Sermon Text: Amos 7:10-17

Sunday, July 18, 2021

Like I said earlier, the focus of today’s worship has a lot to do with those who God sends to us: prophets, apostles, disciples, pastors. In our first lesson, we saw Amos get bullied by, of all people, one of Israel’s priests (!!) and told to go home. In 1 Timothy, we saw the character description God lays out for the men who minister in today’s world: above reproach, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, and so on. And then in our reading from Mark, you heard how Jesus gave marching orders to his closest cohort of gospel workers, his disciples. Today’s focus is on God’s pastors and shepherds. 


Now you might wonder how relevant this topic is for the rest of us. After all, there’s only one pastor in the room. Unless I’m mistaken I don’t think anyone in this room is actively “desiring the role of overseer” Wouldn’t lessons like these be more practical to talk about at like a pastor’s conference or something – speaking to fellow pastors? Is today’s sermon just a 20 minute talk about me? Why are we talking about pastors and prophets to a room full of retirees, people who work different callings, stay-at-home parents, and kids? Because this topic has a ton of relevance and importance to everyone in the room. 


The reality is, you encounter pastors more often than you might think. Obviously, we meet together here on Sunday mornings. But also, some of you watch online devotions or TV programs with different Christian pastors from different backgrounds and denominations offering you insights from Scripture. Some of you like to read and the Christian books you check out from the library and buy from Barnes and Noble, the Christian blog posts you read online – so many of them are written by pastors. There are all kinds of pastors. Some are household names, they’re so popular. Some are unheralded, simple men who go about their work faithfully and quietly. Some pastors preach the word faithfully, others don’t. Some pastors just want to make you feel good, others dismantle you and then use the gospel of Christ to build you back up. Some pastors will lead you closer to Christ, others are like wolves in sheep’s clothing. Why is a discussion on pastors so important? For the same reason letter grades are given to restaurants that you see posted on their front windows ranking their cleanliness and standards. You need to know what you’re consuming. You want to be served by someone who will do good to your soul and feed your soul with the words of Jesus. You don’t want to be served by someone who will do your soul harm and tarnish the ministry of the gospel. That’s why we all need to talk about pastors, prophets and apostles, the messengers God sends to us.


So what kind of a pastor do you want to have? What kind of pastor is best for you? Well, Paul in 1 Timothy laid out a good list of traits to look for in a spiritual shepherd. That’s the bar by which our church body holds its pastors to. It’s a fine list. But our sermon for today is based on the Amos reading – and if we’re focusing on that reading this morning, we see that we want to be served by people like Amos. We need spiritual shepherds who are unapologetically prepared and willing to confront sin and call people to turn away from it. We need leaders and pastors who aren’t afraid to call out sin, even if it’s not the comfortable or cool thing to do. We need shepherds who care about sin just as much as they care about the good news. We need pastors like Amos in our lives. 


To help us understand the problem going on in our lesson for today, it helps if we peek at 1 Kings chapter 12. During the time of Amos, the land of Israel was in spiritual shambles. Israel was governed by a wicked king named Jeroboam. This section from 1 Kings gives us some important background. Here it says that The king [Jeroboam] made two golden calves. One he set up in Bethel, and the other in Dan. And this thing became a sin; the people came to worship the one at Bethel and went as far as Dan to worship the other. History tends to repeat itself, doesn’t it? If it wasn’t egregious enough that Israel pulled the golden calf stunt once, they outdid themselves a second time years later with two golden calves! Not only was this king breaking the first commandment (you shall have no other gods), but it was also God’s order that worship take place in Jerusalem. Not in Bethel or Dan. So Israel can be charged here with multiple counts of wrongdoing. 


Now that we have some of that context, we can sort through what’s going on in our lesson from Amos. If you joined us here last week you might remember we talked about how ordinary people can do extraordinary things for the kingdom – well, we can put Amos right in that category. Hear it from his own mouth: “I was neither a prophet nor the son of a prophet, but I was a shepherd, and I also took care of sycamore-fig trees. But the Lord took me from tending the flock and said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’ A simple shepherd and agriculture worker. No rich ministry lineage in his family. But God had equipped him for a new calling and a new task. 

And it seems like he was pretty effective at it. If you skim through the first 6 chapters in this book – it makes for some pretty dreary reading. Fire and brimstone preaching, announcing God’s condemnation and judgment. One prophecy after another. That all comes from Amos’s mouth. And then we roll up to chapter 7 and someone takes exception to the things that he’s saying. The prophet faces opposition. 


Amaziah is the guy in charge of the shady golden calf worship site in Bethel. And he notices that when Amos talks, something incredible is happening. There must be some divine power behind Amos’s words. Amaziah acknowledges Amos’s words twice. First, in a conversation with his partner-in-crime, the evil king Jeroboam – Amaziah confesses: The land cannot bear all his words. These heavy words forecasting Israel’s doom and destruction were wearing on its inhabitants. But then Amaziah turns to Amos and lets him have it. “Get out, you seer! Go back to the land of Judah. Earn your bread there and do your prophesying there. Don’t prophesy anymore at Bethel, because this is the king’s sanctuary and the temple of the kingdom.” It just goes to show you how spiritually bankrupt God’s chosen nation of Israel was. A priest, of all people, wasn’t having what God had to say about their sinful rituals at Bethel. Amaziah cared more about king Jeroboam’s reign and rituals than God’s reign and rituals. He knew that God was knocking on the door of Israel, trying to get through to them. After all, Amaziah confesses that Amos is a “seer”, someone who can speak of future events. But his hardened heart wanted no more of it. He tells Amos to beat it. Go take your words elsewhere. 

So now if you’re Amos, you have some options. Amos can turn around and walk away with his tail between his legs, defeated. He can backtrack and soften his message so that it’s more pleasing and palatable to Israel’s ears. Or he can double down and continue to tell them what God has to say about their sin and ways. Which option did Amos choose? The third one. You say, “‘Do not prophesy against Israel, and stop preaching against the descendants of Isaac.’ “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 the face of opposition and fury, Amos isn’t afraid to speak the words of God and give Israel the result of their sin – death, loss, exile. This is the result of their sin. It’s not a cool or popular message, but it’s what they need to hear. 


Men like Amos are the kind of leaders we need. Ones who aren’t afraid to preach law to our stubborn hearts. It’s a sad reality of many churches, Christian leaders, and ministries – they feed you what you want to hear about God instead of what you need to hear about God. There are churches and ministries that turn a blind eye to your lifestyle that goes against God’s word. There are churches that downplay sin. And why do they do this? Because it’s easy. Because it looks good and tastes good! I mean, how easy would my job be if we never cracked down on sin around here? Our sermons and services would be much shorter. What if our church and I never carried out church discipline or talked to one another about lingering sin? That’d do wonders for my reputation, my church’s reputation. Everyone would like me and like us. What if I came here on Sunday and said that God loves you just the way you are, so feel free to keep on? What if I insisted that a loving God wouldn’t dare send you to hell? We could attract a ton of people, I bet, with a spiritual meal like that. But remember, just because it tastes good doesn’t mean its good for you. It’s the #1 rule of food. And it’s so true spiritually as well.


We need to hear the uncool, uncomfortable message of law like Amos shared. Because inside of each one of us is a heart like Amaziah’s. Each one of us has a heart that wants to tell God to “get lost”. For Amaziah, he wanted to hang on to his golden calves and idol worship. What sin do you like holding on to? Maybe it’s lies. “Go away, God! A little lie never hurt anyone!” Maybe its hatred or a grudge against someone “God, go away – you don’t realize what they’ve done to me, they have it coming!” Perhaps you want God to leave you alone and let you remain in your lust, drunkenness, foul language, selfishness, whatever. But you attend a church where we preach that the wages of sin is death. You come to a church where you (I hope) are reminded week in and week out that you deserve all of the same things that Amos cried so long ago. You deserve death and you deserve to go to hell. It’s where you belong for what you’ve done to sin against God. That’s what we preach here. Many would fail to see a loving God in a message like this or in words like Amos’s 


But I would argue the opposite. In the sharp words of Amos’s prophecy, in the harsh reminders of law, you see so much of God’s beating heart for people he loves. The writer to the Hebrews says it so well – God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. Why do parents scream at their kids when they run in the street or when they stick their hands near a hot burner or light socket? Because they care. If a parent never disciplines or scolds their children, where is the love or concern for them? When I flip through my Bible and see page after page of God ticked off at his children – I see a loving God all over. A God who cares so much that he speaks up! Amos said in verse 15: But the Lord took me from tending the flock and said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’ If God didn’t care, he would have left them alone. But he didn’t do that. He sent them Amos. If God didn’t care about you he would’ve left you alone too. But he sent you Jesus. He cared about you so much that he unleashed his holy fury for sin on his only Son. God cares about you so much that he wanted another to take the punishment you deserved. God cares about you so much that he gives you this amazing Word – and he calls workers into the harvest to preach and teach the full message of sin and grace. God appoints people to this office to take sin seriously. Because he wants you to be saved. Because wants you to share in his holiness in heaven someday, just like Hebrews says. He disciplines those he loves. 


This text for today is special for me to share with you today because it was a year ago today that I was installed as pastor here. People have asked me how my start to ministry has gone, and honestly – it’s been fantastic here. Amos faced opposition as you saw today. I can’t really say I have. Things here have been a breeze this last year. A wise pastor gave me advice that at around the one year mark, the honeymoon might start to wear off. I get what he means. Now that we’re more comfortable around each other, maybe things will change now. Maybe I will face some opposition. Maybe I’ll hear from some who don’t care for my style, or my mannerisms, my new ideas, my worship services I put together. Maybe that’ll happen in the months to come. But my prayer for all of us going forward is this – may God give us hearts that never oppose the message of law and gospel. May God give us a willingness to deal with sin, to be corrected and disciplined now – so that one day we might experience the heavenly glory, won for us by our loving, caring savior Jesus on Calvary’s cross. Amen.