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4. God Requires Social Justice

the message of God's prophet Amos, 5:14, 24. God Rules, O.K.?

1. God speaks to people through people. 1:3 “This is what the Lord says” (also vs6, 9, 11, 13; 2:4, 6 etc.) – How does the Lord speak? 1:1 “The words of Amos, one of the shepherds of Tekon.” I hope that as many of you come Sunday by Sunday to KIC, you come anticipating, hoping, expecting to hear ‘the Word of the Lord’ to you, somehow through His people.

The word ‘shepherd’ describing Amos is not the most common word. It is ‘noked’, a shepherd who cared for a particular breed of sheep, the Arabian ‘nakad’, an ugly looking dwarf sized sheep – whose wool was especially valuable. Application: You can’t always tell by outward appearances, the real value of what you see and hear. God may lodge a little something in your heart today He will bring to your mind tomorrow when it is just the right word for you to have. You may turn TV, radio on/off at your convenience, but not God!

2. God speaks in His own time.

This prophecy is dated 1:1 “two years before (an) earthquake”, when two particular kings were enthroned. And it contained a surprising message from God: vs2 “the Lord roars from Zion.”

When does a lion roar? Not when hunting, stalking or when resting. A lion roars at the moment of attack! Amos – as a shepherd, knew from experiences! His surprising message to Israel was this – ‘Although you are in a time of comparative peace and prosperity, and everything is quiet around you; watch out!’ ‘God is on the attack’.

8:8 and 9:5 give us a Sudanese visual aid. As you watch the River Nile rise after the flooding rains higher upriver, and you know every year it rises and then falls, so – without knowing the precise dates – we know God speaks, He certainly speaks – “(This earthquake) makes the whole land rise like the Nile, and be stirred up, and then sink like the river of Egypt.”

3. God brings ultimate justice. Chapters 1 and 2:5 describe why God brings “fire, destruction, wrath,” upon Israel’s neighbours. Their wickedness is briefly described in each section: “threshing other nations, capturing communities to slavery, ignoring written agreements made, murdering rather than having compassion, slaughtering pregnant women and their unborn children in a greedy rampage for personal power.”

Illustration: God will settle all injustice. U.S. President Bush last year quickly changed the name of his campaign against Al Qaeda when Moslems and Christians – including myself, were deeply offended by his first choice: “ultimate justice” is something no man can give – only God can do so, and He will.

4. God’s own people are not immune from God’s justice. “Judah” 2:4, 5, “and Israel” 2:6-16 are both judged with fire and destruction by God. Having been “diverted into worshiping false gods” and “rejected God’s laws”, having turned their hearts from God, God turned His wrath upon them.

Please read Amos 2:6-16:

Judgment on Israel

6 This is what the Lord says:

“For three sins of Israel, even for four, I will not relent. They sell the innocent for silver, and the needy for a pair of sandals. 7 They trample on the heads of the poor as on the dust of the ground and deny justice to the oppressed. Father and son use the same girl and so profane My holy name. 8 They lie down beside every altar on garments taken in pledge. In the house of their god they drink wine taken as fines.

9 “Yet I destroyed the Amorites before them, though they were tall as the cedars and strong as the oaks. I destroyed their fruit above and their roots below. 10 I brought you up out of Egypt and led you forty years in the wilderness to give you the land of the Amorites.

11 “I also raised up prophets from among your children and Nazirites from among your youths. Is this not true, people of Israel?” declares the Lord. 12 “But you made the Nazirites drink wine and commanded the prophets not to prophesy.

13 “Now then, I will crush you as a cart crushes when loaded with grain. 14 The swift will not escape, the strong will not muster their strength, and the warrior will not save his life. 15 The archer will not stand his ground, the fleet-footed soldier will not get away, and the horseman will not save his life. 16 Even the bravest warriors will flee naked on that day,” declares the Lord.

Notice in vs10-12, the words “I, I, I … but you …”. God provided for His people’s physical needs, and their spiritual needs, but they “silenced the prophets God told to speak.” Mankind – who thinks he is almighty tries to silence God – who actually is almighty!

Application: And you and I may have tried to do it too! We choose the parts of the Bible we read and obey, work hard at some while we avoid what doesn’t suit us. Some Sudanese tribes may have an excuse: God’s word is not all available in their language. But for most of us we have it all – but we do not heed it all. Only our favourite bits, ignoring the rest.

5. So, God sends catastrophes. Amos 3:1, 4:1, 5:1 all begin “Hear this word … the Lord (has, seen and knows and is going to deal with you).” 3:2 ‘I have chosen you … but I will punish you’, says God. (As in the New Testament: God disciplines those He loves; He prunes serving branches for fruitfulness). See Hebrews 12, John 15.

4:1 “You oppress the poor and crush the needy” while outwardly going through religious practices vs4-5. You are hypocrites ‘bragging about your donation’ while living in luxury at the expense of others. See what God had done: chapter 4. Read Amos 4:6, 7, 8, 10, 11 “I (God) have done this”. In your past – you have ignored Me – now then vs12 “prepare to meet your God”. Five terrifying words!

Illustration: When God withdraws some of His blessings and benefits today, we have a world summit, or we change economic policies; we contrive together to ‘manage ourselves out of this crisis’!

Application: Missions are tight for money, permissions are denied: leaders who will say God is speaking to us. Where are the country or mission/business leaders who will call their people to confess their sin – open sin and secret sin; to repent before God and to cast themselves on God’s mercy? 4:13 “(God) forms the mountains, creates the wind, reveals His thoughts to man, eclipses the sun, treads the earth: the Lord God Almighty is His name.” I think the devil gets blamed for a lot that God does!

Application: Notice God’s full description. How big is your God? Is He a ‘pet’ domesticated God you bring out to play with now and again? Is He a lame God? A cute and cuddly God? A lucky charm God – touched when you want something? Or, is He the God of all these minor prophets, including Amos?

6. God restates what He wants from us. 5:4, 6 “This is what the Lord says: Seek me and live.” How do I seek the Lord? Read on … vs7 by seeking justice and righteousness for all; vs11 by meeting the needs of the poor, not living in a way that makes it worse exacerbating them; vs12 encouraging righteousness (holiness), avoiding bribery of any kind – which exploits the poor who cannot give it. Holy living costs! You say ‘but it’s a way of life’. Exodus 23:1-9 “do not follow crowd in doing wrong.” Some Christians cause great problems for others by living to unchristian standards. If “it has to be done” – then your God is not able, and therefore not worth following. Justice that has to be bought is not justice! Which shows a huge difference between ‘mankind’s peace settlements’ with enormous monetary aid incentives – and ‘God’s justice’ put simply in 5 words again: “Love your neighbour as yourself.”

Vs14 “Seek good and not evil, that you may live. Then the Lord God Almighty will be with you, just as you say He is.” A real presence of God, not a false presence living off the past. Vs15 God walks through His people, as He did in Egypt bringing death – but this time His own disobedient, careless people, are the sufferers.

Application: Since God can turn against the Israelites, do you think He can also turn against Christians? Beware. He can.

Note the Old Testament term 5:18 ‘the day of the Lord’. On Judgement day, it will be too late to change.

Application: Why have you come to KIC tonight? Answer in your mind. Now listen to God: 5:21-23 “I hate and despise your religious gatherings … I do not accept what you offer … your Christian singing turns me off as I know you don’t mean half of what you sing.”

So – we know what God doesn’t want: what does He want? vs24 is the key, core verse of Amos: “let justice roll on like a river, righteousness (holiness) like a stream bubbling away that never dries up.”

‘Just as the waters flood down the wadi in the rainy season, and the perennial stream continues to flow in the driest of summers, so let justice and righteousness flow through court, market, home and business centres, flooding the whole scene with freshness and cleansing away every impurity. Thus alone could there be reconciliation to God.

J.E. McFadyen (in A Cry for Justice) says, “These are immortal words; they express in imperishable form the essence of religion, the simple demands of God upon man. The justice, the righteousness for which Amos here pleads is … a social thing: it is a tender regard for the poor, hatred of the evil conditions that have dwarfed their lives (5:15); it is the spirit that yearns and works for the removal of these conditions; it is, in a word, respect for personality, fair play as between man and man. Let justice, in that sense, run through society, unimpeded by greed or selfishness or cruelty, let it roll on without let or hindrance like the waves of the sea; let it roll on unintermittently, all the year round, whatever be the political weather; let it roll on ‘like a perennial stream’, which even in the fiercest heat of summer never dries up.’” Tatford: Prophet of Social Injustice, p.93.

7. Having restated what God requires, God gives Amos four pictures, chapters 7 and 8.

a. Locusts eating crops – God’s judgement, Amos begs God to stop, and God does. 7:1-3.

b. A blazing fire engulfing everything – God’s judgement, Amos pleads with God to stop and God does. 7:4-6.

c. A plumbline. Illustration: testing a wall of Omdurman shop, is it true (straight etc)? Not sure how this works on the Bank of Khartoum multi-storey construction, ask Ming? God puts His measure against His people. If you have a Bible which presents Lord in capital letters or small lower case letters, notice the change here. Lord = Jehovah Who saves. It changes here 7:7, 8 to Lord ‘Adonai’ – no more is God always Saviour, He is often judge: NIV vs8 “I will spare them no longer.”

d. A basket of harvested fruit 8:1-3. After the harvest it is too late to change. Vs11, 12 God’s word towards salvation will no longer be heard. Like the River Nile inevitably rises and falls 8:8 – God’s time for judgement has come.

Application: Do not delay in getting right with God! Illustration: Friend membership offer for sports club. Went after weeks – day after the person left! Too late.

8. God’s people have trouble with God’s prophets 7:10-17 God speaks in His own time, bringing real justice to everyone. He is involved in disasters, attracting attention. He restates His consistent demands. God’s people choose to accept or reject.

Illustration: State and church align to reject God’s messenger. Like a CD or music tape – ‘I’m not in the mood for that’ turn it off and pick another! “Get out”, “Don’t prophesy any more” vs12, vs14. “Go home you foreigner” vs12. But the prophet has no option. He must be where God wants and say what God says. I am a pastor, not a prophet. Yet my research last year on the role of an International Church may contain some prophetic words for KIC. Elders are looking at some ideas. It is available, some in congregation are reading it. Rejecting me has few consequences. Rejecting God (and you discern what is from Him) will have far reaching consequences!

9. God judges Israel, but still widens salvation to be available to the whole world! Chapter 9 “The Lord” vs1 Sovereign judge, no longer Saviour, vs4 “sees evil, not good for His people.” But 9:11, 12 – verses quoted by James in Acts 15:16 God’s salvation broadens to encompass “all the Nations” – Gentiles and Jews, even vs7 “the Cushites (of Sudan or Upper Nile). Vs13, 15 “The days are coming … says the Lord your God.” Let us individually and corporately hear and receive the Word of the Lord.

God Rules, O.K.?

Khartoum International Church 1st September 2002.


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