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A Sermon which Resembled a MOUSETRAP

by AMOS & Alex Wilson

How do you "trap" a mouse? You attract its attention, arouse its desire, draw it close, and ZAP! ....

It's the year 760 B.C. A stranger appears in Bethel, the religious center of the powerful, prosperous, and very religious land of Israel. Dressed in farmer's overalls, he mounts an outdoor speaker's stand in the public park and begins an oration.

People pause, puzzled, as he bellows,  "The LORD roars from Zion and thunders from Jerusalem;  the pastures of the shepherds dry up, and the top of Carmel withers." (Amos 1 :2)

Elihu and Jabal, two men of Israel, watch, and start to converse.

Elihu: "Who is that country bumpkin, anyway? And what does he mean, making God sound like a lion about to eat the prey he's caught?

Jabal: "I dunno, but what's he mean saying God thunders from Zion and Jerusalem, in the kingdom of Judah? Does he think God lives down there but not in our religious centers here and at Dan? Our religious ceremonies
and pageants are better than those of the Jews."

Elihu: "Yeah, what insolence for him to say that! And does he think God's gonna send a drought and wither our Mount Carmel? What kind of a God would do that?"

Jabal: "That speaker must be some kind of a nutty, old-fashioned Fundamentalist. I heard some crackpot once say that God warned through Moses, the father of our country, in the book of Dotterunomy - or whatever its called -  that if we forsook God's Covenant by disobedience, God would send punishments like drought and diseases. [Deut. 28: 15-24] But I don't believe in an intolerant God like that.... Hey, what's that speaker saying

The Lord says, "The people of DAMASCUS have sinned again and again, and I will not forget it. I will

not leave her unpunished any more. For they have threshed my people in Gilead as grain is threshed with iron rods. So I will set fire to King Hazael's palace, destroying the strong fortress of Ben-hadad. I

will snap the bars that locked the gates of Damascus and kill her people as far away as the plain of Aven,

and the people of Syria shall return to Kir as slaves." The Lord has spoken.

Elihu: "HEY, listen to that! This guy might be okay after all-he really denounced those cruel Syrian kings up North."

Jabal: "Yeah, says those brutes are gonna go into exile. Let's stay and hear the rest of this speech, just to check the guy out."

The Lord says, "GAZA has sinned again and again, and I will not forget it. I will not leave her unpunished any more. For she sent my people into exile, selling them as slaves in Edom. So I will set fire to the walls of Gaza, and all her forts shall be destroyed. I will kill the people of Ashdod and destroy Ekron and the king of  Ashkelon; all Philistines left will perish." The Lord has spoken.

Elihu: "We did misjudge this fella! I like his views. So God's gonna wipe out all those Philistine dudes-well, it's about time they got their due."
Jabal: "Shush, I can't hear what he's saying now."

The Lord says, "The people of TYRE have sinned again and again, and I will not forget it. I will not leave them unpunished any more. For they broke their treaty with their brother, Israel; they attacked and conquered him, and led him into slavery to Edom. So I will set fire to the walls of Tyre, and it will burn down all his forts and palaces."

Elihu: "Hooray! I hope this guy's an accurate forecaster! The people of Tyre have been mad at us ever since Israel got to be as prosperous as those folks have been for a long time. They're always stuck-up because their
commercial fleet is number one."

Jabal: "Yeah. Keep up your good work, Mr. Preacher, whoever-you-are. Sock it to them!"

The Lord says, "EDOM has sinned again and again, and I will not forget it. I will not leave him unpunished any more. For he chased his brother, Israel, with the sword; he was pitiless in unrelenting anger. So I will set fire to Ternan, and it will burn down all the forts of Bozrah."

Elihu: "This is getting better and better. I hate Edomites worse'n almost anybody, those kidnapping slave-traders!"

Jabal: "Yeah, and to think they're related to us: They descended from Esau while we descended from his brother Jacob."

The Lord says, "The people of AMMOM have sinned again and again, and I will not forget it. I will not leave them unpunished any more. For in their wars ... to enlarge their borders they committed cruel
crimes, ripping open pregnant women with their swords. So I will ... burn down their forts and palaces ....

And their king and his princes will go into exile together. "

The Lord says, "The people of MOAB have sinned again and again, and I will not forget it. I will not leave them unpunished any more. For they desecrated the tombs of the kings of Edom with no respect
for the dead.  Now in return I will send fire upon Moab, and it will destroy all the palaces in Kerioth ....

And I will destroy their king and slay all the leaders under him." The Lord has spoken.

Elihu: "I like this visiting orator more and more, despite his southern accent. The Ammonites and Moabites are our relatives too, but I can't stand those people."

Jabal: "Me neither. They're scum, even if they are distant cousins or something. They both sprang from Lot's daughters, and Lot was Abraham's nephew. But for centuries they've taken every chance they could to fight us and try to overthrow us. HEY, what's the preacher saying now?"

The Lord says, "The people of JUDAH have sinned again and again, and I will not forget it. I will not leave them unpunished any more. For they have rejected the laws of God, refusing to obey him. They have hardened their hearts and sinned as their fathers did. So I will destroy Judah with fire and burn down all Jerusalem's palaces and forts."

Elihu: "Man, I'm glad to hear that. I overheard some guy in the audience say he thought this speaker came up here from Judah. But that must've just been a false rumor, 'cuz he sure blistered those Jews. I wonder who he's
gonna blister next?"

The Lord says, "The people of ISRAEL have sinned again and again, and I will not forget it. I will not leave them unpunished any more. For they have perverted justice by accepting bribes, and sold into slavery the poor who can't repay their debts; they trade them for a pair of shoes. They trample the poor in the dust and kick aside the meek. And a man and his father defile the same temple-girl, corrupting my holy name. At their religious feasts in my own Temple they offer sacrifices of wine they purchased with stolen money. Yet think of all I did for them! I cleared the land of the Amorites before them .... And I brought you out from Egypt and led you through the desert forty years, to possess the land of the Amorites. And I chose your sons to be ... prophets.  But you silenced my prophets, telling them, 'Shut up!'  Therefore .... your swiftest warriors will stumble in flight. The strong will all be weak, and the great ones can no longer save themselves. The most courageous of your mighty men will drop their weapons and run for their lives." The Lord God has spoken.

Elihu: "HEY, STOP THAT SCUM! Somebody oughtta grab him, the blankity-blank meddler! Why are they just arguing with him instead of calling the Police? Who does he think he is, anyway, saying all that rot about us Israelites?"

Jabal: "Yeah, and lookit how big a crowd that bozo attracted by all those fakey statements he made earlier attacking other nations. I bet he planned all those denunciations just to attract our attention and win our sympathy. I wonder when he's gonna preach again, the bum. They oughtta jail him, but if they don't -- I'd like to hear him once more."

[Remember the MOUSETRAP analogy? Think about it.]

QUESTIONS & LESSONS from Amos 1:2-2:16
1. What do you think of Amos' strategy? Why did he do it?

a) To grab attention and arouse interest.

b)At the end, to show that the  Lord is an impartial judge of all, most especially His privileged people.

2. What lessons might Preachers and Teachers learn from Amos' preaching?

"Amos must have put in hours of study before he went preaching in Bethel. He took the trouble to become well-informed about world history and current affairs, so that he was able to capture and hold his audience's
attention by deft allusions to surrounding nations. How his hearers must have loved it, until it came too close to home for comfort!" (J. A. Motyer, The Day of the Lion, p. 9)

Years ago I heard a preacher begin his sermon by strongly denouncing the glaring and terrible errors of Marxism, socialism, pro-abortionists, "modernism," Roman Catholicism, Mormonism, and Jehovah's Witnesses. ("Right on!") Then, Amos-like, he turned his guns on us and our failures-- hypocrisy, arrogant sectarianism, apathy, etc. Ouch! Those Amoses know how to hurt a fellah -- just where we need it.

3. In the above article we quoted The Living Bible because of its more conversational style. But what Amos literally said, in the expression he used eight times, was not, "The Lord says, 'The people of __ have  sinned again and again, and I will not forget it. I will not leave them unpunished any more.'" Instead He said, For three sins of __ and for four, I will not turn back my wrath.”  Ponder the following insights on that pregnant statement:

"In His longsuffering, God had waited again and again, looking for some evidence of repentance before finally dealing in wrath; but there was none. In three transgressions they had filled up the cup of their
wickedness. In the fourth it had overflowed, and declared that all further testing was useless" (H.A. Ironside, Notes on the Minor Prophets). "The first time they had done the evil, God had rebuked. The second time, He had threatened. The third time, He had menaced with uplifted hand. Now, at the fourth time, He smites!" (J. Sidlow Baxter, Explore the Book). Where might the U.S.A. be in that process? Even Thomas Jefferson  said, "I tremble for my country when I think that God is just."

4. God is Sovereign Judge of all the nations, watching and examining them  (us!), plus choosing and thus foreknowing the times and manner of their  (our!) rise and fall.



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That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:10