There are some questions that trouble non-Christians that really don’t trouble Christians.
- “Is there such a thing is as truth?” seems so self-evident.
- “Is the crucifixion cosmic child abuse?” is easy to answer if you’ve read the Bible yourself.
- “Is Christianity anti-Semitic?” seems ridiculous when you know the church was founded by 12 Jewish guys who followed another Jewish guy who was fulfilled the great Jewish hope.
Although we are happy to answer the questions of our friends and family, these things rarely ever make us struggle.
But there are some questions that do.
One such question is about God killing people in the Old Testament. God seems utterly brutal to do such a thing. How can we reconcile this with the loving God of the New Testament?
Dave Bish has put up an excellent blog post entitled “What about God killing people in the Old Testament?” where he discusses these issues. I would urge you to read the post for yourself. Let me summarise the main arguments here and then add some thoughts of my own.
A place of burning fire, likened to the loss of an only child. Hell is a horrific place.
No wonder, this doctrine puts people off Christianity.
Emotionally, the idea is so disgusting we want to never hear it again. Logically, it seems utterly inconsistent that Christ could send people to hell.
Surely a loving God can’t send people to hell?
If Christianity is to stand we must ask this question: is there any way a loving God would allow hell?
Though in Amos we see God acting in wrath, most Christians are uncomfortable with this idea. Therefore I want to explain why a God of wrath is good news for Christians:
God hates sin
We may be deceived by this world but God isn’t. He hates sin. He does not sit idly by and watch as people are murdered, raped and starved. He is seething with anger!
We are not. We would prefer everyone to get off scott-free. We wouldn’t have even thought the substitution of Jesus was necessary. Some even think God is evil for punishing sin! What idiots we are. God hates what harms us and that is a glorious truth.
God will destroy sin
If God hates sin he will not let it exist in his kingdom. It tells us in Revelation he will wipe every tear from our eye (Rev 21:4). All the evil that plagues us now God will banish forever. Utterly decimated, it will never to trouble us again.
God’s love overcame God’s wrath
Think of the passion shown in his anger towards sin. It’s massive. Yet he loves you more fiercely than he hates sin. What an amazing truth!
Moreover, God himself received wrath on the cross. Jesus Christ, God made flesh, was subject to God’s full wrath on the cross. He took all the punishment due upon us.
Christian do not hate the God of Wrath, rather praise him now for hating sin and loving you. Pray also that you may hate sin as much as he does.
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(Picture by Oliver Splat under the Creative Commons Licence and GNU Free Documentation Licence)
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Are you worshipping a god other than the God of the Bible? So did the Israelites. In Amos 3:11-15 God tells them what the result of that decision is:
God will destroy
God constantly says “I will” (v13-14). He will punish you. You can’t run from him, you can’t withstand his power, you can’t defeat him. Choose to go against him and your destined to defeat.
God will destroy your strongholds
The Israelites felt strong in their land and defences, and God destroyed these things (v11). Modern people rest in the security of their home, wealth and job. Yet we all know these can disappear far too easily and they will definitely disappear on the day of judgement.
God will destroy all you love
Yahweh destroyed what the Israelites loved. He destroyed their places of worship (v14) and he destroyed their material possessions (v13, 15). All you enjoy on Earth is destined for destruction, your false gods and all your possessions.
God will accept Jesus in your place
How can you escape this fate? Trust in Jesus.
Jesus was punished on a cross in place of all who trust in him. If you trust him your punishment will fall on him. He offers freedom from punishment for nothing. Not only that, he gives you eternal perfect life with him. What a deal!
Trust in your gods and everything you love will be destroyed.
Trust in Jesus and everything you need will be yours.
It’s got to be the easiest decision you’ve ever made.
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Yahweh makes clear he punishes his people. No special treatment. Amos’ second sermon splits into two sections: God Punishes His People (3:1-8) and The Punishment is Violent (3:9-15) which we’ll cover in a later post.
God Punishes His People (3:1-8)
In verse 2 that it is precisely because God knows his people that he punishes them for their iniquities. There is a responsibility that comes with being God’s people, and God will punish those who don’t live up to what he expects.
Some argue God doesn’t do this, but just as surely as all the things in v3-6 are true so it is sure that disaster doesn’t come unless God allows it. We know this because God has said so through his prophets. What should our response be? Godly fear (v8).
Is this a difficult message to tell? Yes, but we must still preach it. “The Lord God has spoken who can but prophesy?”
Application for Christians
Praise Jesus, because though guilty as the Israelites, we don’t face her fate.
We must live in a way that befits our close walk with God.
God is behind all that happens, even if it seems to be disaster for us.
We can’t stop telling a message because it is difficult. Like Amos, we must preach.
Application for non-Christians
God is so powerful, every disaster can only happen by his permission. Do you wish to fall into his hands?
Though you are privileged to hear God’s message, nothing can come of this unless you obey what God has written. Repent and believe the Good News.
Other information that may be helpful:
Known means known personally, have an intimate relationship.
LORD or GOD, whenever written in small caps, mean Yahweh (the name of the God of the Bible).
In the first two chapters (his first sermon) Amos pictures God as a roaring lion, a holy judge moving against the unrighteousness of the nations . Many people in our society, Christian and non-Christian, would cheer as he condemns the war-mongers, baby-killers and poor-abusers. But the point of the passage is this: all of us deserve God’s punishment. We all have skeletons in the closet and we desperately need someone to save us. (click “Read the rest of this entry” for a longer exegesis). Continue reading
Yesterday I finished reading the book of Amos in my quiet times. Since few people have a knowledge of this book I’ll post a summary of the main sections of the book over the coming days, including application points for both Christians and non-Christians. If you haven’t got a Bible read or listen to Amos here. I hope it’ll be useful.
Amos divides into three parts:
- 5 sermons (Chapters 1-6)
- 5 visions, with a brief argument with a priest (7-9:10)
- Yahweh‘s promise to restore Israel (9:11-15)
Amos’ prophecies seem to have been in the Northern Kingdom known as Israel or Samaria (cf. Amos 7:12-13).
The main theme of the book is that Yahweh judges whether his people seek him. If they do not horrific judgement is inevitable. This means three things:
- God will judge the things non-Christians do with justice, punishing them where punishment is deserved.
- God has no favourites and judges his people with justice as well.
- Jesus deserves praise because he bore the punishment illustrated in this book, the punishment we deserved.
(Illustration by Blair Israel, Amos 7:8 in The Flaming Fire Illustrated Bible. Visit the site for free Biblical Illustrations)