Amos’ Warning on Spiritual Complacency
We are continuing our series in the book of Amos, looking at true biblical justice. As we learned last week, justice is close to the heart of God. This week Chris takes us into the economic climate of Israel. Spoiler alert: It was GOOD! During this time of wealth and prosperity, the rich were getting richer but it was on the backs of the poor. The breakdown was not the wealth but how they were getting rich.
There was a complacency with the rich in Israel and Judah and no one was calling out their sin. That is where Amos came in. Listen to how Amos tries to wake Israel up to the injustice they were allowing. Like last week, this will not only give you a glimpse into some of our own lives but also into the heart of God.
If you missed Part 1 of this series, Listen Here
Steve Conover: When have you found yourself closest to God? Has it been in times of abundance, or when you’ve felt most secure in your life? Or is it when you’ve felt weak, vulnerable, uncertain, even poor? This is The Friends of Israel Today. I'm Steve Conover. With me is Chris Katulka. We're continuing our series in Amos, a prophet who desired to reestablish biblical justice in Israel.
Chris Katulka: This is a four-part series. Last week we looked at how biblical justice can never be fulfilled unless God is at the center of it. Today we're going to talk about how if God is removed from what we do on a daily basis, we actually become pretty complacent. We become spiritually complacent, especially in a world of abundance and security. So today we're going to look at how the prophet, Amos is ministering to Israel to try to get them to wake up from their spiritual complacency.
Steve Conover: Excellent, Chris. Stay with us. First in the news, in a rare visit to Hebron, Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu vowed that a Jewish presence will remain in the city of the patriarchs. Netanyahu was there to commemorate the 1929 Hebron massacre when certain members of the Arab community killed 67 Jewish people, which led to a Jewish exodus from the significant biblical city.
Chris Katulka: And Steve, this is a very significant biblical city. In fact, Hebron is the second most holy city in Jerusalem, and that's because that's where Abraham, Isaac, Esau, Jacob, along with their wives, that's where they're all buried. It's really the city of the patriarchs.
Hebron is actually in the West Bank, and remains a contentious city for Israelis to live in, according to the international community. However, as Prime Minister Netanyahu said in the past, "They were sure that they could kick us out for good." And he's referring to the 1929 Hebron massacre. "But they made a serious mistake." He said. "Hebron must remain a vital part of Israeli history, and culture." And I'm going to tell you, nothing will scare Israel from staying rooted to their ancient history.
We're continuing our series on the prophet Amos. And listen, when you hear the title prophet, I think our minds are geared to think, "We're going to be studying prophecy. We're going to be studying the end times." And let me tell you, you're not wrong. But at the same time, a prophet was a man, or woman of their time. A prophet's position was really to awaken the people of Israel from their spiritual slumber.
A prophet would have in one hand the law of God, which explained how the Israelites should worship God, and how they should treat one another. And then yet, in the other hand, a prophet would often carry the newspaper of the day. And I'm joking of course, but a prophet was fully aware, and up to date on the current events of Israel, and Judah.
A prophet would then, as a result, having both the law of God in one hand, and current events, and understanding the spiritual heartbeat of Israel and Judah, a prophet then would judge either kingdom on whether or not they were following God, in keeping his commandments. And remember, those commandments have to do with both how Israel worships God, and maintains the justice that comes from the law of God.
So let's just talk for a moment about this word justice. Listen, I believe justice is a word that's really under attack. It's under assault right now. When people hear the word justice, I think we automatically tend to go with what the media proclaims is justice, which is social justice. Social justice is the belief in not only equality for all, which is something I'm for, equality.
But what they really want, social justice today wants, is the equality of outcome. I believe all men were created equally in the eyes of God. God equally values every human life. But I don't believe in equality of outcome, that everyone deserves the same outcome in life. Friends, government redistribution of opportunities and experience, and money is not justice.
We need to reclaim the term because justice is extremely biblical. All throughout the Old Testament, and New Testament, justice matters. Biblical justice is extremely complex. It understands that the poor, the helpless, the needy, those who can't speak for themselves do exist. It understands that there are the rich, and the wealthy. But see, biblical justice isn't just about money, or who has more or less. Biblical justice is deeper than that. It's actually a spiritual condition.
Last week we looked at how the prophet Amos announced judgment on Israel because first, they left God out of the picture, and see, all justice begins with God, and today we're going to see what happens when biblical justice is watered down because of false security. When people feel secure, financially secure, and just generally secure. When you feel secure, you actually become complacent, and complacency becomes a stepping stone for injustice if your spiritual relationship with God isn't in check.
Now, Israel and Judah, let's go back to the history here, because you have to understand what's going on in the background to understand what Amos is speaking about. Israel and Judah were in a prime place for complacency when Amos was ministering to them in 762 BC. Last week I mentioned how Amos lived in a time of material prosperity, and security.
King Uzziah, and Judah, and King Jeroboam II in Israel had long reigns, and their long reigns brought that stability, prosperity, and even expansion of both Judah and Israel. In the southern kingdom, the Judites felt secure because Uzziah pushed back their enemies. He pushed back enemies from the west, the east, and the south. In fact, Uzziah's political influence was felt as far as Egypt.
Now, in a northern kingdom, where Amos directed his prophetic ministry, Israel was experiencing the height of its power. At this point in Israel's history, there was a buffer between them and the largest empire in the world, Assyria. This allowed Jeroboam II to extend his borders northward, and to reclaim Israel's lands, in what is now Jordan.
I'm going to tell you, these strategic moves really gave Israel control over major trade routes, which is what brought wealth to their cities. Commerce was thriving, and eventually, this is the important part, an upper class emerges. Expensive homes are now being built. The rich are enjoying a lazy, and indulgent lifestyle while the poor became targets for legal and economic exploitation.
This is really bad. The Israelites, the rich Israelites were actually using the poor Israelites to make the rich Israelites richer. And you know what, everyone was okay with it. This is the problem. Nobody raised a finger as to the moral decline that was happening in Israel. Complacency crept into Israel and Judah.
I just want you to hear what Amos has to say in Amos chapter 6:1-3. He says this, "Woe to those who live in ease in Zion. To those who feel secure on Mount Samaria. They think of themselves of the elite class of the best nation. The family of Israel looks to them for leadership. They say to the people, 'Journey over to Calneh and look at it. And then go from there to Hamat Rabbah, and then go down to Gat of the Philistines. Are they superior to our two kingdoms? Is their territory larger than yours? You refuse to believe a day of disaster will come, but you establish a reign of violence."
So first of all, think about this, Amos is speaking to Israel and Judah. And Amos is actually calling out both kingdoms, those who live in Zion, that's Jerusalem, the capital of Judah. He's talking about those who live in ease, a lazy life in Zion, they're wealthy, and those who feel secure on Mount Samaria. Again, Samaria is the capital of the northern 10 tribes of Israel, in the kingdom of Israel.
So he's calling out both the capital, and what represents Israel, and what represents Judah. Amos is calling out as a prophet those who have embraced a complacent lifestyle, and consider themselves, did you hear what he said? "The elite class of the nation." Listen, complacency is the smug, satisfaction with your own achievements. It's self-satisfaction. It's self-approval. It's self-admiration. It's self-congratulation. It's self-regard. Do you hear the word I'm using over, and over again when it comes to complacency? Self.
If there's one thing the law of God in the Old Testament, and the law of Christ in the New Testament teaches us, is that the word self is incompatible with the word of God. Thinking of one's self over the interest of others is an act of biblical injustice. The elite of Israel and Judah became complacent in their social sins, in the way they abused their own countrymen to better their own sense of self.
Now this is where Amos' prophetic ministry really kicks in. Complacency rears its ugly head when it seems like there's no punishment for the sins that they're committing. The "elite class" of Judah and Israel were living in their easy lifestyle. They felt secure, so they continued their acts of injustice against their own people, and it seemed as though they were getting away with it. But see, Amos appears to let them know that their selfish, and self-indulgent ways of living at the expense of others will be judged by God if they don't repent and turn back to him.
See, when you're living the high life, when you're living the easy life. When you're living a secure life, you feel like nothing can bring you down. But Amos sends a warning shot across the bow, and compares Israel to the large cities and empires, larger than Israel, larger than Judah, who have fallen. Amos is saying, "You think you're too big to fail, Israel and Judah? Just look at these cities like Gat, and the nations around you who have fallen."
Amos actually writes, did you hear at the end of verse three, of Amos chapter six, "You refuse to believe a day of disaster is coming, but you will establish a reign of violence." God is going to judge Israel and Judah for their boastful complacency, just as he promised in the law.
Just listen, the one to one correlation here is amazing. Just listen to what Moses says in Deuteronomy 8:11-18, just listen to this. "Be sure not to forget the Lord your God by not keeping his commandments, ordinances, and statutes that I'm giving you today. When you eat your fill, when you build and occupy good houses, when your cattle and flocks increase, when you have plenty of silver and gold, and when you have an abundance of everything, be sure not to feel self-important, and forget the Lord your God, who brought you up from the land of Egypt to the place of slavery. Who brought you through the great, fearful desert, of venomous serpents and scorpions, an arid place with no water." "He made water flow from a flint rock, and fed you in the desert with manna, which your ancestors had never before known. So that he might, by humbling you, test you and eventually bring good to you. Be careful not to say, 'My own ability and skill have gotten me this wealth.' You must remember the Lord your God, for he is the one who gives ability to get wealth. If you do this, he will confirm his covenant that he made by oath to your ancestors, even as he has to this day."
Israel and Judah first forgot God. Even in the midst of their so-called worship, they forgot God. That's what we learned about in the first episode of Amos, when we talked about justice without God. But what happens after you forget God? You become complacent and spiritually numb to the world around you, willing to hurt others for your own personal gain. And that's what Israel did, and that's why Amos is going to judge Israel for their acts of injustice.
When we come back, I want to connect the dots between the Israel Amos was speaking to, and the church today. So be sure to stick around.
Steve Conover: The minor prophets are a treasure trove of practical truths, and timeless messages that speak to the human condition. During the 8th Century BC, Hosea, Amos, and Micah warned that the Jewish people's rejection of God would surely bring his judgment. In this book, The Ruin and Restoration of Israel, David Levy paints a moving picture of God's deep love for his people, and the hope of their restoration, as he walks through the minor prophets, Hosea, Amos, and Micah.
To order your copy of The Ruin and Restoration of Israel, by David Levy, visit us at foiradio.org. That's foiradio.org. We'll have the link on our homepage. Or you can call our listener line at (888)343-6940, and someone will return your call during our regular business hours. Again, that's (888)343-6940. To order in Canada, call (888)664-2584. Again, in Canada, that's (888)664-2584.
Chris Katulka: Thanks for sticking around. We've been studying the prophet Amos, a prophet who ministered in the 8th Century BC to most of the northern 10 tribes of Israel, and to Judah as well. Amos was called by God to prophecy against Israel and Judah because of the injustice the wealthy, and the secure brought against their own people. Israelites were treating fellow Israelites in an unfair practice, in an unfair way for financial gain. This really flies in the face of everything God values, in the Old Testament, and the New Testament.
Before the break, we were talking about how spiritual complacency can lead to such selfish acts of injustice. Because let's be honest, any act of injustice is nothing more than a selfish act. Israel's boastful, spiritual complacency came out of their opulence. It came out of their prosperity, and it came out of their security. Opulence, prosperity, and security is the breeding ground for complacency.
My friends who are listening right now on the radio in the United States and Canada, or maybe you're listening on the podcast in Europe. As Christians, we live in a world that can easily give way to spiritual complacency, which can actually lead to acts of injustice.
Just think about this for one minute. There's a pastor here in the United States whose net worth is in the hundreds of millions of dollars. He flies around on a private jet that he houses at his multi-million dollar home that's owned by his church. Friends, let me tell you something, as we'll learn next week, there is nothing wrong with wealth, but the money that goes to these jets, and these multi-million dollar homes, and this lavish lifestyle doesn't come from manufacturing something that everybody needs, no.
See, this is money given by people who believe God will bless them for giving. This money that affords this pastor a lavish, easy lifestyle probably comes from other Christians who are on fixed incomes, or widows. This, my friends, is an injustice. This is spiritual complacency that comes from living in a world of prosperity and security. This is the ultimate injustice, that he would use and take from others in the name of God.
But what about us? In the previous segment I read from Deuteronomy chapter eight, and in it the Lord says to Israel, "When you get in the land and you begin to accrue wealth, and you have an abundance of everything." And friends, let me tell you something, we have an abundance of everything in America, in Canada, in the western world. Listen to what the Lord says, "Be sure you do not feel self-important." Also known as complacent. "And forget about the Lord your God, who brought you from the land of Egypt, the place of slavery."
Listen, God's not saying wealth is bad. He didn't deny the Israelites the ability to build and receive abundance. But what God knows is this, when you feel secure, when you feel life is easy, you are more likely to forget God. And when you forget God, you forget his laws and his commandments. And when you forget his laws and commandments, you only actually begin to fill that void with yourself. And that's when you're most likely to hurt others, to commit acts of injustice, for your own selfish gain.
So it's imperative, my friends, my fellow believers in the Lord, don't forget God. Even in the midst of our opulence, and our prosperity that we have here in America, our security that we have here in America, don't forget God, the one who provides for us. Don't forget to trust in him. In the midst of all the material possessions, in the midst of all the money, don't forget the Lord, the one who provides it all for us.
Steve Conover: Israel, on the verge of becoming a state, a teenage Holocaust survivor arrives on her shores alone, his name, is Zvi Kalisher. Little did he know his search for a new life in the Holy Land would lead him to the Messiah. Zvi, enthusiastic to share his faith, engaged others in spiritual conversations, many of which can be found in our magazine, Israel My Glory. While Zvi is now in the presence of his Savior, his collective writings from well over 50 years of ministry continue to encourage believers worldwide.
Now, Apples of Gold, a dramatic reading from the life of Zvi.
Mike Kellogg: My wife and I recently visited her mother in the hospital. Most of the people in that hospital can longer care for themselves, speak little, seem bitter. They appear to be counting the days until they die. As I viewed this sorrowful picture, I realized I must encourage these people. I quickly befriended them. They immediately seemed to like me, probably because I made them feel like they still have value, and they are important in God's eyes.
When I asked if they remembered anything about the Bible, most replied they pray only from the prayer books. One of the men said, "Listening to the Rabbis does not bring us joy. But you, in just a short time have actually made us smile." I then read Psalm 37:25, to show them even in old age they can be fruitful. "I have been young, and now I'm old. Yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his descendants begging bread." I told them, "You are important, even at your advanced age, and you can be even more important if you will turn back to the Lord. Return to him and obey his commandments."
I assured them they do not have to be bitter because those who truly believe in the Lord will never be forsaken, but will have everlasting life in his presence. As it is written in Job 19:25 and 26, "I know my redeemer lives, and he shall stand on the earth. And after my skin is destroyed, in my flesh I shall see God." I told them, do as Amos 5:4 says, "Seek me and live. In the Lord there is no death, only life."
I could tell from their expressions they had never heard these things before. They began to question me about their future. They wanted assurance the things I told them were really true.
I began reading some of the Psalms to them. I ended with Psalm 23, putting special emphasis on the end of verse six. "I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever." And when I finished reading, someone said, "We have read those passages many times, but they never entered into our hearts as they have today." Just then my wife said, "Zvi, today is Friday. We must get to the shops before they close for the Sabbath." I looked at my watch and realized I had been speaking with these people for more than three hours. They seemed sad I had to leave, so I said to my wife, "Give me a few more minutes with my new friends."
I then asked them, "Do you have any more questions before I leave?" One asked, "How can you be sure you will dwell in the house of the Lord forever?" I replied, "It is written in Psalm 119:89, 'Forever O Lord, your word is settled in heaven. Put your trust in him and you will have the same assurance.' Psalm 119:17 says, 'I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord.'"
I plan to return and continue witnessing to these dear people. I pray they will accept the Lord as the Messiah, and Savior before their earthly journey is over.
Steve Conover: We're glad you joined us today. We'll continue looking at prophetic justice in the book of Amos next week. Chris, where are we headed?
Chris Katulka: We've been talking about this issue of justice, and what it means for God to keep God in the center of justice. Right at the heart of it is the issue of wealth, money, security. The question is, does God care about wealth? Is God upset with wealth? We're going to answer those questions next week.
Steve Conover: The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry has been sharing the love of the Messiah, and supporting Israel and the Jewish people since 1938. If you feel led to support our work, or you simply want to reach out to us, visit foiradio.org. That's foiradio.org.
In the United States, you can call our listener line at (888)343-6490. Again, in the US, that's (888)343-6940. You can write to us at FOI Radio PO Box 914 Bellmawr, New Jersey, 08099. Again, that's FOI Radio PO Box 914 Bellmawr, New Jersey, 08099. Call our Canada office at (888)664-2584. Again, in Canada, that's (888)664-2584. Please, let us know where you're listening, when you call or write us.
Our host and teacher is Chris Katulka. Today's program was produced by Tom Gallione, co-written by Sarah Fern. Our theme music was composed and performed by Jeremy Strong. And I'm Steve Conover, Executive Producer. The Friends of Israel Today, is a production of The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, we are a worldwide Christian ministry communicating biblical truth about Israel and the Messiah, while fostering solidarity with the Jewish people.
The Ruin and Restoration of Israel
By David M. Levy
In his book, The Ruin and Restoration of Israel, David Levy paints a moving picture of God’s deep love for the Jewish people as he walks through the books of Hosea, Amos, and Micah.
Apples of Gold: From Silence and Sorrow to Joyful Singing
Zvi visited his mother-in-law in the hospital. As he looked around, he saw so many faces full of sorrow and hopelessness, people who were just waiting to die. He realized the opportunity he had to reach a hurting group of people in need of the truth of God’s Word. Though the people knew the Old Testament, their hearts were just waiting to be opened to the true glory of God’s Word. Hear how Zvi brought hope to many people who had been seeking it for so long.
Zvi’s story is available in Elwood McQuaid’s book, “Zvi: The Miraculous Story of Triumph over the Holocaust,” available at our online store.
More stories from Zvi are also available in his book, “The Best of Zvi,” available at our online store.
The Friends of Israel Today and Apples of Gold theme music was composed and performed by Jeremy Strong.