Who’s in Charge Anyway?
Sermon Text: Amos 7:10-17
Sermon Theme: Faithfulness to the LORD will always be met with the question, “Who’s in charge?”
It is no new thing for the accusers of the brethren, to misrepresent them as enemies to the king and kingdom, as traitors to their prince, and trouble makers of the land, when they are the best friends to both. Those who make gain their godliness, and are governed by the hopes of wealth and preferment, are ready to think these the most powerful motives with others. But those who have a warrant from God, like Amos, ought not to fear the face of man. If God, that sent him, had not strengthened him, he could not have been set as a spark of righteousness in the mist of Israel. The Lord often chooses the weak and foolish things of the world to confound the wise and mighty. But no fervent prayers, or self-denying labors, can bring proud sinners to bear faithful reproofs and warnings. And all who oppose or despise the Divine word, must expect fatal effects to their souls, unless they repent.
[From Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary]
How often do we see professional religious leaders stand in opposition to God because their loyalties are with worldly powers, economic rewards, or professional position rather than with God and His Word? In every age there have been such men — conventional religionists, whose creed is compromise, and whose maxim is, “Sail with the stream.” But, there are men whose hearts the Lord has touched, such as Amos. Observe the surroundings of his life. What was it that the priests were afraid of in his message? They may have feared lest the people should be roused to think. For Amos has just given a reasoned argument for the inevitability of the fall of the state in both its national and its ecclesiastical establishments (Amos 7:7-9). This must have come to the majority of his hearers as simply unbelievable. It is not a light thing for a very religious people to accept that their religion itself is offensive to God. However, it was more probable that they felt the inward uneasiness which hollow profession must ever experience when brought into contrast with genuine piety and the power of the Holy Ghost. The presence and testimony of Amos condemned them. The priest Amaziah suggested that Amos would be wise to flee away to the land of Judah. There would have been nothing necessarily sinful in following this advice. The presence of the prophet in Jerusalem would have been hailed with the warmest sympathy and welcome. He would have gained a wide popularity and would have been an object of general admiration. And we are all liable to be influenced by such motives. We do not like to stand alone, beset with continual difficulties arising from our position. No doubt Amos would have yielded had he not been walking in the Spirit, and it is only this that will keep us at our duty. We are often tempted to run away from the cross given us to bear, flattering ourselves all the time that in doing so we are seeking opportunities of greater usefulness. We cannot get away from the Cross; it is the law of true Christian experience. Satan will always entice us to run away.
Are you surprised that there is no service of God without opposition, persecution and trial? This truth lies on the surface of Amos 7, and it is well worth our while to face it and accept that it is so. How often servants of God are knocked off course by the onset of difficulties and oppositions. The Scripture is surely plain enough that we are not to be surprised at the fiery ordeal which comes upon you to prove you (1 Peter 4:12), yet that is often exactly what we are — surprised! Amos met his tests and oppositions and so shall we. For the call to obey God rather than men remains an urgent obligation today, just as it was when Amos declared the words of God and the apostles proclaimed the Gospel. When faced with a choice between obeying human authorities and God, there should be no hesitation. God is our ultimate authority, and our values must align with His revealed Word. Jesus’ words in Matthew 10:28 serve as a reminder that God is in charge: “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”
Who’s calling are we submitting too? Consider Amos and his godly approach to the situation of where he was to preach. Yahweh’s initiative, “But Yahweh took me from following the flock, and Yahweh said to me, ‘Go prophesy to My people Israel” was the theme in Amos 7. The verb took underscored this, whether one compares it with the “took” of God’s election (e.g. Deuteronomy 4:20; 1 Kings 11:37) or with the even harsher uses like the taking away of prisoners by the coalition of kings that plagued Abram (Genesis 14:12). Took connoted both strength and surprise. The command that accompanied it was patterned deliberately to show how Amaziah and Yahweh stood on opposite sides of the question of where Amos should prophesy. Both Amaziah and Yahweh prefaced their words with go. Both commanded Amos to prophesy. Yahweh’s commission had as its object my people Israel; Amaziah’s location was less personal, the land of Judah. This difference marked the summit of Amos’ response to Amaziah’s orders: mere prophesying was not his calling but prophesying to God’s people in the Northern Kingdom. The call to prophesy and the assigned audience were of one piece. Amaziah’s refusal to understand that “the authentic prophet is the one who has responded to a divine commission” would cost him his life as well as disaster for his family and nation. We need to remember the inevitable outcome of not walking in the way of the LORD is ruin. For wrong choices are what places us on that broad road to destruction. That’s why, ruin happens when a people remain stubborn and God’s judgment hands them over to their natural evil desires.
Are we prepared to listen and obey the words of the LORD as declared by humble instruments like Amos? Do not be like Amaziah, who’s sin was stifling the prophetic word and consequently challenging Yahweh’s authority (Amos 2:12; Amos 3:7-8). Amaziah declared that Amos’ message wasn’t good for the community — “the land is unable to endure all his words” (Amos 7:10). Is this not the same warning that Paul gave to Timothy: that there will come a time when people “will not endure sound doctrine, but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires” (2 Timothy 4:3)? The idea of “enduring” sound teaching has to do with “tolerating” it or putting up with it. In other words, people will refuse to listen to what is good and right. They will be intolerant of the truth. The Greek word translated “doctrine” is simply referring to “teaching” or “instruction.” Often, teaching and instruction systematized is understood as doctrine. The Greek word translated as “sound” can also be understood as “healthy” or “free from error.” Paul is warning Timothy that there will come a time when people will not desire to hear true or correct teaching — teaching that accords with reality. It is important that we heed the words of Paul. For we must teach sound doctrine, holding to the truths of Scripture regardless of the consequences. Always seeking sound doctrine and receiving it, if we are to live according to the truth. Let our personal desires take a back seat to the truths of Scripture. Prayerfully, as we mature and are transformed by the renewing of our mind, let us desire alignment more and more with the sound doctrine of Scripture. For many times in the history of the church, God has called humble instruments like Amos to declare His Word; and we had better be prepared to listen and obey. It’s not the approval of the “religious establishment” that counts, but the calling and blessing of the Lord.
What should our attitude and demeanor be when presenting the Gospel message? Amaziah’s communication with the king is testimony to the power of Amos’ prophetic word which had become unbearable (cf. Joel 2:11), literally “uncontainable;” the same Hebrew form is used to describe the capacity of Solomon’s molten sea and bronze lavers (1 Kings 7:26; 1 Kings 7:38), suggesting that Amos’ words had spilled throughout the land and threatened to flood it with their calls for justice and threats of judgment. See how Amos describes the word which has so gripped him that he cannot but speak it ― You say, “Do not prophesy … do not preach” (Amos 7:16). The first prohibition points to the divine origin of the word: it is a word of prophecy, that is to say, it is “Thus says Yahweh;” it is a word God has fashioned and given to man to speak. The second prohibition points to the human helpfulness and benefit of the word. Do not preach is literally, do not drop, trickle, drip your word. It speaks of that which is gentle, welcoming, refreshing, like a waft of rain on dry ground. What a beautiful and wonderful description of the Word of God from Amos. This is very far from the scolding which has sometimes passed for preaching and very far from a ministry which leaves people of God battered and bruised. How we need to learn today that the Word of God is this gentle dropping from God to refresh, bless and quicken souls and that those who handle it need to be equally gentle, applying the coolness and comfort of divine promises. But gentle as it is and requiring a gentle ministry, the Word of God has a steely insistence on being heard and obeyed. The word to Amaziah, though ministered with the gentleness of lightly falling rain, was harsh and judgmental. Yet again, do not think of Amos as being loud, hectoring or unfeeling in his reply to Amaziah. The product of a deep sense of authority and of a deep respect for the Word of God is at its best and purest the quiet word of reason and respect, never the word of ill-manners or abuse, never the word of vociferous controversy. For the wrath of man cannot accomplish the righteous purposes of God (James 1:19). Furthermore, there is no mention here of Amaziah’s being a leading light in a false religion. His priesthood is referred to obliquely without any suggestion of dishonor or penalty attaching to it. Such things are not brought into the case. Only one factor operates. Amos prophesied and Amaziah replied “Do not prophesy.” He heard the Word of the Lord, but he did not listen, accept or obey. For the unpretentious causes provoked terrible catastrophes for Amaziah. He rejected the Word of the Lord, and the Lord rejected him (cf. 1 Samuel 15:23).
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.