Israel in the Lion’s Mouth

 

Amos 3:7-15

 
Introduction

In the book of Amos, we have the written record of his prophetic ministry in which he proclaimed God’s judgment on the northern kingdom of Israel. Have you thought about how difficult a task this was? People want to hear good news, especially about their future! But Amos was charged with delivering a very unpopular message. We, too, have an unpopular message to deliver. People in our culture don’t want anyone to tell them what to do, especially God and those speaking for him. Yet we must speak. How can we in the face of determined resistance? Obviously we need some motives that spur us on. Let us learn from Amos at this point.
Amos 3:7-15 ESV

7  “For the Lord GOD does nothing

without revealing his secret

to his servants the prophets.

8  The lion has roared;

who will not fear?

The Lord GOD has spoken;

who can but prophesy?”

9  Proclaim to the strongholds in Ashdod

and to the strongholds in the land of Egypt,

and say, “Assemble yourselves on the mountains of Samaria,

and see the great tumults within her,

and the oppressed in her midst.”

10  “They do not know how to do right,” declares the LORD,

“those who store up violence and robbery in their strongholds.” 

11  Therefore thus says the Lord GOD:

“An adversary shall surround the land

and bring down your defenses from you,

and your strongholds shall be plundered.”

12  Thus says the LORD: “As the shepherd rescues from the mouth of the lion two legs, or a piece of an ear, so shall the people of Israel who dwell in Samaria be rescued, with the corner of a couch and part of a bed. 

13  “Hear, and testify against the house of Jacob,”

declares the Lord GOD, the God of hosts,

14  “that on the day I punish Israel for his transgressions,

I will punish the altars of Bethel,

and the horns of the altar shall be cut off

and fall to the ground.

15  I will strike the winter house along with the summer house,

and the houses of ivory shall perish,

and the great houses shall come to an end,”

declares the LORD.

 
Exposition:
I. The power of God’s message
A. The source of the message is the Lord and not the prophet (3:7; cf. 2 Pt 1:16ff).

1. This is a recurring theme in this section (3:11,12,13,15). God’s authority is the bedrock on which every ministry of the word rests.

2. The judgment that would come on Israel would arrive because the Lord planned that judgment. He let people know this by telling it to his prophets. The actions that God is doing in our age are a fulfillment of prophecy. The Lord told us what the last days would be like, so we should not be surprised when history looks like prophecy (2 Tm 3:1-5; 2 Pt 3:3; 1 Jn 2:18-23).

3. We do not have to be confused about what God’s will is. It has been revealed for us in the Bible. The question is “do we search the Scriptures intently to find out what God’s will is?”

B. The imperative behind the message—it must be delivered (3:8). Compare 1 Cor 9:16; Ezk 2:5-7

1. We must deliver God’s message because we are his servants.

a. A servant does what his master desires (cf. Lk 6:46).

b. I think that this is the first time that this idea (of the prophet as God’s servant) was used in redemptive history. When we come to the New Testament Scriptures, it is an important concept. [Add references.]

2. We must deliver the message because of the nature of the message (Jer 20:9). It is like the roar of a lion in the preacher’s ears!

a. The clarity of the servant’s perception of the message will show itself in the urgency of his presentation.

b. “I find, and this is somewhat of a confession as well as an exhortation, that my own words mock me too often when I preach – when I can say the word ‘hell’ and not feel the horror of it; when I can speak of heaven and not be warmed with a holy glow in the light of the fact that this is the place my Lord is preparing for me.” [Martin, “What’s Wrong with Preaching Today?” p. 10]

 
II. The theme of God’s message
A. The Lord points out two ways that his people were engaging in evil.

1. The sin of materialism (3:10,15) – It had so captivated them that they did not understand anything else. This is an example of being hardened by sin’s deceitfulness (Heb 3:13). We must guard our hearts. Since we have a material aspect to our being, we can be tempted to seek satisfaction in material things.

2. The sin of false religion (3:14) – Notice the reference to Bethel (cf. 1 Ki 12:25-13:6). God calls his people Israel to account for their religious error. It was their glaring sin because it was against their relationship with God. This was a root sin of many other sins in Israel.

Apply: We must find “root sins” (1 Tm 6:10) and strike at them.
Apply: We must make sure that we have correct beliefs from the Scriptures and seek to practice them.
Comment: Note God’s complete seriousness at this point. Amos uses the longest form for God’s name in any place in the Scriptures!
B. We must learn from Israel’s errors.

1. Time goes on, but the human heart remains in the same swamp of evil. “Progress” in humanity is merely “refinement” in the way we sin, either in the manner of our sinning or in the objects of our lusts.

2. Hardness of heart is shown in the refusal to hear God’s warning.

III. The judgment in the message
A. Other nations are summoned to see Israel’s punishment (3:9).

1. We should learn from the sins of others and not repeat them (1 Tm 5:20).

2. Notice how low the people had sunk. All knowledge of how to please the Lord had left them.

B. The judgment would come through the agency of a conquering power (3:11).

1. Amos didn’t name this power, but it was Assyria. It was fulfilled within fifty years from the time of Amos’ ministry.

2. We must “get into” the Bible as a life situation. How would you react if God suddenly announced that our country was to be destroyed?

3. Only a remnant would escape (3:12; cf. Rm 9:27; 11:1-6).

~ Dave
 
Pastor Dave Frampton
When push comes to shove there is usually nothing more satisfying than for a saint of God to have at his or her disposal a source of biblically sound instruction in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The faithful and spiritually profitable labors of Dave Frampton are here at CMC to be a blessing. Bible teacher and student alike will profit much from his labor in the God’s Word. Visit Newtown Square Baptist Church
Visit Newtown Square Baptist Church
 

Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert

A Review of Rosaria Butterfield’s Book

Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert
by Rosaria Champagne Butterfield.
Crown and Covenant, 2012.  154 pgs.

 
An Anomaly
In the 1990′s, Rosaria Butterfield was a feminist English professor working on a hit piece aimed at conservative Christians when she reached out to Ken Smith.  Ken was the pastor in a Reformed Presbyterian church in Syracuse, and as it turned out, he was eager to share with her far more than she expected.  As a lesbian who defined her identity and arranged her professional and social life around a feminist worldview, Butterfield had many preconceived ideas about what Ken and his wife would be like.  But when they not only found time to discuss her ideas, but invited her to dinner numerous times, and offered to give a presentation to her class, and eventually invited her to their church, she was confronted with an anomaly.  Here was someone who didn’t fit her grid.  Someone who defended what she thought was indefensible–a belief in the Bible and (what seemed to her) oppressive, patriarchal nonsense–and yet showed her love and kindness she had never seen before.
“Comprehensive Chaos”
In The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, Butterfield has opened the door just a little on what it was like for her to encounter the gospel and have her world thrown into “comprehensive chaos.”  After conversion she writes of how her world was turned upside down:

I started to obey God in my heart one step at a time.  I broke up with my girlfriend.  My heart wasn’t really in the break-up, but I hoped that God would regard my obedience even in its double-mindedness.  I started to go to the RP church fully, in my heart, for the whole purpose of worshiping God.  I stopped caring if I looked like a freak there.  I started to accept the friendship that the church members offered me.  I learned that we must obey in faith before we feel better or different.  At this time, though, obeying in faith, to me, felt like throwing myself off a cliff…and then came the night terrors.  Night after night, dreams so vivid and real that I could taste and feel them.  Dreams so commanding that when I awoke I felt filthy and delirious.

A lot of the pain of Butterfield’s first months as a Christian came from being rejected by her former friends and professional colleagues.  Butterfield knew that in gaining Christ, she would lose her lesbian partner, her place in the LGBT community, as well as her livelihood as a faculty member of Syracuse University.   We are constantly reminded in the media about the courage of those who make the opposite journey, out of conservative circles and into the LGBT community.  I expect that someone like Jodie Foster or this young man did have to muster courage to potentially offend fans, family, and friends.  But Butterfield’s journey was just as tumultuous and heart-wrenching.  And she certainly won’t get any starred review in Publisher’s Weekly or praise from ABC News.
In fact, one of the reasons Butterfield’s book is so instructive for Christians who’ve never faced her particular temptations is that it shows just how much non-Christians in academia–especially the arts–have to lose.  Publicly, it may seem be a simple thing for an accountant to turn to Jesus.  But Butterfield’s own estimation of conversion was that when it came to her old life, she lost “everything but the dog.”
To Follow Christ is to Die
So often, especially concerning sex, Christians talk as if we are asking people to nip a little here, tuck a little there.  But to follow Christ is to die.  To be fair, Christ gives us back a new life, an eternal life that can’t be compared to what we lost.  But having borne two children in the last six years, I can tell you, birth is messy, and painful, and the best sound you can hope to hear in your newborn is a loud, terrified cry.  New birth in Christ is no less terrifying and miraculous.
And of course, that’s only the beginning.  To follow Christ requires a continual dying to self–putting to death the old lusts and selfish desires, and a putting on of Christ and His priorities.  And even if its not some sexual battle you’re fighting, every Christian who is truly following Christ will daily struggle with the desire to put self before God in some way.  Butterfield sums up that process in her life, specifically in respect to sex, thusly:

What good Christians don’t realize is that sexual sin is not recreational sin gone overboard.  Sexual sin is predatory.  It won’t be “healed” by redeeming the context or the genders.  Sexual sin must simply be killed.  What is left of your sexuality after this annihilation is up to God.  But healing to the sexual sinner, is death: nothing more and nothing less. (Butterfield, 83)

Fifty_Shades_of_Grey_Men-06165-12171-194x300The interesting thing is that while Butterfield dealt with same-sex attraction in her own life, she is quick to point out that it is no different than other kinds of sexual sin, from kids messing around in dorm rooms to women reading 50 Shades (see our 50 Shades coverage here) on their ereaders:

I told my audience that I think too many young Christian fornicators plan that marriage will redeem their sin.  Too many young Christian masturbators plan that marriage will redeem their patterns.  Too many young Christian internet pornographers think that having legitimate sex will take away the desire to have illicit sex.  They’re wrong…marriage does not redeem sin.  Only Jesus himself can do that.

Cautions
This book is never graphic in its description of Butterfield’s former life.  I would trust it on that point to any Christian.  But there are issues I would disagree with her on.  For instance, I’m not convinced that Christians should only sing the Psalms in church.   And in all her honesty, Butterfield may not be fully disabused of her former prejudices about Christians.  After her conversion, for instance, she talks about driving through a neighborhood with Bible verse placards in the yards; this alone made her wonder whether these people would speak to her if they knew her former lifestyle.  In my experience, Christians vary widely in their ability to deal with those who aren’t like them.  Certainly there would be no reason to suspect everyone in a neighborhood, simply because they have different social norms than she’s used to, are close-minded.
But these kinds of issues are small peanuts, and overall, this is a stunning book because the Holy Spirit has done a stunning work in this woman’s life.
A Happy Ending
It is worth pointing out that by the end, Butterfield has found a kind of healing.  She is by all accounts happily married and mother to four children by adoption, spending her days homeschooling in the classical tradition and otherwise caring for the foster children who come her way.  Her life, once used to persecute those who did not believe her feminist ideology (see page 87 and her desire to expose the Christian right), is now filled with service to the least among us. It is a powerful testimony, and one that I hope many, many young people struggling with sexual sin will be inspired by.  I would also highly recommend it to young men and women who intend to study literature or the arts in a secular college.  It would be a great introduction to the people and ideological challenges they will likely meet there.
Worldview/Moral Value: 4.75
Literary Value: 4.5
This review gleaned from redeemedreader.com: For more of their articles on LGBT themes, see Janie’s review of YA books Identity and Revolution, her look at the links between Roe v. Wade and Judy Blume’s Forever.  Plus, until Monday, January 28th at noon, you can still enter to win a copy of the book, as well as other wonderful resources on the subject.
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Emily A. Whitten spent six years editing mostly kids’ books at Peachtree Publishers. If you’d like to see some of her editorial work, check out Pulitzer-prize finalist Philip Dray’s Yours for Justice, Ida B. Wells: The Daring Life of a Crusading Journalist and Grammy Winner Bill Harley’s book, The Amazing Life of Darius Frobisher. In addition to helping authors and publishers create books, Emily has hand-sold books in a nifty used bookshop and worked at a literacy council to help those with reading difficulties learn to read. (We won’t mention her short stint at a catfish buffet or the summer of 2000 disaster in a USDA genetics lab.)
Since then, she’s had two kids and gone back to school—preschool, that is. As a homeschool mom these days, she enjoys reading with her kids probably more than any other subject, and in so doing, she’s had a chance to see books in a new light. Not merely as a formal critic, or even as a technician, but with the eyes of a mother. As a Reformed Christian, she has sought to help her kids see reading not just as entertainment, but as worship. And she hopes to bring that perspective to the book reviews and cultural analysis at Redeemed Reader.com—when, of course, she’s not writing movie reviews for World Magazine or reading Make Way for Ducklings to her children for the 275th time