“Then I said, “Lord God, please stop! How will Jacob survive since he is so small?” The Lord relented concerning this. “This will not happen either,” said the Lord God.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
What good is the church? If the church suddenly disappeared from the world, would it make any difference? If you count yourself a follower of Jesus, your knee-jerk anger to that is probably a quick, “Absolutely it would!” but think about it a little more than that. Make it personal. If you are a church person, if your church suddenly vanished from its community, would anyone notice? Unfortunately, for many churches, the answer is no. Yet God intends for His people to have a transformatively significant impact on the world around them. Amos gives us an example of that here.
“Woe to those who are at ease in Zion and to those who feel secure on the hill of Samaria — the notable people in this first of the nations, those the house of Israel comes to.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
One of the things Jesus talked about more than just about anything else was money. He spoke frequently about our attitude toward our money and condemned our tendency to trust in it more than we ought. He warned against trying to serve two masters—God and money. On one occasion, He commanded a rich young man to actively sell all of his possessions before he could come follow Him. It’s almost like He was trying to say something. It wasn’t something new though. He was right in line with what the prophets of old had been saying for a long time. Amos gives us a great example here.
Knowing we’re supposed to love the hard to love people in our lives, even knowing the theological reasons for that, is one thing. Actually seeing it in practice is something entirely different. This past Sunday as we continued in our series, Hard to Love, we took a look at a remarkable story of the kind of transformation that can take place when we let love loose into our hard to love situations. You don’t want to miss this.
Let me start
this morning with a tough question. In
fact, I want you to close your eyes in order to answer this one. How would you respond if your child was murdered? That’s an emotional question, I know, so go
ahead and feel that emotion for a minute.
Let me show you a picture. This
is a picture of Mary Johnson and her son.
In 1993 Mary’s son, Laramiun Byrd, was 20 years old. One night he went to a party with some
friends. As perhaps many young men are
wont to do he did a little bit of fronting at the party to the benefit of his
ego and his image in front of his friends.
Now, this might not be such a big deal on a normal night, but this
particular party was also attended by a 16-year-old young man named O’Shea
Israel. O’Shea took up Laramium’s
challenge and did a bit of fronting of his own.
After all, he couldn’t be made to look bad in front of his own friends. Things digressed from there and the next
morning Mary got a call asking if Laramiun had come home the night before. He hadn’t.
Not long after some officers arrived to let her know that he had been
murdered at the party. In an
instant—perhaps just as you imagined—her world completely fell apart.
“I hate, I despise, your feasts! I can’t stand the stench of your solemn assemblies. Even if you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; I will have no regard for your fellowship offerings of fattened cattle. Take away from me the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps. But let justice flow like water, and righteousness, like an unfailing stream.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
Have you ever received a gift you really didn’t want? I remember playing a big family White Elephant game when I was growing up. I can’t remember exactly what the first gift I opened was, but it was something pretty cool and I was pleased. But then, my uncle used his turn to steal it for my cousin. The second gift I opened was literally a paperweight. I was crushed. I may have gotten a gift, but I most decidedly did not want it. That was a little bit like how God felt about the worship of the Israelites here. He wanted one thing, but they kept giving Him another; and He wasn’t happy about it.
“Pursue good and not evil so that you may live, and the Lord, the God of Armies, will be with you as you have claimed.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
One of my favorite things to do growing up was read the newspaper comics. The top of my list were always Calvin and Hobbes and The Far Side. I even purchased the complete boxed set of each of them when they became available. Once they retired, though, I had to move on to others. On my second tier, Non Sequitur was always one of my favorites. Let me explain what this has to do with what Amos is saying here.