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Worship Theme: How Can We Witness?
Sermon Theme: Listen Up! Hear the Word of the Lord
It’s a lesson that most parents attempt to instill in their children at an early age. “When a grown-up speaks, you listen.” I remember learning that lesson as a child. Respect your elders. Listen to them. Take their counsel because they know a thing or two. Grown-ups have something that younger people don’t have – experience! When they speak, it’s not just a matter of respect – it’s also a good idea, it’s just plain wise – to listen.
Do you know a person in your life who is quiet and reserved? A person of few words? People like that are quick to listen but not usually quick to speak! They are good at observing situations. They never shoot off their mouth. They always think about what to say and they never speak if it’s not worth it. But then when a person like that does speak, you’d be wise to listen! If that quiet and reserved person decides to come off the sideline and onto the field…if they have decided that something was worth breaking the silence and speaking…then it’s probably worth you opening your ears to hear what they have to say!
We don’t know how old Amos was. Was he an old and reserved man? Or was he a youthful young buck? Really, it doesn’t matter. Amos had a message that was important for his recipients to hear. It was important for them, not because he was a man of few words, not because he was a distinguished and reserved old man, but it was an important message to hear because of who was sending it. Amos was carrying a message from the eternal God. He was sent to God’s people to share God’s Word and his will. And that’s why it was important for them to listen to Amos’ words.
And the same is true for us. When God speaks, we need to listen. No matter who he speaks through, no matter what that message is, we are wise when we open our ears to be filled with God’s Words. So just like when Amos spoke so many years ago, God says to us as he speaks “Listen Up! Hear the Word of the Lord.”
The story of Amos is a story of an unlikely man sent to proclaim God’s Words to his people. He had no seminary training. He didn’t go to Elijah’s school of the prophets. Here’s Amos’ self-description: “I was neither a prophet nor the son of a prophet, but I was a shepherd, and I also took care of sycamore-fig trees.”
He was a farmer, a shepherd. What business did he have addressing a nation or speaking that way against a power King? And more than that, Amos wasn’t even a citizen in Jeroboam’s country. He lived in a village in Judah called Tekoa. He was a citizen of the southern kingdom, but now he was going to deliver a message to a Northerner, and the king of the Northern Kingdom at that?
That’s the story of Amos, an unlikely messenger. But even as Amos listed the things that made him unexpected or unworthy for such an audience, he then still played on the table the trump card that defeated all those details. But the Lord took me from tending the flock and said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’ It was the LORD’s call that made all the reasons not to speak fade away. And it was the LORD’s call that empowered him to speak!
And his message to King Jeroboam wasn’t a fun one to speak. ‘Jeroboam will die by the sword, and Israel will surely go into exile, away from their native land.’”
This wasn’t the first time that the nation of Israel had heard these words and it wasn’t going to be the last. But their reaction was the same as almost every time they heard. They ignored the warning and lashed out against the messenger.
Then Amaziah (the priest of Bethel) said to Amos, “Get out, you seer! Go back to the land of Judah. Earn your bread there and do your prophesying there. Don’t prophesy anymore at Bethel, because this is the king’s sanctuary and the temple of the kingdom.”
Amos told the King “Listen Up! Hear the Word of the Lord!” and he said “No thanks!” Jeroboam wanted nothing to do with the Lord’s Word and that’s why Amos was sent in the first place.
It might seem to us to be unthinkably foolish to close your ears to the Lord or the Lord’s anointed. But isn’t that what we do all the time? We hear God’s law spoken to us and when it stings, we come up with excuses. When it’s encouragements to give generous offerings, it’s said “that pastor only ever talks about money!” When it’s a preaching against jealousy and hatred, we excuse those attitudes within our own minds saying “Yeah, but that person hurt me so badly. There’s no way I could say nice words to them.” When it comes to preaching the law to a loved one, a child, a spouse, how often don’t we shy away entirely? “They’ll just get mad at me!” They won’t listen anyways, why should I bother?”
But it’s not just excuses that we make to avoid speaking bad news. We fail to listen to Jesus when it comes to speaking good news too. He asks us to work together as a church to proclaim a message of forgiveness to a dying world, and how often don’t we find other things to busy ourselves with. There are those in our lives that need to hear the message of Jesus, yet we are too lazy, prideful, consumed by our own misguided fears to show them Jesus. It’s true – we act like Jeroboam and Amaziah and close our ears to the message that God’s servants bring to us. But there are also times that we are called to be an Amos and we refuse to get up and follow his call to service. And both failures are equally sinful. Each are refusing to listen to the words of God and for those and our many other sins we deserve to have God stop listening to us. He should close his ears to our prayers and his eyes to our needs. He should speak to us his harsh but fair words of judgment – like he spoke to Jeroboam. We should be cut off from God – here and forever in hell!
But God doesn’t speak once and then let the chips fall where they may. And he doesn’t close his eyes to us. No, he sees us in our sinful state. He sees our desperate needs. He sees that we can’t help ourselves and so he calls. Again and again and again he calls us to repentance, to open our ears to hear his words of love, to trust in his protection and care. He puts faith in our hearts so that we can see that Jesus is our Savior from sin. He opens our eyes so that we can see and know that he lived in our place and obeyed the law perfectly in our place. He took our punishment and absorbed the wrath of God that should have been ours. He was willing to suffer, to be beaten, to die, so that forgiveness could be ours. He took our sin to the cross and died so that death and the devil could harm us no more. Jesus won the ultimate victory and now he opens our ears to hear his love every single day. Every single day we can begin and end in God’s grace because Jesus’ death and resurrection has set us free to live for him.
God called us to his side using an Amos. Maybe it was a pastor who spoke God’s Words to you. Maybe it was a parent who raised you to sing Jesus songs and taught you how to sit in church and listen. Maybe it was a neighbor who invited you to church with him and there you learned of Jesus. Maybe it was a spouse who had what you didn’t and was willing to share? Who was the Amos for you? Who listened to God’s call and loved you enough to speak his words to you? It was someone. Who was it? Thank God for sending that Amos into your life and giving you the promise of life forever through the words that they spoke.
And now an even bigger question: TO WHOM can YOU be an Amos? Who needs to hear the good news message of sin forgiven and eternal life won! WITH WHOM can you share the love of Jesus? Whose life could be changed by your simple declaration of God’s love to them? They are out there. Are you willing to speak when Jesus calls you?
Do you think it was scary for a little shepherd from Tekoa to walk into Israel with a message about the great King Jeroboam II? I bet it was. But he knew he didn’t walk alone – God was with him and was protecting him every step of the way.
Do you think it’s scary to share the gospel with someone? It can be - but we need not be afraid. The God who was with Amos is with us too. He promises us his care, his blessing and to work out everything for our good!
So, my friends, no matter what the situation you are in…no matter what challenges lie before you…no matter what opportunities are there for you to seize…it’s a blessed path, the one that listens to Jesus. Open your ears to the one who has opened your heart to believe in him. Open your ears so that you can “Listen Up! And Hear the Word of the Lord!” And then find the ways God gives you to proclaim what you hear, so that many more might be saved through the powerful and life-giving words of the Lord! Amen.
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