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10.11.20 The God who Saves Amos 2:4-11 Sermon Summary

by on October 15, 2020

The Apostle Paul is not known for his prophecies but rather for his argumentation. His longest sustained argument is the letter to the church at Rome. He begins by listing non-Jewish (Gentile) practices that would be particularly offensive to Jews. 

His Jewish audience would say “Yea, Paul, formally Saul! Yea, Paul formally a Pharisee! Yea, Jews, God’s favored people!”

But then Paul writes the first verse of chapter two: “You have no excuse, whoever you are, when you judge others; for in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things.” This is a tactic he learned from the prophet Amos.

Amos starts with oracles against Israel’s enemies. Six times he begins, “Thus says the Lord: For three transgressions, and for four, I will not revoke the punishment” against Damascus, Gaza, Tyre, Edom, Ammonites, and Moab. He accuses them of having burned cities, traded slaves, slaughtered innocents, conducted merciless warfare, exiled whole communities, and being unforgiving.

At first people would respond, “Preach it, Amos! The LORD our God, the LORD is one! Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD!”

But then in chapter two Amos writes, “Thus says the Lord: For three transgressions, and for four, I will not revoke the punishment upon Judah and upon Israel.” “Wait a minute,” we hear his audience say. “What have we done?!”

Amos replies that these people are, “chosen, yes; but chosen to know the Law. Yet you do not follow it.” Their worship is mixed with idolatry. They have dishonest business practices. They are apathetic towards the socially marginalized. They violate family covenants. They exploit the poor with the legal system.

Many of us find it comforting when God judges others. It lets us know someone is worse than we are. We feel safe in the middle—not a saint, not a devil. It’s like being late, but not the last person late, to a meeting. We say to ourselves, “At least we’re not as bad as they are!” 

This can lead us to say, “Actually, we’re pretty good. Actually, God loves us. God loves us more. God loves us best. God loves us only. Let others suffer God’s judgment.”

But then Amos and later Paul proclaim the truth that we, too, are judged according to love.

Instinctively, we defend ourselves. This goes all the way back to Garden of Eden. We hide, make excuses, and justify ourselves. The religious leaders of Amos’ day said, “Go back to the south! Go back to shepherding and fig-tree farming. You shall not prophesy! You shall not speak. You shall not tell the truth. You shall not protest.”

Sometimes today we hear the same kind of defenses. You shall not . . . enact laws for the good of all; say “black lives matter;” call wealth an idol. You shall not . . . admit and allow diverse interpretations; say America is exceptional; take a knee. You shall not . . . plea for the plight of the poor and imprisioned; say health care and housing and food security are human rights; say salvation depends on faith and works. You shall not speak truth. You shall not prophesy.

We’ll listen to the truth when it’s applied to others but we don’t want it applied to us. In the Newer Testament James says this is like looking in a mirror and forgetting what we look like as soon as we turn away. Why do we forget? Because we see others and begin to judge them. 

“Go back to the mirror,” James and Amos say. “Remember your calling.” First Peter says, “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:9) So also Jesus says, “Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good works and give glory to your father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)

Go back to the mirror. Listen to the prophets. So what if we don’t? Amos, Paul, James, Jesus, and Peter all agree. If we don’t listen to the prophets, we will experience God’s judgment beginning here in this life.

But that’s not how it all ends. In Amos God remembers. “I brought you out of Egypt. I provided for you in the Wilderness. I defeated the Amorites before you. I gave you prophets and nazirites.”

God has shown us grace many times in the past. God is a god who saves. God, we hope and trust, will continue to save us. “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God—not the result of works, so that no one may boast.  For we are what God has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.” (Ephesians 2:8-10)

Let us go back to the mirror, listen to the truth, and remember our calling. And let us remember that God is a god who saves.

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