Return to the Lord: NOW

July 28, 2019

Intro: The weather on Tuesday went form 98-65 like it just saw the Highway Patrol running radar. This is funniest for those of you who have been in a situation like this while driving.

Maybe this works better for you. You are about to have a fight in the hall at school. You and the other guy draw back your arms for a big round house swing, just as a teacher rounds the corner. At that instant you both go into high five like you are best friends.

How about this? You have a doctor’s appointment for a check up next week. Oh no! No salt for a week, no red meat; kale for every meal and walk 5 miles a day.

An abrupt change is what is needed at times in our lives. Most of the time that abrupt change is because we have not been following our life path or our life path is far from our spiritual path.

The right motivation always changes our behavior. It changes our course of action. We know what we need to do but that sure is hard. Amos is declaring to Israel a good reason to change their lifestyle to what God called them to be.

God’s judgement is coming to Israel. One cannot have read the first four chapters of Amos and not realize that Israel is being chastised and punished for their failure to follow God. Chapter 5 gets more real.

Hear this word which I take up for you as a dirge, O house of Israel:
She has fallen, she will not rise again—
The virgin Israel. She lies neglected on her land;
There is none to raise her up.
For thus says the Lord God, “The city which goes forth a thousand strong
Will have a hundred left, And the one which goes forth a hundred strong
Will have ten left to the house of Israel.”
4 For thus says the Lord to the house of Israel,

I have quoted John 3:18 a few times during this sermon series- 18 He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

Jesus came to earth because we needed a Savior. We needed a Savior because the judgement on our sin has already separated us from God. It has already happened and the only thing that keeps us from being eternally separated with no hope is that we are alive. But the judgement is already on us. To put it plainly, we are headed to hell without Jesus. It is important that all of us know this. It it important that we respond to Jesus now.

I say this to say that what Amos starts this chapter with a funeral dirge or obituary.

Here lies Israel she has fallen Left alone on ground. She went to battle with 1000 and was left with 100 Tried again with 100 and was left with 10 She was done.

Sounds pretty final, doesn’t it? this is one of those cases where done is done but not completely finished. The time had come for Israel to be judged and as God shows us, they are finished, but He then brings hope, if people respond. It is a conditional hope. They must…

“Seek Me that you may live.
“But do not resort to Bethel And do not come to Gilgal,
Nor cross over to Beersheba; For Gilgal will certainly go into captivity
And Bethel will come to trouble.

Amos tells the people to seek the Lord and live. Seek the Lord with all your being was God’s message to the people of Israel. The problem with Israel was that seeking eventually drifted into “when, I go to the temple I will think about the Lord. That is a far cry from seeking. The people of Israel were so far adrift spiritually that it not only affected temple worship but it affected family life.  It affect business relationships, it affected how that related to each other socially.  If we have no respect for God. No sense of awe of God in our daily life we begin to think that the only one we need to please is ourselves and then there goes the neighborhood.  We become center of our universe and others are in our lives for their benefit to me.

If we don’t keep seeking the Lord with our whole heart then we will drift into a half-hearted relationship with Jesus. In the book of Revelation, the church of Laodicea was accused of being luke warm. Jesus really didn’t like their relationship with Him. Do you feel like your relationship has become luke warm? Turn to the Lord.

All who will call on the name of the Lord, will be saved. Romans 10:11

Amos tells the people to “turn to the Lord and live.”  Even at this time “live” encompassed two meanings. First it meant physical life.  With punishment coming, Amos really did mean, turn and live. The people did need to return to Lord for judgement was coming very soon. Secondly, “live” means to be in a relationship with God. Their eternal security depended upon their turning to God. The vitality of life depended on they depending on God.

For us today there is still a physical life that we live and an eternal life that we receive from God through faith in Jesus our Savior.  Each person must turn to Jesus to have eternal life in heaven.

A great thing about God is that when God gives us life it is different It is here and now. He promises us life that is full of purpose and meaning. It is abundant and it will surpass all our understanding. 


Turn to the Lord, Now (5)

“I SAID DO IT, NOW!  Have you ever heard these words or uttered these words? How many times have you said them to your children?  Depending on how we used this phrase before and if we made sure that our child responded determined whether or not they responded to the call next time. 

“DO IT NOW” may mean that I want you to complete a task that needs to be done.  If we made sure that they did it “now” a few times, we had a better chance that they would take the expected action more often.  “DO IT NOW” may mean your life is in danger and immediately stop what you are doing.  When you child is about to stick a toy into an electrical outlet or walk into traffic.  You and they don’t have time to think about it.  They must stop now. We must train our children to listen to us until they can learn to be safe on their own.  It could cost them their life.

James Dobson said this is one of the few times that parents should spank their children.  Don’t spank because your child embarrassed you or they scared you.  You are training your child for their good not your good. That is just free advice.

If we listen to Amos’ call to Israel to “turn”, there is urgency.  Don’t wait a minute. 

“Seek Me that you may live.
5 “But do not resort to Bethel
And do not come to Gilgal,
Nor cross over to Beersheba;
For Gilgal will certainly go into captivity
And Bethel will come to trouble.

Can you believe he just told them not to go to church. Well, he really didn’t, so don’t stop listening, yet or you will think that, pastor Steve said, we do not to go to church.

He did tell them to turn to the Lord, now. Don’t wait until the Sabbath. Don’t wait until you have travelled to the temple. In reality the worship that was going on in Bethel, Gilgal and Beersheba was pathetic. God was not happy about it. We were already told that their worship was only for show and many times it included worshipping and giving false gods what only the God of the universe should have received.

Amos said that there is no time to go anywhere.  These places could be destroyed before they could go to them.  The people could be killed before they got to the temple.  If they waited they may not repent when they got there.  They needed to repent now.  Don’t wait. There was urgency in God’s call to repent.

Let me say to all of us today; if you hear or sense God calling you to repent, do it right then.  Don’t wait until Sunday. Satan may change your mind by then. If the Holy Spirit convicts you to repent, repent right then. You don’t need my help, but I would love to help. God’s conviction is to your heart, so confess your sin and rebellion and return to the Lord.

2 Corinthians 6:2 – “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold now is the day of salvation.”

Don’t play games with the Lord.  He expects us to obey and follow Him.  If it didn’t matter how we lived Jesus would not have had to leave Heaven, come to earth and die for us.  God is serious about our relationship with Him.  He wants us to know Him and when we do He wants us to love and care for others.

Turn to the Lord Through Obedient and Caring(6 -14)

God wasn’t looking for group of people who would go to church and be nice while they were there.  He wasn’t looking for people to put Jesus bumper stickers on their carts and then run over little old ladies crossing the street, while you are trying to beat the Philistines to the Cracker Barrel.  God was expecting change in lifestyle.

God’s judgement was on Israel for their disobedience that led them to be abusive to fellow citizens. That needed to change. Here is the reason they needed to change. They were

7  turning  justice into wormwood
And cast righteousness down to the earth.”

The wealthy and the leadership used the legal system to make life miserable for the poor. Righteousness was cast down and ground into the dirt. God’s law and instruction was cast aside in favor of injustice. Wormwood turned water bitter to drink and Israel’s judicial practices left a horrific taste in the mouths of any who had to face it.

The wealthy required heavy rent on those they rented to. They required exorbitant tax or fees on the poor people’s produce.  The Mosaic Law, that was given after Israel was delivered from Egypt, called for the Hebrew people to treat each other with Godly respect. They were to care for each. They were to be a family.  But God was angry at their treatment of each other. He especially hated the way they abused the poor who counted on others to care for them.

When the wealthy abused the poorer than them.  Then the poorer than abused those who were poorer still.  The people of Israel were mirroring each other.  If you treat me bad I will treat you bad and I am treating you bad.  Israel was to practice the Golden Rule before Jesus gave the Golden Rule.  The law God gave Israel was the foundation for the Golden Rule.

Caring for others is not a natural thing for us.  Neither is following good rules and practices. But, seeking God’s righteousness and seeking to be like Him changes us. It changes our attitude and it changes our actions. God calls us to value and love others. When we love people we look for ways to serve.

BTW. By the way, thank you for caring for people who are helped by Feed My People and Mission Gate Prison Ministry. Take a look after church and see what your desire to help others has done.

God even wants us to look for ways to help. He wants us to work on our attitudes toward those who are dismissed by society.  We need to learn compassion for those different from us.  Racially, economically and socially. God loves everyone and wants everyone to come to eternal life. Believers attitudes and actions towards others can help or hinder them from finding new life in Christ.

How can we be compassionate to those we criticize or talk poorly about?  We can’t!  We become just like the leaders in Israel who must have thought it was okay to disregard God and His people.  What action can I take, that will make others feel valued and loved by God.  Good attitudes breed good actions.  Godly attitudes compel us to act toward others in Godly ways.

Let me finish up with these last verses.  As you hear them hear the seriousness that God confronts Israel.  People need the Lord and Israel is making a mockery of God’s love and holiness.  God says “STOP” and do differently.

 6 “Seek the Lord that you may live,
Or He will break forth like a fire, O house of Joseph,
And it will consume with none to quench it for Bethel,
7 For those who turn justice into wormwood
And cast righteousness down to the earth.”

8 He who made the Pleiades and Orion
And changes deep darkness into morning,
Who also darkens day into night,
Who calls for the waters of the sea
And pours them out on the surface of the earth,
The Lord is His name.
9 It is He who flashes forth with destruction upon the strong,
So that destruction comes upon the fortress.

10 They hate him who reproves in the gate,
And they abhor him who speaks with integrity.
11 Therefore because you impose heavy rent on the poor
And exact a tribute of grain from them,
Though you have built houses of well-hewn stone,
Yet you will not live in them;
You have planted pleasant vineyards, yet you will not drink their wine.
12 For I know your transgressions are many and your sins are great,
You who distress the righteous and accept bribes
And turn aside the poor in the gate.
13 Therefore at such a time the prudent person keeps silent, for it is an evil time.

14 Seek good and not evil, that you may live;

God does not need for us to make Him look good.  He disciplines us so that we can know Him better and find life in Him.  He disciplines us so that we will love and care for those He loves.

Jesus died to set us free.  Jesus set us free to love others.  Let us not become like Israel who refused to listen to God and He had to act with power and authority toward them. Turn to Him and follow.

Challenge: Listening to someone else’s story is more comfortable than living our own.  We must always let God’s stories speak to our heart.  How is God challenging you today from the words spoken to Israel?

God is always ready to receive us when we return.  That is why He speaks to us.  He loves us and desires that we have a vital relationship with Him.

You may not be far away from God and you may be but when you know God is speaking to you, turn to Him. “Now”!   Sometimes you will realize that you have been living a way that is not right.  Sometimes the Holy Spirit may speak to you about something new that He wants us to do.  Either way respond “now” with repentance and commitment to the Lord.

Let us respond to the Lord obedient to and seek to be Him.  This week, let us demonstrate, on our pathway, the justice, righteousness and mercy of God!