We wrapped up our Sunday morning class on the book of Amos this past Sunday and I had the pleasure of teaching out of the last chapter. Chapter 9 is called a Redemption Cycle where Amos writes about God’s punishment of sin (v. 1 – 6), how God will provide (v. 7 – 10), and finally, hope for the future (v. 11 – 15).
The first six verses are tough to read. It is brutally simple: God can’t stand sin and every wrong thought, every wrong deed, every good deed not done will be punished. There will be nowhere to hide and God won’t miss anything. God’s wrath against sin has perfect coverage: He won’t miss a spot. If you really get that, it is terrifying.
At the time of Amos, Israel thought God provided preferential treatment to them. The rules didn’t apply since they were the chosen people. They are a chosen people. God chose them to be a light to the nations (Isaiah 49: 6), they were supposed to be a nation of priests (Exodus 19: 6), a people who were going to demonstrate God’s mercy and love and justice to the whole world. They were supposed to be a bridge between God and the world but they failed in this mission. They took this responsibility as an entitlement and abandoned the nations. ‘Let them rot in Hell,’ is what their actions said. God reminds them in v. 7 that Israel is the same as the Cushites (a people from the ends of the earth). God called Israel out of Egypt but he also called the Philistines from the Island of Crete to their new home in Palestine.
God looks at Israel: the nation that has sinned and says in v. 8,” I will destroy it from the face of the earth… Never-the-less I will not totally destroy the house of Jacob.” God is not incompetent here. He isn’t predicting in v. 8 that His anger will leave behind some leftovers. He isn’t saying here that He is going to miss some people, or that there are some that don’t do anything wrong. This is where Jesus can be seen in the background. God is still going to punish sin. What He said He was going to do in v. 1-6 He still does but God predicts that when His wrath is poured out on sinful mankind, a remnant will remain. Some people will survive because Jesus will step into the gap and absorbs the wrath of God for those who put their faith in Him. Seven-hundred years later Jesus will come and live a perfect life: He will be the ‘Israel’ that Israel failed to be. Jesus will be the light (John 14: 6), He will be the perfect High Priest (Heb. 5: 1 – 10) and He will give us this righteous standing before God that we can never achieve and will take the blame for our sin, if we put our faith in Him. That is what Jesus accomplishes when He dies on the cross. He takes the punishment described in Amos 9: 1- 6 for believers. That is how the remnant in v. 8 can survive.
With the arrival of Jesus in the New Testament the church is born, but believers need to be clear on what role they are playing in this ongoing play. Many Christians perceive themselves as taking up the job that Israel failed to do in the Old Testament. The church mistakenly believes that they are the light to the nations, a group of go-betweens, people who can mediate access to God; it just isn’t true. Israel failed in this job and we will too. Sadly, the church demonstrates the same attitude of entitlement toward people outside the church that Israel did in the Old Testament. The church has an alarming indifference to people who are not saved. ‘If you aren’t willing to join our team and look like us, behave like us then you can rot in Hell,’ is what our actions say sometimes.
The role of go between and righteous witness is fulfilled in Christ alone. The church is only a light in that it reflects the light of Jesus. The church is a nation of priests (1 Pet. 2: 9) but only in the sense that we serve under the High Priest. We are served by that High Priests for we have an advocate just the same as the people that we serve. Jesus is serving those people outside the church already, right now, and He is inviting us to join Him.