(May 26, 2023) Brian Bell shares from his heart…
‘This message was given to Amos…’ These are the opening words of Amos 1:1NLT.
Possibly not one of the most frequently read books of scripture, here in my homeland of Northern Ireland the words in Amos 4:12 ‘… prepare to meet your God…’ have often been used as the basis for ‘evangelistic sermons.’
Like other men God had chosen to speak His word, Amos had a very humble background. A shepherd, not what was regarded as an illustrious occupation, he came from a little town called Tekoa, some 12 miles (19k) south of Jerusalem.
Yet when it comes to choosing men to speak for Him, God is not primarily interested in their occupation, its status or lack of it, or their physical location. Remember how God called Noah to build the Ark and later Abraham from Ur to found the nation of Israel.
Move into the New Testament scriptures and we find Jesus chose a mixed bag of men, mostly fishermen but also a former tax collector, that have been described in scripture as ‘ignorant and unlearned men’ – a rather disparaging reference to the fact that they had not been tutored in the Rabbinical schools of the day!
God does the choosing and gives His word to those He chooses, so really all other factors are of secondary importance. Encouraging for you and me is that the Lord may enable any of us to speak on His behalf when the Holy Spirit enlightens our understanding to His word.
And that is the purpose of this little meditation drawn from Amos 5. I would share with you what I believe the Holy Spirit has shown me and trust it may inspire and encourage you, for His glory… the Lord’s message of –
The heart of verse 4 – ‘Come back to me and live…’ is repeated in verse 6: ‘Come back to the Lord and live.’
In my early days as a believer, I was taught that when God repeats something – as He does here – it emphasises it is of importance.
Amos was bringing his message to the wayward people of Israel. Bible teacher Stuart Briscoe suggests the people had become complacent and, unfortunately, it is still possible for Christian believers today to become complacent! Or to use a description which was once well known here in Northern Ireland, Christian believers who are said to be ‘at ease in Zion.’
In the situation into which Amos speaks, the people had turned to the worship of idols. Now as Christian believers today we do not turn to the worship of idol effigies such as was the case in Amos’ day. But I see the reference to idol worship as a loss of focus on the Lord and too much focus on ‘Self’ such as –
- Selfishness – I want to have things my way.
- Self-centredness – I want things to revolve around me, and
- Self-gratification – I want to please myself.
The ‘self-life’ forgets that I should be allowing the Holy Spirit to direct my life!
In the May 14 and May 21 Sunday services in my home fellowship, each of the two different ‘messengers’ directed us to Isaiah 6. That first Sunday’s sermon title was The Three ‘Rs’ of Isaiah 6 and the second was A Vision in a Time of Crisis.
Some people may find it strange that each of these two men (who don’t know each other, had never met) should – under the direction of the Holy Spirit – speak a message to the same group of people from the same passage of scripture!
Surely it underlines the importance God attaches to His messengers being people who are able to focus our attention – our vision – on God, the one who Isaiah reminds us is ‘high and lifted up.’
This is really the message Amos was bringing. How encouraging that God still loves His wayward children, and His desire is that we find our life in Him. Composer William Cowper put it well in the words of O for a Closer Walk with God when he wrote in one of the verses –
‘… the dearest idol I have known what’er that idol be,
Help me to tear it from Thy Throne and worship only Thee.’
‘It is the Lord who created the stars… who turns darkness into morning and day into night… who draws up water from the oceans and pours it down as rain…’ (v8).
Perhaps you may agree with me that when a person claims to have had a ‘revelation’ that actually happened, it carries a certain ‘authority.’
However, God has given all humankind a revelation which is clearly visible, and indisputable, yet sadly not believed by everyone – God has, as He reminded people through Amos, revealed Himself through His creation.
I am not a scientist, yet the wonder of how creation works in order to the laws God has designed is a wonderful revelation to every person of every nation. For decades we have been sending out spaceships and exploratory devices; men have even walked on the moon.
Colonel Jim Irwin, who was an astronaut on Apollo 15, visited my home church in 1978 and from that time we have a signed photograph of him standing on the moon with these words which he spoke inscribed on it – ‘God walking on earth is more important than man walking on the moon.’
The Lord Jesus is a revelation of God’s love for sinful people and God’s word as we have it today in our Bibles, is a written revelation.
‘Away with your hymns of praise, they are only noise in my ears. I will not listen to your music no matter how lovely it is. Instead, I want to see a mighty flood of justice, a river of righteous living that will never run dry’ (v23-24). Scripture tells us that praise in the form of playing instruments or singing can be pleasing to God and bring Him glory. I have been involved with Christian/gospel music for some 50 years and recognise its place when we meet together in fellowship.
How often has a song been used by the Holy Spirit to speak to a person’s specific need and indeed, many of the more traditional songs we still sing today were borne out of a real experience with God.
The emphasis here in Amos is not that God is ‘rubbishing’ praise in the form of music but rather as is common in scripture it is about our priority. Our praise should not be a substitute for a real daily relationship with the Lord but reflect a life lived in Him. The song There is a River attributed to David and Max Sapp reminds us that –
‘There is a river that flows from deep within,
There is a fountain that frees the soul from sin,
Come to this water there is a vast supply,
There is a river that never shall run dry.’
I have to be honest and say I have known times in my Christian experience when I found myself beginning to run dry. But I can praise God for the work of the Holy Spirit who brought me for spiritual refreshment to the river that never runs dry.
My prayer for all Christians (‘my 7Rs’)
I’m sorry that I can be so like your people in the days of Amos. I regret if I have allowed the idol of selfishness to feature too much in my experience, and I come back to you for restoration.
Thank you, Lord, for the revelation of your creation, and especially for demonstrating your love through Jesus who shed His blood on Calvary that we can be cleansed from sin and brought into a correct relationship with you by faith in Christ alone.
And thank you too for how you continue to declare yourself through your precious word!
In these days, when our lives may be touched by sorrow or cares of many kinds, whatever its cause, help me to get my priorities right and to live in the reality of the influence of the Holy Spirit who can lead us to that river of spiritual refreshment that will never run dry!
I pray this in Jesus’ name and for His glory.
Brian Bell is a diaconate member, Christ Church (Congregational) Abbots Cross, Northern Ireland, and a volunteer with Disabled Christians Fellowship Ireland. Brian describes himself as ‘grateful for the privilege and opportunity given me to serve my Lord.’