Pastor Barry Robinson

Letters to the Camberwell Congregation from Pastor Barry Robinson

Amos – Where love and justice meet

Sermons

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May 2010

Dear Church Family,

I know Paul says to Timothy that ‘All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness’ (2 Timothy 3:16) but you could be forgiven for thinking what relevance does the book of Amos, about a prophet in the eighth century BC, have for Christians today.

Well I am convinced that this Old Testament book has a very special message to the Western world and the Christian church as we progress through the twenty-first century.

The prophet spoke vividly, forcefully and insistently to an affluent society, about their social ills, yet they could not bring themselves to believe in divine judgement. Their religious leaders were reassuring men who told the people what they wanted to hear. They were outraged when Amos told them the opposite and that they needed to repent.

In this letter I want to give you an overview of the book of Amos as an introduction to a series of sermons, entitled ‘Where love and justice meet’ that I shall give based on this book over the coming months.

The Prophet

Amos was not a professional prophet (7:14). He was a shepherd (1:1) and probably a sheep-breeder who went to the markets to sell his sheep. His home was Tekoa, 12 miles south of Jerusalem. Since he preached in the northern kingdom of Israel he was especially unwelcome - a southerner preaching in the north! (7:12). Although he was not a professional prophet, he had heard the voice of God and so felt that he had no option but to preach (1:1-2).

The Date

Amos dates his preaching as ‘two years before the earthquake’ (1:1). This earthquake made a great impression at the time (8:8; 9:5 Zech. 14:5) but can no longer be dated exactly. It was probably around 760 BC. Two kings are mentioned in 1:1: Uzziah reigned 783-742 BC and Jeroboam son of Jehoash 786-746 BC.

The situation

Amos was preaching to a society that had never had it so good:

  1. It was a time of peace. The superpower, Assyria, was led by weak rulers, and so Israel was left alone.
  2. It was a time of prosperity. Trade had increased and Israel was for a short time quite wealthy.
  3. It was time of problems. The wealth was not fairly distributed to all in the society. The rich got richer; whilst the poor not only got poorer the rich deliberately kept them down. At the same time they began to leave God out of their lives. They kept an outward show of religion, but it really meant nothing to them.

The style

Amos was a courageous man, since his preaching is straight to the point. He never minces his words even when arguing with a priest (7:17). His prophecy is full of judgement and doom. He presents God as a roaring lion (1:2; 3:4,8), and one can imagine him roaring out his sermons at unwilling and embarrassed listeners whose peace he had rudely disturbed. For all that there are moments of tenderness in his prophecy and the book ends with a message of hope.

Outline

  1. The prophet and his message (1:1-2)
  2. The nations called to account (1:3-2:5)
  3. Israel in the dock (2:6-16)
  4. The verdict of the judge (3:1-4:3)
  5. When will they ever learn? (4:4-13)
  6. The funeral of religion (5:1-27)
  7. The fate of the rich (6:1-14)
  8. The visions of the prophet (7:1-8:6)
  9. The silence of God (8:7-9:10)
  10. Hope for the future (9:11-15)

Message

1. God judges sinful nations

  • God has the right to judge all the nations of the world, not just his chosen nation, because he is the Creator (1:3-2:3)
  • He judges them because of the way they treat their fellow human beings
  • The sentences passed on each nation were worked out in the course of history

2. God wants social justice

  • The sins he condemns:
    • Money was supreme (3:10,15; 6:4-6)
    • The poor were exploited (2:7; 4:1; 5:11)
    • Justice was perverted (2:7; 5:7, 10; 8:4-6)
    • Morals were lax (2:7; 4:1)
  • The behaviour he expects:
    • Love goodness (5:14-15)
    • Guard justice (5:15,24)
    • Live righteously (5:24)

3. God hates religious hypocrisy

Israel were:

  • Unfaithful to their agreement (2:4-5; 3:1-2)
  • Disrespectful in the Temple (2:8)
  • Ungrateful for the past (2:9-12)
  • Pretending in their worship (4:4-5; 5:21-27; 8:5)
  • Self-satisfied in their attitudes (6:1)
  • Spiteful to the prophet (7:10-17)

4. God loves undeserving Israel

Even though Amos basically preaches a message of judgement he does speak about God as a God of love:

  • God freely chooses to love (3:2)
  • God patiently tries to teach (4:6-11)
  • God graciously offers to help (5:6)
  • God generously promises to restore (9:11-15)

Application

1. How to live in the world

Remember:

  • Human rights matter
  • Even-handed justice is important
  • Poor people are valuable to God
  • Luxury living is dangerous living
  • Judgement is on its way

2. How to live before God

Remember:

  • Put God before gain
  • Make sure your worship is real
  • Listen for the voice of God
  • Be prepared to meet God
  • Don’t trust religion – Trust God

Key themes

1. Amos condemns the nations for their sins

(1:3,6,9,11,13; 2:1,4,6)
The transgressions were both personal and national.

2. Facing the punishment of God

When people sin:

  • Punishment is inevitable because sin brings it in its train (1:3,6,9,11,13; 2:1,4,6)
  • Punishment is inescapable because God chooses to let it run its course (3:13-15)
  • Punishment is greater for those who have had the privilege of being in a special relationship with God (3:2)
  • Punishment is only carried out by God with great reluctance (7:1-6)

3. Hearing the voice of God

One of the worst fates possible for man is to endure a period in which God is silent (8:11-12). But in Amos’ day God had spoken through:

  • Events (4:4-11)
  • The prophet (7:14-15)

4. Doing the will of God

Amos called on Israel to repent. Repentance is more than just saying ‘sorry’. It is a complete change of mind which results in people turning their back on their old way of living and starting to live as God intends. What God wanted from Israel was action (5:14-15, 24).

Perhaps the key to appreciating the book is to try to identify oneself as part of the prophet’s original audience. If we can succeed in that imaginative experiment, I think the truth of Paul’s claim that ‘…everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope’ (Romans 15:4) will be confirmed.

With love in Jesus’ name,

Barry Robinson
Pastor

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Sermons on the book of Amos
‘Where love and justice meet’

Christ centred, Bible based, Holy Spirit enabled teaching, to the glory of God the Father.

When the sermon is online the title will become a link to the audio.

  1. Chameleon Christianity (Amos 1-2)
  2. I cannot keep silent (Amos 3:1-8)
  3. What will be your legacy? (Amos 3:12; Colossians 4)
  4. Fatfighters (Amos 4:1-3; 1 Peter 1)
  5. Worship: Glorying in God’s Holy Name (Amos 4 and various other Scriptures)
  6. Prepare to meet your God (Amos 4:6-13; Luke 18:9-14)
  7. Funeral or future? (Amos 5)
  8. Water into wine (John 2 1-11; Amos 9:11-15)

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