Pastor Scott Jonas
Amos 1-2: Judgement against the Nations
Imagine if I started a sermon going on a rant about evil in the world. I say, look at China’s human rights abuses. They have taken freedom from Hong Kong. They’ve enslaved the Uyghurs. Now they’ve even kidnapped their own top women’s tennis player because she accused a high party member of sexual assault. China better watch out because what goes around, comes around.
Then imagine I go off on Russia saying, Putin is a dictator. He murders journalists. He rigs elections. There will be a price to pay for Russia’s acts of Evil.
Then Imagine I continue chastising five other nations for their atrocities which include slavery, genocide, ethnic cleansing, and war crimes.
Then imagine I say “Now let’s talk about the United States, the country that we love.” You’d expect me to opine on all of the good things about the US. You’re anticipating that I will show America to be the complete opposite of the other evil examples.
Then imagine that I invert your expectations. Instead of extolling America I call America to repent and I list all of the current injustices that God sees. And I warn of the coming wrath of consequences.
That is exactly the tone of the book of Amos.
Amos tears into seven foreign nations for their atrocities and then he adds Israel and Judah, the people of God to the list. It was a shock for them just as it is a shock to us.
What we know about Amos is only from this letter. He was a flock owner, a middle class man with a blue collar job 700 years before Christ. He was not a priest nor professional clergy. But he was faithful and he listened to the Lord. So God gave him a vision which he shared. The vision was the horrific injustices of the nations and the destructive consequences that are coming. Judah’s first injustice listed is that they have rejected the law of the Lord. Israel’s first injustice listed is that they trample the heads of the poor.
Amos is one of those books that is hard to read. It’s all about an ancient time that is hard to understand. It’s about people doing the worst to each other. But the core reason why it’s hard to read is because we don’t want to apply it to ourselves. That would be too painful.
If we apply the words of Amos to our situation we would have to admit some hard truths. The first one would be that all nations have a history of atrocities, even the best countries. There is something inside of us that only wants to romanticize the past. Unfortunately the past is just like the present, it’s complicated.
Romans says “All people have fallen short of the glory of God.” The same is true for nations. When we were in Hawaii, Ann and I went on a road trip to Hana which is a remote but beautiful end of the Island. On the road to Hana we listened to a App which told us about the attractions along the way but also the history of Hawaii. It informed us about the overthrow of the Queen of Hawaii in 1893. The Big five American agricultural companies hired outsiders to capture the Queen and force her to sign an agreement. That coerced agreement led to the annexation of Hawaii.
I didn’t like hearing about this. It made my heart sick. I wanted to just turn off the app and enjoy the scenery but I couldn’t do that. Once I knew about this atrocity I had to recognize it, internalize it and pray about it.
Just as all people are called to repentance so are all nations. Amos shows us that prophets are told by God to tell it like it is. Amos points to the injustice in foreign nations and his own. We are not to allow our citizenship to cloud our faith.
It’s easier just to say, “That may have been wrong but it’s the distant past. There’s nothing we can do about it now.” But the Bible talks about distant atrocities all the time and the wrath that can flow hundreds of years into the future.
In Luke 11 Jesus chastises his enemies saying, “Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets whom your fathers killed. 48 So you are witnesses and you consent to the deeds of your fathers, for they killed them, and you build their tombs. 49 Therefore also the Wisdom of God said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and persecute,’ 50 so that the blood of all the prophets, shed from the foundation of the world, may be charged against this generation, 51 from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who perished between the altar and the sanctuary.” In other words, Jesus is saying “Hundreds of years ago men killed God’s prophets. You will kill me because you are the by product of those atrocities. Evil infects the future. All Nations receive the judgment of natural consequences.
Thankfully Jesus can heal the past. He can heal the past of an individual and he can heal the past of a nation. The first step towards personal healing and national healing is to admit your sin. Describing something accurately allows for real repentance. We can ask God individually and collectively to forgive our atrocities. This opens us up to his forgiveness. Amos’ nations did not repent. Not Damascus, Gaza, Tyre, Edom, Ammon, Moab nor the Philistines. Neither did Judah nor Israel. They disconnected themselves from the forgiveness of God by not recognizing their injustice.
We don’t have to be like them. Christians should be the first ones to admit our nations failings and ask God to restore us. We know that God is faithful and he loves to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
We don’t have to dwell on our past. Once we recognize our sin and repent then we can move on. Daily we ask God for forgiveness and we move on. The same is true as a nation.
This topic may have upset you. I don’t enjoy upsetting you. But I have an obligation to give you the words of God. Reading Amos is upsetting. A good sermon is supposed to upset you and soothe you. An honest look at sin makes our stomach turn. But the forgiveness of God makes everything right. Jesus came to earth to make everything right.
Isaiah prophesied about the coming Messiah saying
Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights;
I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations.
2 He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street;
3 a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench;
he will faithfully bring forth justice.
4 He will not grow faint or be discouraged till he has established justice in the earth;
and the coastlands wait for his law.
5 Thus says God, the Lord, who created the heavens and stretched them out,
who spread out the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people on it and spirit to those who walk in it:
6 “I am the Lord; I have called you[b] in righteousness; I will take you by the hand and keep you;
I will give you as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations”