Amos 4:1-6:14; Revelation 2:18-3:6;
Psalm 130:1-8; Proverbs 29:21-22
Let's pray that the human race never escapes from Earth to spread its iniquity elsewhere. ~C.S. Lewis
Chapter 4 - Israel's Punishment for Past Iniquities
God starts this prophecy by calling the women of Samaria "fat cows." These women in the capital of the Northern Kingdom oppressed the poor and did not share their milk of prosperity with others. God promises to hook them by the noses and lead them into captivity for their selfishness. As they sacrifice to false gods and yet, forget to help the poor, God is just in His coming judgment.
God spells out past judgments that were caused by Israel's sins. They include:
- Hunger and famine brought by God.
- Kept the rain from falling, thus ruining all of the crops.
- Struck the farms and vineyards with blight and mildew.
- Sent plagues like in Egypt.
- Killed young men in war.
- Slaughtered your horses in war.
- Destroyed some of your cities, just like Sodom and Gomorrah.
Chapter 5 - Israel Punished for Future Iniquity
This chapter begins with a funeral song. Never a good way to start... God will punish sin with death. This is a theme throughout the Bible. But another theme is that God calls people to come back to Him, repent of sin, and live! God says this to the Northern Kingdom in this chapter of Amos.
God reminds the Israelites that He is the Creator of the stars. He is the author of the water cycle (vs. 8).
God is not unconcerned and uninvolved. He sees their sins of trampling down the poor, stealing through taxation, taking bribes, and depriving the poor of fair trials.
God calls them to repent! He also warns of the "Day of the Lord." While they believe it to be a glorious day, Amos spells out that this day begins in the evening of darkness and disaster. They will run from a lion, only to meet a bear. Then they will be bitten by a snake. The Day of Lord starts with hopelessness. We have learned from our studies that the "Day of the Lord" includes the Great Tribulation period. Amos is speaking of the Great Tribulation. This period is a time of judgment for the nation of Israel in the future as a final punishment for their rebellion against their God.
Chapter 6 - Admonished to Stop Iniquity in the Present
To read this portion of Scripture is to look into a mirror at our American society. It is scary to see what God lists as His objections against Jerusalem and Samaria. These capitals of the Southern and Northern Kingdoms constitute the whole nation of Israel. They are lounging in their large houses, drinking wine and eating choice meats. They play music and fancy themselves talented (like karaoke singing divas). They have wonderful perfumes and exotic fragrances, but aren't worried that their nation is coming to ruin. They are busy with revelry and partying.
God will judge this behavior. That is His promise. He calls them to turn from their wickedness, but no one is listening. This is His warning... an enemy nation will overtake them.
What should Americans be worried about? Do you feel God is pleased with our lives of luxury, entertainment and partying? For what iniquities might God need to punish us?
Jesus continues his personal letters to the seven churches in Asia Minor. Now we come to the church in Thyatira. This city is named in the book of Acts as the hometown of Lydia, the seller of purple cloth who helped to found the first church in Europe. Jesus comes to this church with fiery eyes and bronze feet of judgment. Uh oh. Thyatira represents the church that tolerates sin.
His Commendation: First, Jesus commends them for constant improvement in the areas of love, faith, service, and endurance. Too bad that this letter doesn't stop there.
His Condemnation: Unfortunately, this church has fallen into permitting some lady to lead the whole group astray into worshiping idols, eating food offered to idols, and committing sexual sins. You may remember that ancient religious cults were often led by women priestesses. These cults would participate in sexual temple prostitution as part of worship. We do not know if this church has fallen into those practices, but we do know that they are not following the epistles that have been sent to the churches by the leaders of the Church in Jerusalem, which forbid these activities ( See Acts 15). Jesus calls this woman's teachings "the depths of Satan." We see that worshiping anyone other than the One True God and abusing the sacred relationship of sex within marriage is a deep and fundamental part of the way Satan draws people to himself.
This lady is called Jezebel, in reference to the Jezebel, who was queen with King Ahab in the Northern Kingdom of Israel. Jezebel was responsible for leading the people into idolatry. Jezebel met a horrible death. So will this false teacher in Thyatira.
His Promise: The good news is that not everyone in Thyatira is listening to this false teacher. Jesus calls them to hold tight to the truth. Those who hold to Jesus' proper teaching will earn authority over the nations and rule with Christ during his millennial reign on this earth (vs. 27). True believers will be given this authority to rule from the Father and the Morning Star (Jesus). This is what the Holy Spirit is saying to the Church of Jesus Christ.
This letter is also to those members of Jesus' church on earth who are tolerating sin in their lives. Jesus is talking to you and me. Jesus is ministering to you and to me in this letter. Listen to His Words. Heed His advice. He promises that those who hold true to His Word will be given authority to rule with him on earth.
Next, we have the church of Sardis. Unfortunately, there is little commendation for this church. This letter from Christ starts with the condemnation, rather than the commendation. Sardis represents the dead church on earth.
His Condemnation: This church appears to be alive, but they are spiritually dead. Content to be ineffective, this group is fruitless.
In his parables, Jesus warned of the mustard plant that grows as big as a tree, but contains birds that nest in it. Birds represent sin in this parable. Jesus was predicting that his visible Church would have sin in it. The wheat and tares parable warns that some people are spiritual weeds in God's Church on earth. These letters confirm that Christ was correct in his prophecies. The Church on earth has its issues. Sardis is an example of a dead church.
His Commendation: There are a few in this church who have not soiled their garments. The blood of Christ has covered these people's sins and they are able to wear white robes of righteousness before God. Their names are in the Book of Life, which will be read before the Father and the angels in the end. Those whose names are in this book have been found worthy to live forever. Notice that only a few make it through from this dead church.
Do you attend a "dead" church? This would be an assembly that does not truly hold to the teachings of Christ. They are playing at being religious. How about being like the church in Thyatira? Do you know of churches that accept immorality as part of their doctrine, regardless of what the Scriptures say about sexual immorality? What about homosexuality being condoned? What would Jesus say about this in the light of what the Bible reflects in God's judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah?
"If you kept a record of our sins, O Lord, who could ever survive?" Great question. Our reading today shows that God does record our actions, but He also records who is in the Book of Life with sins forgiven and forgotten.
A hot-tempered angry person will fall into sin. So true.
What did you notice as you read?