December 13, 2017

Today you should read: Amos 5

This chapter in Amos is all about God’s justice. The Merriam-Webster definition of justice is:  “the maintenance or administration of what is just especially by the impartial adjustment of conflicting claims or the assignment of merited rewards or punishments.”

In this chapter the Lord rebukes His own people for turning justice into wormwood, a bitter-tasting, poisonous plant (v.7), for hating those who speak truth (v. 10), for trampling on the poor (v. 11), for ignoring the needy at the gates (v. 12) and of course the most famous passage from this book, the verse that Martin Luther King Jr. used in conclusion from one of him most famous civil rights speeches…

But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.  Amos 5:24

Reading God’s holy yet loving Word here should cause us to pause and think about our part in God’s justice here on this earth. Especially verses 10-13. I’ve come across this chapter and some of these verses a lot in the last few years as I’ve studied God’s justice in an unjust world as of lately and for some reason v. 10-13 really stood out to me this time. In ancient Israel, the leaders would gather at the city gate to decide the civil cases that came to them. However, instead of making fair judgments based on the TRUTH, those leaders would accept bribes or turn a blind eye to certain cases if they didn’t give them a personal advantage, even if they were righteous pleas.

These particular passages shook me in light of what I’ve heard about and even see with some Christians doing the same with politics in society and within their churches. Have we ignored truth for our own personal gain? Have we turned a blind eye to just causes because they don’t fit in with our agenda or beliefs? Have we hidden truths and ignored justice in certain situations because it can cause our ministry or witness to crumble? Sadly, too often I’ve seen cases and heard stories where this has been the case and as we all know, Amos 5 is just as true today as it was in 760 B.C. As v. 15 says, If we truly hate evil and love what is good, we will do everything we can to establish justice at the gate. For all. Because our God is a just God. His mercy and grace is meshed with His justice on the Cross. Someone still needed to pay for the penalty of sin, whether that’s Jesus or us. It’s our responsibility to act on God’s behalf to continue to bring justice to unjust situations and it can also open up doors with others who don’t know Christ but will see our motive behind such desires and therefore seek this just God in connection with their own desires for what the innocent deserve.

If you have some extra time today, listen to one of my favorite Sojourn worship songs about that famous Amos 5:24 passage.

 

By: Erik Koliser — West Campus Pastor

December 12, 2017

Today you should read: Amos 4

We read earlier about God’s reasoning in punishing the Northern Kingdom of Israel in Amos 3. The people of Israel forgot “how to do right” (Amos 3:10). They deserved the coming punishment from the Lord.

In today’s passage, we read, first, about another reason that Israel will be punished. They were oppressing the poor by not feeding them. The wealthy of the land had plenty to eat (fat cows! v. 1), yet they did not try to help their less fortunate neighbor.

In response, God lets them know the days are coming when he will lead them away with hooks. The ESV says with fishhooks! If you’re under the age of 25, you’re probably picturing this:

No, this isn’t about that one episode of SpongeBob where they get too close to the fish hooks. This is actually a reference to another verse in the Bible.

“Because your raging against me and your arrogance have reached my ears, I will put my hook in your nose and my bit in your mouth; I will make you go back the way you came.” – Isaiah 37:29, CSB

While the Israelites were worshipping idols and boasting about the amount of their offering, the Lord was warning them that sin does not go unpunished.

We see that the Lord did bring the Israelites “back the way [they] came.” They wanted to live destructively, so the Lord brought destruction as a means of bringing them back to Him. However, they would not return to the Lord.

What encouragement can we take from this? I think this passage can serve as a warning to us that our sin has consequences and the Lord often uses those consequences as a way to bring us back to Him. I think we can also see that the Lord cares about those who are needy, and we should seek to help those around us who need help.

Questions to think about:

  1. What circumstance in my life is God using to bring me to repentance?
  2. How can I help someone this week who is in need?

By: Lucas Taylor — Worship Ministries Intern

December 9, 2017

Today you should read: Amos 2

The Judgement of the Lord is not something that we have any ability to escape. Our pride and our self-indulgence tells us that we can do what we want and get away with it. The reality is that it will always catch up to us. We even have this mentality that God should not punish us. Thankfully the ultimate judgement and punishment for sin was taken on by Jesus, however that does not mean that we do not have consequences for sin.

In reading this chapter you have seen that Judah and Israel have really messed up and are continuing to mess up. A lot has happened up to this point in the history of the Israelites, and the promise God made to Abraham seems far from being a reality. So the Israelites seem to just continue to mess up.

It seems like God would give them a break since they had been through so much; however that is not at all what God does. God says through his servant Amos many times, “I will not revoke the punishment.” The sin and transgressions deserve consequence.

You see what happens is when we sin and have to deal with the consequences, we want to say that God is mean, or God is unfair. This is so far from true, because God is just. God and sin do not mix. This is why he looked away from His son Jesus when He became sin.

Because we don’t want to accept, deal with, or own up to our sin and the consequences of it we tend to try to run. Verses 14-16 describe very clearly that we cannot get away from the consequences of sin. So why try? Why not go before our Holy God and confess and repent today. There still may be consequences to deal with, but you will be dealing with them in the right way, with God. I like to call it taking the right next step. Others say falling forward, or making the best of a bad situation.

None of us are perfect and free from sin and failure in our life. So with that knowledge and the understanding of the justice of God, what is your next right step? Will you fall forward into your Heavenly Father today?

 

By: Dakota Gragg — Student Ministry Associate

December 8, 2017

Today you should read: Amos 1

Welcome to the book of Amos!  Amos is the 3rd of the twelve minor prophets in the Old Testament.  The book of Amos was the first Biblical prophetic book written.  Amos lived during the time of Hosea and Isaiah about 750 B.C.  While he resided in Judah (where Uzziah was king), he was preaching to the northern kingdom of Israel.  This book covers many important topics including God’s power and omnipotence, His judgement on those who disobey, and even some social justice issues.  As a prophet, Amos was crying out against sin and begging people to repent while telling of God’s impending judgement.

We learn from verse 1 that Amos was a shepherd by trade, and lived in the town of Tekoa in Judah.  God spoke to him and gave him the message he would deliver.  The message from God came in visions 2 years before the earthquake mentioned in Zechariah 14:5.

The prophecy begins with God’s declaration against Israel.  The LORD’S voice will roar from Zion and thunder from Jerusalem!  A drought is coming (v.2).  Then the LORD proceeds to proclaim judgement on 5 of Israel’s neighbors.

Damascus

The people of Damascus have sinned again and again (this shows God’s patience) and will not go unpunished (v.3).  God said He would send down fire on the king’s palaces and on the fortresses.  The people will be captured and go into captivity.

Gaza

The people of Gaza have also sinned again and again and will not go unpunished.  God will burn their walls with fire and “slaughter” the people from Ashdod.  The few Philistines left will be killed.

Tyre

Because of their sin, the people of Tyre will also be punished with fire and destruction.

Edom

The people of Edom sinned by showing no mercy, so God will burn and destroy their fortresses.

Ammon

The Ammonites attacked and brutally killed even pregnant women.  God said he would use their enemies to destroy them like a whirlwind in a mighty storm and they would be taken into exile.

WOW!  That’s a lot of destruction!  Why?  God is holy God and will not tolerate sin.  What about mine and yours?  We sin right?  Yes, but if you’ve come into a relationship with God through Jesus, your sin has been dealt with on the cross.  Jesus bore the brunt of God’s wrath for your sin.

Spend a moment today thanking Jesus for the cross and His payment for your sin.  Confess any outstanding sin and deal with it before you get your day started.

By: Tim Parsons — Lead Pastor