4 Dec 2013 by Adeline Lum CM-
Although God is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sins (Numbers 14:18), the book of Amos is a sober reminder that God’s patience has its limits (Amos 8:2b).
Then the LORD said to me, “The time is ripe for my people Israel, I will spare them no longer.”
On Dec 1, Pr Michael Ngui of DUMC shed light on the book of Amos, whereby the Israelites ceased to hear from God due to their sins.
The sins of Israel are ripe for God’s judgment, due to their idolatry, injustice, cheating, oppression, and bribery. They also loved the creation more than the Creator, in addition to preferring a god who is blind, deaf, and mute, so that they could continue committing sins. In fact, their minds were so depraved that a father and a son shared the same woman (Amos 2:7). Because of their sins, God has ordered them into slavery and exile, desolation and wars, and even deaths.
“Therefore this is what the LORD says:
‘Your wife will become a prostitute in the city,
and your sons and daughters will fall by the sword.
Your land will be measured and divided up,
and you yourself will die in a pagan country.
And Israel will surely go into exile,
away from their native land.’”
“In that day,” declares the Sovereign LORD, “the songs in the temple will turn to wailing. Many, many bodies—flung everywhere! Silence!”
Nevertheless, despite the physical judgment on Israel, nothing is more severe than ceasing to hear from the Lord (Amos 8:11). Everyone will face death eventually, but separating from God is the most severe punishment, shared Pr Michael.
And this state of being alone is very different from the apostles and followers of God in the Bible. For example, God was still with Apostle John even though he was exiled to island of Patmos. God was still with Job during his loss of children, wealth, and cattle. And even in death, Stephen welcomed it because it was not a judgment from God.
“The days are coming,” declares the Sovereign LORD,
“when I will send a famine through the land—
not a famine of food or a thirst for water,
but a famine of hearing the words of the LORD.
People will stagger from sea to sea
and wander from north to east,
searching for the word of the LORD,
but they will not find it.
In a God-famine period, finding God’s Word is like cold water to a desiccated soul. Blaise Pascal understood this correctly when he said, ‘there is a God shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created things, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus.’ That is why when King Josiah found the word of God; he tore his robes and humbled himself before God, which averted God’s judgment on Judah.
So, how is the book of Amos relevant to our lives today?
The reality of the judgment for Israel is also the reality of judgment for us today if we harden our hearts against God. This is because if we choose to repeat a sin, they become permanent, which result in hardening of our hearts and lastly, ceasing to hear from God. ‘As just has been said: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion”’ (Heb 3:15).
“God is patient in order to lead us into repentance. Malaysia has not seen natural disasters, desolations, and war. Thank God for that but let it not lull us into complacency,” said Pr Michael.
The book of Amos also helped us understand the delusions of a religious life in thinking we are pleasing to God. The Israelites were performing their religious rituals to God at that time, but their personal lives were far from following God. The warning to us, therefore, is not whether we are engaged in church activities, but whether we followed Him in whatever we do in our personal lives. Only when our heart belongs to God, we can follow Him.
Also, much like our world today, prophet Amos’ bad news was shunned because the Israelites only liked to hear encouraging words and good news. Likewise, today, we prefer to hear good and encouraging words above rebukes and corrections, which are equally important in building us up.
Lastly, sins are like spiritual junk food because they provide zero nutrition to our body and ruin our appetite for real spiritual food. But if we feast on God’s real spiritual food, we will always be satisfied in Him, unlike junk food that keeps us hungry.
“Are you hungry for God? What is your spiritual appetite today?” said Pr Michael. Only God can satisfy that hunger in your soul. Let us not harden our hearts today so that we do not cease to hear from God.