“Amos & Obadiah”
If someone were to ask you, what is the most offensive sin to God, what would you say? Oh, there is a variety of opinion as to which is the worst of all; and there's probably no way to know for sure. We do know, however, that all sin, no matter what it is, is offensive to God. In our study today of two prophets, Amos and Obadiah, one sin stands out above all the rest. There is one sin that is absolutely offensive to God, and He punishes the people for it. That sin is still prevalent in our world today, and I have often wondered if it is the worst sin of all. For the next few minutes we will notice what two of God's spokesman say about it and the punishment that comes because of it. As we look at those things, I hope we will spend some time thinking about how we can eliminate this very same sin in our life.
Two more prophets from the Old Testament receive our attention in today's lesson, they are Amos and Obadiah. And even though they lived some 200 years apart, they spoke basically the very same message. Amos spoke to God's people the Israelites as well as to the enemies living around them while Obadiah spoke primarily to the number one enemy of the Israelites, that being the nation of Edom. And these prophets both announced God's coming judgment upon the people. If the people did not change their ways and turn their lives back to God then God would bring swift and immediate destruction upon them. And yet like the other prophets we have already studied here in the Old Testament, they also include a message of hope for a better day. Let's look first of all at the man and the message of Amos. He was a shepherd of the sheep and he was a person who farmed the fig trees out in the country. Even though he grew up in the countryside, God called upon him to speak to large groups of people living in the cities. But Amos feels uncomfortable with what God has called upon him to do, and yet he takes his job very seriously. No less than 21 times throughout his messages he states that the words he speaks are not his own, rather they come from the Lord God Almighty. And as you can guess, the people do not receive well his message because it is an indictment or an accusation against them and the way they are living. Amos sees the inequalities between the rich and the poor. He sees the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer, and he stands on the side of those who are oppressed. He also speaks out against such things as immorality and selfishness and greed. He condemns the unfair and the unjust practices done toward those who are less fortunate. Now, the book called Obadiah is the shortest book in the entire Bible. In only 21 verses this prophet addresses primarily the sins of the nation of Edom; and those constitute the sin of pride and prejudice. Oh as his name suggests, Obadiah is a servant of the Lord and his message comes directly from the Lord, according to verse 1. It contains not only that judgment on the nation of Edom but also it offers a message of hope and encouragement for God's people the Israelites; reminding them that God is concerned about them and He will deal severely and harshly with their enemies. Oh, the nation of Edom pursue their own interests and their own desires while excluding and abusing the people all around them. And Obadiah lets them know that God's judgment is coming upon them and it will be swift, even to the point that Edom will cease to exist as a nation and they will not be remembered any longer. Well, the primary message of these two prophets is basically the same; that those who are prideful will be taken down; those who live with an arrogant and self-sufficient attitude will be dealt with by God. Even today, when one has an attitude of arrogance there is a great temptation to look down on those who are poor and needy. There is a great temptation to focus on one's own desires and interests to the exclusion of those who are less fortunate. That is happening with the people to whom Amos and Obadiah speak. These prophets proclaim the need for humility. They emphasized the importance of showing compassion. And, they preach a message of what we might call today social justice. Amos points out that economic prosperity has led to the spiritual decline of God's people. And as a result, they have lost their relationship with God. They have drifted far away from Him. They are full of immoral practices and disregard for other people. And he lets them know that judgment is coming upon them, and everyone else who lives such lives. There is a list of sins in the first two chapters of Amos. Some of them are specific for God's people, the Israelites, while other sins address the sins of those of the foreign nations living around them. But in those first two chapters, we read about the cruelty that is exercised by some of these people toward others. We read how they are full of greed and selfishness and disregard for the needs of those around them. We read how God's people have broken that covenant relationship with Him and are drifting away. They mistreat those who are rejected by society and they try to push them down even further. They neglect those who are hungry and who are in need of just the basic necessities of life. And then the foreign nations are guilty of taking people into slavery and abusing them, even to the point they kill pregnant women. As we think about these sins, the people have simply rejected God. They have rejected His laws. They are living in total disregard for Him and disobedience to His commands. Listen to this summary statement from the second chapter of Amos, beginning with verse 6. -This is what the Lord says: "For three sins of Israel, even for four, I will not turn back My wrath. They sell the innocent for silver, and the needy for a pair of sandals. 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. They lie down beside every altar on garments taken in pledge. In the house of their god they drink wine taken as fines.- Amos lets these people know they are guilty. None of them are living the kind of life that God wants them to live. And now they stand in the way of God's judgment and punishment. They have become unfaithful to God. And even some of God's own people are now devoting themselves to the idols of the foreign nations all around them. And yet, the people believe that if they offer enough sacrifices and if they make the right kind of offerings to God then everything will be okay; that God will excuse the way they live because they go through the proper rituals and worship ceremonies. But Amos tells them, in no uncertain words, that that will not work, that nothing can take the place of living a right kind of life ethically and morally among other people. Yes, none of it will ever be able to substitute for a right relationship with God and with people. And so God speaks through Amos concerning their worship assemblies; and we find that in the fifth chapter. Listen to verse 21 through 24. -“I hate, I despise your religious feasts; I can not stand your assemblies. Even though you bring Me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them. Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps. But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!- Amos doesn't hold back here. He lets the people know that God hates, He despises, He is sick of their empty worship rituals and traditions. The people are simply going through the motions and it doesn't make a difference in the way they live. Amos doesn't stop. He goes on to mention a number of other sins: they oppress the poor, in chapter 5; they take bribes from the wealthy; they work with dishonest scales and take advantage of those who don't have much money; they condemn God's prophets. And perhaps one of the worst things of all is that God's people live in luxury without any kind of care or concern for those who don't have anything. And that is addressed again in the fifth chapter; listen closely to verses 11 and 12. -You trample on the poor and force him to give you grain. Therefore, though you have built stone mansions, you will not live in them; though you have planted lush vineyards, you will not drink their wine. For I know how many are your offenses and how great your sins. You oppress the righteous and take bribes and you deprive the poor of justice in the courts.- I think about the lives of God's people; they knew better; they were taught better. But they were living any way they wanted to live. And if I had a summary statement for Amos' message to them it would be, "Your lives are out of control. You are living without any kind of self-discipline or control and you pursue only your own interests and desires and you forget about what God wants you to do." Yes, God held these people responsible for not practicing social justice. And that's why He speaks to them through Amos in chapter 5 and verse 24, "Let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream." Yes, God's people will pay for the sins in their life; the sins of pride and prejudice and their lack of concern for others. God's patience with them has just about run out. And in chapter 7 and 8, Amos goes through a series of illustrations that point out how God will punish them: locusts consuming the crops; a devastating fire; a plumb line; and even a basket of over ripened fruit. And through these illustrations He lets the people know they don't measure up. They have greatly offended God and the time has come for them to reap what they have sown. Now, in spite of such harsh words, there still remains a message of hope, a message of hope for a better day; and Amos is quick to include that in this prophecy. We find it in at least a couple of places. The first one is in chapter 5 beginning with verse 14. He writes, very simply, these words: -Seek good, not evil, that you may live. Then the Lord God Almighty will be with you, just as you say He is. Hate evil, love good; maintain justice in the courts. Perhaps the Lord God Almighty will have mercy on the remnant of Joseph.- In spite of their sins, God still loves His people. They have messed up; they have turned away from God and pursued their own way of living. And yet, God loves them to the point that "I will bring you back. There will be a remnant, a group of you, who will return from slavery and I will bless you once again." In fact, that is the way the book of Amos ends, over in chapter 9. Notice these words, beginning with verse 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, and I will bring back My exiled people, Israel. “They will rebuild the ruined cities and live in them. I will plant Israel in their own land, never again to be uprooted from the land I have given them,” says the Lord God Almighty.- Yes, there is coming a time when the people will come back from slavery and they will be planted in the land. They will establish their homes once again; and that is the hope with which this prophecy ends. And as they do that, hopefully they will have learned their lesson and begin to live with justice and mercy and kindness toward others. Well, the book of Obadiah addresses some of these very same concerns. And he addresses, as I mentioned a moment ago, the nation of Edom, who was the number one enemy of Judah and Israel. And his message revolves around the sins of pride and arrogance, just like Amos' message did. We notice in these 21 verses that Edom is arrogant, verses 1-4. The nation of Edom will be humiliated by God, verses 5-9. All of the people of Edom are violent, verses 10-14. Yes, the Edomites lived with a prideful attitude and disrespect for others; and God was about ready to sweep them away. Let's highlight just a few of the verses that we find here in Obadiah, verses 3 and 4 and also 15 and 18. -"The pride of your heart has deceived you, you who live in the clefts of the rocks and make your home on the heights, you who say to yourself, 'Who can bring me down to the ground?’ Though you soar like the eagle and make your nest among the stars, from there I will bring you down,” declares the Lord. “The day of the Lord is near for all nations. As you have done, it will be done to you; your deeds will return upon your own head. The house of Jacob will be a fire and the house of Joseph a flame; the house of Esau will be stubble, and they will set it on fire and consume it. There will be no survivors from the house of Esau.” The Lord has spoken.- Yes there is coming a time, and it will be soon, where the entire house, the entire nation of Esau will be consumed and destroyed, and they will not be heard from again. We also find these phrases in Obadiah, in verses 12-14: "You have looked down on your brother," and, "You boast in their day of trouble." The people of Edom laughed at Israel and Judah's problems and the punishment that was coming upon them; and these were their distant relatives. But they made fun of them, thinking that they themselves would escape God's judgment. Yes, they boasted that they were better off than anybody else around them. And the Edomites also put their trust in false securities. They lived in a series of caves high above everyone else, and these caves were carved out in the hills and the mountains around them. And being so exalted above others gave them the same kind of attitude: nobody can climb up here and throw us down; nobody will be able to overtake us because we are so far above those around us. Yet, God knows exactly where they live and there is coming a time when He will throw them down and He will destroy them and punish them because of their sin. Yes, Obadiah warns these people of God's coming destruction. But, his message throughout these 21 verses also reminds God's people that He is concerned about them and that He will deal severely and harshly with their enemies. When I think about the books of Amos and Obadiah, there are some great lessons which I believe we can learn from these two prophets. Let me share four of them which I believe are very important and relevant for us today. Number 1, those who exalt themselves and those who are proud and those who seek their own self-sufficiency will receive God's wrath. Yes, God's people are always to live in humility and in compassion, in all of their relationships. Number 2, with privilege comes responsibility. These people of God had received great blessings throughout the years, as had their forefathers. And now they had the responsibility to pass it on to others and to treat other people with the same mercy and compassion that God had extended to them. Here is number 3; insincere worship insults God. When we simply go through our religious rituals and our worship traditions without any kind of meaning and without allowing them to make a difference in our lives it insults and it offends the very heart of God. And then number 4; possessing power over others often times creates a very dangerous situation. If we believe that we have more power and more authority over other people, we need to be very careful we don't succumb to the temptation of exercising that to the point that we abuse or neglect those around us. Those are some very important lessons we need to be mindful of, that these two prophets teach us. Take a look at this video clip. It is entitled "Treating Others Right," and it serves as an illustration for our lesson today.
The world in which we live today is filled with lots of wealth and lots of poverty; and often times there is a big gap between the two. And when we find ourselves in the midst of poverty, when we find ourselves among people who don't have as much as we have and enjoy, how do we respond? Do we look down our noses at such individuals and blame them for the poverty and the problems they experience in life, or do we offer some kind of assistance and help to such individuals? The Bible is filled with examples and commands about thinking about others who are less fortunate and demonstrating kindness and compassion and mercy; the very same things that we have experienced from God, ourselves. There is a story in the Bible about God wiping out an entire nation of people, the Edomites, because they laughed at the poverty and the misfortune of God's people the Jews. And those Edomites were never heard from again. Oh, I am not suggesting that God will wipe us out if we ignore the poverty of the people around us, but I am suggesting that there is a great danger when we look at others with pride and contempt. Yes, it is very important that we recognize the world is filled with poverty and people who struggle and have problems. But what is our response to them? Think about the people God puts into your life; and if those people need some kind of assistance and justice and mercy, may we be the ones that step up and offer that helping hand to those who are in need.
As we draw our lesson to a close, we might ask ourselves several important questions, as we make some application. What are my priorities in life? How do I treat the people living around me, with mercy and compassion or with abuse and neglect? And, do I believe I am invincible? Do I think that I am so far above everyone else that nobody can touch me, not even God? These two prophets remind us of several things, but perhaps the greatest lesson of all is this: Those who are proud will fall. Those who exalt themselves will be humbled by God. Those who trust in their own strength will eventually come crashing down. Oh, all of us were created to be dependent upon God. We were created to trust in Him and not in our own resources and abilities. 1st Peter 5:6 reminds us of that great truth. -"Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, so that in due time He may exalt you." Oh, it is true, arrogance and self-sufficiency have no place in God's kingdom. And when we become involved in the pain of this world, we become more like Jesus. When we stopped long enough to lift up our eyes and see the needs of those around us and become involved in their lives, then we begin to appreciate even more what God has done for us and how He wants us to share the great blessings He has given to us to those who are in need. If we say that we belong to God today, we can never live with a prideful attitude. If we say that He is the Lord of our life, we cannot live with a selfish attitude. And if we want to follow Jesus, then we will never escape the painful issues of this world. And that seems to be the message of Amos and Obadiah. And my prayer for each one of us today is that we will take that challenge. We will think about what God has done for us, the privileges and the responsibilities that we have in this world to live not only in a right relationship with Him but also we take what He has given to us and we bless those people around us; living without any kind of pride, without any kind of prejudice, but living with mercy and compassion for the people He puts into our life.
Thank you for tuning in to today's message. Amos and Obadiah remind us that the sin of pride stands in the way of having a good relationship with God. If you would like to know more about walking with God every day, please visit our website. There you can download a free Bible study as well as have access to previous messages or other information. You might choose to call the number on the screen to request that same free Bible study, which comes with no commitment or obligation, and we will be happy to send it to you by mail. Our desire is to assist you in any way as you seek a closer walk with the Lord. Thank you for watching today's broadcast. I invite you to join us again next time as we study the Bible on "Key to the Kingdom."