Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Amos 4 - This AND That...

 Amos - Chapter 4

I want to focus on Israel, in verses 6 through 13.

Basically, God has made life difficult in many ways for the people of Israel, all in an attempt to turn their dependence back to Him and away from the blessings they receive from Him. I believe this flies south in comparison to the messages being shared by many of today's prophets, as well as by those who preach any form of a prosperity gospel. 

Verse 12 - "...prepare to meet your God, O Israel." Wow! Could not these same words be spoken today? We cling to a God who blesses us financially, and in our leadership, and in our health. But is that the God of the Bible? Yes, God blessed many godly people in the Bible. He also allowed many to suffer. The rain fell on the just and the unjust! (Matt 5:43-45)

Why do we believe those who prophesied that Trump would win? Is it because we serve a Republican God? Is it because we serve a God who always allows the righteous to win? Is it because we serve a God who would not allow us to suffer under unjust leadership? Have you read your Bible? What about the Israelites serving under Pharaoh? The Babylonian Captivity? The stoning of Stephen or the beheading of John the Baptist? The persecution of Paul, as well as the early Christians? 

Perhaps there is more truth in 2 Chronicles 7:13,14 than we want to see. When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. When will God hear? When His people hear AND seek His face. I fear that many of the prayers that are being offered are more about relief from evil and persecution than they are about seeking His face. They are more about getting blessings than serving the giver of those blessings. 

God help us.

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Amos 3 - Look in the Mirror!

Amos - Chapter 3 

It is easy to focus on the faults of others. Let's again look at the current political situation. Both sides are hypocritical. Was there election fraud? Many believe so. They go so far as to say that God is working in such a way as to expose the corruption at just the right time. They keep saying that, waiting, hoping. If corruption exists, I too hope it will be exposed. Or do I?

Israel could point to the sins of Moab, and they were many and awful. But when God deals with what is going on, He doesn't just look at Moab, He also looks at Israel and what has been going on with them. How has Israel handled what it has been given during this time? Have they used a time of plenty to honor their God? Or has the plenty become their God? Prior to this election, what has been the climate of the churches in America? Have we used this time to help the "widows and orphans," (James 1:27) or has this time been used to build elaborate buildings, programs, and staff in order to increase our presence and popularity among ourselves? Have we honored God during times of plenty in the way the He would desire to be honored, or have we honored our own agendas in His name? 

Verse 11 is striking. "Therefore thus says the Lord God: An adversary shall surround the land and bring down your defenses from you, and your strongholds shall be plundered." Does this sound like God is just going to expose the corruption of Moab, without also dealing with the sins of Israel? 

Yet I do believe that there is a difference in how God deals and punishes Moab verses how God deals and punishes Israel. Moab's punishment is the end result, a direct consequence of their sins. There will ultimately be no relief from their punishment. For Israel, the punishment has a desired result, repentance. God desires that Israel look in the mirror and see their sins and turn back to God. 

I find verse 12 interesting, and wonder at its true interpretation. As I see it, the shepherd rescues a portion of the animal devoured by the lion. Does that mean that Jesus will redeem some, but not all of Israel? That in this time of trial, some will be overtaken and still refuse to repent, but those who do will find redemption? As I recall the words of Jesus, "Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.  For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few." (Matt 7:13,14) It is also interesting to note that these verses are followed by a stern warning regarding false prophets.

I think the bottom line is this, look at yourself first! You may or may not be able to change the situation at the top, but you can definitely change your situation in regard to what you have put your faith and trust in, and how you deal with the circumstances you encounter as a result. It all starts with a hard look at what is in the mirror.

Monday, January 25, 2021

Amos 2 - Has God Found What He is Looking For?

Amos - Chapter 2

I chose this book because of our current political situation. Some still don't believe that the election results are legit, and hold that the truth will yet come out. They believe that God is working to expose the corruption, and when it is revealed, things will be set right and those guilty will be held accountable. I wonder if that includes us?

God sends forth judgement in chapter 2. Moab gets it pretty good, an they deserved it too. But there is also judgement on Judah. The chosen ones? The tribe through which the Messiah would come? Say it isn't so. But it is. They are guilty not of the corruption of Moab, but of rejecting the law and not keeping the statutes of God. They have believed and perpetuated lies. So are we much different? Perhaps we are not corrupt politicians, but what about faithfulness? Do we know God's word, or do we trust some local or television preacher? Do we listen to those who prophesy about God's desire for our health and wealth, or do we read about God's holiness and justice. A justice that is for all. So Moab gets judgement, and so does Judah. Maybe in the process of all that is going on, we too are seeing God's wrath for sin.

Israel does not avoid punishment either. Grievous sins. Abuse of the poor, of women. God's name profaned because of it. This after God has taken them and led them to a place where they could worship and live in peace, by defeating some powerful enemies. Enemies more powerful than they could have slain on their own. 

It seems that now that they have some strength and power, they are prideful and have forgotten about their need for God. But God will remind them. Their power and might will not save them. Nor will their wealth. 

I think about the Israelites fleeing from the Egyptians. Yay! God saves the day and rescues them. The corruption of Egypt is exposed and Israel is free. Free to leave. Free to wander aimlessly in the desert for 40 years. Not the freedom they were hoping for. But God had to teach them too. Teach them perhaps the value of freedom. Teach them that freedom from the Egyptians is not freedom from God. Teach them to trust God, even when things look bleak. That sea must have looked awful foreboding before God parted it for them. 

I do not know what the future holds. Will corruption be exposed? Will we see glory days? Will darkness take over? I don't know. What I do know is that God is looking for faithfulness. Faithfulness in captivity. Faithfulness in wandering. Faithfulness in times of blessing. For those in corruption, unfaithfulness, or any other sin, know that there is always accountability. For no matter the circumstances of this life, judgement awaits us all. And only those in Christ will be to bear it.

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Amos 1 - Why Not Save Them?

Amos - Chapter 1

God is reigning down judgement. The people have wandered away. Again.

The people that God is calling out have some grievous sins. And in their sin, they lost all sensitivity to others. (Vs 7: and cast off all pity) Things like ripping open pregnant women. Their evil seems to know no boundaries. Sound familiar? The hatred and anger seem to be all that drives them. 

I cannot see much difference between their behavior and the behavior of many who rule today. Greed, and the pursuit of more never satisfies. Doing whatever it takes, harming whoever stands in their way. Lying, throwing around their might, crushing those who would object. 

Some would ask, "Where is God? Why doesn't he wipe them out?" This is a question that the oppressed could have asked for centuries.

A few thoughts:

God has provided a way. Jesus. He is giving them and us a chance to repent. Even the oppressed do not stand by as innocents. The oppressed just want more too. Today, we follow the likes of Osteen and Furtick, because they preach a gospel that is not really a gospel at all, it is merely a ruse to follow a God who wants you to have "your best life NOW." If that is true, why do the oppressors exist? 

I have heard so many prophesies leading up to yesterday's inauguration that Trump would be victorious. I believe it was stated by those who follow such a philosophy that God does not want us to suffer. But Biden was sworn in. Isn't this how God responded in the past? When people wandered away, He did not EVER say, "Perhaps what they need is more prosperity." No, oppression, captivity, calamity came to drive people from their possessions into their only assurance, which is found in the arms of God. 

The difference here is in knowing the true character of God verses knowing a God who fits our desires. That is the God that most preach today. We only hear of the God who saves those in the loin's den, as we feel we all are, and not the God who led John the Baptist into a place where he would demonstrate his faith by being beheaded. God said that there was none greater than John in the kingdom (Mt 11:11), yet this is how the greatest dies? That does not preach well. That does not bring in customers.

It seems that is what has happened to Christianity. We are customers flocking to the church that best meets our needs through its programming, flocking to a God who loves us so much that He only wants what is good (in our own eyes) for us. 

And we think we deserve salvation from oppression? 

Saturday, January 2, 2021

Amos - Introduction

 Amos was a farmer and a shepherd who was called into being a prophet during the reigns of Jeroboam (Northern Kingdom) and Uzziah (Southern Kingdom). These were prosperous times. But with prosperity came idolatry and corruption. Amos called the people of Israel out for their behavior, for breaking their covenant with God. 

I think of my lifetime. I grew up during the Reagan years of prosperity. But I also see the seeds of corruption that we sown during that time. Not just politically, but also in the church. Prosperity theology is not just for TV preachers, but has worked its way into the local congregations as well. Just look at the books in their libraries, the promises made from their pulpits, the general lack of Scripture by the average church goer. Is it any wonder that Jesus wonders if He will find faith when He returns. Faith in a God who is concerned with righteousness. With trust even when things do not go as we desire. Faith in God rather than faith in the things God provides.

Perhaps as I read through this book of the Old Testament, I will see a relevance that is just as strong today as it was when Amos was around...