Good sermons, crafted well, are wonderful things — until they step on your toes. And no, I’m not saying it just because I preach. Think about Martin Luther King’s “I have a Dream” speech — really a sermon. It attempted to lift up one race and urge another to embrace equality — included biblical references and all. The early part of Amos’ prophecy is a sermon that cleverly condemns the people that Israel wanted to hear condemned. In fact it sort of made the rounds of Israel’s enemies. At the end of each little condemnation, you can (in your imagination) hear the audience shout “Amen”. But as the sermon proceeds, the condemnations circle closer and closer to home, still receiving “Amens” until Amos starts meddling and condemning Israel’s own actions!
- Damascus (1:3-5) — Amen!
- Philistia (1:6-8)— Amen!
- Tyre (1:9,10) — Amen!
- Edom (1:11,12) — Amen
- Ammon (1:13-15)— Amen
- Moab (2:1-3)— amen
- Judah (2:4,5)— uh – amen?
- Israel (2:6-8)— crickets
And isn’t that the way it usually goes. We’re fine to hear about someone else’s condemnation — they deserve it! But keep your sermons out of my life! Now, it true that a preacher will occasionally cop a really bad attitude and sound (probably in his frustration) like “Everyone’s going to Hell and I’m glad”. But we must always be careful to 1) not kill the messenger, 2) realize that we really do need the critique to keep us on the straight and narrow, and 3) no one (not your or me) are perfect.
Israel’s sin was enormous and they needed to be confronted about it — and they were being confronted about it by the prophets. But they were telling the prophets to stop! But as Amos put it, “A lion has roared! Who will not fear? The Lord God has spoken! ho can but prophesy?!”
Amos 3:2 has an interesting thing for God to say, “You only have I chosen among all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities.” We don’t know for sure, but it appears as if this answer is coming from a people who are arguing that although they aren’t perfect, they’re better than the Gentile nations around them. It’s rather like a child arguing with a parent about about how much better they are than the kids from the really dysfunctional home up the street. “Well, yeah, the parent might say, but you’re my kid and you will not act this way.” Special privileges come with special responsibilities. We’re you raised in a Christian home with great parents? Are you sometimes tempted to compare yourself to other Christians to justify doing things you’d like to do. With special privileges come special responsibilities.
See you tomorrow, Lord willing.