Have you ever read something and just can’t get it out of your head?
Yesterday morning, as I was doing my devotions, I read through Amos 5. Although the entire chapter was intriguing, I found a few of the verses quite compelling to my mind:
“Alas, you who are longing for the day of the Lord, for what purpose will the day of the Lord be to you? It will be darkness and not light; as when a man flees from a lion and a bear meets him, or goes home, leans his hand against the wall and a snake bites him. Will not the day of the Lord be darkness instead of light, even gloom with no brightness in it?” (Amos 5:18-20 NASB)
It wasn’t the prose that gripped my mind, but it was the essence of what these words mean.
At this time, Israel had rejected God and gone after idols and sensuality. They had rebelled against the very one who had rescued them time and time again from their enemies. The kings of Israel had decided that it was better to lead the people in the ways of immorality, idolatry and ignorance. They had experienced the temporary happiness of wealth, wine and women and forsook the eternal joy of their Creator.
However, even though they had forsaken God, they still observed the “rules” and “traditions” contained within the Torah. They completed the festivals, burned the offerings and did each task as required, but their mindset was one of rote instead of gratitude. We know this by God’s reaction to them in the next few verses:
“I hate, I reject your festivals, nor do I delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer up to Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings, I will not accept them; and I will not even look at the peace offerings of your fatlings. Take away from Me the noise of your songs; I will not even listen to the sound of your harps. But let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” (Amos 5:21-24 NASB)
The Israelites continued to worship in the methods and traditions they always had. They completed the tasks and rituals they were supposed to. They sang the songs and recited the prayers as they had always done. However, their hearts were not present. So why did this grip me the way it did? Recently, as I study church history, I noted a pattern within the church that is exactly the same in ancient Israel.
There are two topics here that are very prevalent within today’s church. The first is concern with the End Time events. When will the Lord return? When will the rapture take place? When will God’s judgement be poured out on sinful mankind? These are the questions of today. We discuss, debate and degrade each other when we cannot come to a consensus. We concern ourselves with the details of the events, the bewilderment of figurative or contextual language. We look toward the sky and cry out to God about the sins of the earth. We sing the songs of the Psalmist and shout praises from the mountaintops. Yet in all of this, we forget the heart of God and where His heart remains; for the lost.
This is not to say that the topic of the return of Christ isn’t important. It is. Paul, John, Daniel and others examine the events surrounding this time, which is yet to come. However, as we read through the text, we seem to forget that it is not a time to rejoice in, but to mourn. We mourn because those who reject Jesus Christ as Savior will suffer His wrath and eternal damnation.
God had picked Amos, the shepherd, to proclaim His words to His people. God wanted Israel to know that the day of the Lord is not something to look forward to. It is a day to beware and mourn, a day of reckoning and a day where people will run from one tragic event to another, only to find themselves in the grips of death.
Amos said the day of the Lord is like a man who fled from a lion but meets a bear as he flees. Or after he flees the bear, he runs home, exhausted only to lean on the wall to be bitten by a snake. Then the venom of the snake rushes through his body and courses through his veins. It begins the process of breaking down blood cells, killing the coagulation agents and finally killing the tissue it comes in contact with. It is a time of great suffering for those who do not believe.
We have forgotten the love, grace and mercy for the lost. We proclaim about injustice in the world. We cry about our rights being taken away. We shout against Republican or Democrat, Socialist or Communist. We forget that it matters not what party you belong to, what color you are or what social environment you are a part of. What matters are there are lost people who don’t realize that they are headed toward eternal separation from God.
It is when we forget about the lost, that God deems our worship invalid. When we forget the lost, our songs are just noise from our lips, not making any sense nor pleasing to the ear. When we forget the lost, our offerings are rejected and not used, our sacrifices are looked upon as dung. When we do not have the heart of the Father, there is no use in our worship, no worth in our worship.
When I look at social media, I find many who proclaim the rights of American over the love of Christ. Many proclaim the evangelism of democracy rather than evangelize the lost, showing that the love of democracy supersedes their love of God. This is the basic definition of idolatry.
Like Israel, we have a golden calf. I love my country and know beyond any shadow of doubt that this is the greatest country in the world. I love the stars and stripes, Old Glory. The red stripes representing the blood spilled to unite our country and fight the tyranny of England. However, I love the stripes of Jesus Christ all the more. His blood which was spilt to save us who are lost.
So how do we solve this dilemma? How do we change our mindset and actions?
First, we must repent. Repentance is turning around and walking the opposite direction we have been going. We must forsake our idols which so easily entangle us both individually and corporately and turn around toward the cross of Jesus Christ.
Second, we need to study. Scripture has been given to us for our benefit. It proclaims the love and redemption of God and provides us insight into how to proceed in sharing God’s message. It warns us, encourages us and teaches us about the wonderful saving message of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Third, we must pray. Simply put, praying is how we communicate and commune with God. It is how we cry out to Him when we are hurting. It is how we proclaim His glory. It is how we intervene for our loved ones and it is how we show our concern for the lost and our enemies. Prayer is an essential part of our daily lives.
Fourth, we must fellowship with other believers. This is more than just spending time together. It is an intimate process. Because of Jesus Christ, our lives are intertwined with each other. We are now brothers and sisters. Regardless of our looks, cultural background or past experiences, we are family and are to care for each other. We are to share our struggles, confess our sins and encourage each other into a closer relationship with God. Without fellowship, we deny ourselves the necessary nutrients for our spiritual bodies. We starve ourselves from the relationships God desires us to have with each other.
Lastly, we must reach out. This is more than just sharing the Gospel. It is getting involved in people’s lives that are lost. It is caring for those who don’t care for us. It is loving those who have been deemed unloved. The best example of this was Jesus Christ. He ate with the dredge of the earth, tax collectors, adulterers and sinners. He healed those who were hurting and freed those who were slaves. Like him, we too must not be afraid to associate with those who are hurting, with those who are hungry and with those who are thirsty for something more than just this life.
The Scriptures have warned us. We are not to be so enamored by arguable doctrines rather we need to be enamored by sharing the heart of God, the Gospel of Jesus Christ with others. As we move away from our idols and toward the cross, we will find that the things we once fought for are just like a dust in the wind. We will find ourselves loving others as Christ loves us. We will find ourselves serving others and sharing the Gospel with those in need. We will find that our own hearts and those of our churches will once again be transformed because of the renewing of our minds. We will find that all we stand for can be solved if we just place our trust in Jesus Christ and His mission, to seek and save those who are lost.
God bless and encourage someone today.