Unaware of Reality
Sermon Text: Amos 6:1-7
Sermon Theme: The LORD holds His people accountable for being unaware of the reality around them.
Those are looked upon as doing well for themselves, who do well for their bodies; but we are told what their ease is, and what their woe is. Here is a description of the pride, security, and sensuality, for which God would reckon. Careless sinners are every where in danger; but those at ease in Zion, who are stupid, vainly confident, and abusing their privileges, are in the greatest danger. Yet many fancy themselves the people of God, who are living in sin, and in conformity to the world. But the examples of others’ ruin forbid us to be secure. Those who are set upon their pleasures are commonly careless of the troubles of others, but this is great offense to God. Those who placed their happiness in the pleasures of sense, and set their hearts upon them, shall be deprived of those pleasures. Those who try to put the evil day far from them, find it nearest to them.
[From Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary]
- What is more unbelievable to a religious people than that their religion exposes them to the wrath of God? Amos teaches that religion as Israel had organized it on the basis of self-pleasing is defective in honoring God and His ways, lacking the vital component of “returning in the right way to Me” (i.e. true repentance), defective in living the world’s ways, and lacking the fruits of righteousness in the worshipper and of justice towards others. The woe drives home the arch stupidity and clear consequences of Israel’s pride in luxury, the wickedness of which complements the extravagance of the cult and shows how wrongheaded Israel was in both cases: perverted worship, which presumed on God’s blessing at the Day of the Lord, was perfectly matched by an abuse of social and financial position. In short, there was nothing basic to Israel’s life that Amos deemed worthy of commendation.
- What does it mean that God is not a respecter of persons? If God is no respecter of persons does this mean that He looks not at who the person is (if he is a Christian or not, baptized believer or not, rich or poor, criminal, etc.) but looks at the heart, the purity and goodness, or the wickedness of it? The Greek word that is translated as “respecter” is prosopolemptes. It means “to show favoritism.” Therefore, what does it mean that God does not show favoritism? In some Bibles the word “partial” is used instead of “respecter.” That communicates the same idea. God is not partial, or we could say God is impartial in His dealings with people. When we see the word impartial in the Bible, it is easy for us to assume that the word means people should be treated equally. But a careful examination of the principle of impartiality in the Bible does not teach us that everyone should be treated equally. Instead, we learn that everyone is to be treated identically according to a divine standard or principle. Proverbs 24:23-26 provides an excellent example of the meaning of biblical impartiality: “These also are sayings of the wise. To show partiality in judgment is not good. He who says to the wicked, ‘You are righteous,’ peoples will curse him, nations will abhor him. But to those who rebuke the wicked will be delight, and a good blessing will come upon them. He kisses the lips who gives a right answer.” Notice that one who is partial is someone who states that the wicked are actually righteous people. That is, they ignore what God says about our behavior. Righteous people obey God’s precepts and laws and the wicked do not. This proverb reveals that people were being partial at the time it was written. People were ignoring the truth in favor of the wicked. That is, they were being partial. They honored the wicked as if they were godly individuals. We still see this occurring in our world today. Next, we discover that someone who rebukes the wicked will be a delight to others and blessing will come to them. That is, the principle of impartiality means that we hold to biblical principles regardless of circumstances and persons. We are impartial in our judgments and in our statements. That is, we say sin is sin, the wicked are wicked and the godly are godly.
- We know that God is not a respecter of persons. But, do you know that God is not a respecter of capitals when it comes to punishment? What the mountain capitals of the two kingdoms share is that is lulled into an irresponsible sense of security. The cavalier carefree attitude of Zion’s notables was matched by the naive feelings of security of Samaria’s leaders. And, above all, Israel thought that Yahweh’s next move was to be vindication and blessing, not invasion and judgment. The cult itself encouraged such complacency. That God would move in disaster against those who kept the air reeking with the smell of sacrificial smoke and the temple-courts ringing with the sounds of celebrative song was beyond their comprehension. At heart their false security was not in their military might or fortified capitals, proud as they were of these, but in their failure to believe that a day of evil (i.e. of divine judgment) would ever come. Is our nation and leadership lulled into an irresponsible sense of security? Are we also? For He does not ignore or change His standards for anyone.
- We should ask ourselves if we are at ease in a bad sense or a good sense? In itself being at ease is not bad. In fact, there are verses in the Bible that invite us to rest or promise rest at the end of life’s labors. Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28-29). Hebrews 4:9-11 speaks of Sabbath rest: “There remains, then, a Sabbath rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience.” In Revelation 14:13 a voice from heaven says, “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on,” and the Spirit answers, “They will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them.” Since we are told in Isaiah 57:20 that “the wicked are like the tossing sea, which cannot rest,” there is clearly a desirable rest associated with godliness that we should seek — quietness here and a cessation from labor in the life to come. On the other hand, there is also a wrong kind of rest about which Amos is talking. It is the rest of indifference. There is an ease that should not exist among God’s people. Have we grown fat on good biblical teaching and are inclined to be lazy and inactive? If this is true, it is a sad state for Christians. Certainly, there are times when we need to “come apart and rest awhile” — when we have been battered by spiritual warfare and need to regain our breath and footing. But that is no great need for most of us. If you are a Christian, there is work to be done. This is no time for ease. If you are not yet a Christian, the case is even more desperate. You are in mortal danger, and the work before you is that greatest of all works: believing on Jesus (John 6:29).
- What is it that so rouses and antagonizes the Lord? Human pride (or self-satisfaction). This disastrous quality lived first and pre-eminently in the leaders of Israel: notable men … to whom the house of Israel comes (Amos 6:1). The word translated “notable” appears as “named” in Numbers 1:17 where, literally, we read “marked down by name.” It refers to “well-known” men in leadership positions. The verb “come” appears in Exodus 18:16 in exactly the same usage, to come for the settlement of cases, the resolving of disputes or perplexities. We need to realization that Amos is speaking first of all to leaders, and leaders never live or die to themselves, any more than anyone does, but in a particular sense they mold the destiny of those whom they lead; they involve others in the shape their leadership imposes on the organization or community or whatever it may be they lead; and just as, if their leadership comes under the blessing of God, they are never blessed alone but bring into blessing those who follow them, so also, if their leadership commands His wrath, they never go to their doom alone. So, if we are to succeed in our calling from God to be humble and have concern for others, we should never be content with things as they are, for the simple reason that in every human arrangement there are seeds and forces of disaster and their most fertile breeding-ground is complacent, self-satisfied leadership. For the welfare of the fellowship must always take primacy over the pampering of the self. There is a godly self-care without which we shall never be equipped, physically, mentally or spiritually, to care for anyone else, but there is an ungodly self-concern which progressively blinds us to the ruin of Joseph. It was a shrewd thrust for Amos to describe the nation as Joseph — the lad who wailed his heart out in a deep pit while his brothers sat down to eat (Genesis 37:23-25; Genesis 42:21). We are all “Josephs” to each other, the objects of that mutual care which should mark our fellowship; but specially to the leader. But we should never neglect the covet peace with God and allow Him to dictate the terms on which peace is to be enjoyed. The peace here referred to is the peace of daily harmonious relationships, whereby we may be assured that God is with us and His power operating for us. Of all sides to the question of walking with God Amos focuses on one alone: God opposes the proud. What can succeed if we fall out of the power of God?
- What kind of leader are you following in your daily walk? The leaders that Amos addressed are those to whom everyone in Israel looks — those to whom the populace flocks — the “beautiful people” of Amos’s day, who determine policies and set the fads and “call the shots” about what is “in” and what is “out,” what is “politically correct” and what is not. They determine the morale and morality of the nation, and they feel themselves smugly secure, confident in their prosperity, government, and military strength. Yet they took no thought for the fact that their society is rotten to the core, blackened and decaying in its commerce and courts and worship, giving no heed to the covenant demands of a God who is Lord over all. Being indifferent and ignorant that their proud confidence fostered by their wealth and fame would come to an end. For the notable men in Israel’s government continued to give their opinion that the nation was safe and secure, and the people believed them, just as people today believe the political “experts” and the polls. False confidence that’s based on expert advice, statistics, and material resources and that ignores the spiritual dimension of life is sure to lead to shameful defeat. For complacency is an insidious sin, because it’s based on lies, motivated by pride, and leads to trusting something other than God (Zephaniah 1:12). Like the people in the church of Laodicea, complacent people consider themselves “rich, and increased with goods” and in need of nothing (Revelation 3:17). In reality, however, they have lost everything that’s important in the spiritual life. When the Lord sees His people becoming complacent and self-satisfied, He sometimes sends trials to wake them up.
- How many believers can honestly say, “Indignation has taken hold of me because of the wicked, who forsake Your law” (Psalm 119:53)? Or “Rivers of water run down from my eyes, because men do not keep Your law” (Psalm 119:136)? Too many Christians are laughing when they should be weeping (James 4:8-10) and tolerating sin when they should be opposing it (1 Corinthians 5:2).
- God challenged those who trusted in Jerusalem and Samaria to look at the cities of Calneh, Hamath, and Gath (Amos 6:2-3) — each of which had once possessed equally strong fortifications. These cities were destroyed. God asks, “Why should I preserve you if I did not preserve them?” He might ask the presumptuous of our day, “Why should I preserve you for the sake of your supposed goodness, when so many who were better than you are in hell?” For what is a sign that a judgment day is near? When nations get pleasure-mad? Belshazzar and his leaders were enjoying a sumptuous feast when the city of Babylon fell to the Medes and Persians (Daniel 7). The Roman citizens enjoyed free “bread and circuses” as the empire decayed morally and politically and eventually fell to the enemy. One of the marks of the end days is the fact that people become “lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God” (2 Timothy 3:4). No wonder Jesus warned His followers, “But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly” (Luke 21:34).
- What is wrong with enjoying the finer things of life? There is certainly nothing wrong with enjoying good food or good music, provided the things of the Lord are uppermost in your heart. David designed and made musical instruments, but he used them to praise the Lord. Abraham was able to prepare an elegant feast for his guests (Genesis 18:1-8), and the Lord didn’t rebuke him. But the sin in Amos’s day was that these luxuries distracted the people from the real problems of the nation, and “they [were] not grieved over the ruin of Joseph” (Amos 6:6). Joseph is another one of those many names of the patriarchs used for Israel as a whole; it means the descendants of Joseph. The people did not care about the declining state of those around them ― they were indifferent to their fellow man. They were giving themselves wholly to these fine but far from necessary things. Such people are oblivious to the truly necessary elements of life. They do not have thoughts for their soul. So, they will drift into hell strumming and humming the worthless songs of our culture. Their easy-going manner, knowledge of the best wines, and beautiful skin will not save them. The fault is not mere wealth. For it can be used in God’s service like anything else. But wealth tends to make us self-indulgent — “After all, I earned it, and I have a right to spend it on myself if I want to” — and indifferent to others. As a general rule we can say that the more we have the less generous we become. More cash, more dash! More substance, more indulgence! The richer we become the more self-indulgence grows. But always remember that judgment may not be as far off as you think! The Lord told of a certain rich man who spent his time amassing wealth. He had so many crops he hardly knew what to do with them. So he said, “I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I’ll say to myself, ‘You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.’ ” God said to him, “You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?” (Luke 12:18-20).
Instructions for saving audio file…
To save audio to your local disk, click on the SAVE button above, then use the right mouse button on the AUDIO (MP3) and finally click on Save Link As to specify the target directory.