TODAY’S READING FROM THE OLD TESTAMENT- – AMOS 4:1-6:14
Amos sarcastically invites the people of Israel to their altars of disobedience at Bethel and Gilgal and dares them to continue to serve their worthless idols. He says, ‘brag about your free-will offerings’, your religious dedication and service, while you continue to ignore the Sovereign Lord Who created you and brought you out of Egypt.
The nation of Israel remained unrepentant; despite all the divine chastisement they were experiencing for their covenant violations. They continued in the sins of Jeroboam by maintaining their false worship centers in the northern region of Samaria, with altars to idols in the form of calves at Bethel and Dan (2 Kings 12:26-29).
Gilgal was once a place where God received worship from his people. This is where Israel first camped when they crossed the Jordan River and entered the Promised Land (Joshua 4:19). It is where the Lord exalted Joshua in the eyes of the people. At Gilgal they built a memorial altar with the 12 stones that they brought out of the river. At Gilgal they renewed their covenant and circumcised the men as a sign of their covenant commitment (Joshua 5:2-11). At Gilgal they celebrated the Passover (Joshua 5:10). At Gilgal the Lord appeared to Joshua as captain of the host (Joshua 5:13-14). It was at Gilgal that Saul was crowned as Israel’s first king (1 Samuel 11:15). It was a significant place in the nation’s story. It should have been a place for them to remember what God had done for them. But we learn from the prophet Hosea and Amos that Gilgal became a place of idolatry. It is at Gilgal that they thanked the wrong God. At Gilgal they loved to worship, although their hearts were given to idols and idolatrous practices. “This is what you love to do”, declares the Sovereign Lord (Amos 4:6).
As a father who loves his children, the LORD repeatedly chastened Israel. The prophet declares the words of the Lord, “yet you have not returned to me” (Amos 4:6,9, 10, and 11).
Then the Lord gives this solemn warning, letting them know that if they don’t meet him in mercy, they will meet him in judgement:
Amos 4:12-13 12 “Therefore thus I will do to you, O Israel; Because I will do this to you, prepare to meet your God, O Israel.” 13 For behold, He who forms mountains and creates the wind and declares to man what are His thoughts, He who makes dawn into darkness and treads on the high places of the earth, the LORD God of hosts is His name.
Amid these prophecies of doom, there is a glimmer of hope- a further call to repentance.
Amos 5:4-5 4 For thus says the LORD to the house of Israel, “Seek Me that you may live. 5 But do not resort to Bethel and do not come to Gilgal, nor cross over to Beersheba; For Gilgal will certainly go into captivity and Bethel will come to trouble.”
He recites their numerous social sins: despising truth and righteousness, forcing the poor into hard labor, taking bribes, and depriving the poor of justice in the courts.
The Lord appeals for their change of mind and heart. “Seek good, not evil, that you may live. Then the Lord will be with you, just as you say He is.”
This reveals the depth of their deception. They professed that the Lord was with them, when He is letting them know that they have departed from Him.
The Lord promises judgment that would be so severe that there will not be enough mourners to hire for the dead. Paid mourners were traditionally hired for the funerals, but because of the abundance of deaths, they would have to resort to summoning the farmers to serve as mourners. (Amos 5:16-17).
Amos clarifies that what they anticipate as ‘the Day of the Lord’ and ‘the Coming of the Messiah’, will be a day of darkness, not light, because when the Christ returns, He is coming as Judge (Amos 5:18).
Amos 5:18 18 Alas, you who are longing for the day of the LORD, for what purpose will the day of the LORD be to you? It will be darkness and not light.
He goes on to explain the darkness as ‘pitch darkness, without a ray of light’ (Amos 5:20).
Then he announces the judgement of EXILE:
Amos 5:27 27 “Therefore, I will make you go into exile beyond Damascus,” says the LORD, whose name is the God of hosts.
In Chapter 6 we are given a warning of the dangers of apathy:
Amos 6:1a 1 Woe to those who are at ease in Zion and to those who feel secure in the mountain of Samaria.
Amos then lists the comforts, luxuries and conveniences that bury them in spiritual indifference to the degree that they do not mourn “the ruin of Joseph” (Amos 6:4-7).
Joseph had an exemplary testimony and is a picture of God’s redemptive purpose of sending a Savior despite their wickedness. But that testimony has been trashed by their sin, therefore Israel would be the first to go into exile.
What an accurate prophecy that proved to be! The Assyrians would be stirred up against Israel, the northern kingdom, and carry them away into exile before the Babylonians bring the southern kingdom of Judah into their 70-year exile.
TODAY’S READING FROM THE NEW TESTAMENT – REVELATION 2:18-3:6
Today we read the letters of the Lord Jesus to the churches of Thyatira and Sardis.
Various components of John’s original description of the exalted and glorified high priest, Jesus, are highlighted as He examines the seven candlesticks representing the seven churches of Asia Minor and addresses each one in particular.
As Jesus addresses the church at Thyatira, John highlights Jesus’ eyes and feet. His eyes are like a blazing fire. We can see in His eyes the brightness and warmth of His love, and yet the intensity of His holiness that exposes and burns away all dross—all that is unholy. These are eyes that search hearts and minds (Rev 2:23a). The feet are of burnished bronze which speaks of his judgement that righteously puts to death all that is condemnable- the work of the cross. These are feet that must repay the wrongdoer according to his deeds (Rev 2:23b).
As Jesus commends their increasing love, faith, service, and perseverance, evidence of His life at work within them, He also reproves them for tolerating false doctrine. They distorted the gospel of God’s grace as giving a license to sin. Like Jezebel who introduced the nation of Israel to the idolatrous worship of Baal and Astarte, fertility cults that not only condoned but promoted and sanctified sexual immorality, false teachers were doing the same. Jezebel was evil and so is this teaching and those who teach it (1 Kings 19:1-2; 21:1-15; 2 Kings 9:7-10, 30-37).
The leaders of the church at Thyatira lacked a sensitivity to God’s holiness. This brought a permissiveness that confused, discouraged, and derailed the faith of its church members. The practice of eating meat that was sacrificed to idols, sent mixed messages to those who knew that idol worship was abhorrent to God.
The church is warned that unless there is repentance, the One who has eyes of fire and feet of bronze will unleash His holy fire in a purifying judgement. Therefore, they are to hold on to the truth of the gospel and let go of the evil teachings of this Jezebel.
The promised reward for faithfulness will be what is promised to all ‘in Christ ones’ – the morning star- Christ Himself, and the privilege of reigning with Him. However, some will have greater spheres of authority than others, so be faithful to steward what you have been given to hold on to.
Next, the Lord Jesus addresses the Church at Sardis. This church had a reputation of being orthodox and alive, and yet the Lord knows that there is an overall lack of any manifestation of His life among them. He is clear to point out that there are a few among them, a faithful remnant, who are walking in the light, and have not soiled their clothes. Their hearts are regularly renewed in repentance and they continue in ‘honest to God’ fellowship (1 John 1:9).
However, the majority are self-deceived, and believe that they are alive when they are not. They have made professions of faith yet lack the possession of faith. They have yet to obey the gospel and repent- that is, change their mind about their condition, recognizing their need to believe, entrusting themselves to Jesus as their Sovereign and Merciful Lord and Savior.
False faith and self-deception are contagious. Is your faith in Christ Jesus or your religious affiliation? Is it in an experience of corporate worship and community or in the gospel of Jesus Christ? The church that looks alive may not truly be alive unless Christ is received on His terms and recognized as Who He is.
The Lord knows those who are His. He will not blot out the names in the Book of Life of those who truly belong to Him.
2 Timothy 2:19 19 Nevertheless, the firm foundation of God stands, having this seal, “The Lord knows those who are His,” and, “Everyone who names the name of the Lord is to abstain from wickedness.”
TODAY’S READING FROM THE BOOK OF PSALMS – PSALM 130:1-8
Psalm 130 is a penitential Psalm. It is a cry for mercy. We are told of God’s awe-inspiring willingness and ability to forgive.
Psalm 130:3 3 If You, LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?
There is something that causes us to shudder in amazement, when we consider how our offenses to God’s holiness can be erased from our records, when we trust Christ as our Lord and Savior.
Psalm 130:4 4 But there is forgiveness with You, That You may be feared.
Where else can we turn to? To whom else can we look?
Psalm 130:5 5 I wait for the LORD, my soul does wait, and in His word do I hope.
The Psalm concludes with this good news:
Psalm 130:6-7 6 My soul waits for the Lord more than the watchmen for the morning; Indeed, more than the watchmen for the morning. 7 O Israel, hope in the LORD; For with the LORD there is lovingkindness, and with Him is abundant redemption.
TODAY’S READING FROM THE BOOK OF PROVERBS – PROVERBS 29:21-22
Proverbs 29:21-22 21 Whoever pampers his servant from childhood will in the end find him to be his heir. 22 A man of wrath stirs up strife, and one given to anger causes much transgression. (ESV)
PRAY FOR THE NATIONS – THE USA
(from “Operation World Prayer Guide and Prayercast.com)
Long known as a land of opportunity, the United States (U.S.) has the greatest ethnic diversity of any country in history. Although it is primarily a nation of immigrants, there are 562 federally recognized Native American people groups. As the third largest country, its fifty states include diverse landscapes of tropical beaches, mountain ranges, rolling prairies, barren deserts, and dense wilderness. Millions of tourists are drawn each year to admire its fifty-eight national parks and visit its biggest cities, including New York and Los Angeles. Home to Hollywood, Los Angeles is the center of America’s film industry, which, like the country itself, has enormous global influence.
Though still a young nation (1776), the U.S. has become a world leader economically, militarily, and technologically, and remains the world’s largest and most diverse economy. This democratic republic has played a historically vital role as a proponent of global democracy and freedom and has often been a provider of aid and stability around the world. The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 deeply impacted the country and led it to declare a war against terrorism. In the following years America suffered through an economic crisis that led to a global recession. Today the U.S. faces deep political and societal divisions. Many moral questions have moved from the social to political spheres, with ongoing debates on the legalization of issues such as abortion, same-sex marriage, and physician-assisted suicide. Mass shootings have plagued the nation, and issues of immigration have become volatile. While racial equality has improved a great deal after a long and ugly past of slavery, recent racial tensions have continued to spark violent protests.
The U.S. has a rich Christian history and was founded on Biblical principles and values. Freedom to exercise religion was written into the constitution and has drawn many to its shores to escape persecution. A number of widespread Awakenings and revivals have swept across the country, and the many evangelical movements and organizations founded here have impacted the world. America remains the world’s largest missionary-sending country. Even so, the Church faces alarming decline. Roughly 78% of Americans claim to be Christian, yet only 31% of adults say that faith is important in their life. Consumerism, moral relativism, immorality, and an independent mindset have infected nearly every part of society, including the Church. Satisfaction is sought primarily through pleasure and materialism. This nation holds unparalleled resources and potential to influence the world for good and spread the Gospel. Yet it stands in desperate need of revival.
PRAYER: Lord, we love Your mercies. We are grateful for the revelation of Your truth, convicting us of sin and causing us to acknowledge our transgressions. There is forgiveness with You. It ushers from the cross where Your Son bore the righteous punishment our sins deserved and satisfied justice on our behalf. We pray that the Life of our Sin-bearing Substitute would continue to fulfill righteousness in us by the power of the Holy Spirit. May justice and mercy flow from our hearts towards others. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.