Amos was a simple farmer in ancient Judah, but God had bigger plans for him. God used him to instruct the Israelites on how to respond to marginalized people. God’s dream was a society that reaches out with compassion to those who are oppressed, and treats those who don’t have power with justice. God’s dream has not changed, and it’s up to us, his church, to live it out in our communities today.Read More
Full Sermon Script
I want to start today with a prayer. God said to Solomon: if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.  We need healing in our land today, so let’s pray that God would use us, his church, to bring healing. Let’s pray.
> Alright, today we’re going to be in the book of
if you have your Bible and want to turn there.  And I want to start with a question: What’s the boldest thing you’ve ever said to someone? Think about that. What’s the one statement that took more guts than you knew you had?  I ask you this because we’re about to look at one of the boldest people in all of the Bible… and possibly one of the boldest statements that ever got made.  A little background on Amos—Amos was a farmer. He took care of a few sheep. Then one day, God called this man to leave his sheep and go proclaim God’s word. God called Amos to preach for him not down in Judah, where he lived, but God told him to go up to the Northern kingdom, to Israel and preach there.  Now, the Northern kingdom, at this time, was enjoying political success and economic prosperity unknown since the days of Solomon. And people in the Northern kingdom who had money were real happy with the way their lives were.  Amos is sent to Samaria, which is the capital city of the Northern kingdom. It’s the center of wealth and power. >>>>>
Let’s look at Amos 1:3. This is Amos now, preaching to the people in the Northern kingdom, in the capital city of Samaria:
This is what the Lord says: “For three sins of Damascus, even for four, I will not relent.” Because she threshed Gilead with sledges having iron teeth.
> Now, this statement is a pronouncement of judgment formula: “For three sins, even for four…”  You know how in English we’ll say, “That was the straw that broke the camel’s back”? Well, this is a Hebrew way of saying, “The camel is in a full-body cast.”  The people have gone too far. They hear these words and they know this is bad news for Syria. >>>>>
And then he goes on to describe the sin that God says was the last straw. Verse 3:
Because she threshed Gilead with sledges having iron teeth.
> That is, Syria invaded Gilead with acts of unspeakable cruelty. It was barbaric.  Amos starts his message by announcing that the judgment of God is going to fall on Israel’s enemy, Syria, because they’ve been cruel and violent to Israel.  Now, let me ask you a question. Take a guess, yes or no. Do you think the people in Israel were glad to hear him preach like that?  I think so. These were their enemies, and they’d been very cruel to Israel. So they were glad to hear about this. Their enemies are going to be judged by God.  >>>>>
Next, in verse 6, it’s the same formula for Gaza.
This is what the Lord says: “For three sins of Gaza, even for four, I will not relent. Because she took captive whole communities and sold them to Edom.”
> They were slave traders. They captured whole towns of people—men, women, children—and sold them into slavery. Amos says, “God’s judgment is coming on the Philistines.” And the people were glad to hear this.  And his message keeps going like this. Amos says the judgment of God is going to fall on Israel’s most hated enemies. *It’s coming to Phoenicia. *It’s coming to Edom. *It’s coming to Ammon. *It’s coming to Moab. In every case, he recounts the last straw that pushed God over the edge… and the people are cheering… the people are glad.  Then in Amos 2:4 he does kind of a surprising thing. He starts in on the Southern kingdom, on Judah. >>>>>
This is what the Lord says: “For three sins of Judah, even for four, I will not relent.”
> The people in the Northern kingdom are thinking, “This is surprising. He’s going after the people in his own native land.” Remember, that’s where he’s from. “Bold move, Amos.”  And they’re applauding and cheering… because they don’t get along well with the Southern kingdom anymore.  All of this is leading up to chapter 2, verse 6. This is a moment of great drama. Now, you might have some idea of what’s going to happen here, but you’ve got to remember his audience doesn’t have a clue. They think Amos is going to say — God is doing all this because God loves the people of Israel so much… because he’s taking care of them… because he’s on their side.  Look what he says. >>>>>
This is what the Lord says: “For three sins of Israel, even for four, I will not relent.
They sell the innocent for silver, and the needy for a pair of sandals. They trample on the heads of the poor as on the dust of the ground and deny justice to the oppressed.
Father and son use the same girl and so profane my holy name. They lie down beside every altar on garments taken in pledge. In the house of their god they drink wine taken as fines.
> This is what Amos says… and no one is cheering now. There’s just hostile, sullen silence. Because it sounds to them like Amos is talking about Israel as if they’re one of God’s enemies.  And that’s exactly what he’s doing — he’s charging Israel with living as though they were God’s enemies.  What’s the last straw? What’s the act that sets God on edge?  Amos says, “It’s the way people who have resources and claim to follow God treat the poor, and the needy, and the oppressed.”  It’s very interesting. *He doesn’t say it’s that they don’t worship enough. *He doesn’t say it’s that they don’t know the Bible well enough. *He doesn’t say a whole lot of things we might have expected him to say. He says, “It’s the way people who have resources and claim to follow, love and know God treat the poor, the needy and the oppressed.”  Now, it’s terribly important that you and I understand why Amos says this troubles God so deeply. So I want to look at Deuteronomy 24 for a minute.  Now, what’s happening in Deuteronomy is Moses is telling the people of Israel what God expects his community to look like; how God wants things to work; what God wants life to look like for people in his nation. And in these verses, there are three groups of people who keep being repeated. I want you to notice, as we read through them, and see who the three groups are. >>>>>
Do not deprive the foreigner or the fatherless of justice, or take the cloak of the widow as a pledge. Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and the Lord your God redeemed you from there. That is why I command you to do this.
When you are harvesting in your field and you overlook a sheaf, do not go back to get it. Leave it for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow, so that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.
When you beat the olives from your trees, do not go over the branches a second time. Leave what remains for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow.
When you harvest the grapes in your vineyard, do not go over the vines again. Leave what remains for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow. Remember that you were slaves in Egypt. That is why I command you to do this.
> Now, what are the three groups God tells the Israelites to watch out for? *The foreigner — those are people that have immigrated in. They were not ethnic Israelites. *The fatherless — these are orphans. They had no one to look out for them. *And the widow — those without power, without economic means.  God says, “Watch out for the foreigners. They’re likely to be mistreated. Watch out for the fatherless… and take care of the widows.”  They’re not just mentioned here. They come up over and over again throughout Scripture.  They’re what in our day we would call marginalized people — people most likely to be forgotten, mistreated, or oppressed by a society.  They have different identities in different societies. They may be people of a different color, maybe minorities, but every society that has ever existed has them — every one.  It’s so important that we understand this about the heart of God — the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow each receive over three dozen verses in the Old Testament demanding God’s people show them justice and compassion. God says he will judge society by the way it treats marginalized people. God makes it unmistakably clear that he takes it on himself to be the protector of these weak ones. He makes it unmistakably clear that anyone who neglects them neglects him. Anyone who oppresses them oppresses him. >>>>>
Let’s look at another statements in this regard from Scripture. This is from
A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.
> Think about that — God says he’s a father to the fatherless. I got to tell you — I’m a father to two children who were fatherless, and I read these verses differently than I’ve ever read them in my life.  Here’s what God is saying—the protectiveness and fierce love that I have for my children is just an echo, just a dim reflection of how deeply and passionately God is concerned for the people who live at the margins of society. God says, “This goes right to the core of what I value.” That’s what our God says. That’s the kind of God we serve.  And there is a very serious implication to all this that I just want to explain as clearly as I can. And that is — God’s people are to have a heart like God’s heart.  Now, here’s Amos’ challenge—How do you confront a society that’s so addicted to its comfort and convenience and affluence and stuff—just stuff—that it doesn’t care about what God cares about most? How do you confront a society like that?  And he tries everything. In Amos 2:6 he says, “You sell the needy for a pair of sandals.”  Now, think about this for a moment. Where people are poor, shoes are a big deal.  Shane Claiborne used to work with Mother Theresa. While he was working with her, he noticed her feet — that they were badly misshapen. So he asked someone in the community about that. He was told that among the poor there are never enough shoes. And Mother Theresa insisted that when shoes get donated, the best be given away to the most poor. And she always took the worst for herself. And over the years, her feet got very badly deformed.  Amos says to people who claim to follow God, “A poor person is in debt to you. They’re not worth much financially. If you were to sell them, all you could get is about enough to buy a pair of sandals.  And you sell them! Your heart is more set on a pair of shoes than a desperately poor human being that you could help. So how can you think the love of God is in you if the truth is that you’re more interested in a pair of shoes?”  In chapter 3, God is talking about this kind of lack of justice and compassion in the hearts of his people… and he says judgment is coming. >>>>>
Look at 3:15.
He’s talking here about the lifestyle of a certain segment in this society.
I will tear down the winter house along with the summer house; the houses adorned with ivory will be destroyed and the mansions will be demolished.
> This is very interesting. He’s saying there’s this shocking disparity between the rich and the poor.  When Canaan was first populated, God gave equal property to all the tribes. Everyone lived pretty much alike. And even in houses from the tenth century B.C. that archeologists have dug up — they’re all fairly similar. By the time you get to Amos’ day — the eighth century — you find areas where there are enormous mansions for the rich, and then other areas where there are miserable hovels for the poor. That’s exactly what Amos is talking about.  There’s a theme that runs throughout Amos — that people who have power are increasingly callous to those who don’t. >>>>>
You levy a straw tax on the poor and impose a tax on their grain.
> And then he says, “You deprive the poor of justice in the courts.” Power goes to people’s heads.  Now, we all understand something about this… we’re no different.  Every political system has to wrestle with this. The weak are at the mercy of those who hold power. And power gets misused.  One of my favorite stories about a political figure is about Mayor Daley in Chicago, who was the mayor when I was a kid. He was approached one time by a guy who wrote his speeches who said, “Mayor Daley, I’m not making enough money.” And Daley’s response was, “I’m not going to give you anymore money. It ought to be enough that you work for a great American hero like me.” That was the end of the discussion, or so he thought.  Several weeks later, he was on his way to give a speech. Mayor Daley was famous for never reading his speech before he got up to deliver it. So he gets up to give this speech. And it’s before a large group of veterans on a Veteran’s Day occasion. It’s getting national press coverage. And it’s quite an eloquent and passionate speech. He talks about how everyone has forgotten the veterans. No one remembers them. “But I remember,” he says. “I care. And today, I am proposing a 17-point program — national, state and city-wide — to take care of the veterans for this country.” Now, by this time, they’re all on the edge of their seat. They want to find out what he’s going to say next. He’s pretty interested himself to find out what he’s going to say next. So he turns the page in his notes and all it says is, “You’re on your own now, you great American hero.”  Now, we love stories like that… because someone who has no power gets a little justice.  Well Amos is looking at a whole subculture — a whole part of society that had the resources… had the power. And all they felt like was that they were entitled to get more money and more power. They completely betrayed God’s vision for a just, compassionate society. And so Amos says to them — *Do you think God was just joking when he gave the Law? *Do you think God doesn’t see what’s going on? *Do you think God doesn’t care anymore about these people that over and over and over and over he says he’s the defender of and the father to? *Do you think he doesn’t care anymore? *Do you really think that you can take all of your resources, which all come from God’s hand, and use them in whatever way you choose to just enrich your own self… and then get mad at God if he doesn’t keep sending you more and more and more and more to satisfy an insatiable appetite? Is that what you really think?  Amos is unbelievably bold. He’ll use any tool he can to try to wake people up from complacency. >>>>>
In Amos 4:1, this is an amazing statement. I mean, you think about someone saying this to people who had the money and the power.
Hear this word, you cows of Bashan on Mount Samaria, you women who oppress the poor and crush the needy and say to your husbands, “Bring us some drinks!”
> Do you see what he’s doing? He’s calling the wives of the wealthy and powerful “cows of Bashan.” Do you think they would feel complimented by that?  Bashan was a very fertile area.
The cows there were famous for being well fed. That’s why he calls them cows of Bashan.  You need to understand that this is not just name calling here. Think, for a moment, about the nature of a cow. Cows are not notable for their good works, are they? Dogs sometimes — like Saint Bernards — they go out and rescue people. A cow is just a walking appetite. That’s all a cow is — a walking appetite. A cow just asks one question. Do you know what the question is? “Where can I get more?” That’s the only question a cow ever asks.
 Human beings live like that sometimes. You’ve got to understand, we live in a society that very often encourages us to live like that, to think of ourselves as just walking appetites for money, for food, for pleasure. *“How can I get a bigger house?” *“How can I get a larger income?” *“How can I drive a newer car?” *“How can I have greater sexual pleasure?” *“How can I be more attractive?” You understand, that’s the kind of person our society produces — cows of Bashan.  The deeper problem here is these people make no connection between their treatment of the oppressed and their relationship with the God who cares so very much about these people.  They still worship. They still sacrifice. And they’re under the illusion that because their lives are going well, God must be blessing them. God must be pleased with them. So again, Amos, this unbelievably bold prophet, just thunders. >>>>>
“I hate, I despise your religious festivals; your assemblies are a stench to me.
Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them. Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps.
> And in this magnificent verse, Amos 5:24, is one of the great statements of the Bible —
But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!
 God says, “Let that happen. Let that flow out of your lives… but don’t sit there eating vast amounts of food at a religious feast with the poor starving to death outside your door… congratulating yourselves on how much you love me. Don’t do that.”  People failed to make the connection between their treatment of those on the margins of society and their relationship with God — their own spiritual bankruptcy.  Now, I was planning on talking to you about justice and righteousness, but I think what The Bible Project team has put together is exceptional… so I want you to SEE what justice and righteousness means from a biblical perspective. 
So I want to ask you, just between you and God, and I believe God is real serious about this — *Are you speaking for those who can’t speak for themselves? Are you seeking righteousness and justice for others? Or are you silent? *Do you love your neighbors as yourself? Are you making their problems your problems? Or are you sitting in a powerful position that you just can’t give up? *What’s your response to the oppressed in our society? Do you have God’s heart for them? *Do you treat everyone as if they are image bearers of God?
 You know, there’s a note of hope in Amos. It’s a real serious book, but periodically, God says things like this >>>>> in the fourth verse of chapter 5:
“Seek me and live; don’t seek Bethel, do not go to Gilgal.”
> Those were the cities where altars—golden calves—were set up. And they became places preoccupied with pleasure and wealth and corruption. God says, “Don’t do it. Seek the Lord and live.” He’s saying to Israel, “There’s still time. If you would repent and turn back and seek justice and righteousness, there’s still time.”  But they don’t remember. They don’t turn back.  I was thinking this week, getting ready for this message, what if all of us did what Amos called for? What if we created a community of that kind of compassion and love? What would happen if we all did this?  Maybe you’re thinking, “The need is so vast, I really can’t make much of a difference.”  But that’s not really the issue… because you never know what you and God can do together.  Whenever something seems completely overwhelming to me, I think of the phrase, “Do for one what you wish you could do for everyone.”  And what matters most is you’ve got to try. You’ve got to do something. Do for one what you wish you could do for everyone.  One insignificant shepherd named Amos. God says, “Go,” and he goes. And almost 3,000 years later, the world is still shaped and awed by his words, by his boldness. You never know the difference one person can make.  But God does.  And I want to ask you to spend a moment praying about this. I’m going to ask you to bow your heads for a moment, right now if you would, while Michaela gets ready to lead us in a closing song.  You know, maybe you’re already deeply plugged in to serving, and giving, and fighting for the vulnerable—doing the kinds of things that Amos talked about. Maybe you are, and you just want to talk to God about how that’s going and ask him if there are any new ideas or fresh areas of calling for you.  But maybe not. Because we’re part of a subculture that is obsessed with comfort and convenience and success and things that make us self-preoccupied. And maybe the truth is, right now, your heart needs to be broken for the things that break the heart of God. Would you take a moment right now to talk to God about that? Just pray this prayer: “God, what do you want me to do?” Maybe you just want to say to him, “God, I want to have a heart like your heart for those in this world who are suffering and marginalized. I want to help. I want to do something. So God, help me know what to do.” Just take a moment right now, and talk to God… and then Michaela is going to lead us in a closing song.
Blue Oaks Church