Quite a while ago, I saw a bumper sticker that said, “Smile, America. God loves you,” and I wondered how we could say that with all that is wrong and sinful about our society? We consider ourselves a Christian nation – one favored by God – much like the nation of Israel felt confident about themselves even though God was greatly displeased with them. The danger is that we can fall into this same overconfidence in this nation and in the church.
Overconfidence in the Northern Kingdom
In Amos 2:6, God lists off some of Israel’s transgressions. He accuses them of being materialistic and cruel. See also chapter 6:4. Greed was a problem. Chapter 3:10 speaks to violence and ignorance on what is right, and there was rampant injustice in Israel. We had people taking advantage of the needy and denying them justice in 5:12. Sexual immorality is cited in 2:7. They worshipped how they wanted to worship, and they disregarded God’s word (chapter 4:3-4).
Can we see the parallels? We have a society damaged by immorality and violence. Justice is deprived, and money frequently wins out. How many loan centers are willing to exploit those in need? Materialism is heavily emphasized, and God’s word sits on dusty shelves as people worship in their ways rather than God’s.
God, in chapter 4, provides a list of ways He has demonstrated Israel’s need for repentance. (See also II Samuel 14:14.) He provided warnings and allowed opportunity for repentance, but that repentance did not come. Amos 4:12 concludes that Israel should “prepare to meet [their] God.” However, chapter 5:4-6 states that there is a solution: “Seek God and Live.”
God wanted action from His children. What He got was apathy.
Application to Spiritual Israel
Within the church, it is easy to look at the society around us and compare it to what we read in Amos. What about ourselves however?
- Apathy. In Revelation 2, in His letter to Ephesus, Jesus cites a lack of zeal. The same is true of Revelation 3:1 regarding Sardis and of Laodicea in chapter 3:15-17. Like Israel, God was finding apathy within His kingdom. We have the abilities to serve God, but we may not be using them because we are content with where we are.
- Preferential Treatment. We cited preferential treatment in Amos, and, in James 2:1-9, we are warned of the very same thing. Here, appearances are the basis of judgment, but we can judge in other ways as well. Who are we interested in sharing the gospel with? Do we treat the gospel as if it is for middle-class Caucasians exclusively? Do we only share the gospel with people we morally approve of? (See I Corinthians 6:11.)
- Immorality. In the case of immorality, I Corinthians records an individual living in an incestuous relationship, and Paul instructs the congregation to purify themselves of this sin. Matthew 7:4-5 warns us to get immorality out of our own lives. Then we can help others with the immorality in theirs.
- Self-Centered Worship. I Corinthians 11 records Christians treating the Lord’s Supper casually, and we are reminded to respect the meaning of this worship. We are told to examine ourselves, making sure we remind ourselves what it means. We treat worship ritualistically too often, and we engage in services that please ourselves before God. James 1:22-25 warns us of failing to apply what we engage in and what we learn from study and lessons.
In Amos 7, the Lord shows Amos a plumb line, measuring the people and illustrating that people need to look at themselves – not by self-defined standards but by God’s standards. In Revelation 3:17, Laodicea misjudged themselves because they were looking at the wrong standards. See also II Corinthians 10:12. Yes, God does love us, but are we pleasing to Him? Do we measure ourselves by God’s standards? Are we doing what He desires? Only then can we benefit for the love He has for us.
lesson by Tim Smelser