Amos 5-9Series: Minor Prophets
We covered Amos 5-9 in class last Wednesday. God is upset with Israel and sent Amos to speak to them because they have at least three big problems. 1) They hate truth, 2) They reject justice and righteousness, and 3) Their religion is empty. I ran out of time on the last point, so here are the points from my notes.
First, being "religious" without right living is worthless.
Amos 5:21–24 (ESV) - 21 “I hate, I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. 22 Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the peace offerings of your fattened animals, I will not look upon them. 23 Take away from me the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps I will not listen. 24 But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.
Jesus talked about people who SAY religious things, but don't do them,
Matthew 7:21–23 (ESV) - 21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
James also talked about those who claim to have faith without lives that reflect it,
James 2:14–17 (ESV) - 14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
Amos said that God despises and takes no delight in "religion" that isn't reflected in the way we live. God will not accept it.
Second, "religion" that points to Yahweh as one among many is worthless.
Amos 5:25–27 (ESV) - 25 “Did you bring to me sacrifices and offerings during the forty years in the wilderness, O house of Israel? 26 You shall take up Sikkuth your king, and Kiyyun your star-god—your images that you made for yourselves, 27 and I will send you into exile beyond Damascus,” says the Lord, whose name is the God of hosts.
The thrust of this passage is that if you are going to take up other gods and set them alongside Yahweh, then you WILL take them up...and carry them with you into captivity. God will not share his throne with anyone or anything, and those who seek to worship God as one among many will discover that their so-called religion is empty.
Third, "religion" that does not make us different is worthless.
Amos 6:1–3 (ESV) - 1 “Woe to those who are at ease in Zion, and to those who feel secure on the mountain of Samaria, the notable men of the first of the nations, to whom the house of Israel comes! 2 Pass over to Calneh, and see, and from there go to Hamath the great; then go down to Gath of the Philistines. Are you better than these kingdoms? Or is their territory greater than your territory, 3 O you who put far away the day of disaster and bring near the seat of violence?
Israel *rightly* condemned the nations around them for their pagan sinful practices; but God looked at Israel and asked, "Are you better than these kingdoms?" They claimed to be a religious group of people, but in fact, they were no different from the world around them.
Paul quoted Lev. 26 in 2 Cor. 6:16-18 and said, "I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 17 Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, 18 and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.”
We do not want to stand before God on Judgement Day and hear Him say, "Are you better than these kingdoms?"
Fourth, "religion" was a burden to Isarel that they wanted to hurry up and check off the list so they could get back to their regular (sinful) lives.
Amos 8:4–6 (ESV) - 4 Hear this, you who trample on the needy and bring the poor of the land to an end, 5 saying, “When will the new moon be over, that we may sell grain? And the Sabbath, that we may offer wheat for sale, that we may make the ephah small and the shekel great and deal deceitfully with false balances, 6 that we may buy the poor for silver and the needy for a pair of sandals and sell the chaff of the wheat?”
They asked when their silly festivals to celebrate God, and the Sabbath that was a time of fellowship with God would be over so they could get back to the "important" things in life. Is coming to Bible study or worship a burden that gets in the way of other things in your life? Is it a burden to offer your money to God's work or to share it with someone else when you could be doing other things you'd rather do with it? Do you find yourself hurrying through your prayer at dinnertime to get on with eating? God was a burden to these people who kept them from what they really wanted to do. This kind of "religion" is worthless.
Fifth, "religion" that tells us what we want to hear is worthless.
Amos 9:9–10 (ESV) - 9 “For behold, I will command, and shake the house of Israel among all the nations as one shakes with a sieve, but no pebble shall fall to the earth. 10 All the sinners of my people shall die by the sword, who say, ‘Disaster shall not overtake or meet us.’
Amos is speaking to a group of people who only want to hear that everything is going to be fine...disaster will surely not meet us. In the Old Testament, those who spoke like this are called prophets of peace. Listen to what Ezekiel said about this,
Ezekiel 13:8–16 (ESV) - 8 Therefore thus says the Lord God: “Because you have uttered falsehood and seen lying visions, therefore behold, I am against you, declares the Lord God. 9 My hand will be against the prophets who see false visions and who give lying divinations. They shall not be in the council of my people, nor be enrolled in the register of the house of Israel, nor shall they enter the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the Lord God. 10 Precisely because they have misled my people, saying, ‘Peace,’ when there is no peace, and because, when the people build a wall, these prophets smear it with whitewash, 11 say to those who smear it with whitewash that it shall fall! There will be a deluge of rain, and you, O great hailstones, will fall, and a stormy wind break out. 12 And when the wall falls, will it not be said to you, ‘Where is the coating with which you smeared it?’ 13 Therefore thus says the Lord God: I will make a stormy wind break out in my wrath, and there shall be a deluge of rain in my anger, and great hailstones in wrath to make a full end. 14 And I will break down the wall that you have smeared with whitewash, and bring it down to the ground, so that its foundation will be laid bare. When it falls, you shall perish in the midst of it, and you shall know that I am the Lord. 15 Thus will I spend my wrath upon the wall and upon those who have smeared it with whitewash, and I will say to you, The wall is no more, nor those who smeared it, 16 the prophets of Israel who prophesied concerning Jerusalem and saw visions of peace for her, when there was no peace, declares the Lord God.
This brings us back to our first point where the people did not want to hear the truth. They wanted to hear nice things, and not true things. "Religion" that only offers nice things is worthless.
Paul ends his first letter to the Corinthians with a little prayer, Maranatha, which means "O, Lord come!" The same prayer is found in Rev. 22:20, "Come, Lord Jesus!" Surely there are "religious" people today crying out for Jesus to return just like those "religious" people that Amos spoke to. But here is what God says to people with empty and worthless religion,
Amos 5:18–20 (ESV) - 18 Woe to you who desire the day of the Lord! Why would you have the day of the Lord? It is darkness, and not light, 19 as if a man fled from a lion, and a bear met him, or went into the house and leaned his hand against the wall, and a serpent bit him. 20 Is not the day of the Lord darkness, and not light, and gloom with no brightness in it?
In other words, be careful what you ask for. Coming to God through empty, or half-way religion is darkness, and not light for people.