A Message America Does Not Want to Hear (parts one and two)
A Message America Does Not Want to Hear (part one)
God Will Judge This Nation:
1The words of Amos, who was among the herdsmen of Tekoa, which he saw concerning Israel in the days of Uzziah king of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel, two years before the earthquake. 2And he said: “The LORD roars from Zion, and utters His voice from Jerusalem; the pastures of the shepherds mourn, and the top of Carmel withers.”
3Thus says the LORD: “For three transgressions of Damascus, and for four, I will not turn away its punishment, because they have threshed Gilead with implements of iron. 4But I will send a fire into the house of Hazael, which shall devour the palaces of Ben-Hadad. 5I will also break the gate bar of Damascus, and cut off the inhabitant from the valley of Aven, and the one who holds the scepter from Beth Eden. The people of Syria shall go captive to Kir,” says the LORD.
6Thus says the LORD: “For three transgressions of Gaza and for four, I will not turn away its punishment, because they took captive the whole captivity to deliver them up to Edom. 7But I will send a fire upon the wall of Gaza, which shall devour its palaces. 8I will cut off the inhabitant from Ashdod, and the one who holds the scepter from Ashkelon; I will turn My hand against Ekron, and the remnant of the Philistines shall perish,” says the Lord God.
9Thus says the LORD: “For three transgressions of Tyre and for four, I will not turn away its punishment, because they delivered up the whole captivity to Edom, and did not remember the covenant of brotherhood. 10But I will send a fire upon the wall of Tyre, which shall devour its palaces.”
11Thus says the LORD: “For three transgressions of Edom, and for four, I will not turn away its punishment, because he pursued his brother with a sword, and cast off all pity, his anger tore perpetually, and he kept his wrath forever. 12But I will send a fire upon Teman, which shall devour the palaces of Bozrah.”
13Thus says the LORD: “For three transgressions of the people of Ammon and for four, I will not turn away its punishment, because they ripped open the women with child in Gilead, that they might enlarge their territory. 14But I will kindle a fire in the wall of Rabbah, and it shall devour its palaces, amid shouting in the day of battle, and a tempest in the day of the whirlwind. 15Their king shall go into captivity, he and his princes together,” says the LORD.
Amos chapter 2
1Thus says the LORD: “For three transgressions of Moab and for four, I will not turn away its punishment, because he burned the bones of the king of Edom to lime. 2But I will send fire upon Moab, and it shall devour the palaces of Kerioth; Moab shall die with tumult, with shouting and trumpet sound. 3And I will cut off the judge from its midst, and slay all its princes with him,” says the LORD.
4Thus says the LORD: “For three transgressions of Judah and for four, I will not turn away its punishment, because they have despised the law of the LORD, and have not kept His commandments. Their lies lead them astray, lies after which their fathers walked. 5But I will send a fire upon Judah, and it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem.”
6Thus says the LORD: “For three transgressions of Israel and for four, I will not turn away its punishment, because they sell the righteous for silver, and the poor for a pair of sandals.7They pant after the dust of the earth which is on the head of the poor, and pervert the way of the humble. A man and his father go in to the same girl, to defile My holy name.8They lie down by every altar on clothes taken in pledge, and drink the wine of the condemned in the house of their god.9Yet it was I who destroyed the Amorite before them, whose height was like the height of the cedars, and he was as strong as the oaks; yet I destroyed his fruit above and his roots beneath.10Also it was I who brought you up from the land of Egypt, and led you forty years through the wilderness, to possess the land of the Amorite.11I raised up some of your sons as prophets, and some of your young men as Nazirites. Is it not so, O you children of Israel?” says the LORD. 12“But you gave the Nazirites wine to drink, and commanded the prophets saying, ‘Do not prophesy!’13Behold, I am weighed down by you, as a cart is weighed down that is full of sheaves.14Therefore flight shall perish from the swift, the strong shall not strengthen his power, nor shall the mighty deliver himself; 15he shall not stand who handles the bow, the swift of foot shall not deliver himself, nor shall he who rides a horse deliver himself.16The most courageous men of might shall flee naked in that day,” says the LORD.
As a child I learned about three little monkeys. One had his hands over his mouth, the other had his hands over his ears. The third one had his hands over his eyes. ‘Hear no evil! See no evil! Speak no evil!’ However, they could mean: ‘I hear nothing! I see nothing! I say nothing!’ Many times we don’t hear what we don’t want to hear. We don’t see what we don’t wish to see. And we don’t’ say what we should because we’re afraid of the repercussions that might come. The prophet Amos was having a hard time delivering God’s message concerning a coming judgment to Israel. Israel didn’t want to hear it. In response to the preaching of Amos, Amaziah, the priest of Bethel said, “Do not prophesy against Israel, and do not preach against the house of Isaac.” (Amos 7:16).When God called Amos to preach it was in a “period of unprecedented prosperity.” (Yates, Kyle. Preaching from the Prophets. Broadman Press, Nashville, Tenn.). Outward religion abounded but their religion didn’t affect their moral behavior. It was also a time of peace. It was into this setting about 750 years before Christ that God called Amos to preach to Israel.
Consider 7 things they didn’t want to hear & neither do we.
WE DON’T WANT TO HEAR:
1.) That God will judge us for our sins just like any other nation.
2.) That God has reasons for sending His judgments.
3.) That our cup of iniquity is full.
4.) That our religion is a stench in the nostrils of God
5.) That sometimes God’s judgment is an ominous ‘it’.
6.) We do not want to hear that God has reached out to us again and again trying to get us to repent.
7.) That we are vulnerable to an attack from another nation because of our sins.
In the first place we don’t want to hear that God will judge us for our sins, just as He would any other nation. In Amos chapters 1 & 2 Amos is preaching about the coming judgments of God upon all the nations that surrounded Israel. Israel in this text is the northern ten tribes which had split off after the death of Solomon.
Notice the pattern:
Amos 1:3 “For three transgressions of Damascus, and for four, I will not turn away its punishment…”
Amos 1:6 “For three transgressions of Gaza, and for four, I will not turn away its punishment…”
Amos 1:9 “For three transgressions of Tyre, and for four, I will not turn away its punishment…”
Amos 1:11 “For three transgressions of Edom, and for four, I will not turn away its punishment…”
Amos 1:13 “For three transgressions of the people of Ammon, and for four, I will not turn away its punishment…”
Amos 2:1 “For three transgressions of the people of Moab, and for four, I will not turn away its punishment…”
Amos 2:4 “For three transgressions of Judah, and for four, I will not turn away its punishment…”
Amos’ method of preaching in this sermon is intentional, deliberate, psychological and ominous! He tells of God’s judgments coming upon all the nations that surrounded Israel. If you were to look at a map and notice the order in which Amos is pointing out these nations, his technique would become obvious. Amos is crisscrossing the land drawing a bullseye around the nation of Israel There’s not one of those nations that Israel would not have cheered to hear that God was about to judge them. All the way up to Amos 2:4 Amos would have heard ‘Amen brother’! But Amos wasn’t through with his message. In Amos 2:6 Amos said “For three transgressions of Israel and for four, I will not turn away its punishment…” As my Old Testament professor Dr. J. Hardee Kennedy once said, “Preacher, you’ve quit preaching and gone to meddling!” They would have felt like Amos was doing fine as long as he was preaching about those nations. But now, Amos is sending the arrow home to the bullseye. Israel didn’t want to hear that God would judge them also. The same thing is true of us. As long as some preacher is preaching against the evils of radical Islam, ISIS, Osama Bin Laden, or somebody else, many will applaud. As long as it is “For three transgressions of ISIS and for four….” I would have a lot of ‘Amen, brother!’ But the moment I say: “For three transgressions of the United States of America, and for four God will not turn away its punishment” people will stop their ears. We don’t want to hear that God will judge us for our sins and our rebellion against Him. The moment that any minister indicates that many of the calamities we are facing as a nation are a result of our sins against the one true God, people stop their ears. We don’t want to hear it. WE DON’T WANT TO HEAR THAT GOD WILL JUDGE US FOR OUR SINS JUST AS HE WILL ANY OTHER NATION!
God warned Israel about their attitude of thinking that God would not let anyone defeat them. In Amos 6:17 God chided them that they were partying while judgment was standing at the door. Hear His warning! “Woe to you who are at ease in Zion, and trust in Mount Samaria.” You think your defenses will protect you. Are we as arrogant? Do we think that no nation can bring us down? God then continues His warning to them: “Notable persons in the chief nation, to whom the house of Israel comes!” You leaders who think you’ve got it all figured out. All the people of your nation come to you because they think you will be able to protect them. Do we really believe that our leaders can protect us when we are in such rebellion against God? God told them: “Go over to Calneh and see; and from there go to Hamath the great; then go down to Gath of the Philistines. Are you better than these kingdoms? Or is their territory greater than your territory?” God is saying to Israel ‘Do you want proof that I bring judgment upon ungodly nations? Go look at these nations that were once great. What are they now in comparison to what they once were?” “Are you better than these kingdoms?” Do you think you shall escape? I ask the question ‘Do we think God will not judge us?’ Amos 6:4-6 tells how they were partying when they should have been Repenting. Psalm 9:17 says “The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God.” There are judgments for rejecting God and His ways. NO! WE DON’T WANT TO HEAR IT! BUT IT’S THE TRUTH NONE-THE-LESS!
Secondly, we don’t want to hear that when God sends His judgments there are just reasons for it. To every nation listed in the first two chapters of Amos God told them why He was sending judgment upon them. To every one of them God gives His `big BECAUSE.
THE SIN OF DAMASCUS-Amos 1:3-“BECAUSE they have threshed Gilead with implements of iron.” Damascus showed no pity on their neighboring nation. They drove them into the ground and ran over them. God is not neutral when we drive others into the ground and run over them. God is not neutral about oppression.
THE SIN OF GAZA-Amos 1:6-“BECAUSE they took captive the whole captivity to deliver them up to Edom.”
Both Gaza and Tyre sold into slavery those that were around them. God is not neutral when we enslave people in any form. Sometimes slavery is a result of our sins, but God is not neutral about it. When people enslave others with drug addiction, God is not neutral about it. When people sell pornographic material that enslaves others, God is not neutral about it. When people deceive and trap others in the web of occult lies, God is not neutral about it. When people are trapped in sexual perversions of any kind, God is not neutral about it. When our leaders pass laws to normalize it or our judges normalize it, God is not neutral. God is not neutral when people are trapped in homosexuality, bisexuality, and other sexual perversions because they have been lied to.
THE SIN OF TYRE-Amos 1:9-“BECAUSE they delivered up the whole captivity to Edom and did not remember the covenant of brotherhood.” Tyre broke its covenants. God is not neutral when we break our marriage covenants by divorces. God is not neutral when we as a nation break the covenants that we made with other nations, including indigenous nations. When we give our word to someone and then we break it because it benefits us this is called lying. God is not neutral.
THE SIN OF EDOM-Amos 1:11-“BECAUSE he pursued his brother with the sword, and cast off all pity; his anger tore perpetually, and he kept his wrath forever.” Edom seethed in wrath and anger and would not forgive his brother. Edom is the same as Esau. Esau was angry when Jacob took both the blessing and the birthright. This grudge has been going on a long time. God is not neutral when people harbor anger and resentment and refuse to forgive when someone repents and asks forgiveness.
THE SIN OF AMMON-Amos 1:13-“BECAUSE they ripped open the women with child in Gilead, that they might enlarge their territory.” Ammon ripped up pregnant women to destroy the child in the womb so that they could have the property of the child that was about to be born. They wanted to enlarge their borders. God is not neutral when countless children in the womb are slaughtered so that someone else can gain from it. God is not neutral about abortion. It is the shedding of innocent blood.
THE SIN OF MOAB-Amos 2:1-“BECAUSE he burned the bones of the king of Edom to lime.”
THE SINS OF JUDAH-Amos 2:4-“BECAUSE they have despised the law of the LORD, and have not kept His commandments. Their lies led them astray, lies after which their fathers walked.”
Judah had forsaken the commands of God. They pushed God’s commandments out of their society. They didn’t want to be reminded of God’s requirements. God is not neutral when a nation tries to marginalize His word. When His word is removed from the public domain, God is not neutral.
THE SINS OF ISRAEL-Amos 2:6-8-“BECAUSE they sell the righteous for silver, and the poor for a pair of sandals, they pant after the dust of the earth which is on the head of the poor, and pervert the way of the humble, a man and his father go in to the same girl, to defile My holy name. They lie down by every altar on clothes taken in pledge and drink the wine of the condemned in the house of their god.” Israel counted the righteous and the poor as something to be sold for profit. They were sexually perverted. They disdained anyone who was not involved in the same evils that they were. [God draws a huge contrast, showing Israel that they sinned in spite of all that God had done for them over the years]. Amos 2:9-12-“Yet it was I who destroyed the Amorites before them, whose height was like the height of the cedars, and he was as strong as the oaks; yet I destroyed his fruit above and his roots beneath. Also it was I who brought you up from the land of Egypt, and led you forty years through the wilderness, to possess the land of the Amorite. I raised up some of your sons as prophets, and some of your young men as Nazarites. Is it not so, O you children of Israel? Says the LORD. But you gave the Nazarites wine to drink, and commanded the prophets saying, ‘Do not prophesy!’”
Beyond all of this they did not want anyone to tell them that they were wrong. They did not want anyone to tell them that they were sinning and in rebellion against God. Amos 5:10 in the RSV reads: “They hate him who reproves in the gate, and they abhor him who speaks the truth.”
Which of these sins listed above have we not committed in one way or another? Tell me which one? And if God judged those nations for these very sins. Do we think we shall escape? But now I’ve left preaching and gone to meddling. For those who say that what has happened and is happening in our land is not a judgment from God, will you please tell me, what is the meaning of Amos 3:6: “Is a trumpet blown in a city, and the people are not afraid? Does evil befall a city unless the LORD has done it?” We ignore this verse to our own peril. God lifts His hand of protection because we tell Him to go away. And when He does, evil befalls the city and the nation.
BECAUSE! BECAUSE! BECAUSE! BECAUSE! Again and again God tells them why the judgment is coming.
Thirdly, we don’t want to hear that our cup of Iniquity may be full or coming close to being full. God extends His grace over and over again but there comes a time when the cup of sin, the cup of Iniquity is full. God told Abraham that his descendants would inherit the land of the Amorites. But the children of Israel would first spend 400 years in captivity. God would not give the land of the Amorites to the children of Israel until “in the fourth generation they shall return here, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.” (Genesis 15:16). The promise that God gave to Abraham could not be fulfilled yet, because the cup of the Iniquity of the Amorites wasn’t yet full enough to trigger God’s judgments. When we look at our texts in Amos there is a phrase that occurs over and over again: “For three transgressions of ________ and for four”. What this phrase means is three is iniquity to the full and four is overflowing. In all of these cases God was saying that that nations’ cup of sin and rebellion was not only filled to the full, it was overflowing. Don’t you wonder “How full is our cup?
There is a phrase that God says to each of these nations in Amos: “I will not turn away its punishment.” When the cup of iniquity becomes full and overflowing God says, “I will not turn back its punishment.” There is a point where the grace of God runs out. When God warned the Prophet Ezekiel about the judgments coming upon Israel for their sins and rebellion; after each warning came similar chilling words After a warning concerning a coming famine in Ezekiel 14:13 God said ““Though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they would deliver only themselves by their righteousness,” says the LORD God.”” (Ezekiel 14:14). He gives a similar warning in Ezekiel 14:16,18 & 20. There is a time when God’s mercy runs out. When people stubbornly refuse to repent there will come a time when they seek the grace of God and it will not be found. The prophet of old cried these words “Seek the LORD while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, and He will have mercy on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.” (Isaiah 55:6-7).Please do not miss that this invitation gives the conditions “while He may be found” and “while He is near”. Jesus echoed this thought when He cried “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets, and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! See! Your house is left to you desolate..”. (Matthew 23:37-38). When God shut the door of the Ark with Noah and his family inside it, it was too late for those outside the ark. When God drug Lot and his family outside the city and the fire began to fall on Sodom and Gomorrah, it was too late for those inside the cities. How close is this nation to the door of God’s grace shutting on it? Where are we?
Today we looked at:
We don’t want to hear that God will judge us for our sins just as He would any other nation.
We don’t want to hear that God has His reasons for sending His judgments.
We don’t want to hear that our cup of Iniquity is filled to the full.
What will we do about it?
A Message America Does Not Want to Hear (Part 2)
(Amos 7:12-13) 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.”
From the first sermon in this series I shared about the three little monkeys. You may know them, one has his hands over his mouth, another has his hands over his ears and the third one had his hands over his eyes. ‘Hear no evil! See no evil! Speak no evil!’ However, they could mean: ‘I hear nothing! I see nothing! I say nothing!’ Many times we don’t hear what we don’t want to hear. We don’t see what we don’t wish to see. And we don’t’ say what we should say. The reason is because we’re afraid of the repercussions that might come. The prophet Amos was having a hard time delivering God’s message to Israel about a coming judgment. Israel didn’t want to hear it. In response to the preaching of Amos, Amaziah, the priest of Bethel said, “Do not prophesy against Israel, and do not preach against the house of Isaac.” (Amos 7:16). In the text I opened this message with Amaziah told Amos: “never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king’s sanctuary, and it is the royal residence.” Amaziah the priest of Bethel in Essence told Amos, the prophet of God to shut up and go away. They didn’t want to hear what God had to say to them. I submit to you that some of the things that they did not want to hear from God are the same things that many in this nation do not want to hear. What is it that we do not want to hear from God?
In the first message from this series we saw that we don’t want to hear:
1.) That God will judge us for our sins just like any other nation.
2.) That God has reasons for sending His judgments.
3.) That our cup of iniquity is full.
Today I want to continue this topic of what we don’t want to hear. We don’t want to hear:
1.) That our religion is a stench in the nostrils of God
2.) That sometimes God’s judgment is an ominous ‘it’.
3.) We do not want to hear that God has reached out to us again and again trying to get us to repent.
4.) That we are vulnerable to an attack from another nation because of our sins.
In the first place we don’t want to hear that our religion is a stench in the nostrils of God. No one could claim that the Israelites in Amos’ day weren’t religious. God even said as much. He said to them:“Come to Bethel and transgress, at Gilgal multiply transgression; bring your sacrifices every morning, your tithes every three days. Offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving with leaven, proclaim and announce the freewill offerings; for this you love, you children of Israel!” (Amos 4:4-5). They loved being religious. God said so. They went through the religious motions. But their religion had a problem. It didn’t line up with the heart of God. Their religion was an amalgamation. It was a mixture. One of the first times we encounter Bethel in Scripture is when Jacob was fleeing from his brother Esau. As night was coming on he stopped and laid down to sleep. He pulled up a rock to use as a pillow. That night he had a dream of a ladder sat up on the earth reaching into the heavens. He saw angels ascending and descending on that ladder. There that night God made a promise to Jacob “I am the LORD God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and your descendants. Also you and your descendants shall be as the dust of the earth; you shall spread abroad… and in you and in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 28:13-14). When he awoke in the morning, he set up the stone that he had used as a pillow and poured oil on top of it. He named the place Bethel. Bethel means “house of God. This is a place of covenant with God but as is often the case with things that belong to God man messes it up.
Years later when Joshua captured the land of Canaan he had to destroy a king that was king over Bethel. When is there any earthly king over the house of God? Much later in Israel’s history the nation divided into two nations. After the death of Solomon, Solomon’s son Rehoboam became king of the southern tribe Judah. A man by the name of Jeroboam became king of the northern ten tribes. The northern kingdom became known as Israel at that time. Because the northern ten tribes were still Israelites and still worshiped the same God as the southern tribe, Jeroboam was afraid that the northern tribes would still want to go worship at the Temple in Jerusalem. Therefore he created his own religious system. He had a temple of his own built. He made two golden calves for the people to worship. He said to the Israelites “It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem. Here are your gods, O Israel, which brought you up from the land of Egypt!” (1 Kings 12:28) One of those golden calves he placed at Bethel. It was no longer politically correct to worship the one true God. They now had to worship the new god created by the government. The politically correct crowd knows that in order to gain and keep control of people they must create a new god to replace the true God.
By the time of Amos many years had passed since the golden calf was placed at Bethel by Jeroboam. God sent Amos to prophesy against the evil that is still going on there. It is at Bethel that the priest of Bethel informs Amos that it is the king’s sanctuary. The king’s? I thought it was God’s! When that which is God’s house becomes under the control of the government of the king, then the place is headed for judgment. When that place which is the place of God’s covenant with his people becomes defiled, when the government puts their gods in the house of God and demands that the people of God bow down to the new political correctness, then God will send a prophet to warn them. And they will not want to hear that their religion is a stench in the nostrils of God.
They loved being religious at Bethel but their religion was a stench in the nostrils of God. God is a holy God. And the religion of a nation that has become an amalgamation is a stench in the nostrils of God. I understand that those who are lost can’t do anything but live ungodly. But those who claim to be teaching the word of the living God and you are teaching that it is okay for people to bow down to their sexual immorality; you are teaching a religion that is a stench in the nostrils of God. When you say that it’s okay because God loves them as they are. You have set up golden idols in the house of God. Yes! God loves the sinner but he didn’t send His son to die on the cross to leave them in their sin. Those of you that call evil good and good evil; your religion is a stench in the nostrils of God. Those of you that pander to the political correctness of this age are priests who tell the true prophets to shut up and go home.
Secondly, we don’t want to hear that sometimes God’s judgment is an ominous it. When you were a child did you ever have one of your parents say something like “If you don’t stop, you’re going to get it!” What is “it”? That could mean anything. If we look at the warnings that God gave to each of the nations in Amos chapters 1 & 2 God says something very similar.
1.) Amos 1:3, to Damascus : “ I will not turn away its punishment”
2.) Amos 1:6, to Gaza: “I will not turn away its punishment”
3.) Amos 1:9, to Tyre: “I will not turn away its punishment”
4.) Amos 1:11, to Edom: “I will not turn away its punishment”
5.) Amos 1:13, to Ammon: “I will not turn away its punishment”
6.) Amos 2:1, to Moab: “I will not turn away its punishment”
7.) Amos 2:4, to Judah: “I will not turn away its punishment”
8.) Amos 2:6, to Israel: “I will not turn away its punishment”
However in the original Hebrew language the word “punishment” is not there. In our translation the word “punishment” is in italics indicating its’ absence from the text. Therefore, the texts should read: “I will not turn it away”. “It”? What is “it”? My Old Testament professor Dr. J. Hardee Kennedy said this was “ominous”. It is the sound of doom. It is the sound of the certainty of the doom. Whatever the word of judgment is that God speaks to each, it is certain. God does go on to describe judgments to each of the nations above but not before the ominous it. What ominous “it” might be on God’s books for the rebelliousness of this land? What ominous ‘it’ might be looming for your continuous rebellion against God?
Thirdly, we don’t want to hear that God in His great patience has reached out to us again and again trying to get us to repent. God sometimes uses judgment after judgment after judgment to try and get a people to repent. We see this pattern in Amos chapter 4. In ‘Amos 4: 6 God says: “Also I gave you cleanness of teeth in all your cities, and lack of bread in all your places…” God sent famine to try and turn them from their wickedness. How did they respond? ““Yet you have not returned to Me,” says the LORD.”” So what was God’s response to their refusal to repent and return to Him? He sends another judgment. It is recorded in Amos 4:7 “I also withheld rain from you, when there was still three months to the harvest. I made it rain on one city, I withheld rain from another city. One part was rained upon, and where it did not rain the part withered. So two or three cities wandered to another city to drink water, but they were not satisfied…” God sent a drought to turn them from their wicked ways. How did they respond? Did they repent? No! At the end of Amos 4:8 we read: “Yet you have not returned to Me,” says the LORD. In Amos 4:9 God tells of the next judgment that He sent: “I blasted you with blight and mildew. When your gardens increased, your vineyards, your fig trees, and your olive trees, the locust devoured them”. What was their response? “Yet you have not returned to Me,” says the LORD. Two more times God sends a judgment trying to get them to repent. But the story is the same. “No repentance! No repentance! No repentance!
There are times when in the midst of judgment God will pause the judgments and will reach out in kindness trying to get people to repent. Dr. J. Hardee Kennedy points out this pattern in the life of wicked King Ahab.
Ahab had married Jezebel, a wicked woman. They were leading God’s people astray. God sent a drought to try and get Ahab and the people to repent. What was Ahab’s response to the judgment of the drought? Did it break his pride? No! When God sent Elijah to meet with Ahab, the first person that Elijah runs into is Obadiah the servant of Ahab. That servant revealed to Elijah that Ahab wanted to kill Elijah. The drought had brought no repentance. As a matter of fact Ahab blames Elijah for the troubles of Israel. He doesn’t even consider that it is his sins and the sins of the nation that has brought their troubles on them. The drought had only hardened Ahab’s heart. Sometimes God will send judgments into our lives and the life of our nation to get us to repent, but instead of repenting we will harden our hearts. We may blame the preachers. We may blame Christians. We may blame anything other than to admit that our sins have brought the judgments of God on us.
But God wasn’t done with Ahab. He reached out to Ahab in connection with the Mount Carmel experience. On top of Mount Carmel God showed the absolute powerlessness of the gods of Ahab and Jezebel. They could not bring the rain. You would have thought that Ahab would see that the false gods that he and Jezebel were cramming down the throats of Israel weren’t gods at all. But this encounter didn’t bring repentance. Even when Elijah’s prayer brought the rain and Elijah outran the chariot of Ahab; even that did not cause Ahab to repent. Instead Ahab went home to his wife and complained. All of the gods and godlessness being crammed down this nation’s throat is contrary to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and Jesus Christ. They are powerless to solve the problems of our nation. They cannot bring the healing rain that we need.
God was still not through trying to get Ahab to repent. In spite of Ahab’s hardness of heart and wickedness, God in an act of grace and kindness gives Ahab a great military victory against overwhelming odds. This military victory is described in 1 Kings 20. Did this kindness from God bring Ahab to repentance? No! God gave Ahab specific instructions about what to do with the spoils of the war. When God gave Ahab the victory, Ahab enacted his own plan and disobeyed. Rebellious and unrepentant still! Sometimes, even the goodness of God does not change our hardened hearts. You would have thought that the atrocities of 911 would have completely humbled this nation. Sadly, enough it only filled the churches for a couple of weeks or months. Since that day our nation has rebelled more and more against God. Most of the nation clamors for ungodly rulers, who want to murder babies in the womb. We put rulers in power that push the homosexual agenda, transgender bathroom bills, euthanasia and the like. And still we sing and say “God Bless America!” God is not looking for our hollow praise. God is looking for repentance!
Finally, we don’t want to hear that our national sins and rebellion against God, not our lack of military power, have made us vulnerable to an attack from another nation. One of the methods that God uses to punish nations that are wicked is to allow a foreign power to attack it. God does not show partiality. If God judges one nation because of their sins, He will judge another nation for the same reasons. If He judges an individual for certain sins, He will judge another individual for the same reasons. Paul said to the Church at Colosse: “But he who does wrong will be repaid for the wrong which he has done, and there is no partiality.” (Colossians 3:25).
Again and again God in His word points to places that He has judged for their wickedness as proof that He will punish ungodliness wherever He finds it. In the New Testament this concept can be found in 1 Corinthians chapter 10; 2nd Peter chapter 2 and the Book of Jude. In the Old Testament it is found in Amos chapter 6, Ezekiel 31 & 32 and other places. Let us look at two places in the Old Testament where God clearly teaches that He raises up a nation to punish the ungodliness and wickedness of another nation. Habakkuk is a short book of only three chapters. It opens with Habakkuk complaining to God about the evil that is everywhere in his land of Judah. In Habakkuk 1:2 we find his complaint. “O LORD, how long shall I cry, and You will not hear? Even cry out to You, “Violence!” And You will not save.” He is saying, “God, there’s violence everywhere. I’m crying out to you and it seems as if You aren’t listening. What will You do about this evil?” “Violence” in this text means “a strong, fierce, destructive force resulting in acts that maim, destroy and kill, often implying lawlessness, terror and lack of moral restraint.” (Swanson, James A. Dictionary of Bible Languages with Semantic Domains: Hebrew). Habakkuk continues his complaint to God in verse three. “Why do You show me iniquity, and cause me to see trouble?” “Iniquity” is “moral, deceptive, corrupt evil.” “Trouble’ is “misery which is unpleasant, hard, distressing experiences.” God, why show me these things if You aren’t going to do something about them? He continues: “For plundering and violence are before me; there is strife, and contention arises.” “Plundering” is that which brings havoc, devastation, and ruin. “Violence” here is the same as that back in verse two. “Strife” is that which is contentious, hostility, quarreling which bring legal disputes, conflict between two or more parties with a focus on the feelings between the two parties. “Contention” is verbal quarrels. You would think Habakkuk had been reading the newspapers and listening to the news casts of our day.
THE CONSEQUENCE OF RAMPANT EVIL
He goes on to complain to God that because of all that: “Therefore the law is powerless, and justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous; therefore perverse judgment proceeds.” So much evil in the land that justice is perverted by it. Righteous people are hauled into court and lose. The wicked are everywhere even the judges are corrupt and go along with the political correctness of the day. The judges don’t stand for that which is right. Does any of this sound familiar? God, what is going on? Evil is everywhere in the land. Righteous people are being hauled into courts and they lose their cases. Aren’t you going to do anything?
God answers Habakkuk but it’s with an answer that Habakkuk doesn’t expect. God begins His answer in verse five of chapter one. “Look among the nations and watch—be utterly astounded! For I will work a work in your days which you would not believe, though it were told you.” God said to Habakkuk, “I am going to do something to confront the evil in your land. But you will be astounded by My answer. In order to see it you must lift your eyes beyond the borders of your nation. Look out among the nations. You’re not about to believe what I intend to do. In verses 6-11 of chapter one God tells Habakkuk that He is going to raise up the Chaldeans as a chastening rod against many nations to include Judah itself. God was saying to Habakkuk “You want Me to do something about the evil in your land. I will! I am going to use the Chaldeans from outside your nation to come in and make havoc in your land. They will be my chastening rod.”
Habakkuk was shocked by God’s answer. Notice his response in verse 13 of chapter one. “Are You not from everlasting, O LORD my God, my Holy One? We shall not die, O LORD, You have appointed them for judgment; O Rock, You have marked them for correction.” What is Habakkuk’s response? “God, You have appointed the Chaldeans to destruction, not us. In fact Habakkuk implies in verses 16-17 that the Chaldeans were more wicked than the Israelites. He points out that the Chaldeans worship their war machine. “They sacrifice to their net, and burn incense to their dragnet; because by them their share is sumptuous. And their food plenteous. Shall they therefore empty their net, and continue to slay nations without pity?” This picture of a net hauling in a catch is a picture of war. This is made clear at the end of verse 17: They “slay nations without pity.” Do we worship our military might? In Habakkuk 2:1 Habakkuk says that he is going to stand and see what God will answer to this objection. How could God use someone more wicked than them to punish them?
In Habakkuk 2:2-4 God gives His answer to Habakkuk’s objection. “Write the vision and make it plain on tablets, that he may run who reads it. For the vision is yet for an appointed time; but at the end it will speak, and it will not lie. Though it tarries wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry. Behold the proud, his soul is not upright in him. But the just shall live by his faith.” What is God saying? He is saying that the Chaldeans will be a chastening rod in God’s hands against Judah even if makes no sense to Habakkuk. Even if it doesn’t happen immediately wait for it. But even in the midst of this judgment those who are just need to live in this troubled time with faith and trust in God.
A second place where this concept of God raising up one nation as a chastening rod against the evils of another nation can be found in Ezekiel chapters 31 & 32. In Ezekiel 31:1-2 God tells Ezekiel to talk to Pharaoh king of Egypt. Pharaoh had come to the point that he thought that his nation was the greatest and most powerful on the face of the earth. God challenges him with the question: “Whom are you like in your greatness?” Then in Ezekiel 31:3-17 God points to another nation that had developed the same arrogant attitude. He points to the nation of Assyria. God points out that “Indeed Assyria was a cedar in Lebanon, with fine branches that shaded the forest and of high stature…” God is saying that the nation of Assyria was like a tall powerful tree in the forest. So mighty and powerful was the nation of Assyria that God continued the imagery of a tall tree in a forest by saying in verse 6 “All the birds of the heavens made their nests in its boughs; under its branches all the beasts of the field brought forth their young…” And then as if to explain what that meant God says “And in its shadow all great nations made their home.” Assyria was so great that all nations came under the influence of the branches of Assyria. Its power and influence could be felt far and wide. But when a nation becomes that powerful it also often becomes corrupted by its power and influence and then becomes wicked. When that happens God will bring it down. In Ezekiel 31:10-11 God points out this mistake of Assyria and that mistakes consequences. “Therefore…its heart was lifted up in its height, therefore I will deliver it into the hand of the mighty one of the nations, and he shall surely deal with it; I have driven it out for its wickedness…”
God was giving a warning to Pharaoh king of Egypt; “You think your hot stuff. Then look at Assyria, who was more powerful than you. It became lifted up in pride because of its power. And because of it they became wicked. Therefore, I am going to turn them over “into the hand of the mighty one of the nations, and he shall surely deal with it…” God turning one nation over to another nation to be overrun because of the arrogance and wickedness of that nation. And then in Ezekiel 31:18 God drives the lesson home to Egypt: “To which of the trees in Eden will you then be likened in glory and greatness? Yet you shall be brought down…” The pattern is clear. We must take seriously this warning in Scripture. It is God that gives nations the ability to become powerful. When any nation in the earth becomes tall and powerful to the point that its influence can be felt in all the nations of the earth, if that power begins to corrupt them and they become arrogant and wicked then God will raise up another nation to use as a chastening rod to bring that proud and arrogant nation down. That warning holds true for us as well. But do we really want to hear it?
Today we have looked at that we don’t want to hear:
1.) That our religion is a stench in the nostrils of God
2.) That sometimes God’s judgment is an ominous ‘it’.
3.) We do not want to hear that God has reached out to us again and again trying to get us to repent.
4.) That we are vulnerable to an attack from another nation because of our sins and rebellion against God.
Will we heed the lessons? Will we repent? Or will we stop our ears and go on our merry way to our doom?