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Jun 23, 2019

Free Fallin'

Passage: Amos 2:4-16

Preacher: Tim Badal

Series: Amos

Detail:

Turn to the book of Amos. Last Sunday we started a series looking at this Bible book that’s filled with doom and gloom. I hope you’re having a great summer morning, because this is one of the saddest passages of Scripture in the entire Bible. Yet we here at Village Bible Church believe it is important that we hear from God in both the good passages and the difficult ones.

Chapter one through about half of chapter eight in Amos are filled with doom and gloom. The final verses of the book remind us that God is faithful and caring, that He is a God Who loves His people and has an awesome plan for their lives. We just have to go through the first eight chapters of doom and gloom to get to that wonderful picture. I want to remind you that in the middle of the storm clouds we’ll be encountering over these next five weeks, we will get to a glorious ending where once again we’ll see how great and awesome our God is in His love for us as His people.

If you weren’t here last week as we opened the book, we learned that Amos was a man who seemed totally unqualified to serve as a prophet of God. He was an uneducated shepherd and caretaker of fig trees. There was nothing in his lineage that would suggest he would become a prophet who would proclaim the oracles of God. Yet God called him out of his work to go and preach to the two kingdoms of God’s people, Judah and Israel, about their sin.

In chapter one, we see that Amos didn’t first address either Judah or Israel, but rather he preached to the six people groups that surrounded Judah and Israel. In many ways, scholars believe God was creating target-like rings around His people until He got to the bull’s eye of Israel and Judah regarding their sin and unwillingness to follow Him. Then  Amos spoke to the enemies of God. We have to wonder if Judah and Israel heard these words and if they were cheering him on. “Yeah, God, they’re evil. You tell them how evil they are, how sinful they are.”

If you had siblings in your house growing up, you know exactly how Judah and Israel were feeling. Remember back to the days when your sibling was getting into trouble with Mom and Dad and you were thinking, “Yeah, Mom and Dad, get them.” You want to go in their room and add, “You haven’t talked about this infraction. Let me tell you about it.”

Judah and Israel were probably loving what God was saying through Amos in chapter one. The thought that their enemies were being called out felt good to them. And it’s easy for us in the church to get excited when we read words of judgment and condemnation spoken to the culture around us. We say, “Yeah, God, go after them; they don’t go to church. Yeah, God, go after them; they don’t follow Your ways.” That’s exactly how Judah and Israel were feeling. The God they thought was on their side was bringing wrath and indignation on their enemies. But all that would change in Amos 2, as we’ll see this morning. The judgment wasn’t just coming to the pagan nations, to the enemies of God. In fact, the judgment and wrath that they were excited to see coming to the nations around them was also going to fall in their laps.

Starting in Amos 2:4, we see God turn the tables. I think Israel and Judah experienced a kind of whiplash when the realized the judgment and condemnation talk was not going to stay outside their area code, but in fact was headed to their own front door. It probably brought them to silence. As Amos began to read God’s words to Judah and Israel, I wonder if they were simply stunned or if they responded to him. “Wait a minute. Do you know who you’re talking to, Amos? We’re the people of God. God won’t do this to His people. Surely we haven’t been as bad those guys. We’re not perfect, but we don’t sin like they do.”

Yet starting in Amos 2:4, we find what scholars say is some of the harshest criticism God gave to anyone in all of Scripture. It wasn’t spoken to godless pagans, but to the covenant people of God. That should sober us when we as the church hear this. We must recognize that while God is serious about obedience in all people, He is especially concerned about His people. He is not pleased when we who know His words and have experienced His grace and mercy turn a blind eye to His ways and follow the ways of culture.

What Amos told the people in his day Peter shared with the church many centuries later. In 1 Peter 4:17, he tells the church that the time had arrived for God’s judgment, and it would begin first in God’s own house. It is good and right for us as the people of God to realize that God is loving and kind and merciful, but He is also radically jealous for His own holiness and the holiness of His people.

Amos began to call out the covenant people of God. Let’s look at our text starting at Amos 2:4. First there’s a judgment on Judah, the Southern Kingdom of Israel. Then we’ll see a judgment starting in verse six on the Northern Kingdom of Israel. Here is what the Lord says:

Thus says the Lord:

“For three transgressions of Judah, and for four, I will not revoke the punishment, because they have rejected the law of the Lord, and have not kept his statutes, but their lies have led them astray, those after which their fathers walked. So I will send a fire upon Judah, and it shall devour the strongholds of Jerusalem.”

Thus says the Lord:

“For three transgressions of Israel, and for four, I will not revoke the punishment, because they sell the righteous for silver, and the needy for a pair of sandals— those who trample the head of the poor into the dust of the earth and turn aside the way of the afflicted; a man and his father go in to the same girl, so that my holy name is profaned; they lay themselves down beside every altar on garments taken in pledge, and in the house of their God they drink the wine of those who have been fined.

“Yet it was I who destroyed the Amorite before them, whose height was like the height of the cedars and who was as strong as the oaks; I destroyed his fruit above and his roots beneath. 10 Also it was I who brought you up out of the land of Egypt and led you forty years in the wilderness, to possess the land of the Amorite. 11 And I raised up some of your sons for prophets, and some of your young men for Nazirites. Is it not indeed so, O people of Israel?” declares the Lord.

12 “But you made the Nazirites drink wine, and commanded the prophets, saying, ‘You shall not prophesy.’

13 “Behold, I will press you down in your place, as a cart full of sheaves presses down. 14 Flight shall perish from the swift, and the strong shall not retain his strength, nor shall the mighty save his life; 15 he who handles the bow shall not stand, and he who is swift of foot shall not save himself, nor shall he who rides the horse save his life; 16 and he who is stout of heart among the mighty shall flee away naked in that day,” declares the Lord.

There’s nothing more scandalous in all the world than a Christian who falls, when a person who has proclaimed Jesus to be Lord of his life, a person who has committed herself to Christianity and has told her friends and family how much Jesus means to her, how much the Bible has influence in his life, only to fall away to some heinous or gross sin. It seems that when that happens, people’s eyes and ears perk up. They get excited when they hear about a person who was previously devoted to the things of God and to God Himself, but then decides to forfeit everything they’ve believed and preached for a sin. We see these types of falls in the lives of so many in the Old Testament, and we see examples in the New Testament as well.

But it’s even worse when a pastor falls. We don’t have to look very far here in the Chicagoland area to see a couple of well-known churches whose pastors have had major failures. And our culture loves to see this. They love to see the hypocrisy involved. It seems to validate their disbelief and their desire to not follow God’s ways. They see Christianity as being a joke.

If you’ve been a Christian for any length of time, you’ve probably felt the sting of someone close to you—or maybe yourself—experiencing a fall of this kind. But what we’re talking about this morning is not the fall of one person, nor the fall of a small group of people. What Amos was dealing with was the spiritual free fall of an entire nation. These were a group of people who had claimed to their neighbors and even their enemies that they were the people of God. They still went through all the rituals externally, so they looked good on the outside. But as we know, God does not look at outward appearance (1 Samuel 16:7) and behavior of a man, but rather at his inner thoughts and what his true self desires. This meant God saw His covenant people in a very different way from how they outwardly appeared. The people of God in Amos’ day, eight centuries before Christ, were in a spiritual free fall. Because they were unwilling to change their ways, God told them His judgment was coming.

Amos started out this prophecy the same way he started the one we read last week. He makes the accusations in this form, “For three transgressions of Judah, and for four, I will not revoke the punishment…” (verse four), then “For three transgressions of Israel, and for four, I will not revoke the punishment…” (verse six).

Remember from last week what that meant? Amos was saying, “God has had enough. Enough is enough. God’s patience has run out and judgment is coming.” God had been watching and had seen transgression upon transgression upon transgression and He was finally sick of it.

This is like the mom who at some point in her day just grows tired of the kids’ behavior and says with exasperation, “Enough is enough. I’ve had it!” And that’s usually not said quietly; it usually comes in a gravelly, baritone voice. “You’ve gotten on my last nerve.”

God said to them, “Your sin has been ever before Me, but instead of turning back to Me and following in My ways, you’ve gone your own way. You’ve had the gall to tell Me to let the others have it. You’ve had the gall to tell other people that I am your God, that you are My covenant people. But you aren’t living the way I want you to.”

As we read this text, we should remember a few things. Any time we read Scripture, we’re reading other people’s mail. We’re reading the mail sent by way of Amos to the people of Judah and Israel eight centuries before Christ. We’ve gone into one of their mailboxes and pulled out this letter. We’re reading the correspondence between Amos, who was representing God, and the people living in that day. Therefore, we need to realize that not everything in these letters will apply directly to us. Some of it only applied to the situations in their day. But there are still truths that we can draw from what we read that can help us in the 21st century as followers of Jesus Christ.

We learned last week that we are told to do this in 1 Corinthians 10:6 where Paul wrote, “Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did.”  As people who are also prone to do some of the same things those people did, we should be reminded that we too should never test the patience of God in this way by giving into temptation and sin.

We must ask ourselves, “Am I in a spiritual free fall? Do I think I’m all right with God, but God would disagree?” I want to give you four lessons this morning regarding how we can avoid falling as the people in Amos’ day did. I’m going to take the negatives and turn them into positives, hopefully to serve as preventative measures so we might not fall into the same judgments as they did.

Keeping from spiritual free fall involves elevating God’s Word to its proper place.

Look at the transgressions of Judah listed in Amos 2:4. Why was God’s punishment coming to them? First, “…they have rejected the law of the Lord…” (2:4). That word “rejected” means to despise or refuse. They cast off God’s law as something that did not pertain to them.

Let me ask you this morning: is that true of you regarding the Word of God? Do you see the Word of God as something that can be set aside because it doesn’t pertain to your life? Right away, I’m going to imagine—because you’ve all shown up today, I assume without coercion—that God’s Word is important to all of you.

Well, the people of God in Amos’ day would have said, “No, we love the law of God. We order our lives according to the law of God. You can’t say we’ve rejected it.” Yet that’s what God said to them. He realized that going through the motions, being around the things of God and His Word, wasn’t good enough. A relationship with God wasn’t something that could be gained by osmosis.

Are we under the same indictment? Here are some ways to test whether or not it applies to us.

The delight test

How much do you delight in the Word of God? The psalmist says numerous times how he delights in the law of the Lord. Let’s get to bare bones—do you enjoy reading the Bible? Do you enjoy your time in the Word or is it a drudgery? Is it easier for you to turn on a TV program or sporting event than it is to get into the Word of God? Be careful, because you’re on the cusp of rejecting the law of God.

Is it the last thing you can think about doing if there’s nothing else going on? “Well, maybe I’ll read the Bible.” Is it only when bad things happen that you find yourself pushed toward Scripture? Or do you delight, as the psalmist says, in the law of the Lord? Do you look forward to it? Are you excited to engage it?

I realize I’m by no means an eloquent speaker, but have you already checked out of this sermon? Are you already thinking about things you have to do? Asking when will he be done? Or do you see God speaking through His Word and you delight to hear it? Where is your delight regarding the Scriptures? You may be rejecting it and not even know it.

The direction test

Along with the delight test, there’s also the direction test. The people of Judah did not see the law as important for their lives. We read in Psalm 119:105, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” God’s Word is intended to direct our ways. We all need to ask ourselves, “How much of God’s Word directed my decisions this last week?” As you were making decisions in the comings and goings of life, did you ask, “What does God’s Word have to say about this?” The people in Judah did not see God’s law as relevant to their lives.

We might wonder how a book written over 2,000 years ago would apply to our lives. How will it help us figure out what we’re going to do this week? But if we don’t allow it to light our path, we run the risk of rejecting the Word of God.

The dependence test

How about the dependence test? If we need “a light to our path,” that implies that otherwise we live in darkness. In other words, we’re lost without God’s Word. If we are truly lost, futile in our own thinking as the Bible says and in need of direction, then what does it say about those of you who have not opened your Bible since we opened it together last week?

I know the things I depend on—food, water and air—are things I need all the time. I was working out in the heat yesterday and I went for many hours without water. When someone brought me a big 32-ounce cup of ice-cold water, I downed that thing. I couldn’t get enough of it. It was spilling on to my face and chest. Why was I drinking it so fast? Because I’m dependent on water. But do we drink up the Scriptures like that? Are we that thirsty for them? If that’s not where you are with the Word, you might have rejected it.

The “just do it” test

The final test is the “just do it” test. Are you simply a hearer of the Word or are you one who does it? That’s what James 1:22 is asking. Maybe you’re reading the Bible and that’s great. Maybe you even enjoy the Word, which is awesome. But then when the rubber meets the road, you’re doing something else.

This is what we’ll see the people of Judah and Israel doing. They knew the law and knew they were under it, but as soon as they left the hearing of the Word, they went and did their own thing. Some of the stuff they did, quite frankly, is gross. These were things that were even unbecoming for the pagans around them.

Maybe today you have been in your devotions or meeting with your small group or listening to worship music when you’re driving, but you’ve got some little pet sin that no amount of Scripture reading has impacted. At the end of the day, you’re actually just a hearer of the Word but not a doer of the Word. Test yourself this morning. Are you like the people of Judah who had rejected the law of the Lord and did not keep His statutes?

Although Amos wasn’t educated, he was nevertheless a wise man, and he was also inspired by the Holy Spirit. He said something in this passage that is absolutely true. He said in Amos 2:4, “,,,their lies have led them astray, after which their fathers walked.” Other translations say “idols” instead of “lies.”

When we’re not in the Word, it creates a vacuum in our lives. Something or someone else is going to be our delight, our direction, our dependence. Something else is going to be what we do. If you’re wondering why your life is not what it should be, ask yourself if you’ve created a vacuum that allows other lies and idols to fill in the gap.

We need to be people who are in the Word, not just listening to it but making sure we haven’t rejected it in the comings and goings of our lives so we might honor God. The question we must ask is, “Am I elevating the Word of God to its proper place?” We are to taste and see that the Lord is good (Psalm 34:8), and the way this takes place most emphatically is through His Word. The people in Amos’ day had failed to do this, so God’s judgment was coming “to devour the strongholds of Jerusalem” with fire. God is angry when we don’t listen to His Word.

Parents, have you ever told your kids not to do something, knowing that to do it would be harmful to them? Then, although they say they’ll obey, they go out and do the opposite of what you’ve told them. You know the anger, frustration and heartache that comes when this happens. “I told you exactly what not to do and you’ve done it anyway!” But that’s what we’re doing when we reject the Word of God to do things our own way. And yes, God is going to be angry.

Keeping from spiritual free fall involves eliminating the things that trip us up.

Second, in order to make sure we’re not falling into a free fall spiritually, we must eliminate the things that trip us up. Amos was acting as a prosecuting attorney as he spoke to Israel in Amos 2:6. This would have been offensive to them, because the Northern Kingdom was at war with the Southern Kingdom, where Amos was. As we discussed last Sunday, the once unified nation of Israel was now broken into two parts, just as America was once divided into the Confederacy and the Union in the 1860s.

Imagine that Amos was in the Confederacy, but he was bringing words of judgment and condemnation to the North. Even though his home was in Judah, he went to the Northern Kingdom of Israel to tell them God was coming after them. The people there must have responded, “Why should we listen to you? You're not one of us. You’re the enemy.” Yet this is what Amos did.

What he declared to Israel, beginning in Amos 2:6, was pretty ugly. He began in his normal way, “For three transgressions of Israel, and for four, I will not revoke the punishment,” then he described what they had done. I could go into detail here, but quite frankly given the spectrum of ages here this morning, I’m not going to. But Amos then listed some of the most heinous offenses recorded in Scripture.

For starters, they were selling their own people into slavery. They were also oppressing the poor. Third, they were engaging in gross immorality. In verse eight, we read that they were perverting justice. At the end of verse eight, drunkenness was added to the list, along with the mistreatment of spiritual leaders.

God had already gone through the transgressions of the six surrounding nations in Amos 1 and now has added the catalog of sins of Judah and Israel in Amos 2. But notice there was a difference. When the unbelieving world around them sinned, these were offenses against other human beings. For example, in Amos 1:3, “For the three transgressions of Damascus, and for four, I will not revoke the punishment”—why? “Because they have threshed Gilead with threshing sledges of iron.” That is, they were hateful and cruel to another group of people. That would also be wrong for us as believers.

But that’s not what God accused His people with. When the covenant people of God sinned, it wasn’t so much an offense against their fellow people, but against God Himself. At the end of verse seven, Amos said the people did these things so that God’s “holy name is profaned.” God was the one they were offending. They didn’t sin against another sinner, but against a holy, righteous and just God. The commands had come from Him, but they deliberately chose not to obey.

God was saying essentially what my parents used to say to me as a teenager. I’d be running out the door and my parents would remind me of two truths. “Son, you’re a Christian. And second, you’re a Badal. So act like it. Whatever your feeble mind is planning to do, whatever your friends tell you, don’t let those two truths leave. You’re a Christian and you’re a Badal.”

I understood that I needed to uphold the name of Christ. But the second order was different. If I didn’t think my parents were going to endorse my activity, then I should not do it. They were connected with me. If people would see my name in the paper for this or that transgression, they would think my parents lived that way as well. They’ll think my parents raised me this way.

My parents were jealous for their reputation, and God was the same way regarding the people who carried His name. He was telling them, “When you sin, you don’t just ruin your name—you ruin My name as well.” When our world sees a Christian fall into sin, they don’t just say, “Ah, it’s too bad Tim fell into sin; he’s just like everybody else.” No, they say, “Wait a minute. Isn’t Tim a Christian? What kind of God allows a person to live so hypocritically? Why does God let him preach one thing and do another?” When we sin, we’re not only profaning our own name, but we’re also profaning the holy name of God. We’re saying something about our God that isn’t true. We are “false advertising” and as a result, people are assuming things about God that just aren’t true.

Let me ask you to do some soul searching this morning. In what ways are you profaning the holy name of God? We could look through this text and think, “My goodness, these are really ugly things. I don’t do those things.” But if you were to look deeper, we do turn away from the needs of those around us. We involve ourselves in immorality all the time. We are drunk on our way of living instead of the way of living God has called us to.

What area do you struggle with? What are you doing that, if the world around you were aware of it, you wouldn’t want it to be reflecting on God?

We have a technology contract with our boys. It’s great. No lawyer could work through it; it’s only four pages long. It details what they can and can’t do as kids in the Badal home regarding technology. One point says, regarding internet searching, “Don’t be searching for anything that your Grandma Michelle and Grandma Judy would be embarrassed to see you looking at.”

Let me ask you the same thing. What in your life would embarrass your God? Don’t look at the sins of the world and think, “Well, at least I’m not doing that.” Instead ask, as a child of God, “What sins in my life might embarrass my God if I claimed that He was with me?”

How do we eliminate the things that trip us up? Let me give you three things that are as easy as ABC.

A—Acknowledge that you’ve fallen into this sin.

It does you no good in the fight against sin if you will not acknowledge that you’re a sinner. One thing I appreciate about AA meetings is that you can’t talk until you’ve said, “Hi, my name is Tim and I’m an alcoholic.” It’s important for us to acknowledge the sin that so easily entangles us (Hebrews 12:1). If you can’t do that, both before God and before a trustworthy friend, you’ll never get past it, because you’re living in denial.

B—Believe God has something better for you.

Second, believe God has something better than whatever you’re grabbing hold of or pursuing. He has an alternative that will fill you with joy and peace. Do you believe that? As I grow older and hopefully more mature in my walk with God, I’m constantly asking, “Lord, do You want me eating out of the garbage dumpster here, or do You have a feast for me somewhere else? I’m hungry and the world is offering this to me, but before I go with that, what are You offering me?”

I’ve come to realize that God has prepared for me a seven-course dinner, in His time and in His way. He either says, “Wait for it” or sometimes He says, “Come and be a part of it.” But I’m still able to choose to return to the dumpster the world offers me. I’m hungry; both will fill me but only one will give me true satisfaction.

C—Commit to doing God’s will and not your own.

Commit to saying, “God, I’m not going to do those things, because You’ve got something better for me. Each day I’m going to pursue what You want—Your will and Your plan.” When I do this, I begin to eliminate the things that trip me up. We’re  learning from the examples in Amos 2 not to fall prey to these things.

Keeping from spiritual free fall involves expecting God’s discipline when we rebel.

Look at Amos 2:13–16. The equation is simple. In verses four through eight, when men and women sin repeatedly, God waits patiently for repentance, but time inevitably runs out. When that happens, verses 13–16 describe the outcome. God will deal with us.

Again, here’s where we’re reading other people’s mail. God will cut off His people and take away all they have, never to recover it in their lifetimes. But that changes from the Old Testament to the New Testament. We know from 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, [God] is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

God doesn’t revoke His punishment, but as New Testament believers, we have the joy of receiving forgiveness because of the blood of Jesus Christ. It’s never too late to run to God, fall at His feet and tell Him, “I’m sorry for my sins.” Does that mean God won’t discipline us? No. He does. Hebrews 12:5–11 tells us God disciplines those He loves, just as earthly parents do. Why does He do this?

First, God’s discipline humbles us. God told the people in Amos 2:13, “Behold, I will press you down in your place…”   Second, God’s discipline leads to futility. James 4:6 says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” If you’re wondering why your life isn’t where it should be, why nothing is working out the way you want it to, have you ever asked, “Is God opposing me? Am I holding on to sins or other things that He wants me to release?” Maybe God has brought futility to get your attention.

Finally, God brings things into our lives that cause us to fear Him—storms and tribulations. Have you wondered if these hardships and struggles are coming from God? You might say they’re happening for no reason, but there are times when God brings storms, pestilence and all kinds of difficulties into the lives of His people to scare them and so they’ll run back to Him. God does these things so we won’t continue to rebel against Him. But here’s the great truth we are reminded of in the New Testament. Maybe you’ve rebelled and you’re thinking, “All I face now is judgment.” That may be true. But we should remember the story Jesus told in which God is like a father who has a son who rebels, runs off and wastes his life. When he reaches the point of despair, however, he goes back to his father. Did the father say, “Get out of here. You had your chance”?

No, the story of the prodigal son in Luke 15 says the father runs to his son and puts his arms around him, not to strangle him but to embrace him. He has the servants throw a party, because that which was lost had now been found. Yes, we rebel, but God’s discipline is intended to be part of His love for us.

Keeping from spiritual free fall involves expressing thanks that God is faithful even when we aren’t.

Back in Amos 2:9–11, one of the reasons God is so upset and angry with His people is that He had remained faithful to them the whole time. He said to them, “Wasn’t I the One Who destroyed the Amorites? Wasn’t I the One Who brought you out of Egypt? Wasn’t I the One Who raised up some of you to be prophets and Nazirites, the spiritual leaders of your nation?”  God said to them, “I did these three things, generation upon generation, but while I was faithful to you, you have been faithless to Me.”

If we want to be sure we don’t fall into a spiritual free fall, we need to express gratitude that we have a faithful God Whose mercies are new each morning (Lamentations 3:2–24). Amidst this condemnation, we serve a loving, patient and compassionate God.

Although we have been faithless, He has given us a new day. Although we are faithless and even shake our fists at God, He gives us life and breath and all we need. He allows us to inhabit His world. He gives us joys unspeakable. All He asks is that we would stop and say thank You and that we would recognize it is our honor as humans to live in the ways He has commanded us to live.

We need to see God for Who He is—compassionate and merciful, giving us great opportunities, but Who one day will say, “Enough is enough.” When we recognize these things about Him, we will live differently. We’ll live soberly. We won’t allow those pesky temptations to remain in our lives. We won’t allow the Word of God to fall on deaf ears. We will do things differently, because we really have no other choice.

If you are rebelling against God, you have no other choice. God’s judgment will come, and Hebrews 10:31 tells us to beware, that it is “a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”  Turn to Him and repent of your sins, then instead, pursue the life God wants you to have. He has shown us His faithfulness again and again, and He will continue to all the days of our life.

 

 

Village Bible Church  |  847 North State Route 47, Sugar Grove, IL 60554  |  (630) 466-7198  |  www.villagebible.org/sugar-grove
All Scriptures quoted directly from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted. 
Note: This transcription has been provided by Sermon Transcribers (www.sermontranscribers.com).