St. John's & Zion Lutheran Churches

Seek the Lord and Live!

Sermon on Amos 5:6,7,10-15

Text: Seek the LORD and live, or he will sweep through the tribes of Joseph like a fire; it will devour them, and Bethel will have no one to quench it. 7 There are those who turn justice into bitterness and cast righteousness to the ground . . . 10 There are those who hate the one who upholds justice in court and detest the one who tells the truth.
11 You levy a straw tax on the poor and impose a tax on their grain. Therefore, though you have built stone mansions, you will not live in them; though you have planted lush vineyards, you will not drink their wine. 12 For I know how many are your offenses and how great your sins.
There are those who oppress the innocent and take bribes and deprive the poor of justice in the courts. 13 Therefore the prudent keep quiet in such times, for the times are evil.
14 Seek good, not evil, that you may live. Then the LORD God Almighty will be with you, just as you say he is. 15 Hate evil, love good; maintain justice in the courts. Perhaps the LORD God Almighty will have mercy on the remnant of Joseph.

There are certain signs that you see as you drive along the road that serve as warnings for the driver. For example, there is the stop sign. Its message is quite clear. When you get to the intersection, you must stop. The reason for this sign is to keep you safe from oncoming traffic. If you were to see a sign that said “Bridge out,” it is warning you that there is danger ahead if you continue on the road. There are other signs that will tell you that you have permission to do something, if you would like to. The “U-turn” sign tells you that you can make a 180 degree turn at this point in the road. As we study this portion of God’s Word, we have a sort of U-turn sign placed in front of us. However, this is not a sign that gives us permission to follow it or not. It is something that is to be a part of every Christian’s life. SEEK THE LORD AND LIVE! 1. Turn From Your Sins. 2. Trust In God’s Mercy. 3. Bring Forth Fruits Of Faith.

Amos was a resident of the Southern Kingdom of Judah. However, God called Amos to go to the Northern Kingdom of Israel and preach to them. At the time, Israel was enjoying a time of prosperity. The people were living well. They were also living in peace. They were no engaged in any warfare with the countries around them. Outwardly, things couldn’t be going much better. Yet, there was a problem that many of the people were unaware of. They were living in ignorance of the fact that they had turned their backs on God.

Amos points out several symptoms of the fact that the people had forsaken God. For example, we read in verse 11, “You levy a straw tax on the poor and impose a tax on their grain.” Greedy landlords demanded excessive rent from their tenants so that they could live in luxury. We, also, read in verse 12, “There are those who oppress the innocent and take bribes and deprive the poor of justice in the courts.” Their entire judicial system was corrupt. If you were wealthy enough, you could make sure that the judgments were always in your favor. It didn’t matter who was right or wrong. It didn’t matter if you were innocent or guilty. You could always find a judge that would rule in your favor. If anyone dared to stand up and say that this was wrong, they faced dire consequences. “There are those who hate the one who upholds justice in court and detest the one who tells the truth.” (Verse 10) They were hated and would have been shunned, at the very least. In all likelihood, some sort of retribution would be handed out. Elsewhere in the book of Amos, it says that the merchants, when they sold grain to the poor, would not clean the dirt and chaff from it, so that the poor were not getting what they paid for. Yes, outwardly, the country of Israel was doing well. However, there was a corruption that was present from top to bottom.

I am sure that there were many in Israel who thought that none of this was a problem. Even if they didn’t worship God exactly the way they were supposed to, or didn’t worship him at all, they were still the chosen people. They were the descendants of Abraham. Surely, God would overlook these small infractions. After all, everyone else was doing the same things.

However, God had a different view of these so-called infractions. He said, “For I know how many are your offenses and how great your sins.” (Verse 12) God doesn’t sugar-coat things. He calls them what they truly are: sins. All of these sins that were listed were really symptoms of the disease that had ravaged the land. They pointed to the fact that they had turned their backs on God. If they followed God, they would not continue to do these things. They would not be making excuses for their behaviors. Yet, they followed their own paths and forgot all about God.

God warns them about the consequences of their actions. “Seek the LORD and live, or he will sweep through the tribes of Joseph like a fire; it will devour them, and Bethel will have no one to quench it.” (Verse 6) If they continue on this path, there would be no hope for them. God promises that total destruction would befall the country. There would not be anything that they could do when that day came. They had turned their backs on God and, at that time, God would turn his back on them.

In our politically correct world, these words are very startling. Yet, God speaks them for a reason. He said, “Seek the LORD and live.” He did not want them to perish in the destruction that lay ahead of them. He wanted them to see what they were doing and the consequences of their actions, if they did not stop.

God, also, speaks to us in his law. There he tells us exactly what he expects from us. Yet, when we take a careful look at our lives, we see that we are guilty of doing many of the same things that the people of Israel were doing. We have been greedy. We seek to get all that we can for ourselves and let others worry about what’s left over. If I have to bend things a little bit to get what I want, well, that’s just being smarter than the other person. While we might not be guilty of taking bribes, do we find ourselves doing something for someone, in the hope that one day, they will do something good for us? If someone is good to me, I will be good to them. Have we ever cheated someone out of something? In our dealings with other people, do we treat everyone the way that we would like to be treated, or do we pick and choose those who will get our favor?

When we look at these things, we might feel a bit uncomfortable. That is when the excuses start to come in. They did it to me first. If you don’t look out for yourself, no one else will? Everyone else is doing it, so what’s the harm? We try to pacify things by saying that they really aren’t all that bad. Besides, we tell ourselves, we are members of a church. We are faithful in our attendance. We put our offering in the plate. Do you see how the devil using that as if to say we have complete freedom to live however we want? However, the law not only shows us what God demands from us. It also tells us how far short we have fallen from the perfection he demands. According to his law, God says, “For I know how many are your offenses and how great your sins.” (Verse 12) We, also, need to be aware of the consequences of these actions, as well. Just as God threatened the fire that would consume Israel, he tells us of the eternal fire that will never completely consume us in hell. Remember the purpose of this warning that God gives. “Seek the LORD and live.” This is the first part of the U-turn. It is realizing that we are going in the wrong direction.

That was the purpose of Amos’ message. Not only were the people to see their sins, but God also was reaching out to them in love. Our text concludes with the words, “Perhaps the LORD God Almighty will have mercy on the remnant of Joseph.” God is offering mercy to the people. He wants to take them back. He wants to forgive them and make them his people again. It is worth noting that Amos uses the word “perhaps.” He doesn’t sound all that optimistic that the people would heed his warning. Perhaps the Lord will have mercy.

How thankful we are that God actually has had mercy on us. That is seen so vividly in what Jesus did for our salvation. We did not deserve the love of God, but he chose to love us anyway. He sent his Son, Jesus, into the world to rescue us from the mess that we had gotten ourselves into. Where you and I have failed time and again without number, Jesus did not. He was perfect for us. He was not greedy. He gave to those in need. He didn’t pick and choose who deserved his love. He showed love to all people, regardless of whom they were. This was all done for us. Then, to pay for that mountain of sins that we have committed, he went to the cross where he endured the punishment that we deserved. Jesus felt the full brunt of his Father’s anger against our sins. He suffered the torments of hell for us. He gave his life for us. On Easter morning, as he rose from the dead, he showed us that all was completed for our salvation. God has shown his mercy to us by saving us. This is the second part of the U-turn, or repentance. It is believing that Jesus has come to the earth to pay for all of our sins.

Amos also showed the people how they could put the called for repentance into action. Very simply, he said, “Hate evil, love good.” (Verse 15) In other words, they were not just to say that they were sorry for their sins. They were to put their money where their mouths were. They were to avoid what they had been doing and go what was pleasing to God.

This is the third part of the U-turn. Out of love for God for all that he has done for us, we want to do those things that are pleasing to God. We don’t do them so that we will not get into trouble. We don’t do them so that we might earn our spot in heaven. We do them to thank God for all that he has done for us. As a result of God’s mercy, we have been saved. Now, with God’s help, we do a 180 degree turn from following the Old Adam to listening to the New Man, which wants to live for God in all that we do, say, and think.

Yet, we know that, in spite of our best intentions, we will continue to fall into sin. It is so easy to fall back into those bad habits, to return to those same old sins. It can be so frustrating for the Christian. The apostle Paul felt the same struggle. He wrote in Romans 7:19, “For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do — this I keep on doing.” He even said in Romans 7:24, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?” How thankful we are that God has continued to show his mercy to us by forgiving us. So, when we look at a day where we know that we have failed in so many different ways to live as we should, we do not throw our hands into the air and say, “What’s the use?” Rather, we say to God, “I have sinned against you. I know what I deserve because of my sins. However, I also know that Jesus has paid for these sins, as well. Lord, strengthen me so that I do it better the next time.” We strive to live for God, because we are thankful for what he has done for us.

To tell you the truth, I don’t like doing U-turns. I am afraid that I didn’t check closely enough and will pull into oncoming traffic. So, even though it is permitted, I will usually try to find a different way. This is not the case with God’s U-turn. This is something that is to be a part of a believer’s faith life. The first part of the U-turn is to turn from our sins. The second part is to trust in God’s mercy who has forgiven those sins. The final part is to produce fruits of faith, that is, live for God who has done everything for us. We thank God for his calling out to us with this message: “Seek the Lord and live!” Because of him, we have a new life to live on this earth and eternal life to live with him in heaven. May God always keep our ears open to his message of love. Amen.