The Gospel in Amos

Throughout Amos we read that social injustice will not be tolerated (8.4-6 for example). If you Google a definition of social justice, you will probably get something like this,

“Social justice is the equal access to wealth, opportunities, and privileges within a society.”

Society’s version of social justice will tell you that we need to look around and see everybody’s differences, we need to acknowledge how different we are, and we need to affirm and accept all these differences. 

Society’s social justice says I see your differences, we need to recognise all of this, and treat everyone the same despite the fact we are all different. But first, let’s differentiate between ourselves as much as we can. Then, when we’ve done that, let’s work towards equality for all these groups we’ve just made.  

Gospel social justice says it doesn’t matter what colour skin you have, or what passport you hold, or what social status you have.

Gospel social justice says we are all made in the image of God (see Genesis 1), that we have dignity, worth, and value, and that is what we need to affirm and acknowledge, not our perceived differences.

Saying, “I am going to treat all nations the same” still acknowledges that there is a difference. 

Gospel social justice doesn’t see the difference. 

Saying, “I am going to treat all people the same, the rich ones and the poor ones” still acknowledges that socioeconomic levels are noticeably different to you.

Gospel social justice doesn’t see the difference. 

Social justice sees difference but works to treat people equally. 

Gospel social justice simply sees everyone as equal. 

We live in a fallen world that expects submission based on social status, country of origin, the colour of your skin, but as Christians we know this is not right, we know that true submission is given to God, who does not distinguish by race or colour or gender or bank balance.  

Gospel social justice is not equality it is impartiality. 

In Ephesians 2 we read

14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

Jesus came to redeem all, regardless of social status, country of origin, religious background, all.

Galatians 3 summarises this well, 

28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

On the Day of the Lord, Jesus died for all, to bring all into His kingdom, no matter who we are, no matter where we are from, no matter what we do, no matter our social status, our career path, who we were, Jesus died for all

Amos 9.11-15 – Repair, raise, rebuild

Amos finishes on a totally different note to how it starts. There have been passages to challenge us, confront us, maybe even chastise us, but as we reach v.11 the tone changes completely.

There are allusions here to the Davidic Covenant, which you can read more about here.

Simply, it is

“…an unconditional covenant made between God and David through which God promises David and Israel that the Messiah (Jesus Christ) would come from the lineage of David and the tribe of Judah and would establish a kingdom that would endure forever.”

Rather than tear down in righteous judgement, God is going to repair what is broken, raise up what has fallen away, and rebuild what has been destroyed (v.11).

There will be a time of prosperity for His people (vv.13-15), of abundant blessings (v.13a), of unexpected blessings (v.13b), and of quality of life blessings (v.14). The biggest blessing of all is found in v.15, and that is that our salvation will never be pulled away…in Jesus we are repaired, raised, and rebuilt.

Contrasting this with the coming captivity of God’s people, looking ahead to the time of the coming Messiah and the promise made to His people that this would all be fulfilled through the line of David (v.11a) would have given those faithful Old Covenant saints hope and confidence for the future.

As for them, the same is true for us. God stands ready and poised to bring all of this to fruition. The very next thing on the prophetic timeline of eternity is the rapture of the church, nothing else needs to happen prior to that, so we wait with patient expectation.

This should give us a wonderful hope and confidence for the future, and put whatever it is we are battling today into perspective; will it matter tomorrow/next week/next year/when you are at home with the Lord?

His Word to us is very clear, Amos is very clear;

If we are living contrary to His Will, His Way, or His Word, He is righteous, holy, and just, and simply cannot not take action.

But, He is prepared to repair all things, to raise up all things, to rebuild all things, and He is prepared to do this through Jesus, and for those with faith in Jesus, says the Lord your God.

So is the Lord your God and do you have faith in Jesus?

Amos 8.7-8 – Time: The Great Healer?

Often nowadays we see and hear things like this a lot, don’t we?

 

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Open up your preferred social media and it’s awash with motivational, comforting, or inspirational quotes like that; time is a great healer. I’d tend to agree with British songstress Adele who said

‘They say that time’s supposed to heal ya

But I ain’t done much healing.’

Today we see in Amos the alternative to time being a healer,

7 The LORD has sworn by the pride of Jacob:

“Surely I will never forget any of their deeds.

8 Shall not the land tremble on this account,

and everyone mourn who dwells in it,

and all of it rise like the Nile,

and be tossed about and sink again,

like the Nile of Egypt?”

So, time does not heal, God never forgets (Surely I will never forget any of their deeds), so just leaving something supposedly forgotten over time does not mean it will go away, time does not heal the problem sin causes in our lives.

Rather, we need to repent of it, turn from it, and seek genuine forgiveness and closure. That kind of process only comes from one place.

Under the Old Covenant that Amos and his readers lived, they were responsible for keeping the law, and the law kept a meticulous record of their shortcomings before the Lord and each other.

However, under the New Covenant that Jesus established, God still has the perfect memory (Hebrews 6.10), but only for the good we do under the banner of a believer in Jesus, so to speak (Jeremiah 31.31-33 cf. Hebrews 10.17).

Point to ponder today –

Under the New Covenant God remembers our lawless deeds no more, but does remember the good we do in love for Him and for others. If we reject this, His memory is as sharp as a tack and will include each and every time we distanced ourselves from Him through sin.

Amos 2.4-5 – Does God judge His own people?

It is so much easier for us, isn’t it, to look at people who are not believers in Jesus, those who do not profess to be Christian, and say things like,

“Just look at what she is wearing, how (insert negative adjective here).”, or,

“Can you believe what he did, I/we/you would never do that.”

It is so much easier to read of the punishment due to those who are not God’s people, as with the six formulaic judgements yesterday, than it is to read of the judgement against those who, in theory, should be doing it right.

4 Thus says the LORD:

“For three transgressions of Judah, and for four,

I will not revoke the punishment, because they have rejected the law of the LORD, and have not kept his statutes, but their lies have led them astray,

those after which their fathers walked.

5 So I will send a fire upon Judah, and it shall devour the strongholds of Jerusalem.

The same formula is used, For three transgressions of…and for four…I will not…I will send a fire…

But these are God’s people, they have the rich history to look back on, to draw hope, strength, and confidence from, these are God’s people, they have the law of the Lord and His statutes, what could go wrong?

The problem is that the law never had the power to change the hearts of sinful man. It simply never could, otherwise it would have, wouldn’t it? Just because these people had the law of the Lord, that didn’t make them righteous by default, did it.

Anyway, the point for us is this; God still judges what His people do.

We should receive with thanksgiving the finished work of Jesus on the cross into our lives as a foundational and fundamental truth, it changes everything about who we are, everything about what we do, and everything about what we think when we live in the light of this glorious truth.

We should receive this, absolutely, but that does not make us instantly fully sanctified, does it? We are a work in progress, meaning we need to keep a watchful eye on ourselves, the sinful human nature is still there.

If we love those in our church family around us, we will keep an eye out for them, too, offering accountability, counsel, and support when it is needed.

Paul encourages us to keep our focus on those in the church family rather than to be running around judging those around us who do not profess Jesus as their Lord and Saviour (1 Corinthians 5.11-13) We should be mindful that we who claim Christ as Lord will stand before Him and give account of what we have done (2 Corinthians 5.10).

All that to say, yes, God still judges His own people.

If anything, the standards are higher because of the wonderful truth you know. The Christian life is lived in community – we are individuals saved into community – so we do not have to do this alone.

Find people who will hold you accountable as you do the same for them, find people to talk with regularly about how things are going, and when it comes to standards of living, keep the focus on His people.

Amos 1.2-2.3 – The Lord roars

Sometimes we go deep in our teaching and devotions, sometimes we go wide to look at the general principle being communicated, it’s all part of taking the whole counsel of God’s Word. Yesterday was more of a deep dive into a singular verse, today a wide view of a chapter; what is being taught here?

Well, v.2 sets the tone for the coming chapters,

“…”The LORD roars from Zion and utters his voice from Jerusalem; the pastures of the shepherds mourn, and the top of Carmel withers.”

Carmel is a mountain in Northern Israel we read of in 1 Kings 18 and serves as a reminder of idolatry and the enemies of Israel; basically they are going to shake at what is coming to them.

The rest of today’s passage is very formulaic, it follows a set pattern. Each of Israel’s neighbours (Amos almost drew a descending concentric circle around Israel as he wrote) has sin, upon sin, upon sin, upon sin; For three transgressions…and for four…I will not revoke the punishment…So I will send a fire…

In the Old Testament, fire is a very literal, physical tool used in the judgement of God, in the New Testament, it is more of a spiritual thing, think 1 Peter 1,

“6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith–more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire–may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

The point from Amos 1.2-2.3 is this; even though these are not God’s people (that is tomorrow), even though they are not professing to live by God’s Word, abide in His will, follow His ways, even though they not believers their sinful lifestyle will still result in punishment from the just, righteous, Almighty God.

They are still humans made in His image, they still have to make a choice as to their eternal destination, and God still wants them to choose the right way, and through His absolute impeccable character and holiness will act if they do not.

Surely, then, this must motivate us to live the most consistent witness we can, to show people that there is another way to live.

Surely this should stoke the fires of evangelism within us, to tell people that there is another way through our words and ways.

And surely this should renew within us a healthy respect and reverential fear for our great God, to make us know deep down that He is so holy and just and righteous that the behaviours and lifestyles we read of here are simply not acceptable before Him.

There is some pretty challenging stuff to come in Amos, but, the last verse of the last chapter points to our salvation – and we will point to this verse often -, the reward for not living in sin, upon sin, upon sin, upon sin,

“I will plant them on their land, and they shall never again be uprooted out of the land that I have given them,” says the LORD your God.” (9.15).