this God of justice gives upon the nation of Israel, and how Amos delivers it through five visions that God gave to him. Now we're not going to have an initial reading, because I want to bring you through chapter 7, chapter 8 and chapter 9 bit-by-bit tonight as we follow these five visions.
But let's come to the Lord in prayer, let's give Him thanks for what we have received this week - but I believe God to meet with us tonight, and I believe God to take a dealing with our hearts. He is able. On Tuesday night I exhorted you to give all the keys of your heart over to the Lord, and a person at the door said to me: 'I am resolved to go home and give the last key to the Lord'. I said last night at the close of the meeting: 'Is there one here, is there one whom God has touched, and God has changed?' - and at the door a gentleman said to me, 'I was the one'. There perhaps were more. I don't know what God is doing in your heart, I know what He's doing in mine even through this ministry delivering it. But let's come and all of us open our hearts to God, and say 'Lord, I want You to speak to me, touch me, change me on this final night of convention'.
Father, we thank You that You are the Almighty God. We cannot restrict You nor restrain You. We come to You in all Your omnipotent power, and we come with our impotence and our great weakness and need. Lord, we come as sinners via the cross, the shed blood, the resurrection power, the gift of the Holy Ghost - and we ask now tonight Lord, that You will come, in the name of the Lord Jesus, and that You will meet us where we are at. We thank You that You are a God of grace and mercy, and not just a God of justice and a God of holiness - but, Lord, You are long-suffering. We thank You that as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pities them that fear Him. We thank You that You remember that we are dust, You know our frame - and yet, our Father, You have given everything at Your divine disposal, that we should be what You have asked us to be. Lord, we pray that You will impress that upon us tonight as we come and hear Your word. Lord, help me, I need Your help. Lord, we take a moment to remember William and his family at this time, we think of his sister and his brother-in-law. O God, we pray that You will draw very near, and that You will bring comfort to them and salvation. In Jesus' name we pray, Amen.
So we're at chapter 7 then, and at the end of this great prophecy Amos beholds five visions from the Lord, five visions of impending judgement. Now, let me just cast your mind back, if you were here, I think it was Tuesday night, in chapter 3 verse 7 I alluded to the fact that there is great teaching concerning the gift of the prophet, whether it is an Old Testament prophet, or a New Testament prophet - and they differ ever so slightly. Nevertheless, the gift of prophecy concerns God revealing certain things before time. It is not only the forth telling of God's word, but the foretelling of what is going to happen. Chapter 3 and verse 7 says: 'Surely the Lord GOD does nothing', that's an emphatic statement, 'Surely the Lord GOD does nothing, unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets'. We saw on Tuesday night that the secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him, and we saw that: can two walk together unless they are agreed? Or, as I said last night, it can be also translated: can two walk together except they have made an appointment? Because Amos had regular appointments with God - I hope you have them - and he walked with God (that meant, we saw, to be in agreement with God, he and God were not arguing about anything), he had surrendered everything to God; because of his walk with God he heard from God, and that qualified him to deliver God's message. God gives him five dramatic visions concerning the future of Israel.
The first vision is a vision of a plague of locusts, chapter 7 verses 1 to 3. The second vision is a vision of a devouring fire, chapter 7 verses 4 to 6. The third vision is the vision of the plumbline, that's probably the most familiar to most of you, chapter 7 verses 7 to 9. Then the fourth vision is the vision of the basket of summer fruit, chapter 8 verses 1 and 2. The final, fifth vision is the vision of the ruined temple in chapter 9 verses 1 to 2. So let's take each of them, and read each portion as we come to it tonight. We're looking tonight at 'The God of Justice', 'The Sentence' - the sentence that this God has pronounced upon Israel.
So the first vision, chapter 7 verses 1 to 3, let's read it: 'Thus the Lord GOD showed me: Behold, He formed locust swarms at the beginning of the late crop; indeed it was the late crop after the king's mowings. And so it was, when they had finished eating the grass of the land, that I said: 'O Lord GOD, forgive, I pray! Oh, that Jacob may stand, for he is small!'. So the LORD relented concerning this. 'It shall not be', said the LORD'. The first vision that God gave Amos of judgement was the vision of the plague of locusts. These locusts are about to destroy the crops, the harvest - and as Amos sees it in this supernatural eyesight that God has given him, he begins to intercede for the people of Israel, they're small, and for their harvest. He cries out to God on behalf of the people, he becomes a go-between for the people, and the Lord stops the plague of locusts.
Now Amos, as we've seen, was a farmer, though he was a sheep breeder he still knew that locusts could have a devastating effect. A swarm could strip a whole harvest in a moment, and it's happening in some parts of the world even to this very day. What a picture of what God was going to allow to happen to the Northern Kingdom of Israel by the Assyrians coming in in 722 BC and taking them captive. We saw how they would take them with fishhooks through their noses, through their lips, and carry them away like fattened cattle ready for the slaughter. This is what God was allowing to happen as a discipline, as the chastisement for their backsliding, their waywardness, their aimlessness, their affluence, and their apathy.
I want to say to you tonight that I believe that the forces of darkness can be like a swarm of locusts, and what locusts can do in devastating natural harvest agriculturally, spiritual locusts, demonic forces of darkness, principalities and powers, rulers of wickedness and darkness in heavenly places, can do this in the spiritual realm. When the walls and the foundations of the righteous are destroyed, often this is what can happen - irrespective of our heritage this can happen: we can be invaded by the locusts. We read in the New Testament that even the apostolic heritage can be devastated. In 2 John and chapter 1 and verse 8 the apostle John says: 'Look to yourselves, that we do not lose those things we worked for, but that we may receive a full reward'. Thank God for the blessed heritage we have in our land, much of it the overflow of revival even to this very day, we're still living in some of the remnants of the blessings of 1859 - and yet, in a moment, if we let our guard down as individuals in our Christian lives, no matter what our parentage is or the blessings of our lineage and family, if we let our guard down in our churches and denominations, the swarms of locusts of evil can come in and destroy in a moment - and we can lose in an evening what has been laboured for for centuries!
I believe it is happening to us in our land. The Old Testament prophets said, 'The ancient landmarks are being removed'. Now sometimes when you talk like that people misconstrue you're speaking about traditions - I'm not talking about legalistic traditions, like how you dress and how you speak, and what translation of the Bible you read - though they're not all brilliant, but nevertheless those are not the things that I'm talking about. What style of music you like - although they're not all, perhaps, appropriate for the Gospel and worship, many of those things are down to taste. What I'm talking about are the unchangeable godly principles of the word of God in the life of faith, those ancient landmarks are now being eroded and are starting to crumble in what is called 'Christendom' in our land. What do we do when that happens? Surely as we've gone through these evenings, surely God has spoken to you and opened your eyes, and unplugged your ears, to see that this is in fact happening in our day and generation? What do we do when the foundations are being destroyed?
Well, what did Amos do? He interceded, he went to God. When he saw this plague of locusts in a vision, he cried out to the Lord, verse 2: ''O Lord GOD, forgive, I pray! Oh, that Jacob may stand, for he is small!'. So the LORD relented concerning this. 'It shall not be', said the LORD'. The role of the intercessor is intrinsic in deliverance. It is essential in the issue of renewal and revival among God's people that there are those who know, and persistently lay hold of God on behalf of the need. Like Queen Esther, who interceded to King Ahasuerus of Persia on behalf of the Jews. Esther, who had come into the kingdom for such a time as this. At times like these, times of devastation, we need intercessors who are willing, upon peril of their life - 'If I perish, I perish' - to go and touch the sceptre of the King on behalf of those who are about to be slaughtered. History teaches us, not just Scripture but history, that whenever God is going to revive His people, He moves a remnant to intercede and pray. We read in the prophet Ezekiel 22 that in his day: 'I sought', God says, 'for a man among them who would make a wall, and stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the land' - you see, the wall has broken down, the enemy is penetrating, but God is looking for someone, a man or a woman, men or women, to stand in the gap that God should not destroy the land. But God said in Ezekiel's time: 'I found none' - imagine that!
The work of intercession is essential for renewal and revival in the church. A great biblical example of intercession is found in the patriarch Abraham. If you turn with me to Genesis chapter 18, you will see where Abraham interceded for the wicked city of Sodom. Genesis chapter 18, we'll not read it all, but we'll read from verse 20 down to verse 26, Genesis 18 verse 20: 'And the LORD said, 'Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great'', remember we saw on Monday night that God takes note what is happening in the nations of our world, ''The outcry against Sodom'', God said, ''and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grave, I will go down now and see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry against it that has come to Me; and if not, I will know'. Then the men turned away from there and went toward Sodom, but Abraham still stood before the LORD'. If you read the book of Jeremiah, you will see that that, in essence, is the role of the intercessor - they stand before God. It is also the role of the prophet, standing before God to hear what God has to say. Verse 23: 'And Abraham came near to God and said, Would You also destroy the righteous with the wicked? Suppose there were fifty righteous within the city; would You also destroy the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous that were in it? Far be it from You to do such a thing as this, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous should be as the wicked; far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?''. Do you see what he's doing? He is appealing to the character of God, interceding for wicked people. He is appealing to God's justice. Verse 26: 'So the LORD said, 'If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes'' - but you know the story, I hope. Abraham didn't give up there. He then pleaded for the 45, and God said He would spare the cities if there were 45 righteous. Then he appealed to the 40, then he appealed to God for the 30, then he appealed for the 20, and then he appealed for the 10. He held onto God for the people - that's an intercessor! A go-between.
We see it wonderfully in the patriarch Moses. We haven't got the time, but if you were to turn tonight to Exodus 32, you would see the incident of the golden calf, and how Moses was on the Mount meeting with God and receiving the law of God. Then God informed him what was going on down at the foot of the Mount. The children of Israel, what had they done? At the behest of Aaron they had taken their golden earrings and jewellery, and they had put them into the fire and, as Aaron put it, out from the fire jumped a golden calf! They made it, and they wanted an idol, they thought Moses was dead up on the mountain. They started worshipping this golden calf, and God said to Moses on the Mount, listen to these words: 'Let me alone' - God is saying to Moses, 'Let me alone, that My wrath may burn hot against them, and that I may consume them'. Do you know what an intercessor does? He doesn't leave God alone, he gives Him no rest! Then Moses pleaded, and said to God: 'The Egyptians will say, if You destroy them, 'He brought them out of Egypt not to save them, but to harm them''. When Moses said that, we read: 'Then the LORD relented of the harm that He would do' - what was Moses doing? He was appealing to God's character again: 'You brought them out of Egypt to save them, and the Egyptians will say You destroyed them, and You only brought them out to harm them'. He went between a sinful people and a holy, just God - he interceded.
Come with me again to Numbers 14, Moses once more. This time the children of Israel are afraid to enter into the Promised Land of Canaan because of the enemies. They have arisen up in insurrection, and they want to go back to Egypt. They disregard the promises of God, and they in fact are now going to lift up stones and stone Moses and Aaron to death! God says, because they're rejecting the prophets of God for them, and their leaders, God says: 'I am going to strike them with a pestilence, and I'm going to disinherit them'. He turns to Moses, and He says: 'Moses, I will make a nation of you. I will eradicate them, exterminate them, and start all over again with you, Moses'. Moses says, listen how he pleads with God, Moses said to God: 'Then Egypt will hear of it, and they will tell the Canaanites, saying 'The LORD is not able to give the land He swore to His people''. Moses the intercessor, what does he do? He pleads to the covenant of God, to the promise of God, and he touches the character of God on behalf of the people. Here's how God responded again to Moses: 'I have pardoned the people according to your word, Moses'. What a statement! Do you see the power of the intercessor? 'I have pardoned the people according to your word'.
Oh, I could go on, Samuel was a great intercessor, 1 Samuel 12, you remember the people, the Israelites again, wanted a King. Samuel knew that this was wrong, although it was in the permissive will of God. You see Samuel calling down thunder and rain upon their harvest, and the people go spare and they say: 'No! Don't do that!' - and the thunder cracks, and the rain falls, and they think famine is ahead. They plead with Samuel, the intercessor: 'Pray for us' - and Samuel retorts, 'God forbid that I should sin in ceasing to pray for you'. This was a man, essentially, whose ministry they had rejected - but he wasn't going to cease praying for them! Elijah, in 1 Kings 18 is an intercessor. He cries to Jehovah who answers by fire, and the fire falls. We go into the New Testament and we see Paul the apostle as an intercessor, as a go-between in Romans chapter 9 for the Jews. He says: 'I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh'.
When God is going to revive and renew the church, He raises up intercessors. My question to you tonight is: who will intercede like this for Ireland? Who will intercede like this for the United Kingdom? Maybe you're here these nights, and you're getting on in years, and you hear the challenge and you think to yourself: 'What could I do for God?'. I know I've been relaying a lot from the revival of the Hebrides and the Isle of Lewis. There were two old ladies, I think their names were Peggy and Mary, bedridden, who interceded to God for those islands - and God heard their prayer, and God will hear your prayer too if you rid yourself of sin, if you cleanse yourself, if you keep short accounts with God, if you rest in His grace, if you wallow in His love, if you fellowship moment by moment - but if you've a heart like Amos for the people that is breaking, and you can hear what God is saying, and you can see visions from God about what is happening to our nation and to our church, I believe God will hear you! E.M. Bounds says: 'It's a great thing, as the prophets did, to talk to men about God; but it's a far greater thing to talk to God about men'.
God gave him a vision of the locusts, and he interceded. See the second vision, verses 4 to 6 of chapter 7, it's a vision of a devouring fire: 'Thus the Lord GOD showed me: Behold, the Lord GOD called for conflict by fire, and it consumed the great deep and devoured the territory. Then I said: 'O Lord GOD, cease, I pray! Oh, that Jacob may stand, for he is small!'. So the LORD relented concerning this. 'This also shall not be', said the Lord GOD'. An awful drought is this devouring fire, that's what it is. It's going to hit the land, and Amos intercedes again and God delivers. Now here's my conviction, and I believe I have Scripture to back it up: though Amos appears to be the sole, lonely intercessor, receiving the second vision - if all the people, in a general sense, if a remnant of the people had arisen to pray and to intercede against God's judgement, I believe it would have stemmed the fire of judgement that came upon them. Now I know the sovereign will of God is a great mystery, but I do know this: when God made His covenant with His ancient people, Israel, one of the stipulations that He spoke was this in 2 Chronicles 7:14: 'If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land'. So if the people, even in a small remnant number, had turned to God - who knows how God would have panned it all out?
There is a great power in an intercessor, but there is greater power in an army of intercessors. Andrew Murray, in his book 'With Christ in the School of Prayer', said: 'The man who mobilises the Christian church to pray will make the greatest contribution in history to world evangelisation'. The man who mobilises the Christian church to pray will make the greatest contribution in history to world evangelisation.
The third vision is verse 7 through to 9, the vision of the plumbline. Verse 7: 'Thus He showed me: Behold, the Lord stood on a wall made with a plumb line, with a plumb line in His hand. And the LORD said to me, 'Amos, what do you see?'. And I said, 'A plumb line'. Then the Lord said: 'Behold, I am setting a plumb line In the midst of My people Israel; I will not pass by them anymore. The high places of Isaac shall be desolate, and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste. I will rise with the sword against the house of Jeroboam''. The vision of the plumbline is the Lord standing at the wall, and it seems He is holding a plumbline, and He is testing to see if the wall is straight. What God is doing is, He's measuring Israel by His law, that's the plumbline - but she does not conform to His law, she is out of plumb with His word and with His statutes. Therefore judgement is coming upon the nation.
Now, it's at this point in these visions that there is an interjection. It comes from the state priest, Amaziah. He had had enough of this backwoods prophet Amos, this sheep breeder, this uneducated prophet. In verse 10 we read: 'Amaziah the priest of Bethel sent to Jeroboam king of Israel, saying, 'Amos has conspired against you in the midst of the house of Israel. The land is not able to bear all his words. For thus Amos has said: 'Jeroboam shall die by the sword, and Israel shall surely be led away captive from their own land''. Then Amaziah said to Amos: 'Go, you seer! Flee to the land of Judah. There eat bread, and there prophesy. But never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king's sanctuary, and it is the royal residence''. He interrupted Amos, he said: 'You are unpatriotic, you are treacherous! Amos, take your soapbox and return to the backwoods of the South and preach there, but you're no welcome here in the North'. Though Amos was from the southland of Judah, Amaziah and all the people saw Amos as a traitor to their nation, a traitor to their faith, and a danger to national security. Do you know something? Prophets have often been seen in that light. Jeremiah was seen as a traitor, in fact Jeremiah was so opposed that he wanted to hand in his resignation - and so did Moses by the way.
Can I ask you a question tonight: would you be willing to be thought a traitor to your country for the cause of Jesus Christ? Would you? Now don't misunderstand what I'm saying, Scripture is very clear that we are required to respect the powers that be - Romans 13 - we're to fear God and honour the King, 1 Peter 2. We are to pray, 1 Timothy 2 teaches us, for rulers God has placed an authority over us. But we also know from the New Testament that Peter and all the other apostles were commanded not to speak, by the state forces, in the name of Jesus - and they said: 'We must obey God rather than men'. Now I'm not talking here this evening about any form of civil unrest or breaking the law, or breaking out in violence - there has been enough hurt in the name of Jesus Christ and His kingdom - but what I am talking about is: there might come a day very soon in our land, in the United Kingdom, where we will be considered unpatriotic for standing beside Jesus. It might be that we will be required again to make vocal protest, peaceful though it is, but very vocal. It might be that we are required to make peaceful non-compliance with evil laws - what a challenge that will be for some Christian police officers. But sometimes, when being faithful to God, you can be accused of being unfaithful to your country and unpatriotic. Sometimes, to tell the truth, you become a traitor and a threat.
It happened to Hudson Taylor. He went to China at a time when Britain was at war with China - it's like a missionary going to Germany during World War II. If that wasn't stigma enough, Hudson Taylor took the monumental decision of becoming a Chinaman to Chinamen in order to win Chinamen. He shaved all his hair off, and he just kept a long ponytail like the traditional ponytail the Chinese men wore. He dyed it black and almost blinded himself in the process with the dye. He continually wore Chinese dress everywhere he went. Now not even the Chinese believed that this was acceptable for a white man, they thought that a white man's dignity rested in his strict adherence to British dress. So Taylor's actions not only deeply shocked the British people at home, but it was shocking to the Chinese. He had gone native, and as far as the British were concerned he had lost all credibility, he lost some financial support, and it even went to the extent of him being labelled a traitor to the Empire - but he did it all to win Chinamen and women for Christ!
Now listen, the lesson is this: Amos was thought a traitor, and often when we walk with God, and we hear from God, and we speak for God, it will upset the status quo politically and even ecclesiastically. You see, Amaziah the state priest, he wanted to conserve the past, and he was motivated by self-interest. He was good living for a living, and he was lining his pockets of the people of God. He had a position, and he wanted to preserve the past because of that - but Amos, he was motivated by God-interest, and he wanted to preserve the future. Can I ask you, Christian tonight: what are you interested in conserving and preserving? Is it the future?
Amos wasn't perturbed, he told the false priest - we haven't got time to read it - 'God has told me to preach, I must obey, and as for you Amaziah, you will pay for your compromise and your sins because your wife will become a harlot and your family will die by the sword' - that's what he said! Now, after the first two visions, the vision of the plague of locusts and the devouring fire, Amos interceded for the people and the Lord relented. But you will note that Amos does not intercede after this third vision of the plumbline - the reason being: the nation had clearly been measured and found wanting, and it was too late! What an awful thing for the nation to be too late to be saved from judgement! Maybe you're here tonight and you don't realise how serious it is to be weighed and found wanting in the eyes of the holy God of heaven. If you're here tonight and you're still in your sin, you need to be warned that you're lost, you're condemned already, and you need to repent and flee to the cross of Jesus Christ! This is an awful thing to individually be in such a state - and I believe there are men and women in Ulster tonight who are walking in shoe leather, and it's too late for them because they heard God's voice at one time, and they resisted the Holy Spirit, and God has left them.
It's an awful thing for a nation. God is patient, we have seen that this week. He speaks again and again to the conscience of a nation. He allows things to go wrong, He brings a nation low and even to its knees - and if that nation still ignores God, what does He do? He raises a foreign nation, a power, to execute His will. For northern Israel He rose up the Assyrians. For southern Judah He rose up the Babylonians. Who is He raising up today for the United Kingdom, for Western Europe? Is it a war of terror? Amos refers eleven times in his book to 'the LORD God' - that is, the Sovereign Ruler over all things. God was in control, God was dealing with the nation - He's dealing with our nation! Benjamin Franklin was not a believer, but he said it well at the Constitutional Convention of the United States, he spoke: 'I have lived, Sir, a long time. The longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth: that God governs in the affairs of men' - the LORD God.
First there is a vision of a plague of locusts, he intercedes, God relents. Then there is a vision of a devouring fire, the prophet intercedes, God relents. Then there is the vision of a plumbline, no intercession, but judgement. Now comes in chapter 8 and verses 1 and 2 a vision of a summer basket of fruit: 'Thus the Lord GOD showed me: Behold, a basket of summer fruit. And He said, 'Amos, what do you see?'. So I said, 'A basket of summer fruit'. Then the LORD said to me: 'The end has come upon My people Israel; I will not pass by them anymore''. The message was: Israel, like summer fruit, has ripened for judgement. Amos has used a lot of agricultural analogies, hasn't he? Here is the summer fruit ready to be cut off because they are ripe, so Israel is ripe for judgement. Again in verse 4, if you glance your eye down to verse 14, the prophet names the sins of the people of God: robbing the poor of their homes, verse 8; complaining about holy days interfering with their business, verse 5; setting excessive prices that hurt the poor, verse 6. His wrath is coming, he told them, in an earthquake, verse 8 at the beginning - and we see in chapter 1 verse 1 that this prophecy was given two years before the earthquake. Look at chapter 1 and verse 1, two years before the earthquake Amos give this prophecy proving that God had come. We read in Zechariah 14, historically this took place in the reign of King Uzziah. God was going to judge His people.
In verse 9 he speaks of an eclipse, in verse 10 of a funeral, and then in verse 11 famine. Look at verse 11 of chapter 8 please: ''Behold, the days are coming', says the Lord GOD, 'That I will send a famine on the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD. They shall wander from sea to sea, and from north to east; they shall run to and fro, seeking the word of the LORD, but shall not find it. In that day the fair virgins and strong young men shall faint from thirst''. Amos is saying that not only will there be a natural famine of food, but there will be a spiritual famine for the word of God. Listen, this is what Amos is saying: 'If they will not listen to my word, the opportunity to listen will go. God will take His word away from them!'.
Oh you know, don't you, believer, that there is no substitute for the word of God. There is no substitute in the life of the believer for the scriptures, there is no substitute in the life of the church for the scriptures. Jesus said: 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God'. But imagine, for us, in our New Testament era, if the penalty for not using the word of God was losing it! You say: 'It couldn't happen!' - could it not? Here we have a picture of people left hungering, left wondering. Verse 12, look how graphic it is: 'They shall wander from sea to sea, and from north to east; they shall run to and fro, seeking the word of the LORD, but shall not find it'. I'll tell you: this is happening, it's happening now. You say: 'What are you talking about?'. Well, we've got plenty of 'Christianity', but very little prophetic word from our pulpits - and there is no substitute for that. Can I tell you something: young people are fed up with the sham, they're fed up with gimmicks and froth. There is a real hunger, particularly among young people today, for the genuine article. They want to be fed by the word of God. They don't want to be fed by legalism, or just naked precepts and principles of some kind of external Pharisaism - but they want to know what God has to say to them now for their lives today! Do you want to know that? You say: 'Surely we've more of the word of God today than ever, there's not a famine, all you have to do is go on the World Wide Web and you've more sermons than you could ever want, we've more translations than you could imagine, more study resources, maybe more preachers for all I know' - that's not what we're talking about! I hear it and over again in meetings all over our land, Isaiah 55 and verse 11: 'My word shall not return unto Me void' - my friend, quote the whole verse! It says: 'My word shall not return unto Me void' - 'My word that goes out of My mouth'. 'The word that I speak', that means the prophetic word, it's not just about preaching the word, it's about preaching the word with the Holy Ghost upon you! In 1 Corinthians 4 verse 20 Paul said: 'For the kingdom of God is not in word but in power'. It's the word and the Spirit, it's the word for today.
Paul said to the Thessalonians: 'Our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit and in much assurance, as you know what kind of men we were among you for your sakes'. Christians come to me and sometimes say this: 'Where would you go today to meet with God?'. Have you ever felt like that? Where would you go today to hear from God? I know of believers whose souls are parched, and they never miss a meeting - but they're not hearing from God. There is a famine in the word of God. I tell you, we heard the other morning about how few Bibles there are in China - and the ones, most of them, that are being published, are coming to the West - but I'll tell you, there's no famine in the word of God there. It's got nothing to do with hardcopies of the Bible, it's got to do with the prophetic voice. We have the Bibles, yet we've got the famine!
The fifth and final vision is in chapter 9 verses 1 and 2, the ruined Temple. Verse 1: 'I saw the Lord standing by the altar, and He said: 'Strike the doorposts, that the thresholds may shake, and break them on the heads of them all. I will slay the last of them with the sword. He who flees from them shall not get away, and he who escapes from them shall not be delivered. Though they dig into hell, from there my hand shall take them; though they climb up to heaven, from there I will bring them down' - what words! Amos now gets a vision of the Temple and the altar, and now he sees the Lord Himself at the altar - it's not a symbol, but it's the Lord in person - why is the Lord at the altar? Because, as we've preached every night this week, judgement must begin at the house of God! It's a principle right throughout the scriptures. We see it in Ezekiel's day, in years to come concerning Judah, about to be taken into captivity, in exile some of them already. In Ezekiel 9 we read judgement was coming to Judah, the word is given: 'Utterly slay old and young men, maidens and little children and women; but do not come near anyone on whom is the mark; and begin at My sanctuary', says the Lord, 'So they began with the elders who were before the temple'. 'Begin at my sanctuary', says the Lord!
God orders the doorposts of the Temple to be broken, and the roof caves in. He's about to destroy the whole sanctuary and everyone in it, no one is going to escape. Look at verse 2: 'Though they dig into hell, from there my hand shall take them; though they climb up to heaven, from there I will bring them down' - imagine it! They are tracked down, anybody that seems to escape, they're tracked down. There is a coming judgement, we read in verse 9, there is a sifting of the grain, and God will send the Israelites among the Gentile nations and sift out the true from the false. Boy, there is a sifting out happening now, but there is a sifting out that's going to happen on that great day of judgement between the good seed and the chaff.
Oh, you've been with me these nights, and I hope you've shared in Amos' burden - the God of justice accusing the nations, and God's people along with them; charging them with aimlessness, and affluence, and apathy. Showing these five visions of a plague of locusts, a devouring fire, a plumbline, a basket of summer fruit ripe for the picking, and a ruined Temple - and He's calling on His people to come back. Is there any hope? I heard the story years ago of an S4 submarine that plummeted down to the depths of the ocean, and that was in grave trouble, and the oxygen supply was being exhausted. They sent down rescue divers to see if they could salvage any life, and they put their ear to the side of that vessel to see if they could hear anything, and they heard a tapping in Morse code - and it was four words: 'Is there any hope?'. The nation of Israel is sinking, the church of the West is sinking - is there any hope? Yes! There is hope!
Amos closes this chapter in a note of victory, the promise of the future restoration of Israel. Verse 11 of chapter 9: 'On that day I will raise up the tabernacle of David, which has fallen down, and repair its damages; I will raise up its ruins, and rebuild it as in the days of old; that they may possess the remnant of Edom, and all the Gentiles who are called by My name', says the LORD who does this thing'. If you go home and read Acts 15, you will read those very words recited at the first church council in Jerusalem, because today in the church God is calling out a nation of people of all nations for Himself, a peculiar people. I believe God still has a plan for Israel and the house of David in Judah in a day that is yet to be, but the promise is, listen: God will fulfil His word, God will honour His covenant, God will live up to His character - the God of justice. Though we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.
Have you seen the God of justice this week? What will you do with the vision that God has given to you? You're responsible now. If you have heard His voice, harden not your heart. Let us pray. What is your need tonight? Maybe you're an unbeliever, and I know I haven't been preaching an evangelistic message, but the entrance of God's Word brings light, and maybe you have seen a just God before whom you will have to answer. It is appointed unto men once to die, and after it the judgement. Will you repent and flee to Calvary where Jesus bled and died for you, where He suffered for your sins and take your place, bore your judgement, endured your hell? Will you look to Him and live? Backslider, do you understand why God is chastising and disciplining you, because your back is toward Him and you're grieving His heart. He is a God of justice, will you come back to Him tonight? Believer, lukewarm, will you be fired for God? You've seen who He is, He is a consuming fire - what will you do? You're now responsible for the ministry of both mornings and evenings this week - what will you do? Church leaders, elders, ministers, pastors, what will you do? There's something for you to do now. The Rev Hamilton Moore of Connor Presbyterian Church, just before the revival of 1859, he said to some of those young men who ended up in a prayer meeting in Kells, he said to them: 'Do something more for God'. Is that what God's asking you to do?
Father, Your word has gone forth, and we pray: 'Let him or her who has ears to hear, hear what the Spirit says to the churches'. Gracious Father, in the name of the Lord Jesus we thank You for Your speaking voice this week. All we can say, Lord, is: we need You to revive us. Come, while here to Thee we bow, descend, O gracious Lord, descend, and come and bless us now. Let nothing be lost of this week, as we give You thanks and ask Your blessing upon the police force, the CPA, and all of us gathered here, and every family represented, every home. Bless us now on our onward way, and in future days, that we may learn what it is to walk with God. In Jesus' name, Amen.
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This sermon was delivered at the Annual Christian Police Association meetings in Portrush, Northern Ireland, by David Legge. It was transcribed from the fifth recording in his 'The God Of Justice' series, entitled "The Sentence" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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