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Amos’ Last Judgment

Today, it’s one last look at Amos’ pronounced judgment on Israel … tomorrow, we get three days of grace before Christmas!

Amos 9:1-8a

“I saw the Lord standing beside the altar, and he said ‘Strike the capitals until the thresholds shake, and shatter them on the heads of all the people; and those who are left of them I will kill with the sword; not one of them shall flee away; not one of them shall escape.”

Get the picture? God is standing in the worship center, where the syncretistic, back-slidden worship has been taking place. As we have learned throughout this book, God hates it. He in essence says, “bring it down.” Those who don’t die from the building’s collapse will be slain by the sword. Such was the flood in Genesis 7. Such will be the retribution experienced by unbelievers at Jesus’ return. So sad that these think they believe – they’re actually “at church” when their destruction comes. A specter of the future?

“If they dig into Sheol, from there shall my hand take them.

If they climb up to heaven, from there I will bring them down.
If they hide themselves on the top of Carmel, from there I will search them out and take them;
If they hide from my sight at the bottom of the sea, there I will command the serpent, and it shall bite them.
If they go into captivity before their enemies, there I will command the sword, and it shall kill them. I will fix my eyes upon them for evil and not for good.”

Hell, heaven, mountain top, sea bottom, in a far-off nation … there’s no getting away from God’s will. (See Romans 8:35-39 for the flip side of this story. God has His eyes fixed on you … one way or another.)

“The Lord God of hosts, he who touches the earth and it melts, and all who dwell in it mourn, and all of it rises like the Nile, and sinks again, like the Nile of Egypt; who builds his upper chambers in the heavens and founds his vault upon the earth; who calls for the waters of the sea and pours them out upon the surface of the earth—the Lord is his name.”

When John the Baptist wanted to know if Jesus was the Messiah, Jesus said, “tell John what you hear and see” (Matt. 11:4). God the Father? Same. Just look at the power of creation – “That’s Me”, says the LORD.

“Are you not like the Cushites to me, O people of Israel?” declares the Lord. “Did I not bring up Israel from the land of Egypt, and the Philistines from Caphtor and the Syrians from Kir? Behold, the eyes of the Lord God are upon the sinful kingdom, and I will destroy it from the surface of the ground.”

All this is happening to “God’s chosen”. They think they’re special, and that God could never bring judgment like this upon them. But God reminds them of the gospel truth: All the nations have always been in the hand of God. Israel is certainly no better – they just have a different purpose, and enhanced expectations. Unforgiven sin is unforgiven sin, no matter who commits it. Without repentance, and the shedding of blood, there is no salvation.

No question Amos was an unpopular preacher. He and his message were, like so many prophets before him, rejected. “We’ll roll the dice, and hope that he’s wrong. Our worship, and the way we spend our money … it can’t be that bad, can it?”

Yes, God came. Israel vanished for two millennia. He’s coming again, soon, and promises judgment on sin. And grace to those who believe, and are born of the Spirit (we’ll get to that tomorrow!) Are you ready?

– EO

 
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Posted by on December 22, 2015 in Advent 2015, Amos

 

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I Have Until Friday?

Read Amos 7:1-9

I have a hypothetical situation for you. Suppose God came to you with a choice: He was either going to send Jesus to return right now, or on Friday. If He returns right now, you are changed to your immortal body in the twinkling of an eye, and all the features of heaven are yours to experience, right now! Or, if you wait until Friday, you have three days to make one last appeal to the unbelievers in your life … and then you get the blessings of His coming.

Which would you choose?

By the way, this isn’t very hypothetical (except the Friday part). The Apostle Peter tells us that “the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly … The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come, like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to his promise, we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” (2 Peter 3:7-13).

I thought about this passage from the New Testament while reading Amos 7. Here, Amos is privy to a vision of a God-initiated infestation of locusts, in judgment of the people of Israel. Amos says, “O Lord God, please forgive!” The LORD relents. Next, Amos sees that God is preparing another act of judgment – this time a catastrophic fire. Amos cries, “O Lord God, please cease!” The Lord relents. Amos knows they are guilty. Amos knows they are deserving. But He begs the Lord for mercy, and they receive it because of Amos’ intercession.

Are you ready to stand in the gap between the promised judgment of your righteous God, and the hell-bent people around you? Would you do all you can to delay that final verdict and sentence on their sin? I guess the question isn’t, “are you ready?”, but rather “are you doing it?” … because this is our situation right now. Actually, we may not have until Friday. It may be in the next five minutes.

But maybe God will relent on His own? Maybe the universalists are right – that everyone will enjoy God’s favor, because He’s a God of love, and our “sin” ain’t so bad? Verses 7-9 put an end to such talk. Yes, God has twice shown mercy to His sinful people, but this time…

“Behold, I am setting a plumb line in the midst of my people Israel; I will never again pass by them [e.g., extend my mercy and wait] and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam [cf., Israel] with the sword.”

Image result for "everyone goes to heaven" signA plumb line is “a ​piece of ​string with a ​weight ​attached to one end, used either to ​test if something ​vertical is ​exactly ​straight”. God is going to, once and for all, measure the people. It will be based His standards, his right-ness, His holiness. On that day, if you don’t “measure up”, your destruction is upon you.

“But nobody’s perfect! Who will be able to stand up against the measure of God’s plumb line?” Only one has ever been perfect- Jesus, the Christ. He offers you His righteousness for the plumb line test. In fact, He offers His righteousness to everyone you know. Have you let them know that it’s available? You may want to get that word out …

Because it may be useful on Friday.

A bit more on this text tomorrow…

– EO

 
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Posted by on December 15, 2015 in Advent 2015, Amos, Eschatology, Evangelism

 

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The Great and Terrible Day of the Lord

20151211_071329 (2)Yesterday, I penned these words: “Get up early … Take in the sunrise.” Today I was gifted with a beautiful desert morning – as if God was saying, “I’m good. I’m beautiful. And I’m coming soon. Return to me again today.”

The beauty of the sunrise is portent of grace for those who believe. For those who don’t, not so much.

Read Amos 5:1-20

(Amos begins by heaving a personal, heavy sigh. “They hate the one who reproves in the gate, and they abhor the one who speaks the truth.” Yup. More often than not, we believe that what we’re doing is the right thing. No one wants to feel like they need correction. No one wants to be called a sinner. No one wants a prophet meddling in their business. “For I know how many are your transgressions, and how great are your sins” (v.12). Yah, that’s going to go over well.)

As is the case with all of God’s prophets and their prophecies, there is a grace-calm before the judgment-storm: “Seek good! … the LORD will be with you! … It may be that the LORD will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph!” (vs.14-15). That’s the call of Advent – return to the Lord, and seek His presence in a good, reconciled way! I hope you’re embracing that message, because…

THE DAY OF THE LORD

… His presence does not always mean mercy. He’s coming soon, and “will pass through the midst of you” v.17), but the result of that day, “The Day of the Lord”, will be bitter wailing, mourning and lament. In short: For those who have prepared for His coming, it will be the most fantastic day we could imagine! Beyond what we could ask, think, or imagine, actually. But for those who haven’t prepared, who aren’t reconciled with God, who have not been born again by the Spirit…

“Alas for the day! For the day of the Lord is near, and as destruction from the Almighty it comes … Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming … the day of the Lord is great and very awesome; who can endure it?” – Joel 1:15, 2:1,11

“Wail, for the day of the Lord is near; as destruction from the Almighty it will come! Behold, the day of the Lord comes, cruel, with wrath and fierce anger, to make the land a desolation and to destroy its sinners from it.” – Isaiah 13:6,9

“That day is the day of the Lord God of hosts, a day of vengeance, to avenge himself on his foes. The sword shall devour and be sated and drink its fill of their blood.” – Jeremiah 46:10

“For the day is near, the day of the Lord is near; it will be a day of clouds, a time of doom for the nations.” – Ezekiel 30:3

“The great day of the Lord is near, near and hastening fast; the sound of the day of the Lord is bitter; the mighty man cries aloud there.” – Zephaniah 1:14

Amos also says in today’s text:

“Woe to you who desire the day of the Lord! Why would you have the day of the Lord? It is darkness, and not light, as if a man fled from a lion, and a bear met him, or went into the house and leaned his hand against the wall, and a serpent bit him. Is not the day of the Lord darkness, and not light, and gloom with no brightness in it?” – Amos 5:18

The spirit of the Advent season is so important! We don’t want to be on the outside looking in of God’s grace at the return of Christ. And we don’t want that for the world around us. Get ready … and spread the urgent word of reconciliation! Oh, and live well … that’s tomorrow’s theme.

– EO

 
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Posted by on December 11, 2015 in Advent 2015, Amos

 

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“The Day is Surely Drawing Near” 4th Sunday of Advent – 14.12.21

castle church

Castle Church, Wittenberg

Today’s Sunday Advent hymn text comes from the 16th century. Bartholomaus Ringwaldt puts a comprehensive theology of the second coming of Jesus into poetic form. It combines both the glories and tragedies of the apocalyptic events on the world’s horizon. I seldom “get” to sing about all of these things during the holidays.

The day is surely drawing near when Jesus, God’s anointed,
in all his power shall appear as judge whom God appointed.
Then fright shall banish idle mirth, and hungry flames shall ravage earth as Scripture long has warned us.

The final trumpet then shall sound and all the earth be shaken,
and all who rest beneath the ground shall from their sleep awaken.
But all who live will in that hour, by God’s almighty, boundless power, be changed at his commanding.

The books are opened then to all, a record truly telling 
what each has done, both great and small, when He on earth was dwelling.
And every heart be clearly seen, and all be known as they have been in thoughts and words and actions. *

Then woe to those who scorned the Lord and sought but carnal pleasures,
who here despised His precious Word and loved their earthly treasures!
With shame and trembling they will stand and at the judge’s stern command to Satan be delivered.

My Savior paid the debt I owe, and for my sin was smitten; 
Within the Book of Life I know my name has now been written.
I will not doubt, for I am free, and Satan cannot threaten me; There is no condemnation!

May Christ our intercessor be and through his blood and merit
read from his book that we are free with all who life inherit.
Then we shall see him face to face, with all his saints in that blest place which he has purchased for us.

O Jesus Christ, do not delay, but hasten our salvation;
We often tremble on our way in fear and tribulation.
Oh, hear and grant our fervent plea; Come, mighty judge, and set us free from death and every evil.

* (I wonder about this – will our sins be public domain at the judgment? Isaiah 43:25 says ““I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.” If God won’t remember, why would he have us and others remember our sins? Isaiah 54:4 says ““Do not be afraid; you will not be put to shame. Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated. You will forget the shame of your youth and remember no more the reproach of your widowhood.”  And, in Isaiah 65:17 it says ““See, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind.”)

 
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Posted by on December 21, 2014 in Advent 2014, Lutheran

 

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