“You only have I known of all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities.”
I can either a) tell the people what they want to hear; or b) tell the people what God wants them to hear.
There are a lot of pastors and a lot of churches that I have observed that tell people what they want to hear. It is as if their mission for ministry is to do whatever they can to make the people who come to their church feel good. To tell them that they are okay. That everything is going to be alright.
I suspect that if I were to follow this example and model it in my own church, more people would come and listen to me.
But I am certain that I wouldn’t feel right about it. Not that I have anything against people feeling good! Quite the contrary. I try to make people feel good, to be happy, and to leave my church feeling better than when they came in.
But when I became a pastor, I wasn’t called to make people feel good. I wasn’t called to make people happy.
I was called by God through a congregation to tell them what God wants them to hear.
I was called by God to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
A good summary of the Gospel is that Jesus Christ was born to be our substitute under God’s Law. Jesus Christ lived a perfect life and gives us his righteousness by faith. Jesus Christ died on a cross to forgive all the sin of all people of all time. Jesus Christ rose from the grave three days later so that we, too, might rise from the grave one day. And Jesus Christ ascended into heaven with the promise to come back and take those who have saving faith in him back to paradise to live there forever.
This is what God wants people to hear. This is what I’ve been called to proclaim.
This is the Gospel.
But the Gospel means little unless we understand why Jesus Christ did all this for us!
And that understanding comes from something I’ve also been called to proclaim – the Law.
Law and Gospel are the two teachings of Holy Scripture. The Bible passages we read from Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21 are either Law passages or Gospel passages.
They are God’s Word to us – and that which I have been called to proclaim – about the things that we should do and don’t, the things that we shouldn’t do and do anyway, and the things that only God can do for us and does out of love for us.
John 3:16, for example, is a Gospel passage. It tells us what God has done for us because he loves us.
Amos 3, on the other hand, is mostly Law. And it is just as hard to hear today as I’m sure it was for God’s people when this shepherd from Tekoa first spoke it.
God has specially chosen Israel to be his people, purely out of love for them. He didn’t choose Israel because they were the most beautiful, most prosperous, or the most numerous of nations.
God chose Israel only because he loved them.
By the way, that doesn’t mean that God didn’t love the rest of the people of the world. Oh, no! John 3:16 is still true! “For God so loved the world” that he put a plan of salvation – for the whole world – in play through his special people Israel! The Savior of the world would come from the nation of Israel!
But the prophet Amos had some very tough words to proclaim to Israel. They had been rejecting God and his love for them. Even though God had chosen them. Even though God had saved them from slavery in Egypt. Even though God had given them everything they needed: food and water in the desert, fertile land to live in, victory over their enemies, good kings (like David and Solomon) and powerful prophets (like Elijah and Elisha).
God did all of this for Israel out of his love for Israel, and yet they rejected him and his love over and over again.
And so God – like any loving father – would punish them. Not to hurt them out of spite but discipline them so they learn to not reject him!
The prophet Amos could have been like other prophets and told Israel that all was well, that everything was okay, and that they would be alright.
But it wouldn’t be right. It wouldn’t be true. And it wasn’t what Amos was called to do.
Amos loved God. And he loved his brothers and sisters. And so, he proclaimed to them what they need to hear and what God wanted them to hear.
It wouldn’t be easy. It wouldn’t make Amos popular.
But it would be exactly what God’s people needed.
And that is what your pastor does as well.
Please pray for him as he tells you what you need to hear!
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