Sermon Notes on Amos 5

Let Justice and Righteousness Flow

Amos 5

One note, this is just the manuscript I used to preach from, meaning there may be some making context below. If you’d like to listen to the message, please check it out here.

-Examples of justice. We all long for it in every area of our lives. Think of your favorite movies: the little guy finally beating the big bully and getting his justice. The Mighty Ducks get revenge on the Hawks. Marty McFly gets the best of Buff.

Louie Zamperini Unbroken

John Perkins Let Justice Roll Down.

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  1. The Lord is His Name (1-17)

-I realize it’s been a couple weeks since we were last in Amos, so quick catch up:

 -Amos 1, 2 the surrounding nations and God’s people have not been living right, so God will bring a judgment upon them

-Amos 3 more sins of Israel, lion coming upon them

-Amos 4 their false worship and all the ways the people are not returning to God, towards the end “Prepare to meet your God, O Israel!” then “the Lord, the God of hosts is his name”

-Chapter 5 reverts back to oracles against Israel

  1. The Decimation of Israel (1-3)

-Remember, last chapter God listed 5 plagues he’d brought, yet they did not return to Him, this is picking up that theme about what it’s going to look like now as He passes out his judgment

-This judgment is not doled out callously, this is a dirge God is singing. One translation said this is a grave song, a minor key, said with much mourning.

-Israel is pictured as a young lady

-Where there used to be someone to help (God) He’s no longer there, forsaken

-It will be so bad, their forces will be reduced by 90%

-Those aren’t great odds – that’s like UCLA, the 11 seed beating Gonzaga, the 1 seed of the whole tournament 

-So how will God’s people respond to this judgment? Is it utterly hopeless?

-Thankfully, whenever God’s involved, there’s always hope!

  • Seek God and Live (4-13)

-If, and only if, the people will seek the Lord, then they will live, instead of being decimated.

-So what does it mean to seek the Lord? The rest of these verses are an explanation of what that will look like, but I’ll give you a spoiler: to care about justice. We’ll talk about justice in just a bit, after we finish walking through this section, so if you want to sleep for a minute, do it now!

-Second time these cultic centers have come up

4:4 “Come to Bethel and transgress, to Gilgal, and multiply transgression.”

-This time God is calling out their sin. Instead of encouraging them to visit these places to continue in their sin, this time he’s saying if the people REALLY want to live, if they want to worship acceptably, they need to seek Him instead of going to these centers. 

-Also through Beersheba in southern part of Judah. Place where Abraham lived, and where Jacob received God’s blessing and built an altar.

-Places are all the wrong ones, remember back to 1:2 “The Lord roars from Zion and utters his voice from Jerusalem.”

-The people keep going back to what they know and are accustomed to, and this whole time God is saying “I’m over here! Come back to me! Stop running away!”

-If any of you have dogs you’ve experienced this. Anytime they get a taste of freedom they’re gone! I have countless memories growing up after a dog had gotten out with treats trying to entice my dog to come back. In the same way, God is trying to entice His people to come back to Him. And why?

-All these places are on the chopping block. Gilgal will be sent into exile, Bethel will be destroyed 

-Gilgal into exile is a play on words, Hebrew galah is go into exile

-Pointing out the irony of looking to a place that sounds like exile as your source of hope and confidence

-Instead of finding their comfort & hope in various cultic centers, God again says “Seek ME if you want to live” 

-If they do not seek God, it’s repeated that he will destroy Joseph (head of all of Israel), anyone that would normally be able to help is gone.

-Then we get the first glimpse of the primary problem God is calling his people out for in vs. 7. Justice and righteousness is not being demonstrated by His people (again, we’ll dig further into this in a bit)

-The reason God is not accepting His people’s attempts to seek Him are because they are not actively living out justice and righteousness.

-Justice is being treated like wormwood, an unbelievably bitter plant. Anyone ever try to do a warhead challenge as they were growing up? 

-Righteousness cast down to the earth. Remember back in 2:7 “trample the head of the poor into the dust of the earth.” Not just the poor that are being trampled, the whole idea of righteousness is treated just a poorly as they’re treating the poor

-Focus then shifts back onto God

-Don’t forget, Israel’s God created the stars! He causes the sun to rise day by day, time passes through His hands. He also controls the rain that waters the earth. That’s who these people are messing with! Yahweh is His name.

-One of the features of Hebrew writing is using chiasm to create focal points. Think of it like a funnel, 2 equal points on each side that parallel each other leading into the primary point of the section. In all of vs. 1-17 the chiastic center is “The Lord is his name.” then everything else is something related to that theme

-Everything that we just studied will come up as a theme again as we continue in this section.

-Just as vs. 8 showed us Yahweh’s power, so 9 shows us God’s power again. Nothing can stand against God!

-Then, just as vs 7 was an accusation against Israel, 10-13 are an accusation against the powerful. 

-One note, the gate was the entrance to the city, patriarchs would gather there in the cool of the shade, people would bring cases to them to hear their verdicts. So when you read gate in many of the prophets, should think a court of law

-MSG “people hate this kind of talk, raw truth is never popular”

-Similar to the injunctions in Chpt. 2, poor are being used and abused

-They’ve extracted from them to build their houses and vineyards, but won’t get the reap the fruit of what they’ve built.

-Isn’t that rough? All the planning, hard word, execution, to not enjoy it? There’s good examples of this throughout history – basically every major movement in Christianity being traced back to a tiny group of believers who committed to pray together regularly for the good of their community. Sometimes not seeing the fruit of that until a century AFTER that entire group had died. Are you willing to do that kind of work today?

-We then see the same 2 words that appeared back in 7 in 12 “you who afflict righteousness, who take a bribe, and (CSB) deprive the poor of justice” See how this is a theme throughout this chapter?

  • Seek Good (14-17)

-Just as they were exhorted to seek God in the previous section, so here they’re exhorted to seek GOOD. So to seek God is equivalent to seeking good. How do you do that? Vs. 15 tells us: “hate evil and love good.” 

-Remember, I said 2 weeks ago when the love idea first came up in 4:4 all the fake offerings/worship they tried to do were called out, and they LOVED to openly commit these transgressions, these sins. Here is the alternative, instead of loving sin, love good, and not evil. That’s how God will be with you! And you do this by establishing justice in the gate – in the courts of law.

-Then, to conclude the chiasm, is the last lamenting for Israel in 16-17. People will be wiling, because the Lord will pass through their midst. That would have caused their minds to go back to an earlier moment when the Lord passed through their midst during the Passover in Ex. 12:12. When God comes, judgment comes with him.

Excurses: What is justice?

-Been alluding to this idea/topic pretty much since the first week we started studying this book, and here we now get to deal with it! What does biblical justice look like?

-Let’s keep this in perspective, has anyone heard of Calvinism or Arminianism? How about infant baptism or believer’s baptism? How about sacraments vs ordinances? Or a more recent example do we sing modern songs or only songs written over 100 years ago? Today one of the most hotly debated issues is over justice.

-Brief history of where we’ve run into problems. We viewed justice primarily from a social/horizontal lens. So social justice became THE primary means of whether or not one was a Christian. Ran into problems because it was quickly divorced from robust theology. I remember “social justice week” at my rich, Christian school. People would sleep in tents outside, eat only rice & beans, and then go back to their nice comfy dorm rooms for showers, homework, etc. Does that really make a difference?

-2 wings of a plane, faith & works. James 2:14-17 “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? …faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”

-It’s not works to get faith, “it is faith alone that saves, but the faith that saves is never alone.” Calvin

-Before we dig in, a couple notes/caveats to keep in mind

-Tendency today to take anything that’s said politically, we as Christians need to do a better job of not viewing everything exclusively through a partisan lens.

-We need to do a better job of listening James 1:19 “be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to become angry” Our cultural climate today boasts in the opposite: quick to speak, quick to become angry, and if there’s silence just start yelling about something being a justice issue. 

-Here’s where it gets tricky: because of that climate we’ve become conditioned to quickly jump to conclusions about things, we already have our responses formed before the person has even gotten their first word out. We’ve become conditioned to respond to the news with incredulity. We maybe believe about 5% of what the news tells us, so we inherently assume a position of suspicion, and continue in the suspicion until it’s proven to be right beyond a shadow of a doubt. Watch The Social Dilemma

-Then where it gets REALLY difficult is when we bring that same level of suspicion into the church, where we’re supposed to be a family who loves each other unconditionally. So instead of assuming motives of people, or jumping to conclusions about what they REALLY mean, ask questions to try to make sure you know what is really being said.

-While I know I’m still new here, God has called me to come preach the Word here every week to you, and I take that responsibility VERY seriously! I try VERY hard to not let it just be my words that I’m saying, but is an opportunity for us to hear from God Himself.

-So because it’s not my words that I’m saying, there are going to be things that challenge, convict, and at times even shock us, because last time I checked none of us are perfect, so there will always be ways in which we’re not measuring up to God’s perfect standard.

-That being said, I’m human, so I will make mistakes, I’ll misspeak, I do my best to not do that, but I talk a lot, so if/when something rubs you the wrong way, instead of jumping to conclusions, PLEASE come talk to me! I promise I don’t bite, and I’m operating with a certain dictionary that I know. EXPLAIN

-Using Tim Keller’s 4 articles on biblical justice

-The world tries to define justice from the wrong starting point. Basically, since the Enlightenment, people have been viewed as islands unto themselves. You enter the world as a blank slate, and then make the best of the circumstances you’re given.

-So what’s the problem with them?

-Sin. Rom. 3:23 “all have sinned and fallen short.” We don’t start with a blank slate.

-What experience and history show is sins tend to be passed down generationally along family lines. Example, anger. 

-Gross oversimplification of the heart of these issues, one side views the problem as exclusively an individual problem, the other side views it as exclusively a corporate problem. Then you’ve got others anywhere between those 2 extremes.

-Then the proposal to get justice comes at it from those 2 extremes

-1 says people just need to pull themselves up by their bootstraps

-Other says we need to enact laws/policies to address the injustice around us

-So what does the Bible say about justice? 

-Bible says justice isn’t built on either individuals or societal evils, instead it is based in the very character of God, who is both just and the justifier (Rom 3:26) This is another area the world misses – what happens when someone “sins”? Today they’re simply cancelled. Think of JK Rowling. This past week it’s been happening to Jeff Bezos.

-God’s justice is both retributive and reparative. Punishes evildoers, and restores those who are victims when injustice reigns supreme.

-Because acting justly is rooted in God’s character (and we as His people are commanded to be like Him) there are 4 key aspects to biblical justice that we are to realize: radical generosity, universal equality, concern for the poor & marginalized, responsibility individually and corporately

1. Radical Generosity

-World says either your money is yours, or your money belongs to the state. God says your money is His, and he entrusts it to you (1 Cor. 4:7 “what do you have that you did not receive?”)

-Mosaic law talked about theft always being wrong, yet every 7 years debts were all cancelled, every 50 years land went back to original landowner

-Also forbid landowners from harvesting all the way to the edge of their field so that the poor could glean food from their labor (Lev. 19, Deut. 24)

-Most striking passage is Acts 2:45 “They were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.” Not socialism (willingly selling possessions) but not completely libertarian either (distributing proceeds to all)

-Bruce Waltke “The righteous are willing to disadvantage themselves to the advantage of the community; the wicked are willing to disadvantage the community to advantage themselves.” 

Ezek. 18:5Job 29Isaiah 1, Luke 12 all talk about the need to be radically generous with the resources God entrusts to you. Unlike the world, which says this is only a horizontal/social issue, the Bible says this is primarily a vertical/God issue

2. Universal Equality

-You cannot get to everyone needing to be treated apart from a biblical worldview, there’s just no way. We’re too different! 

-Aristotle said some races and nationalities deserved to be slaves.

Prov. 22:2 “Rich and poor and this in common: the Lord is the Maker of them all.”

-Jesus treated everyone with dignity, even sinners and Samaritans

3. Concern for the Poor & Marginalized 

-While we treat everyone with dignity, we’re to have a special concern for the poor, weak, and powerless. 

-Think of James 1:27 “religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep unself unstained from the world.” 

-Notice 2 things: not “It’s not a religion it’s a relationship” 

-Keep unself unstained = holiness/sanctification 

-Jesus, when John the Baptist asks if he’s the one “the poor have good news preached to them.” 

-God always goes to the poor/marginalized, Jesus came poor & marginalized

Gal. 6:10 “as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”

4. Both Corporate and Individual Responsibility 

Joshua 7 – the sin of Achan, whole family died for his sin. Paul blames those who lived in Jerusalem and their rulers for crucifying Jesus in Acts 13:27

-Or think of the nations in Amos 1-2. Not all sins they committed, but they’re still held responsible/culpable. 

-but ultimately, we are individually responsible for our sins, think of Acts 16:31 “what must I do to be saved?” 

-Individually we all must believe in the Lord Jesus Christ to be saved. We can’t depend on the faith of your grandparents, you won’t be saved by walking into the church, you need to believe. Then when you believe you can start enacting biblical justice.

-So there are both corporate and individual dimensions, but individual is the strongest

(Timothy Keller, Generous Justice)  – “We do justice when we give all human beings their due as creations of God. Doing justice includes not only the righting of wrongs, but generosity and social concern, especially toward the poor and vulnerable. This kind of life reflects the character of God. It consists of a broad range of activities, from simple fair and honest dealings with people in daily life, to regular, radically generous giving of your time and resources, to activism that seeks to end particular forms of injustice, violence, and oppression.” 

-All of this starts with the us in the church. Even though we may disagree on some of our approach to policies and procedures, we need to be able to talk about these issues, otherwise our world will never see a faithful example of what they should be aiming for in relation to justice, and it begins with us, we need to start having conversations here with each other. 

-As I was thinking/praying through this idea this past week, I was struck with where/how I spend my money. I like Amazon, it’s fast, easy and cheap. Should I be buying things for the convenience factor?

(John Perkins, Let Justice Roll Down) – “This Jesus, this One who had brought good news directly from God in heaven, had lived what He preached. Yet He was arrested and falsely accused. Like me, He went through an unjust trial. He also faced a lynch mob and got beaten. But even more than that, He was nailed to rough wooden planks and killed. Killed like a common criminal. At the crucial moment, it seemed to Jesus that even God Himself had deserted Him. The suffering was so great, He cried out in agony. He was dying. But when He looked at that mob that had lynched Him, He didn’t hate them. He loved them. He forgave them. And He prayed God to forgive them. “Father, forgive these people, for they don’t know what they are doing.” His enemies hated. But Jesus forgave.” 

-We’ll get to the rest of this section next week, and see how justice ties into righteousness. But as you leave this week, be thinking/praying about what it looks like for you to live out God’s command to pursue justice through: radical generosity, universal equality, concern for the poor & marginalized, responsibility individually and corporately

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