Cherishing the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Straight Talk from Amos

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One of the reasons why Amos is such an intriguing study for me is because I like straight talkers.  I’ve never been a fan of people hiding their intentions, playing games, and never telling me the straight truth.  I’m not a veiled communicator, and I’m not a fan when others are veiled in their communication to me.  So, while Amos is hard-hitting, he was remarkably refreshing to study.  

Famine for the Word of the Lord:

One of the issues I didn’t hit yesterday was the prophecy concerning the “famine for the Word of the Lord” (Amos 8:11).  I can think of nothing more tragic than this for the people of God.  Imagine that all your history, all you’ve heard and known, is that God speaks to you as His favored people.   And then suddenly, it’s gone.  The book of Malachi is the last book of the Old Testament.  After that, the Lord was silent for about 400 years to Israel.  Just think about that…that’s almost 150 years more than the United States has been a country.  It’s just hard to fathom how long 400 years is.  But God was silent for 400 years to them.  

Then He sent Jesus.  It’s no wonder John began His gospel with, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.”  God was now going to speak to His people once again definitively.  Only this time, He came in person to talk to them.  He didn’t send a prophet…He sent THE Prophet.  He didn’t send a king…He sent THE King.  He didn’t send a priest…He sent THE Priest.  

Do you see why the writer of Hebrews wrote in 1:1-2:  “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.”

Don’t navel gaze:

One of the big challenges from a sermon like Sunday’s is to get caught up in too much self-reflection.  Often, Christians will become paralyzed by looking inward too much (navel-gazing) and will not spend enough time looking out and up.  We believe God is hiding something from us, and we beg Him to show us our sin and believe that every hardship is because of our sin and God’s discipline.  So, where do we find a balance?

Years ago, John Piper spoke about this, but I don’t remember where or what the sermon was about.  But he said, “take a few moments to ask God if the hardship was because of your sin and listen.  Then after a few seconds, move on.”  His reasoning was that if we believe that God is good (which we do) and that He cares for us (which we do), then why would we think He’s hiding anything from us?  He won’t.  If we are in sin and our sin has brought on this hardship because of the Lord’s discipline, like a good Father, He will tell us.  If it is not clear, then move on.  The hardship is because of something else, and God has a perfect plan.  

This is important because, as Christians who believe in the doctrine of sin, we tend to “make much” of sin.  We tend to look “inward,” which keeps us from looking out and up to Christ.  I have tried to make it a practice to “take one look at my sin and 10 looks at Christ.”  Here’s how I do that:  When I know I’ve sinned, I try to confess it quickly to God.  Then I thank God for sending Jesus, who never sinned as I sinned.  And I thank Him for forgiving me, as He promised.  But then, I always close my prayer by thanking Him for empowering me to change.  I don’t want to spend time groveling about my sin.  I want to look to the only One who can forgive me and help me change.  

Restoration of the land:

Amos prophesied that the Lord would return Israel to their land and restore them forever.  This is a huge point of debate among theologians, so let me summarize this.

Some believe that in May 1948, when the nation of Israel was proclaimed a nation, and President Truman recognized them as such, is a fulfillment of Amos and other prophets.  Those in this camp believe that the prophecies concerned a specific, physical land.  And most in this camp see God’s promises to physical Israel.  This means the promises are to Israel as a nation, regardless of whether they repent.  

Others believe this restoration has more to do with a restoration of God’s plan and purpose for salvation, and the land is not physical and specific but spiritual.  Most in this camp see God’s promises to spiritual Israel.  This means that God’s promises were to the remnant in Israel who looked to God and looked forward to the coming of His Messiah.  

And, if I’m being honest, it’s hard to tell.  So let me tell you things that I know for sure and that I could defend from the biblical text.

There is a fulfillment that Christ brings to all the Old Testament prophecies, and it is clear that the nation of Israel rejected Jesus as their Messiah.  They still do.  So, it would seem odd that God would restore them without repentance.  That goes the Scriptural teaching of salvation by grace through faith in Christ.  

There are people who “are Israel” that are not descendants of Israel (see Isaiah 9:6).  This would lead us to believe that “Israel” is not physical but somewhat spiritual.  

Further, there does seem to be a reason why God took the gospel to the nations that were not Israel.  That was to fulfill what He promised Abraham (see Genesis 12) and stir Israel to jealousy for their repentance (see Romans 11:11).  

What does seem to take place in these Old Testament prophecies is God fulfilling Deuteronomy 28, and removing His people from their land, with the promise of restoration if they repent and trust in the Messiah, Jesus.   Since they did not trust in the Messiah and still have not trusted in the Messiah, we are still waiting for them to turn to Christ.  

Now, what does this mean?  It seems to indicate that when God cast the nation of Israel out of their land, it was because they had rejected Him.  Even the partial restoration under Ezra and Nehemiah never brought them back to their same prosperity or influence as before their exile.  It also seems to mean that when Jesus said He would take the kingdom from them and give it to a nation that would be fruitful, He was talking about a spiritual nation (see Matthew 21:43).  And it does seem God has a plan for physical Israel. Still, it’s for them to repent and trust in the Messiah.  

So, we’ve got to be careful here because some things are not nearly as evident in the biblical text as some might assume or teach.  They’re hard to understand.

But we cannot compromise on this:  for anyone to be a member of God’s family, it does not come by heritage or nationality.  It comes only by putting faith in the true Messiah, Jesus.  And anyone or any nation that doesn’t do that cannot expect God to restore anything to them, nor can we as Christians expect that.  

Looking ahead:

This coming Sunday, we will study the book of Obadiah.  This prophet wrote the shortest book in the Old Testament, yet it is packed with good stuff.         

From the Cheap Seats:

Have a great week!

To watch or listen to the sermon described in this post, please click here. 

In Christ, 

Dave York

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