Judgment


Amos 1-4 (NLT link)

Discover His heart: He speaks through those He chooses to deliver His message

I must admit that I have a certain affinity toward the prophet Amos.  He was a shepherd who had visions!  Minding his own business and tending sheep in the countryside just south of Bethlehem, he started to receive visions from the Lord.  Perhaps the solitude of the countryside and the lack of social interaction provided the right atmosphere for God to communicate with Amos. This is something I think about when I find myself running all day long.

Amos was not from a family of prophets or priests, but he most certainly had a heart for God with open communication with him.  He was a shepherd and used many metaphors from the pasture in his writings.  Equally important to the lessons learned from what Amos said is the example of how his life reveals God’s intention to use anyone who is willing to touch the world.

Amos was a forerunner in the timeline of Israel’s next three professional prophets. Through divine revelation, he pronounced judgment on the surrounding countries as well as on Israel, and his tactic was brilliant.  People often say that sheep are dumb, and with that thinking, it wouldn’t have taken much intelligence or skill for Amos to tend them. However, through my encounters with countless sheep and numerous shepherds, I can say with confidence that most sheep are not as dumb as they are willful.  How better to describe the mindset of Israel at this time in history – pleasure seeking, idol worshiping willful sheep.

Just like with his sheep, Amos found a way to get the attention of Israel.  In Chapters 1 and 2, Amos waxed eloquent on the judgment that was coming to Syria, Philistia, Tyre, Edom and Ammon.  This must have thrilled the Israelites, and I can imagine them shouting in agreement with Amos, “Yes! Get them, God, for their injustices to us.” It’s easy to see the error in the lives of others and overlook our own problems, and so it was Israel at that time.

Then in his proclamations, Amos lowered the boom, “This is what the Lord says: ‘The people of Judah have sinned again and again, and I will not let them go unpunished!  They have rejected the instruction of the Lord, refusing to obey his decrees. They have been led astray by the same lies that deceived their ancestors.  So I will send down fire on Judah, and all the fortresses of Jerusalem will be destroyed.’” (2:4-6)  Party over.

The cultural norm of Israel at this time was not unlike what we are experiencing in the world today, a blending of right and wrong, blurred lines, everything gray.  Do what feels right…it can’t be wrong if it feels so right…God only wants us to feel good.  Many in Israel had crossed the line to what they knew to be wrong, yet did it anyway. After enumerating the ways God had attempted to get Israel’s attention through the years, Amos, speaking for God, delivered the final blow, “Therefore, I will bring upon you all the disasters I have announced. Prepare to meet your God in judgment, you people of Israel!”  I’m fairly certain that any affection for Amos and his message was over.

We can somewhat understand the feelings of the Israelites at this point.  I really don’t like it when a preacher, or a devotional for that matter, gets all up in my business and conviction comes to my heart. It’s easy to get uncomfortable and perhaps a little angry thinking, don’t mess with my gray areas and certainly don’t mess with my sin.   It never helps to shoot the messenger; it only helps to submit to the message.

When I stand before the Lord one day, I want to have responded to His merciful messages, I want to have experienced His wonderful grace and I want to hear something like, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” (Matthew 25:23)  So, messengers of God, bring it! 

Moving Forward:  I’m thankful today that He opens doors of ministry to each one of us, regardless of our backgrounds, and I’m ever challenged to submit to the messages that He brings my way. 

Tomorrow @ John 16-18

Psalms 81-83 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: “God presides over heaven’s court” and He will judge the judges 

@Psalm 82
Raise your hand if you think the judicial system of our government is always strong, ethical and carries out moral judgments at all times?  I’m sure the response was weak.  Just like our challenges today, Asaph was having trouble finding honorable judges in Israel, “How long will you hand down unjust decisions by favoring the wicked?  Give justice to the poor and the orphan; uphold the rights of the oppressed and the destitute.  Rescue the poor and helpless; deliver them from the grasp of evil people.”(2-4)  Sounds like an indictment and a mandate all in one.

Needless to say, the judicial branch of the government that interprets and carries out the laws of the land is a powerful entity.  Only when those judgments are based on God’s moral laws can we as Christians be certain that justice has prevailed rather than opinions, social dictates and godless influences.  While many fine judges carry out their responsibilities across our land, I’m concerned just like Asaph about the decisions of judges that favor the wicked and fail to uphold the rights of our belief, traditional families, unborn babies and vulnerable children.

Psalm 82 makes it clear that God is the judge of the judges, and their day in court will come one day.  “God presides over heaven’s court…you will die like mere mortals and fall like every other ruler. Rise up, O God, and judge the earth, for all the nations belong to you.” (1,7-8)  God always has the last word, but in the meantime what can we do?

Clearly, making careful decisions at the ballot box instead of mindlessly approving judicial appointments is a start, as well as voicing our concerns to our local, state and federal government leadership when immoral judgments are made.

Even more important is praying for them, “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:1-4)  Our prayers may turn the hearts of immoral or complacent judges to the saving knowledge of God’s truth, and when that happens, we can be assured that we will remain one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and JUSTICE for all. Sounds like a guarantee, a vow…a pledge! 

Moving Forward: I will pray that my judgments today are pure as I preside over my little sphere of influence and I will pray for those with great influence and judgment over my nation. 

Tomorrow @ Proverbs 10