The Eighth Sunday After Trinity August 1, 2004
541, 296, 507, 800 (TLH alt. 51)
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 shall surely be led away captive From their own land.’” Then Amaziah said to Amos: “Go, you seer! Flee to the land of Judah. There eat bread, And there prophesy. But never again prophesy at Bethel, For it is the king’s sanctuary, and it is the royal residence.” Then Amos answered, and said to Amaziah: “I was no prophet, nor was I a son of a prophet, but I was a sheepbreeder and a tender of sycamore fruit. Then the LORD took me as I followed the flock, and the LORD said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to My people Israel.’ Now therefore, hear the word of the LORD.”
In the name of Jesus, who rules the Church in love and majesty, dear fellow redeemed:
Picture this scene: You are having a conversation with a person whom you highly respect. It may even be the man or woman of your dreams. However, you are not hearing a word that he is saying. Instead, you find your eyes drawn like a magnet to what seems to be an enormous piece of broccoli caught between his teeth. The conversation continues and you are thinking to yourself, “How can I break this to him? Maybe if I ignore it, it will go away.” When he goes to talk to somebody else you hear, “Hey, you’ve got something caught between your teeth!” The problem was easily solved, but now you feel sheepish for not dealing with it yourself. You could have saved that person from further embarrassment.
All that was at stake in this situation is embarrassment. In life there are much more important issues that come up—issues that can only be solved with the Word of God. Maybe you see a person having one, two, or five drinks too many. Maybe you know of a live-in situation. Maybe you see a person around town that you didn’t see in church that morning. Maybe you know somebody that doesn’t go to church at all. Unfortunately, we seem to have an in-born reluctance to give appropriate information in these situations. It is information which would not only be helpful, but even life-saving. Souls are at stake and yet in many cases we avoid saying anything, or if we do speak, we end up not using God’s counsel through His Word. Today, the Lord, through the prophet Amos, encourages us to proclaim His Word. He is calling upon you to do this very thing. You Have Been Called to Proclaim the Word of the Lord I. There is a world that needs to hear it; II. There is a world of opportunity for pastors and laymen.
The Lord has made it clear to us in the Scriptures that He wants His Word to be proclaimed. He has made it equally clear that there is a wide audience that needs to hear His Word. In fact everybody needs to hear it. This becomes even more obvious when you contrast what is going on in our world with what God expects. The Devil started his temptations and planting of evil in the Garden of Eden, but he surely did not stop there. He has worked relentlessly as the prince of this world to make it an environment contrary to God. He works hardest against Christians, and as with Eve he is at his best in subtlety and craftiness. By using incremental steps and slow movements, the Devil has seen much success in transforming our society from God-fearing to basically godless.
Just look at what has taken place over the last 150 years. I don’t think our great-grandparents would recognize this America. Evolution is widely accepted as being scientific, which it most surely is not. Cold-blooded murder is called a woman’s right to choose. Sexual perversions are applauded and labeled as alternate lifestyles. Major Christian denominations put their stamp of approval on homosexuality. Sex outside of marriage occurs regularly without thought and parents help their children move into live-in situations.
In this climate, when you speak the Word of the Lord you will meet opposition. Amos found this out when the priest Amaziah spoke against Amos because he was proclaiming the Word of God. You would think that as a religious leader Amaziah would have welcomed Amos as a spokesman for the truth, but Amaziah was not a priest of the true God. Amaziah did not consider what Amos was saying to be the truth because it was against him and his worship. The truth offended Amaziah’s ears.
In a similar way, the Pharisees were opposed to what Jesus had to say. As followers of Jesus you can expect the same thing. Be comforted, however, because Jesus has told you, “He who rejects you, rejects Me” (Luke 10:16). When you say, “I can’t do this,” or “You shouldn’t do that,” you can rightly expect opposition. You are in a combat zone. When you proclaim what God wants you to proclaim and call a sin a sin, most of the time you will receive the reaction of Amaziah.
It would be easy to say, “Why go to all this trouble? Let them rot.” God forbid that we would ever take that attitude! That is not the way God treated has us. You and I are no better than anyone else. In the book of James we read, “Whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all” (James 2:10). God doesn’t rank sinners. He has two verdicts: “guilty” and “not guilty.” Looking at yourself in the mirror of God’s Law can only lead to one conclusion: “guilty!” The same sin that you see out in the world will reveal itself in your own life to one degree or the other. Even if it is only in your mind it is a transgression against God. “If You, Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?” (Psalm 130:3).
The difference between being guilty and not guilty is the grace of God. It is by the grace of God that He sent His Son, Jesus, into the world to wash and cleanse you of your sin, to redeem your guilty soul with His innocent blood. It is by the grace of God that He has adopted you as His child with the promise of heaven as an inheritance. This has come to you not by your worth or excellence, but because of the goodness and mercy of God. God has more than enough love to go around. He wants you and all others to hear of Jesus’ death and resurrection as the one and only solution for sin. Through it you have been rescued and through it others will be rescued as well.
Imagine being in a huge lifeboat out in the ocean and ignoring those who were drowning because you didn’t feel like rowing over to them, or felt that they didn’t deserve to be rescued. It is no different to have the Word of God—the sin-revealing Law and the Savior-revealing Gospel—and refuse to give it to others.
It is always easier to let someone else do the work, but today we also need to ask ourselves: “Who is going to proclaim the saving message of Jesus?” God has established the public ministry for this very purpose. The Lord has given us pastors, Christian Day School teachers, professors, and missionaries whose work is directly connected with and centered on God’s Word. Yet, the only difference between called servants and laymen is the call in which you are asked to do this on behalf of others.
In the Old Testament the Lord did this calling directly as He spoke to the prophets. The Lord still calls, but now He does so through Christian congregations. The purpose is the same. The message is the same. The Lord wants His Word to be proclaimed. The reaction to that Word is not always welcoming, but that doesn’t change the fact that God wants His Word to get out. It doesn’t change the fact that it is His message.
Amos knew this to be true in his ministry. When Amaziah confronted Amos, the reaction of the prophet was that Amaziah should take it up with the Lord. It was the Lord’s calling. It was God’s message. People don’t always want to hear what God has to say, but they need to hear it. In the same way when I speak the Word of God to you, it is not my message or my opinion, but the truth of your Creator.
In no way has God restricted the proclamation of His Word to called servants. Each one of you has been told to “Go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). You have been told to be prepared to give an answer of the hope that is within you (cf. 1 Peter 3:15). The tendency is to keep silent when we have opportunities to tell others about our wonderful God. That is the easier route. That way won’t bring a negative reaction and we won’t be ridiculed. But then, neither will we be doing anybody any good.
Examine your circle of friends, family, work acquaintances, and neighbors. How many are lost and don’t know it? How many are indifferent to sin or doctrinal error? The message needs to get out and the Lord is asking you to deliver it. Amos was not what you would think of as your typical pastor. He said, “I was no prophet, nor was I son of a prophet, but I was a sheepherder and a tender of sycamore fruit.” [v.14] Amos was a farmer and a rancher and yet the Lord used him and He will also use you.
When you consider the love of Christ and how He rescued you from the jaws of Hell itself, how He has rescued you from an eternity of death and suffering and instead has given you an eternity of bliss and joy in heaven, the question will arise: “What can I do for you, Lord?” The answer is to take advantage of the opportunities that He gives you to testify of what you know. To do this as Amos did you need strength and courage. Pray for these attributes.
Obviously you also need to know your Bible. The idea is not that you would have to always refer questions to your pastor, but through a continuing education in God’s Word be able to answer them yourself. You have God’s Word in your own language. You have what so many have hungered and thirsted after. With so many opportunities in our country and especially overseas you can help with your prayers and offerings. At this summer’s synodical convention we saw a small list of what we can do overseas with additional funds.
Above all else, open your mouth. Whether it is in the teaching of Sunday School children or your own children, whether it is words of correction or of consolation, you do have something do say. You are here on this earth to proclaim the Word of the Lord.
In this light I’m going to take a moment to encourage our young people, to consider entering the preaching and teaching ministries. By entering the public ministry you would have the privilege of being involved with the Word of God full-time. In the 1940’s when my grandfather graduated from seminary there were hardly any calls available for graduates. Out of a class of forty, there were about three who initially received calls, and yet we’re thankful that those men were not deterred from what may have been a “flooded market.” There is always a need for called servants, but especially today when there is a critical shortage of pastors and teachers. We should be encouraging those to whom God has given the gifts to enter these callings.
Regardless of your occupation God wants you to tell others about Him. The results that you envision may not always be realized, but God’s Word does not return to Him void. He used Amos. He gave Him courage, strength, and above all He gave Him His Word. You also have God’s Word. May He give you the boldness that you may say for the benefit and salvation of others: “Now therefore, hear the word of the Lord” [v.16]. May He give you the opportunity to reveal to them the knowledge of their sin and the knowledge of a Savior in Jesus. In these last days, it is not the time to keep your mouth shut. Amen.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.