What Amos can teach America

Posted: Wed. Dec, 12 2018

Who was Amos?

Amos  was a farmer and shepherd  who lived during the 8th century before the birth of Jesus.  He came from the town of Tekoa in Judah. Tekoa was about 10 miles south of Bethlehem.

Amos became a prophet who was set by the Lord to warn a kingdom and a king.

That kingdom was the Northern Kingdom of Israel.  The twelve tribes of Israel had split up into two kingdoms, the northern and the southern.  The ten northern tribes took the name Israel, while the two southern tribes were called Judah. The king of the Northern Kingdom at that time was Jeroboam.

The Lord sent Amos to the Northern Kingdom to warn the people and rulers there.  So Amos left Tekoa, and headed to Bethel in the north, with words from the Lord.  

At that time, Israel was prosperous, powerful, and at peace - or so things appeared.  The reality was far different.

The Northern Kingdom had been ruled by a series of wicked kings who promoted idol worship and oppressed the poor.  

The times were evil. The people had abandoned their love for the Lord and for other people.  The rich cheated in their businesses,  lived in extravagant luxury, and oppressed the poor.  There was no justice in the courts unless you were wealthy, powerful, or well-connected.

A form of religion flourished, but it was dead. God’s word was not being preached.

They kept rejecting the warnings that Amos and other prophets gave them because they couldn’t believe that God was angry with them.  After all, weren’t they performing their religious ceremonies?  Hadn’t God blessed them with material prosperity?

Things had gotten so bad that the Lord was about to punish the kingdom by bringing in a powerful army  - the Assyrians - to conquer Israel and bring them into exile.

First, though, the Lord would use Amos to warn Israel of the coming judgment, and to plead for a remnant who would turn away from evil and return to Him.  

Amos 8:1-8
Thus the Lord God showed me, and behold, there was a basket of summer fruit. 2 He said, "What do you see, Amos?" And I said, "A basket of summer fruit." Then the Lord said to me, "The end has come for My people Israel. I will spare them no longer. 3 "The songs of the palace will turn to wailing in that day," declares the Lord God. "Many will be the corpses; in every place they will cast them forth in silence."

4 Hear this, you who trample the needy, to do away with the humble of the land, 5 saying,

"When will the new moon be over,
So that we may sell grain,
And the sabbath, that we may open the wheat market,
To make the bushel smaller and the shekel bigger,
And to cheat with dishonest scales,
6 So as to buy the helpless for money
And the needy for a pair of sandals,
And that we may sell the refuse of the wheat?"
7 The Lord has sworn by the pride of Jacob,
"Indeed, I will never forget any of their deeds.
8 "Because of this will not the land quake
And everyone who dwells in it mourn?
Indeed, all of it will rise up like the Nile,
And it will be tossed about
And subside like the Nile of Egypt.

 

Amos's Israel versus America today

In Old Testament times, God chose one special nation out of all the nations  to be His standard-bearer.  He chose the descendants of Jacob, who became the twelve tribes of Israel.

Today, God does not work through a nation. Instead, he works through a body of believers from  every nation and ethnicity.  That body is the body of His Son Jesus Christ, also known as the church.

So  certain things are very different today than they were in Amos’s time.  And the United States of America is certainly  a very different kind of country than the Northern Kingdom was.  

We don’t have a king. We are a republic.  Sovereignty rests with the people.   

And there are many other differences as well.

But God has established timeless principles for nations to follow.

And according to these principles, the USA today is not so different from the Israel of Amos’s day.

 

Amos speaks to America

Even though Amos lived thousands of years ago, he has a lot to say to  the United States today.

What can Amos teach America today? Here are eight important things:

 1.  Wealth and power are not necessarily signs that God is blessing the nation.

Amos 6:4-7
Those who recline on beds of ivory
And sprawl on their couches,
And eat lambs from the flock
And calves from the midst of the stall,
5 Who improvise to the sound of the harp,
And like David have composed songs for themselves,
6 Who drink wine from sacrificial bowl
While they anoint themselves with the finest of oils,
Yet they have not grieved over the ruin of Joseph.
7 Therefore, they will now go into exile at the head of the exiles,
And the sprawlers' banqueting will pass away.

The USA, and especially her political and business elites, need to take heed of this warning.  Most Americans think that  everything will be fine as long as we maintain our standard of living and have a strong military.   We learn from Amos that these things can be taken away from us in an instant.

Now thankfully, the Lord treats us in grace. That means He blesses freely as He sees fit without regard to merit.  And the Lord has graciously blessed the United States throughout the 240 years of her existence.

Historically, the Americans have been a virtuous people. That's because a significant share of the people heard the word of God and kept it.  As a result, the Lord has been able to use the USA to accomplish great things.   The nation was willing to sacrifice for the good of others, defend freedom -  especially religious freedom, and protect  the Jewish people.

 Our wealth and power were a gift from the Lord that has enabled us to continue to pursue these good things.   However, past performance is no guarantee of future results!

2.  Religious observance is not true worship of the Lord.

Amos 5:21-24
"I hate, I reject your festivals,
Nor do I delight in your solemn assemblies.
22 "Even though you offer up to Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings,
I will not accept them;
And I will not even look at the peace offerings of your fatlings.
23 "Take away from Me the noise of your songs;
I will not even listen to the sound of your harps.
24 "But let justice roll down like waters
And righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.

Today, a big danger in our country is that people will mistake cultural Christianity for the real thing.   Great music, religious ritual, and displays of piety are no substitute for learning God's word and hungering for righteousness and justice.

3.  Sexual perversion and mistreatment of the helpless are signs of a wicked nation that has turned against God.

Amos 2:6-7
6 Thus says the Lord,
"For three transgressions of Israel and for four
I will not revoke its punishment,
Because they sell the righteous for money
And the needy for a pair of sandals.
7 "These who pant after the very dust of the earth on the head of the helpless
Also turn aside the way of the humble;
And a man and his father resort to the same girl
In order to profane My holy name.

Sexual immorality is at an all-time high in the United States.  Religious leaders are by no means immune.   Every sort of sexual perversion is practiced, and most receive the hearty approval of the cultural elites. Indecent acts  are sanctioned by the government, and some are even enshrined into law!

At the same time, the gap between rich and poor is widening.  Greedy, unprincipled people acquire obscene amounts of wealth, power and luxury, while ignoring the needs of the poor and powerless.  The powerful pervert our justice system and control our politicians.

These things ought not to be!

God will avenge the poor, the needy, and all  people who are abused and robbed and denied justice.

Amos 5:10-13
10 They hate him who reproves in the gate,
And they abhor him who speaks with integrity.
11 Therefore because you impose heavy rent on the poor
And exact a tribute of grain from them,
Though you have built houses of well-hewn stone,
Yet you will not live in them;
You have planted pleasant vineyards, yet you will not drink their wine.
12 For I know your transgressions are many and your sins are great,
You who distress the righteous and accept bribes
And turn aside the poor in the gate.
13 Therefore at such a time the prudent person keeps silent, for it is an evil time.

4.  An apostate nation persecutes men who preach God’s word, not realizing that this will cause a terrible famine.

Amos 2:11-12
Then I raised up some of your sons to be prophets
And some of your young men to be Nazirites.
Is this not so, O sons of Israel?" declares the Lord.
12 "But you made the Nazirites drink wine,
And you commanded the prophets saying, 'You shall not prophesy!'

The United States of America is increasingly hostile to Christianity.   The teachings of the Bible are condemned as hate speech.  Pastors who preach Christ are vilified, while those who flatter the world are celebrated.

Amos 8:11-13
"Behold, days are coming," declares the Lord God,
"When I will send a famine on the land,
Not a famine for bread or a thirst for water,
But rather for hearing the words of the Lord.

12 "People will stagger from sea to sea
And from the north even to the east;
They will go to and fro to seek the word of the Lord,
But they will not find it.
13 "In that day the beautiful virgins
And the young men will faint from thirst.

There is a glut of bread and meat and delicacies.  Nevertheless, there is a famine in the land. For man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord.  Stomachs are full, but hearts are famished.

There is only one cure for our nation’s diseases - a remnant of believers in Christ who preach the gospel and support sound Bible teaching. But the nation as a whole keeps rejecting that cure.

5.  Wicked nations have wicked rulers.

Amos 7:10-13
Then Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, sent word to Jeroboam king of Israel, saying, "Amos has conspired against you in the midst of the house of Israel; the land is unable to endure all his words. 11 "For thus Amos says, 'Jeroboam will die by the sword and Israel will certainly go from its land into exile.'" 12 Then Amaziah said to Amos, "Go, you seer, flee away to the land of Judah and there eat bread and there do your prophesying! 13 "But no longer prophesy at Bethel, for it is a sanctuary of the king and a royal residence."

No comment here.    Politics and the pulpit don't mix. There are many possible applications - unfortunately.

6.  A wicked nation forgets the blessings and deliverances of the Lord.

Amos 2:9-10
9 "Yet it was I who destroyed the Amorite before them,
Though his height was like the height of cedars
And he was strong as the oaks;
I even destroyed his fruit above and his root below.
10 "It was I who brought you up from the land of Egypt,
And I led you in the wilderness forty years
That you might take possession of the land of the Amorite.

Today I can hear the Lord saying to America:

“It was I who gave you this land, from sea to sea, filled with fertile soil and good harbors and two oceans of protection from enemies.”

“It was I who gave you a new birth of freedom after your terrible Civil War”.

“And it was I who, in June of 1942, produced the miracle at Midway that turned the tide of war in the Pacific”.

“It is I who continue to protect this nation from all of your enemies bent on destruction.”

“And it is I who still sends you preachers and ambassadors, begging you to be reconciled with Me.”

7.  After a series of warnings and entreaties, the Lord will eventually destroy the wicked nation that does not return to Him.

Amos 4:10-13
10 "I sent a plague among you after the manner of Egypt;
I slew your young men by the sword along with your captured horses,
And I made the stench of your camp rise up in your nostrils;
Yet you have not returned to Me," declares the Lord.
11 "I overthrew you, as God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah,
And you were like a firebrand snatched from a blaze;
Yet you have not returned to Me," declares the Lord.
12 "Therefore thus I will do to you, O Israel;
Because I will do this to you,
Prepare to meet your God, O Israel."
13 For behold, He who forms mountains and creates the wind
And declares to man what are His thoughts,
He who makes dawn into darkness
And treads on the high places of the earth,
The Lord God of hosts is His name.

 

Amos 6:12-14
12 Do horses run on rocks?
Or does one plow them with oxen?
Yet you have turned justice into poison
And the fruit of righteousness into wormwood,
13 You who rejoice in Lodebar
And say, "Have we not by our own strength taken Karnaim for ourselves?"
14 "For behold, I am going to raise up a nation against you,
O house of Israel," declares the Lord God of hosts,
"And they will afflict you from the entrance of Hamath
To the brook of the Arabah."

The United States faces threats from powerful enemies.  It is frightening to consider what could happen to us if one of them  ever defeated our nation in a war.

 

8.  The LORD will preserve His faithful people.

Amos 9:14-15
Also I will restore the captivity of My people Israel,
And they will rebuild the ruined cities and live in them;
They will also plant vineyards and drink their wine,
And make gardens and eat their fruit.
15 "I will also plant them on their land,
And they will not again be rooted out from their land
Which I have given them,"

In our country today, God’s faithful people are His adopted sons and daughters :  believers in Christ and members of His Body. 

 

A prayer

Let us pray that our country heeds Amos’s warnings, returns to the Lord, and is spared the horrible judgments that befell the Northern Kingdom of Israel.


Until the next time, we’re all ….

 

In His grip,

Pastor John

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