TODAY’S READING FROM THE OLD TESTAMENT-
Amos was not a religious professional. He did not go to a school for prophets. He was a shepherd of Tekoa and a grower of figs, and yet he had a strong prophetic voice. He prophesies against the surrounding nations and then against Israel herself. He was an 8th century B.C. contemporary of Hosea, Isaiah, and Micah. Although he was a man of Judah, the southern kingdom, he was sent by God to Israel, the northern kingdom, to prophesy what he saw. He saw God judging not just the nations but Israel.
First, we have his word to six nations, starting with its northern neighbor Damascus (Syria): “For three sins of Damascus even for four, I will not turn back my wrath” (Amos 1:3). This is followed by words against Gaza (1:6-8) and Tyre (1:9-10). Then he prophesies against cousin nations, descending from Jacob’s brother Esau (Edom) (1:11-12), and nations descending from Abraham’s cousin, Lot, the nations of Ammon (1:13-15), and Moab (2:1-3). Some of these nations were guilty of great cruelty and slave trading (Damascus and Gaza).
Amos, coming from Judah, then pronounces judgment on Judah for its rejection of God’s Word (2:4-5):
Amos 2:4-5 4 Thus says the LORD, “For three transgressions of Judah and for four I will not revoke its punishment, because they rejected the law of the LORD and have not kept His statutes; Their lies also have led them astray, those after which their fathers walked. 5 “So I will send fire upon Judah and it will consume the citadels of Jerusalem.”
Amos brings a denunciation on the sins of Israel while they are experiencing years of affluence: the rich exploited the poor, and practiced oppression, greed, sexual immorality, and false worship (2:6-9). He recounts their history in which God showed them mercy and provided for their need. He prophesies judgment.
Israel was highly privileged and yet unrepentant of her sins. Do they think that there will be no consequence for their rebellion and disregard for the covenant?
Amos 3:3-5 3 Do two men walk together unless they have made an appointment? 4 Does a lion roar in the forest when he has no prey? Does a young lion growl from his den unless he has captured something? 5 Does a bird fall into a trap on the ground when there is no bait in it? Does a trap spring up from the earth when it captures nothing at all?
Amos makes a point that God is giving them warning through the prophets (Amos 3:7). He promises that He will bring destruction upon the false altars at Bethel!
This prophecy is fulfilled when Assyria destroys the capital city of Samaria, conquering Israel in 722 B.C., less than 30 years later.
TODAY’S READING FROM THE NEW TESTAMENT – REVELATION 2:1-17
Now we read the Epistles of Jesus to the 7 churches of Asia Minor. Ephesus is commended for her deeds, hard work, and perseverance. They are also commended for having zero tolerance of false apostles, prophets, and teachers. They hate the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which is believed to be a Greek equivalent of the Hebrew word for ‘Balaamites.’ Remember that Balaam was a prophet who deceived the Israelites into practices of carrying out their lustful desires in the name of worship.
But the Lord has something against Ephesus: They left their first love.
In verses 2:8-11 we have the Lord’s letter to the persecuted church of Smyrna. There is not one word of correction for this church. They suffered for Christ and, consequently, were reigning with Him. They are promised a great reward for their patient endurance.
Revelation 2:10 10 ‘Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, so that you will be tested, and you will have tribulation for ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.
The Lord writes to the church at Pergamum: They are living in the midst of great opposition to the gospel. In fact, Jesus says that Satan has more than a foothold there; he has his throne there.
Although some are persecuted, and their beloved church member, Antipas, was put to death, they did not renounce their faith. Some of their members in Pergamum gave in to the teaching of Balaam, eating food sacrificed to idols and committing sexual immorality. He warns, ‘repent!’ or He will deal with them with the sword of His mouth.
The promise given to the overcomers are promises that can be claimed by all who truly believe:
Revelation 2:11 11 ‘He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt by the second death.’
Revelation 2:17 17 ‘He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, to him I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and a new name written on the stone which no one knows but he who receives it.’
TODAY’S READING FROM THE BOOK OF PSALMS – PSALMS 129:1-8;
Here we have the Psalmist’s equivalent of what the Apostle Paul said in 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 that though he has been knocked down, he has not been knocked out!
2 Corinthians 4:8-9 8 we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.
Although these verses foreshadow the scourging of the Messiah, the Psalmist is referring to the nation of Israel suffering at the hands of her foes. Yet Israel’s enemies never have the last word. God is her defender.
He prays that the Lord will turn the tables on the enemies of Zion!
Psalm 129:5-8 5 May all who hate Zion Be put to shame and turned backward; 6 Let them be like grass upon the housetops, Which withers before it grows up; 7 With which the reaper does not fill his hand, Or the binder of sheaves his bosom; 8 Nor do those who pass by say, “The blessing of the LORD be upon you; We bless you in the name of the LORD.”
God’s people often extend verbal blessings to each other, and indeed they are blessed. The Abrahamic promise proves true. Blessings are withheld from the enemies of Israel.
Genesis 12:2-3 2 And I will make you a great nation, And I will bless you, And make your name great; And so you shall be a blessing; 3 And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”
Our fuller reading of Scripture reminds us that Jesus said we are to love our enemies, bless those who curse us, and do good to those who hate us and pray for those who despitefully use us and persecute us (Matthew 5:44).
TODAY’S READING FROM THE BOOK OF PROVERBS – PROVERBS 29:19-20
Proverbs 29:19-20 19 A slave will not be instructed by words alone; For though he understands, there will be no response. 20 Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him.
If we really want people to benefit from instruction, they need to observe it in practice. Discipline, training and correction must be backed up by action. Are we holding those we train accountable for putting lessons into practice?
Verse 20 reminds us of the importance of thinking before you speak.
PRAYER: Lord, You have shown Your love, not in words only, but in the great love message of Your Son. Thank You for first loving us. May we never be moved away from the revelation of that love, and may Your Holy Spirit shed that love abroad in our hearts. We pray that the Lord Jesus would be seen in our world today, illuminated by the testimony of the local churches. Thank You for the Life of the Overcomer who has won for us the great blessings of fellowship, eternal life, and a new identity in Christ. Fill us with Your Spirit and employ us as agents of Your healing love and proclaimers of Your reconciling grace. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.