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.
The first portion of the book contains 8 oracles to the nations. Stern judgments are pronounced beginning with this ominous phrase- For three sins, yea even four.
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, 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 judgement.
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 the 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 2:7 7 ‘He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God.’
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 equivalent of the Apostle Paul saying that he has been knocked down but not 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.
The Psalmist puts it this way:
Psalm 129:2-3 2 “Many times they have persecuted me from my youth up; Yet they have not prevailed against me. 3 “The plowers plowed upon my back; They lengthened their furrows.”
He prays that the Lord will turn the tables on the enemies of Zion!
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.
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.