AMOS 5: 18-24
GOD’S CALL – FULL REPENTANCE
What is going on here? What’s this all about? Israel has been split into two; the North being Israel and the South being Judah. Amos is from Judah and God speaks to Amos instructing him to speak to Israel. This is what we call prophecy. Prophecy is not about predicting the future or who will win the football on Saturday. Rather it is God speaking – the hearer hearing what God says – and then relays what God says accordingly.
And look at the type of things Amos has to say to Israel:
Verse 16 – the Lord says there will be wailing, cries of anguish, the farmers will weep and mourners will wail.
Verse 17 – the Lord says there will be wailing in the vineyards
Verse 21 – the Lord says he hates their religious festivals – their assemblies are a stench to God
Verse 22 – the Lord will not accept their offerings
Verse 23 – the Lord will not listen to their songs or music
And that’s just a few verses of a nine chapter book!
So why does Amos say this?
In short – the Israel was doing very well. Politically, socially and economically – things were good. And the people doing well – considered that this was evidence that God was pleased with them. They looked at their bank balance and concluded that God had rewarded them and will continue to reward them – but they would also look at those who didn’t have wealth as evidence that God was not pleased with those people. And they did little or nothing to help those in need.
And God does not approve which is why Amos concludes in verse 24: But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!
And God uses Amos to burst the bubble these people were in – to bring them to their senses. They are not living as he would want them to live – so God warns them.
So we might ask the question – why is God so concerned about these people? If they are so awful – why does God bother with them? Why does God warn people?
And the answer is that God wants them to repent; indeed at the beginning of this chapter it is headed: a call to repentance.
What is repentance? A return to God himself
What do we mean if we say repent? Imagine we went up to Southbourne Grove one Saturday – with a clip board – and asked people what the word “repent” means? What would they say? Now I guess it would be something along the lines of “I need to stop doing X (which I want to do) and grudgingly to Y (which I don’t want to do)”. Maybe we link repentance with looking and feeling miserable and downtrodden and making ourselves feel sorry for something – and generally being miserable.
What we are actually interested in is what repentance actually is. What did the writers in the Bible mean when they talk about repentance? Well the word repent is a military term that means to turn around. It is a change in mind that leads to a change in action.
But it’s more than that. It is a wake up call. So people would stop leading lives that are destructive. That they would look at themselves – and comes to their senses. And turn not primarily from behaviour that is sinful in the eyes of God to behaviour that is good in the eyes of God (although that is right and proper) – but rather it is to turn from self and turn to God.
What is repentance? We’re are coming to ourselves
When we talk about repentance – often we think of God saving people. We use that expression – I am being saved by God. Question: who are we being saved from? You know – the older I get the more I think I would say that God is saving me from myself. That left to my own devices, I would slip further and further away from what God intended for me.
So in repenting we are not only coming back to God we are being saved from ourselves. Jesus describes in Luke 15 (in the parable of the lost son) – how the younger son, whose life was falling apart, came to his senses and thought of how his father would treat him – compared to what he was experiencing then. In other versions it says: “he came to himself”. So to turn away from God is to turn away from yourself. But to repent – to turn and come back to God – is to come to yourself. We start to live in the right context – the right place.
Why do people not repent?
I guess one of the main reasons why people do not repent is that they are afraid of what God will say. We think of that person who we say sorry to who then, in return, gives us a piece of their mind rather than graciously accepting our apology. God is not like that (and nor should we be!). Look at what St Paul says:
“God wants all people to be saved” (1 Timothy 2: 4) or in Romans 10: 21: “All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and obstinate people.”
God wants you back! Think of the parable of the lost son and how the father was looking out for his younger son and how he welcomed him back.
Don’t think for a minute that you are any different – that in some way God would not want you back – that somehow you are disqualified. God is the same, yesterday, today and forever. His character never changes. He will have you back – but in order to have you back you need to come back to God.
How does God call people to repent?
So some may say – “Ah, this is good stuff Richard. I know a few people who need to repent (obviously not me – as I am a mature Christian) – so let ‘em have it!” Well what do they say about dogs at Christmas? A dog is for life not just for Christmas. Well the same for repentance! For the Christian – repentance is for life – not just when we become a Christian!
So we might ask – how do I know that God is calling me to repent?
- Well, here in this book of Amos we see God warning people and calling them to repent.
- In Luke 13, Jesus speaks about a tower which fell and killed people and about whether that was a sign that God was calling people to repent.
- Or in Romans 2: 4 Paul says: Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realising that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?
What does this mean? It means this. God is calling us all to repent – to come back to him. In all things God is seeking to grab our attention so that we would come to him. Whether big or small. In good times and bad. Through disaster or through God’s kindness. He is speaking through all these things so we would come back to him. Not so that he will tear us off a strip – but for our good.
Take That recorded a song years ago – called Back for Good. Well – God wants us back – Back for Good.
So maybe it is as simple as this in this time of Covid. We may have forgotten God and as the usual comforts of our culture have receded this year, we have become painfully aware of how vulnerable we actually are. And through this God is calling us home. CS Lewis said this: “God whispers to us in our pleasure but shouts to us in our pain.”
Maybe today God is whispering or shouting to you. However he is doing it – he wants you back. So why don’t you do just that?
Lord God – I simply want to come back to you and give myself wholly to you – everything – warts and all. Will you take me, cleanse me, fill me and use me for your everlasting glory. In Jesus name, Amen.
Prayers for Remembrance Sunday
On this Remembrance Sunday, almighty and eternal God, from whose love in Christ we cannot be parted, either by death or life let us bring our prayers and thanksgivings for all whom we remember this day; fulfil in them the purpose of your love; and bring us all, with them, to your eternal joy; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Lord, we are saddened at the thought of war, of the soldiers who must fight. We remember today Lord all those who have died in any kind of war throughout your world. We especially remember those who gave their lives in the First and Second world wars including those close to us, or to our parents and grandparents. We remember those who came home with terrible injuries, both physical and psychological and those whose loved ones never returned. We thank them for what they did for us. Amen.
Remembering the conflicts of the past and the sacrifices which were made, we pray for a world where war is still a grim reality and we think of those engaged in warfare in many parts of the world today. Have mercy Lord on those who are victims of man’s inhumanity to other people. We pray that all those who are involved in talks for peace throughout the world may promote the welfare and peace of all mankind. Amen.
Lord as we remember those who have lost their lives, help us to renew our fight against cruelty and injustice, against prejudice, tyranny and oppression. Still we cry out to you in the darkness of our divided world. We remember the people of Vienna and France who have been affected by terrorist attacks recently. Let not the hope of men and women perish, let not new clouds rain death upon the earth. Lord hear our prayer for the multitudes in every country who do not want war and are ready to walk the path of peace. May their voice be heard and may they not lose heart. Amen.
Lord God, we pray for the leaders of our nations at this time, as difficult decisions are having to be made. We especially pray for Boris Johnson and our Government and for President Trump/Biden after the recent American election. We ask you to pour out your spirit of reconciliation on them. Give them a longing to bring freedom from fear and freedom from want for all people. Give strength and courage to those who bear heavy responsibilities for the peace of the world. Amen.
We pray for all who face difficulties in their personal lives – problems in their families, in their friendships, in their neighbourhoods or in their workplace an for those who are struggling as we go back in to lockdown for the second time. Help us all to be calm in times of uncertainty and patient with those around us. Show us when we can help and give support to others around us. On this day of remembrance our hearts and prayers go out to all who are ill, suffering or mourn the loss of those they have loved through corona virus or any other reason. When we lose someone close we feel that part of us dies as well but part of them lives on in us, Give us strength and understanding and help all those who are bereaved to find the same consolation that in knowledge of your love they may honour the past by looking to the future. Amen.
Loving God, we pray for peace in our hearts and homes, in our nations and our world, the peace which is your will, The peace which we so badly need. Merciful father, accept our prayers for the sake of your son, our saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Category: Prayers , Remembrance Day , Sermons , The Bridge