The Whims of Man Cannot Erode the Word of God
Lord, open my heart to hear and through Your Word to me draw near,
Let me Your Word ever pure retain, let me Your child and heir remain.
Lord, as I bow before Your throne, I seek to follow You alone.
Increase the love within my heart, that ne'er I stray and ne'er depart.
For all now gathered, Lord I pray--uplift, sustain, instruct today.
Forgive our sins. Make strong the weak. Come Lord Jesus, Your face we seek. Amen.
Preach the Word! This is the charge given to every believer. God gives His Word for instruction, rebuke, encouragement. Preaching this true and effective Word becomes all the more important as people follow after fairy tales because they are more to their liking. God's truth isn't always pleasant for the sinner to hear, but it is what saves the sinner from eternal death. Your ministry is to PREACH THE WORD!
Jesus sent the twelve apostles out into the cities to preach the Word. Not every house would welcome them. Where people listened to the Word of God and welcomed the apostles, they were to stay and preach. Where people rejected the Word of God, the apostles were to leave. The judgment of God will fall on all who reject His Word and the truth of His salvation.
TEXT: Amos 7:10-17
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: You say, ‘Do not prophesy against Israel, And do not spout against the house of Isaac.’ "Therefore thus says the Lord: ‘Your wife shall be a harlot in the city; Your sons and daughters shall fall by the sword; Your land shall be divided by survey line; You shall die in a defiled land; and Israel shall surely be led away captive from his own land.’ "
In the name of the one and only true God, the Triune God, who has given us His Word for our salvation, dear fellow redeemed:
In the earlier days of the Iraqi war, the Iraqis had an information minister who would broadcast what he called reports of how the war was proceeding. To listen to his reports, the Americans and their allies were being killed by the thousands. To listen to his reports, the enemies were being beaten back at every front when in reality the allied forces were in Baghdad itself. No matter how hard this man tried to change the truth into an Iraqi victory, the real truth remained. So hard did this man try to veil the truth and to change it, that it really became rather silly and comical.
We are really not that terribly different. We, at times, want to deny the truth or change it to fit what we want it to be. The reality is the same. The truth is the truth and nothing that we would try to do can change it. We can say different things, we can deceive many people, but the truth remains the truth.
We find in our text this morning that the manipulation of the truth was also being done by the king and his priest during the days of Amos. We seek to learn this morning that THE WHIMS OF MAN CANNOT ERODE THE WORD OF GOD. I. Man’s natural desire is to create his own truth II. Genuine truth is difficult for pride to accept III. God’s Truth is enduring to accomplish what He says.
In order to better understand the situation of Amos’ day, we need to go back and set the historical background. We go back about 200 years before Amos to King Solomon. King Solomon had fallen away from the true God. He had pursued heathen wives and under their influence built temples to heathen gods which he himself worshipped. As a result of Solomon’s falling away, God told him that the kingdom would be taken away from his family. For the sake of King David, Solomon’s father, the kingdom would not be taken away in Solomon’s lifetime nor would it be taken away completely. Solomon’s son Rehoboam would rule two tribes in the south and someone else would rule the 10 tribes in the north.
Solomon’s son, Rehoboam did not deal wisely with the people and a man by the name of Jeroboam, rebelled against Rehoboam. Jeroboam became the king of the northern ten tribes of Israel. For political reasons, Jeroboam did not want his people travelling south to Jerusalem to worship the true God. Jerusalem was in Judah, the southern kingdom, and Jeroboam wanted to keep his people in his own kingdom. So to accomplish a way of worship in his kingdom, Jeroboam set up shrines—on in the north in the city of Dan, and one in the south in the city of Bethel. In each of these places, Jeroboam erected a golden calf and told his people, "Here is your god, Israel, worship here." Thus Jeroboam kept his people out of Judah.
This switch of religion to a false god—the golden calves—and all that went along with it was for political reasons. It had nothing to do with the truth of the true God, it was simply a way for Jeroboam to keep his power. Jeroboam misled Israel into the idolatry of their heathen neighbors. God condemned Jeroboam’s idolatry and Jeroboam faced the wrath of God. We read in 2 Kings, “So they left all the commandments of the Lord their God, made for themselves a molded image and two calves, made a wooden image and worshiped all the host of heaven, and served Baal. And they caused their sons and daughters to pass through the fire, practiced witchcraft and soothsaying, and sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the Lord, to provoke Him to anger” (2 Kings 17:16-17).
Now, in Amos’ day, 150 years later, Jeroboam II is doing the same thing. Commenting on Jeroboam II God says, “He did evil in the sight of the Lord; he did not depart from all the sins of Jeroboam [the first], who had made Israel sin” (2 Kings 14:24).
Even though Jeroboam I, Jeroboam II, and kings in between them had misled Israel, even though they had completely failed in leading the people of God in the truth of God’s Word, yet God blessed them immensely. During the time of Jeroboam II, God allowed Israel to reclaim land that had been lost to enemies. We read in 2 Kings, “[Jeroboam] restored the territory of Israel from the entrance of Hamath to the Sea of the Arabah, according to the word of the Lord God of Israel, which He had spoken through His servant Jonah the son of Amittai, the prophet who was from Gath Hepher. For the Lord saw that the affliction of Israel was very bitter; and whether bond or free, there was no helper for Israel.” (2 Kings 14:25-26).
Israel had been under the oppression of enemies, they had trouble, but now God richly blessed them. God had not forsaken His people even though they had forsaken Him. God gave them relief, He gave them peace, He gave them prosperity—the nation was thriving under Jeroboam II…except spiritually. Even though the true God so richly blessed them, they didn’t care about the truth. Rather than see their sin, rather than hear the Word of God convict them in their sin, the people would rather point out: "Look! We’re prospering! Look at what Jeroboam has done! He has done so much for us, he must be a great king!" The truth was that God announced judgment upon their sin. Their time of God’s patience was over. Amos said, “‘Jeroboam shall die by the sword, and Israel shall surely be led away captive from their own land.” [v.11]
Earlier in the book of Amos we hear other judgments of God:
“I will destroy the winter house along with the summer house.” All the prosperity had allowed people to have two homes. But God said. “I’m going to destroy them both. "The houses of ivory shall perish, and the great houses shall have an end," Says the Lord.(Amos 3:15)
“The end has come upon My people Israel; I will not pass by them anymore. (Amos 8:2)
Therefore they shall now go captive as the first of the captives, and those who recline at banquets shall be removed…The high places of Isaac shall be desolate, and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste. I will rise with the sword against the house of Jeroboam.” (Amos 6:7, 7:9)
The truth was that God would bring judgment on Israel. They would be carried away captive to Assyria. Jeroboam would die, and the nation would cease to exist. Throughout the book of Amos, God also establishes the many reasons for this judgment:
“Therefore, because you tread down the poor and take grain taxes from him…” They cheated the poor! The rich were becoming rich at the expense of the poor! That is how they could afford the homes they had, so God said: “Though you have built houses of hewn stone, yet you shall not dwell in them; You have planted pleasant vineyards, but you shall not drink wine from them. (Amos 5:11)
“They … pervert the way of the humble. A man and his father go in to the same girl, to defile My holy name” (Amos 2:7)
“I know your manifold transgressions and your mighty sins: Afflicting the just and taking bribes; Diverting the poor from justice at the gate” (Amos 5:12). The rich were robbing the poor and if those who were swindled tried to obtain justice, that failed too because the justice system was corrupt!
[You have made] the ephah small and the shekel large, falsifying the scales [for business] by deceit” (Amos 8:5)
And regarding the people’s religion—their feasts worship at the two shrines and elsewhere, God said: “I hate, I despise your feast days, and I do not savor your sacred assemblies. Though you offer Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings, I will not accept them, nor will I regard your fattened peace offerings. Take away from Me the noise of your songs, for I will not hear the melody of your stringed instruments. But let justice run down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream (Amos 5:21-24).
This was the truth. There was no denying or contradicting what was going on in Israel. The truth was well established. The record of God’s law was well established. Their behavior was well condemned by God’s truth. What Amos said was THE TRUTH! But man’s natural desire is to create his own truth and that is what Jeroboam and his priest, Amaziah did.
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.” [v.10] What Amos spoke was the truth, but as soon as that truth did not serve Jeroboam’s political desires, as soon as that truth was unsettling in the nation of Israel, it was declared to no longer be truth in the eyes of Jeroboam and his priest. Politics and being politically correct was defining truth. Jeroboam and Amaziah were creating their own truth.
In the Epistle reading, we heard the reason why this natural desire is present. Paul told Timothy, “The time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fairy tales” (2 Timothy 4:3-4). Because we are sinners, we all have the desire to change the truth into what we want it to be. Jeroboam and Amaziah’s desire to make the truth could not erode the truth of what Amos was preaching.
The truth is hard for pride to accept. This is the main reason we want to change it. Our sinful nature is proud and wants to rely on itself and its wisdom. When truth contradicts pride it is difficult to accept. So, rather than accept it, our sinful nature seeks to change it and manufacture its own truth. Amaziah said, “The land is not able to bear [Amos’] words.” [v.10] The land was unsettled. The people couldn’t bear to hear what Amos was saying because he was prophesying that they would go into captivity! He was prophesying the end of their country and the judgment of God! Now, imagine if a prophet came today and said, "All Americans are going to be carried captive into a foreign land and the United States will cease to exist." Can you imagine?! We wouldn’t take it very well either. We would also have difficulty accepting it.
Because Amos’ words were upsetting the people, Amaziah told 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.”[vv.12-13] At this time, Judah was an enemy nation. "Go to Judah!" Amaziah said. "Take your bad news to our enemy. We don’t want to hear it! Never again prophesy in Bethel because it is the king’s sanctuary and the location of his palace." Amaziah’s reason for quieting Amos had nothing to do with religion, it had nothing to do with the truth, it was simply the king’s pride that didn’t want to hear such upsetting things in his city and made it difficult to accept the truth of Amos’ words.
Pride oftentimes finds it hard to accept the truth because of sin. God’s law convicts us in our sin. This is what was happening to the people of Israel at this time. God’s truth came and convicted them in the atrocities of all that they were doing. The writer to the Hebrews describes God’s Word as a powerful sharp two-edged sword that cuts to the very marrow of our innermost being (cf. Hebrews 4:12). Yes, it is hard for our sinful pride to accept it because it condemns us. But we NEED to hear that truth, just as much as the people of Amos’ day needed to hear it. Our pride needs to be cut down. Our sin needs to be confronted, rebuked, and corrected so that we see ourselves for what we are—condemned sinners under God’s law.
King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon boasted about his great kingdom supposing that he had accomplished the greatness of his land. God cut him down, allowing him to go insane for a time and be humbled (cf. Daniel 4:19ff). King David who was a great and faithful king in Israel had an episode of pride when he commanded a census. God rebuked him and humbled him by sending a plague on Israel (cf. 1 Chronicles 21:1ff). Peter, the apostle, pridefully said, "I will never deny you," but was humbled when he remembered the truth of what Jesus had said in warning him about his denial (cf. Luke 22:31ff, 54ff).
On our own we can do NOTHING. We are lower than the dust of the earth. We are condemned by God’s just law. Our pride and sinfulness do not want to hear this, but that is the truth for every single one of us. It is by the grace of God and the merits of Christ that we can boast in our Lord. We can boast in our salvation. “I CAN do all things THROUGH CHRIST who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13). “It is GOD who works in us both to will and to do for His good pleasure”(Philippians 2:13).
It is comforting and strengthening to know that God’s Word is enduring to accomplish what He says. The problem with Amaziah telling Amos to quit preaching was that it wasn’t Amos’ own words he was preaching. Amos said, “I was no prophet, Nor was I a son of a prophet, But I was a sheepbreeder and a tender of sycamore fruit.” [v.14] Amos didn’t ask to be the one to go to Israel. He didn’t come up with this message on his own. God called him to speak the truth. God called him to prophesy these words to the people of Israel.
Because Amaziah tried to silence the word of the Lord he would reap his own judgment. His wife would be a harlot in the city, his sons and daughters would die by the sword, he would die in a heathen land, and everything that Amos had said about Israel would still come true. [cf. v.17]
Ultimately, God’s Word came to pass. Israel was carried away to Assyria never to return. All the things God had said were true. If God’s Word were anything less we would be hopeless. God’s Word is enduring so that just as what He said came true for Jeroboam, so what He promises us in Christ will also come true.
In our first hymn this morning, we sang of God’s strong Word that "bespeaks us righteous" (cf. Worship Supplement 2000 #775, st.3). God’s Word declares you forgiven. All your sin, all your pride that doesn’t like the truth is washed away and forgiven because Jesus died for your sins. God’s Word declares you righteous and holy in His sight. God’s declaration doesn’t change. His Word is enduring. God says you are righteous because through that powerful Word God has brought you to faith and through that faith given you the righteousness which Christ won on the cross.
God’s Word is sure and enduring. When He says Jesus will return on the Last Day, He willreturn and judge all people. When God says that you are receiving the very body and blood of Christ in the Lord’s Supper with the bread and wine, it is true! The real presence of Christ’s body and blood is certain because God’s Word declares it and His Word endures, accomplishing what He says. God’s Word is sure, strengthening us with its strength and forgiving us our sins.
In this story of Jeroboam and his wicked priest, Amaziah, we see where human nature leads. It opposes God, it doesn’t want to hear His truth, and it will ultimately die in judgment.
In Christ we find our salvation. God’s Word is sure both ways—to the unbeliever it is a sure word of judgment and to us it is a sure word of salvation—the Gospel of life everlasting.
Rejoice in the surety of God’s Word that can NOT be eroded no matter what man may say, think, or do. Amen.
—Pastor Wayne C. Eichstadt