St. John's & Zion Lutheran Churches

We Carry Our Christian Faith With Us

Sermon on Amos 8:4-7

Text: Hear this, you who trample the needy and do away with the poor of the land, 5 saying, “When will the New Moon be over that we may sell grain, and the Sabbath be ended that we may market wheat?” — skimping on the measure, boosting the price and cheating with dishonest scales, 6 buying the poor with silver and the needy for a pair of sandals, selling even the sweepings with the wheat. 7 The LORD has sworn by himself, the Pride of Jacob: “I will never forget anything they have done.”

If you walk around and see a person wearing a shirt that has a great big red “N” on it, you have no doubt as to which team they are supporting. Obviously, they are not fans of Kansas State or Iowa. By what they are wearing, you can quickly see that they are fans of the University of Nebraska. They have made it very clear to all who see them that they follow the Huskers. As Christians, out of thankfulness for all that God has done for us, we want to let others see our Christianity in our lives. As we study our text, we find four instances to do this as WE CARRY OUR CHRISTIAN FAITH WITH US 1. In Our Attitude Toward The Needy, 2. In Our Single-Minded Worship Of The Lord, 3. AS We Fulfill Our Calling In The Marketplace and 4. As We Face Our Lord.

The prophet Amos was called to preach to the northern nation of Israel. On the outside, it looked like everything was going well for the nation. They were very prosperous. They had security. However, when you dig through the veneer, you see that, though outwardly they were doing well, they had some huge spiritual problems. Their courts had become corrupt, taking bribes and perverting justice. The rich were oppressing the poor. Although the various shrines to their gods were full, justice and righteousness had disappeared from their daily lives. In his prophecy, Amos alternates between predictions of disaster and condemnation of sin. In verse 2 of Amos 8, God said, “The time is ripe for my people Israel; I will spare them no longer.” He was about to bring a nation-ending disaster on Israel. In the verses of our text, we see some of the Lord’s reasons for this pronouncement.

In our text, God is primarily addressing the wealthy merchants of the land. He says, “Hear this, you who trample the needy and do away with the poor of the land.” (Verse 4) In the law that was given to the people through Moses, God had said, “I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land.” (Deuteronomy 15:11) If someone was needy, those who were blessed were supposed to help them. They were to be “openhanded,” that is to say, they were to freely and generously give to those in need. Instead, these merchants were tight-fisted. They had no desire to be charitable. They saw the needy as those who could be taken advantage of. By their actions, they were trampling the needy.

How do you react when you see a needy person? For example, what do you think as you leave the parking lot of a store when you see a person holding up a sign, asking for help? Is it disgust? What about other needy people? Do we wonder what they did to get into that situation with charitable thoughts or judgmental ones? Do we catch ourselves thinking that if we help them out, they will waste what we are giving them? What can we do to help someone, who is in need? I am not suggesting that we give money to everyone who asks us. However, are there other ways that we can help that person out? Perhaps, we can offer a meal. There are other avenues to help people out, such as the various charities. In our church body, we have Christian Aid and Relief. The funds go to help people in our nation and around the world. If someone comes to us with an emotional need, rather than looking at them and thinking “I don’t want to get involved,” we can help them by listening to them and giving them Christian love and advice. We have opportunities to carry our Christian faith as we show love to those in need.

God continues to address the merchants in verse 5. He quotes them as saying, “When will the New Moon be over that we may sell grain, and the Sabbath be ended that we may market wheat?”. On the outside, these merchants were following the letter of the law, which forbade working on the Sabbath or during the New Moon Festival. They dutifully did this, but God can see into their hearts. They looked at these religious activities as interruptions in their businesses. They couldn’t wait until they were done, so that they could get to something profitable. They didn’t see the joy or the benefit of taking the time to worship God.

Do we ever catch ourselves thinking something along the same lines? We go to church, because that is what is expected of us. Since we are so familiar with the liturgies, it is so easy to just speak the words, without really paying attention to what we are saying. We find the hymns to be dull and too long. We almost can’t wait until it’s over, so that we can do something that is more valuable or fun. Dear friends, realize what happens in our time together in worship. We have the opportunity to put the rest of life on hold for a few moments. This is a concentrated time when we can worship God. We have the opportunity to confess our sins and hear those sweet words of forgiveness. God comes to us in his Word to teach us. We can come to him in prayer. As we leave this place, we do so hearing God’s words of blessing as we go out to face another week. We have the opportunity to carry our Christian faith with us as we come to him with a single-mindedness in worship.

God calls to mind some of the business practices that these merchants were using, “skimping on the measure, boosting the price and cheating with dishonest scales, buying the poor with silver and the needy for a pair of sandals, selling even the sweepings with the wheat.” (Verses 5&6) They were skimping on the measure. As they were selling grain to the poor, they made the baskets just a little smaller than what they were supposed to be and sold the product at the price of the correct size. They were inflating the prices to take advantage of those who needed grain. They played with the scales, so that the poor were paying more. They were selling the sweepings with the wheat. When the wheat was processed, the husks of the wheat were separated from the grain. Normally, you would get rid of the chaff. However, these merchants were keeping some of the chaff in the grain, making the product less valuable, but selling it for the regular price. It was all about getting whatever fortune they could, even off of the backs of the poor.

We also have the opportunity to carry our Christianity with us in the marketplace. If we own a business or a farm, we can make sure that we are honest and fair with our prices and our products. If we work in a business, we can make sure that we don’t do anything that would take advantage of a customer. When we purchase goods from someone, we want to be sure that we are paying a fair price for them. For example, if we are at a store and notice that the product rang up the price below what it was supposed to be, what is our reaction? Do we rejoice that we got something cheaper than it was supposed to be or do we point out the error? People may tell us that these are not smart business practices. However, they are the fair ones and they give us another opportunity to carry our Christianity with us.

As a result of these practices, we read of their condemnation, “The LORD has sworn by himself, the Pride of Jacob: ‘I will never forget anything they have done.’” (Verse 7) To show the certainty of the Lord’s words, he takes an oath, swearing by his own name that what he said would happen, would indeed happen. He utters one of the most chilling statements in all of the Scriptures: “I will never forget anything that they have done.” The way that these merchants had so offended God would never be forgotten. In spite of the many warnings that God had given to the people to reform their ways, they chose to ignore God’s words. They continued on their way. As a result, they would face the consequences of their actions. In less than a generation, the Assyrians would come and invade the land. The land would be conquered. The people would be scattered to the four winds. The nation of Israel would come to an end. When they faced the Lord, they would do so in great terror.

What if we had to stand before God on our day of judgment? What if we had to stand before him with our greediness, our lack of compassion for those in need, our lackluster worship life? How would we fare? We deserve to hear God say to us, “I will never forget anything that they have done.” As a result of God’s righteous judgment, we would be eternally separated from God. He would never forget anything that we had ever done as we would be punished by him forever.

However, we not only have a righteous God, we, also have a God of grace and mercy. Since there was no way that we could ever make up for our sins, he sent his Son into the world to rescue us. As you study the life of Jesus, you see the perfect life that God demands of us. He always had compassion for those in need. He was not concerned with getting more and more things. His entire life was one that worshiped his Father. He did all of this for us. He lived a perfect life in our place. To pay the debt of sin that we owed to God, Jesus willingly laid down his life on the cross. The blood that was shed there has covered all of our sins. They are completely gone. As he rose from the dead, he shows that all is right with his Father. When we are brought to faith, we receive this forgiveness and can be absolutely sure that it is ours always because God, in speaking of his Son tells us, “I will never forget anything that he has done.” As a result of this certain forgiveness, we have the opportunity to live lives that thank God for all that he has done for us. We carry our Christian faith with us as we face the Lord, confident in the fact that Jesus is our Savior, our sins have been forgiven and eternal life is ours.

If someone were to take away all of your Husker clothing and other memorabilia, would people still know that you are a fan of the team? If so, how? It would show itself by the way that you talk about the team, the way that you follow what they do, and how you spend your time learning about them and even attending games, if possible. It would be obvious by your actions. How can we carry Christian identity with us? It involves more than wearing Christian clothing or jewelry, hanging Christian art in our homes, or putting a Christian symbol on our vehicles. We carry our Christianity by the way that we live our lives. It shows itself in our concern for the needy. It becomes evident as we take time out of our busy lives to come and worship God. We show our Christianity in the marketplace. We will carry our Christianity when we come face to face with God, knowing that, for Jesus’ sake, our sins have been forgiven. May God help us to follow Christ’s command to “Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16) Amen.