After 16 weeks, this Sunday we finish our season in the book of Amos. As I’ve shared several times, Amos is definitely, on numerous levels, the most challenging book that I’ve ever preached through. While preparing these sermons, one of the questions I’ve repeatedly asked (with frustration, consternation, and alarm) is, “Where is the grace!?”
Hosea, written around the same time and with a similar message as Amos, also has a lot of judgement in it. But, while it’s still a very tough book, there is a ton more grace, compassion, and longing in Hosea than Amos. I actually joked with someone that, when it comes to God’s warnings, Hosea is kind of like mom whereas Amos is kind of like your dad.
One of the things Amos has made me (and I think, “us”) grapple with is how easy it is to have a self-centered, intra-personal (“all about me” view of myself), and self-serving view of God’s grace. What I mean is, we’ve seen repeatedly how the people God was seriously warning in Amos had the same reaction, i.e. “Where is the grace!?”
- They clung to the promises of the Covenant – emphasizing only the unconditional parts.
- They celebrated the Day of Atonement – where the burden of sin’s contamination and guilt was supposedly taken away.
- They participated in the Feast of Booths (Tabernacles) that symbolized God dwelling with them in harmony.
So, given the way they had interpreted God’s grace and how they had grown comfortable with their special status with God, this message from Amos just didn’t sound right – or credible to them. It must have sounded harsh, legalistic, and “works” focused to their grace-assured ears and comfortable lifestyles. Given my own reaction and struggle with Amos, I can understand theirs!
Here at the end of Amos, God paints a beautiful and compelling picture of what it does and will look like when he lavishes his mercy and grace upon his people. I’s a promise of the future of Israel, of the coming of Jesus, and of the advent of heaven here on earth. Given how God’s people had served themselves and clung to their wealth and resources, the picture God paints of the future might be surprising to you! This vision of grace and mercy is a true picture of what human flourishing looks like and involves – what it looks like for God’s people to walk with him, be about his work, and enjoy his blessings.
So, take some time to reflect and mediate on this beautiful vision. I look forward to worshipping with you this Sunday.
Yours in Christ’s love,