A sermon based on Amos 7:10-15
Sunday, July 16, 2017 – Pentecost 6B
They call it combat fishing for a reason. You're not just fighting the fish, but fights can quickly break out between over fishing rights. One fisherman wants the good spot in the river—right where it bends and a particular channel brings the fish right through. But another fisherman is already there. But that doesn't stop the first. He muscles his way in just feet from the other. That's when the fight starts. "You can't fish here. I was here first. You're too close! Our lines will get tangled! Back off! Go find somewhere else to fish!"
Today we hear of a similar fight, but it's not over fishing rights, but rather over preaching rights. "Get out of here! You have no place here! I was here first. Find somewhere else." That's what one priest told a prophet. And the fight ensued. I guess you could call it combat preaching.
Over the last few weeks we've looked at Job, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, and saw how God called them to proclaim the message of his grace even in the face of some serious opposition. Today, we continue that theme looking at another prophet of God and his call: Amos was a farmer and a shepherd… until God called him to preach. And, like all the prophets of God, he too faced opposition. A priest named Amaziah didn't want Amos preaching in his turf. But Amos wasn't going to give up his place in the river, so to speak. He was going to preach until he caught, or rather, God caught people by that message.
That's what we're called to do too. Last week we were called to "man up." This week, we're called to get a little stubborn, not in our sin, but in our witness, so we don't give up, even when we face opposition. Our text for consideration is found in Amos 7:10-15
10 Then Amaziah the priest of Bethel sent a message to Jeroboam king of Israel: "Amos is raising a conspiracy against you in the very heart of Israel. The land cannot bear all his words. 11 For this is what Amos is saying: "'Jeroboam will die by the sword, and Israel will surely go into exile, away from their native land.' "
12 Then Amaziah said to Amos, "Get out, you seer! Go back to the land of Judah. Earn your bread there and do your prophesying there. 13 Don't prophesy anymore at Bethel, because this is the king's sanctuary and the temple of the kingdom."
14 Amos answered Amaziah, "I was neither a prophet nor a prophet's son, but I was a shepherd, and I also took care of sycamore-fig trees. 15 But the Lord took me from tending the flock and said to me, 'Go, prophesy to my people Israel.'
People don't always like what I have to tell them as a pastor. "The devil is real and he is out to kill you eternally. You are a sinner incapable of any good before God on your own. It is a sin to have sex unless you're married. It is a sin to hold a grudge against that person who hurt you. It is a sin to speed, to be lazy, to get drunk. Hell is for real. And many people will go there. If your faith isn't growing, it's dying. And I'm concerned for your soul."
Sometimes people don't like what the pastor says so much, that they just don't listen. They "unfriend" me on Facebook. They ignore me when I call. They delete my emails before reading them. They don't like what will be said, so they don't listen.
That's how it was with Amos. Amaziah and Jeroboam, worshipping in Bethel, where there was an altar to two golden calves, didn't like what Amos was saying. He was preaching that for Israel's sin God would send punishment. They would be attacked by an enemy nation, the king would be killed, the people carried away as slaves. Amaziah equated the message Amos preached to treason. Where was his patriotism? Where was his national pride? This Amos was a Benedict Arnold, betraying his country with this message of doom. And he claimed God sent him!
Not to mention Amos was cutting into Amaziah's revenues. This was his turf. This was where he made his bread. And Amos' message conflicted with his message of peace and prosperity. He didn't like it. So he tattled to the king: "Amos is raising a conspiracy against you… Amos is saying: "'Jeroboam will die by the sword, and Israel will surely go into exile, away from their native land.'" "Stop him, King!" And to Amos he said, "Get out, you seer! Go back to the land of Judah. Earn your bread there and do your prophesying there." "This is my fishing hole!"
But Amos wouldn't budge. He wasn't in the business for the money. He was making a decent living back home as a shepherd and fig farmer. He didn't choose to come here. He probably would have preferred to stay home. But God sent him with this message. And Amos had to answer to God before he'd answer to Amaziah or King Jeroboam. So he'd stubbornly keep right on preaching.
Now, friends, you know that when you speak the truth of God's Word, a message that you didn't come up with, that you don't get paid to preach, that you'd maybe not speak at all, but would be content to just stay home instead, it will bring you opposition. Some people won't like you have to say. They'll want nothing to do with a message of sin, of punishment from God, of hell. And that can sometimes lead us to say nothing at all.
Here's a true story: A pastor was once encouraging his members to invite a friend to church for Easter. One woman, let's call her Sally, had a good friend that sat next to her at work. Let's call her Sue. She had known her for seven years, but never invited her to church. But with her pastor's encouragement, she built up the nerve and finally invited her. Sue started laughing. She not only accepted the invitation, but confessed to Sally that her pastor had encouraged her to invite a friend to church as well. And Sue intended to invite Sally. But the laughter stopped when the two realized that they both belonged to the same church, but kept their faith hidden from each other for seven years. True story.
Does that sometimes happen to you? Have you failed to talk to a co-worker about your faith because it's "none of your business"? Friends, it is your business. If your neighbor's house caught on fire in the middle of the night, it would be your business to warn him. Yes, he might get mad at you for waking him up at 3am. Yes, he might have some choice words for you even as he came to the door. But if you say nothing, you would be responsible for his life.
Friends, your neighbor's house may not be on fire, but your unbelieving friends and co-workers are headed for the fire of hell. That's your business. You don't need to be a prophet or a prophet's son. You don't need to be a pastor or a pastor's kid. Amos was a layman, a shepherd, and a farmer. But he stubbornly spoke the truth in love, even when others tried to threaten him and silence him.
But for our apathy, for our cowardice, for our silence, for stubbornly refusing to share the message God has given us to share… we deserve to go into exile. We deserve to die by the sword. We deserve hell.
But God has sent his prophets (and his evangelists and apostles) to preach that harsh truth of the law to us, not just to scare us, not to manipulate us, not to make us despair. But he sends one to preach that harsh truth to us, to lead us to repent of our sin, to turn to God for help, to seek the solution to our sin that's only found in him. So don't be stubborn, but confess your apathy, cowardice, silence, and sin to God.
And then listen to the message that God sent his prophets, evangelists, and apostles to preach: that message of comfort. Amos' message wasn't all gloom and doom. After he preached the law, he comforted those who confessed their sin by the sweet message of the Gospel. In the last verses of his book he wrote…
11 "In that day I will restore David's fallen tent. I will repair its broken places, restore its ruins, and build it as it used to be… 13 "The days are coming," declares the Lord, "when the reaper will be overtaken by the plowman and the planter by the one treading grapes. New wine will drip from the mountains and flow from all the hills. 14 I will bring back my exiled people Israel; they will rebuild the ruined cities and live in them. They will plant vineyards and drink their wine; they will make gardens and eat their fruit. 15 I will plant Israel in their own land, never again to be uprooted from the land I have given them," says the Lord your God.
And of course, you know the perfect restoration that is yours in Christ. Through his perfect life and innocent death, your apathy, cowardice, silence, and every sin is removed. You will not endure the hell that you deserve. You will have the paradise of heaven, with an abundance of every good thing, picture in Amos 9. And this is all yours by God's grace alone.
And it's that grace that makes us eager to do whatever he asks to show our thanks. And what does he ask of us? To go and share the message he's given us. And you don't need to be a prophet or a prophet's son. You don't need to be a pastor or a pastor's kid. But you can still be like Amos who stubbornly spoke the truth in love, even when others tried to threaten him and silence him. You can be so stubborn.
Because the Lord takes you, from whatever occupation you have or had, and he says to you, "Go, prophesy to the people in Kenai, Soldotna, Nikiski, Sterling, and Kasiloff. Tell them the harsh truth of my law that you might share with them the comforting truth of my gospel."
And coming up, you have an opportunity to learn to do that better. Come to the Praise and Proclaim evangelism training the evening of Friday, August 4th. Prayerfully consider practicing sharing your faith on Saturday, August 5th. As you do, you will face opposition. You may get doors slammed in faces. You will have people upset that you're in their space! They may yell at you, "Get out of here! Go away! Go back to where you came from!" But you can be so stubborn. You can be as stubborn as Amos. And some will hear and heed the warning. They'll listen and they'll learn. They'll hear the comfort of the gospel and they'll believe and be saved.