Tuesday, July 03, 2012


Look, the eyes of the Lord God are on the sinful kingdom, and I will destroy it
from the face of the earth.  However, I will not totally destroy the house of Jacob--[this is] the Lord's declaration…” (Amos 9:8 HCSB)

What a sobering moment it must be to have gone to trial, be convicted and then watch as the judge enters the chamber, and has you stand before him.  The evidence has been presented and the verdict reached, “GUILTY”—now the sentence will be passed.

Man’s justice can often be injustice.  It is as flawed as are the people who produce it.  At times the guilty are acquitted and the innocent are convicted.  But, the judgment of God is utterly just.  No piece of evidence escapes His vision; no bit of injustice clouds his decision.

The country preacher, Amos, portrays God in these terms in his prophecy.  Israel is guilty of crimes against God’s holy law and the Supreme Judge comes to pronounce His sentence.


“The Lord God has sworn by Himself-[this is] the declaration of Yahweh, the God of Hosts:I loathe Jacob's pride and hate his citadels, so I will hand over the city and everything in it.’” (6:8)

The Northern Kingdom of Israel thought they were beyond the reach of God’s justice.  Unconcerned about their sin, unalarmed about the possibility of judgment, they smugly go about their self-absorbed lifestyle.  It isn’t just their perverse actions that God despises, but their proud attitude that He disdains.

Jesus indicated this would be the arrogant spirit of man right before He would return to judge the world.  He illustrated it with the disposition of the sinners in Noah’s day.  "Just as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be in the days of the Son of Man: People went on eating, drinking, marrying and giving in marriage until the day Noah boarded the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all.” (Luke 17:26-27 HCSB) 

Arrogance breeds apathy.  Apathy toward God then leads to anger from God.

HE DECREES THEIR HELPLESSNESS in chapter seven of Amos.

“The Lord asked me, ‘What do you see, Amos?’  I replied, ‘A plumb line.’  Then the Lord said, ‘I am setting a plumb line among My people Israel; I will no longer spare them:’” (7:8)

The judgment pronounced in the previous chapter begins to be performed in this one.  Amos sees a series of visions—visions of vengeance God would pour out on Israel because of their iniquity.  Locusts would devour the crops, but not totally, for Amos intercedes for the wicked people and God is merciful and spares them.  Then, the prophet foresees fire destroying the country, but again he pleads with God and God relents.  How long-suffering is our God!

But, He is also holy, holy, holy, and there comes a breaking point.  No prayers would avail.  No help could be found.  God stretches out the plumb line—the crookedness of their ways is seen and the condemnation of the lifestyles they have constructed is executed.  His judgment is unerring.

We want to compare ourselves with others.  We want to say, “I am not as bad as so and so.”  But, when God stretches out the plumb line of His perfection, we do not measure up.  We cannot measure up.

HE DETERMINES THEIR HUNGER in chapter eight of Amos.

“Hear this! The days are coming--[this is] the declaration of the Lord God—when  I will send a famine through the land: not a famine of bread or a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord.  People will stagger from sea to sea and roam from north to east, seeking the word of the Lord, but they will not find it.” (8:11-12)

The people stopped their ears to the preaching of Amos.  They despised God’s message and hated His messenger.  So, the Lord purposed that if they would not feed upon His truth, He would give them no spiritual bread to nourish them.  Their souls would starve.

If you go to England today, you will find church buildings once filled with Bible-believers who came to be fed on the Lord’s Day.  Those massive structures are now spiritual mausoleums.  The pulpits of Great Britain were occupied by great men of God like Spurgeon, Simeon, Campbell Morgan and Lloyd-Jones.  Now, the clarion call of truth is seldom trumpeted.  What you hear instead is the call of the imam from the minaret summoning Muslims to prayer to a false god.  The cupboard is bare.

America is not far behind.  Christianity is waning.  Most of the churches that are still drawing crowds are filled with those who come to be entertained by a religious circus.  They may hear a text read—a text which becomes a pretext for fifteen minutes of pop psychology.  You might as well be reading a self-help book as listening to that sermon.  A few lone voices are still crying in the wilderness, but they are branded as Bible-thumpers and fanatics.  The famine is coming.

HE DECLARES THEIR HARM in the first portion of chapter nine in Amos.

“I saw the Lord standing beside the altar, and He said:

Strike the capitals of the pillars so that the thresholds shake; knock them down on the heads of all the people.  Then I will kill the rest of them with the sword.  None of those who flee will get away; none of the fugitives will escape.  If they dig down to Sheol, from there My hand will take them; if they climb up to heaven,
from there I will bring them down.  If they hide themselves on the top of Carmel,
from there I will track them down and seize them; if they conceal themselves from My sight on the sea floor, from there I will command the [sea] serpent to bite them.  And if they are driven by their enemies into captivity, from there I will command the sword to kill them.  I will fix My eyes on them for harm and not for good.’” (v.1-4)

They cannot escape from their sentence.  The long arm of the law will find them.  It was a people who rejected the goodness of God and therefore that goodness was removed.

We will read a sign that says, “Speed Limit, 55 MPH” and think that there is fine print at the bottom which says, “Except for me.”  Somehow, we believe God’s warnings apply to others but not to us.  In the history of the world, we see the pattern repeated of nations thumbing their nose at God, flaunting His law, loathing His truth and the judgment that falls upon those nations.  But, like ancient Israel, we convince ourselves that we will be different.  Only fools think such.  It is the insanity which has been described as doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results.

At this point, we might despair.  Who can argue with the Judge?  If we are honest, we acknowledge His sentence is just.  But, it is also within the Judge’s power to grant mercy, and so the possibility of pardon is extended.

HE DELIVERS THEIR HOPE in the last verses of chapter nine of Amos.

“Hear this! The days are coming--[this is] the Lord's declaration--when the plowman will overtake the reaper and the one who treads grapes, the sower of seed.  The mountains will drip with sweet wine, and all the hills will flow [with it].  I will restore the fortunes of My people Israel.  They will rebuild and occupy ruined cities, plant vineyards and drink their wine, make gardens and eat their produce.  I will plant them on their land, and they will never again be uprooted from the land I have given them.  Yahweh your God has spoken.” (v.13-15)

A bright ray of light breaks through the ominous clouds.  The whirlwind of wrath that has swept the land has left behind a few homes built on solid foundations that can be restored.  There is a rainbow of promise which rises above the ruin of the flood of God’s fury.

We can repent—and God will relent.  Jesus came—not to condemn the world, but to have compassion on us.  He paid the price for our sin that the justice of God might be satisfied, and the righteousness God demands becomes ours by faith in Christ.  In Adam, God places the plumb line beside us and we are condemned for our crooked conduct.  In Christ, the plumb line reveals absolute perfection!

The hymn writer expressed it this way,

“When He shall come with trumpet sound,
O may I then in Him be found;
Dressed in His righteousness alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne.”

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