This is what he showed me: behold, the Lord was standing beside a wall built with a plumb line, with a plumb line in his hand. And the Lord said to me, “Amos, what do you see?” And I said, “A plumb line.” Then the Lord said, “Behold, I am setting a plumb line in the midst of my people Israel; I will never again pass by them; the high places of Isaac shall be made desolate, and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste, and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword.” Then Amaziah the priest of Bethel sent to Jeroboam king of Israel, saying, “Amos has conspired against you in the midst of the house of Israel. The land is not able to bear all his words. For thus Amos has said, “ ‘Jeroboam shall die by the sword, and Israel must go into exile away from his land.’ ” And Amaziah said to Amos, “O seer, go, flee away to the land of Judah, and eat bread there, and prophesy there, but never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king’s sanctuary, and it is a temple of the kingdom.” Then Amos answered and said to Amaziah, “I was no prophet, nor a prophet’s son, but I was a herdsman and a dresser of sycamore figs. But the Lord took me from following the flock, and the Lord said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’” (Amos 7:7–15, ESV)
Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Every summer, with the exception of this one, my daughter Hannah and I have been able to go to the zoo. It's a trip, I look forward to every year. Personally I like the elephants. But, there's always those big cats, especially the lion, the King of beasts. When you stand outside his cage and look and see that big, powerful guy, he is usually laying lazily. He's got those big paws and sharp teeth and when he looks at you, he looks at you like dinner. I, for one, am glad that he's in the cage and I'm out of the cage. If there's one thing I know for sure, after visiting the zoo and seeing the lion. I want to keep the lion in the cage.
This is what the King Jeroboam, and his priest Amaziah want to do. They want to keep The Lion in the cage. The book of Amos is about, the Roaring Lion. God has called an unlikely prophet, Amos (previously a shepherd and a vinedresser) to be his voice and roar out with charges against the people of Israel, and especially the King Jeroboam. Listen how the book of Amos begins:
The words of Amos, who was among the shepherds of Tekoa, which he saw concerning Israel in the days of Uzziah king of Judah and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel, two years before the earthquake. And he said: “The Lord roars from Zion and utters his voice from Jerusalem; the pastures of the shepherds mourn, and the top of Carmel withers.”” (Amos 1:1–2, ESV)
God gives Amos the vision of the plumb line. He standing beside the wall which is Israel and the wall is all out of kilter. The people of Israel have strayed from who God wants them to be and how he wants them to be his people. Corrupt judges rule among the people. They are easily bribed. The poor go without what they need. Immorality of all kinds is rampant. So God roars against Israel. The people are worshiping false gods. High places have been set up for the gods of the Canaanites. And the King Jeroboam, he forgot who is really in charge. Israel was not like the other nations. The King was not supreme, it was to be God. So, God says. You will not escape my justice. I have warned you before. This time destruction is coming. The sword will be raised against the King. God is no small voice here. He's no tame kitty cat. The Lion is coming out of the cage.
But Amos is inviting God's people to be God's people and to live in a different way, God's way. If you're tired of the way things are you are invited you to a new way of life. Where everything is backwards and upside down the last are first and first are last. Where the poor are blessed and mighty ones are cast down. This is the same kingdom that Jesus proclaims when he comes. He says "the kingdom of God is at hand." Think of Mary's Magnificat that we sing through our evening service of Vespers.
His arm now baring,
His strength declaring—
Sing the greatness of the Lord!
The proud He scatters,
Their rule He shatters—
Sing the greatness of the Lord!
The meek exalted.
Full are the hungry;
Empty, the wealthy— LSB 922
Jesus in his life, death, and resurrection brings about this radical kingdom. Amos is talking about Jesus here and the new life that he brings through the forgiveness of sins.
The King and his priest Amaziah want to keep the cat in the cage. They don't like what Amos is preaching. They see the prophet as a troublemaker. They're not going to change their ways. They can't believe that Amos' words were God's words. So, Amaziah warns Amos, "Get out. Take your words against the King and go away."
And here we too stand. God's word accuses us of these very things. We care more for ourselves than the poor. We set up our false gods of our money and our family and our security and our country. We sit quietly in our churches all neighbors all around us go without hearing God's word forgiveness for them in Jesus Christ. And while they suffer under the load of the problems of the world. Amos invites us too, to a way of life that is radically different. A life where the first are last and the last are first. A life where we live for others instead of for ourselves. And sometimes we even tell God to get out. "I don't want to hear your word against me."
Amos refuses to give in. God's word must be heard. He stands in a long line of prophets, Moses and Daniel and Elijah and Elisha and Isaiah and of course he stands before the great prophet Jesus. Jesus is the end-all of all the prophets who stand before the high priest and make the good confession. He does that. He calls everyone into a new life in him, a new life in God the father. A radical life where forgiveness reigns. A radical life that is lived for the sake of others. A new life that he, God himself in human flesh, brings. They couldn't believe that Jesus was God in the flash come to speak his word directly to them. Jesus told them so and they killed him for it.
But in Jesus death on the cross forgiveness of sins is made. He suffers and dies for all the selfishness of the world. Because of his sacrifice we can live a life that is radically different. Through faith in Jesus life death and resurrection we have forgiveness of sins. We have a right relationship with God. Our sins are forgiven, we need not be concerned about our relationship to him. We can live that radical life where we put ourselves last and others first. Where we show God's mercy and love in time of need. And even more so, proclaim the forgiveness of sins in the cross of Jesus Christ for all people. This is the victory won for us by the Lion of the tribe of Judah (Rev ). This is the new radical way of life we are called to through Holy Baptism, our connection to Jesus Christ and his life his death and his resurrection for us.
Amos, like the prophets before and after him, stands to make the good confession. He speaks God's word to the needy and dying world. He says what must be said. Sinful people deserve God's anger and wrath and punishment. But God is gracious and merciful slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. Repent and believe in God's forgiveness.
We stand here in Creston Iowa, and make the same confession. Here we are called by God's Word to bring God's love and mercy to this community where God has placed us.
There is a old evangelism method it uses the question "If you were to die tonight and God were to ask you, "Why should I let you into heaven," how would you answer?" Imagine if we went around knocking on our neighbor's doors. We might say something like this. "Hello my name is Jonathan, I'm from Trinity Lutheran Church, if we died tonight would you care?" The answer to that question may indeed tell us how we're doing and living God's radical new life for us.
But this is exactly why we gather isn't it? We gather to hear of God's grace and mercy to us. To receive in word and water and bread and wine God's forgiveness. Especially forgiveness for being self-centered and not caring about the people around us. And for not being the church that he has called us to be. Not bearing one another's burdens, let alone the burdens of the people who live around us. But we are the body of Christ. We are here to bear one another's burdens. Jesus makes it so in his presence through the work of the Holy Spirit. Martin Luther said about the Lord's supper, "When you go to the sacrament you lay your burden on Christ and the community gathered. When you leave you pick up the burdens of one another and so fulfill the love of Christ." (Martin Luther via Rev. Matthew Harrison). It is the wonder of that gift that enables us to bear the burdens of the community around us. To show God's mercy in their deepest need. And especially to bring them the Good News about the forgiveness of sins one through Jesus Christ on the cross. Amen.
The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.