The Old Testament book of Amos is full of warnings to the Northern Israelite nation of coming woe. The Assyrians were threatening them and had already subjected many neighbouring nations who were strong, secure and wealthy.
Amos starts with the words, “Woe to you who are complacent in Zion, and to you who feel secure on Mount Samaria. (Amos 6:1)
This word “woe” in the original Hebrew includes the concept of God’s judgment. “Woe” is a warning, a warning of judgment to come.
The book of Amos is filled with warnings, but chapter 6 lays out the reason for the complacency of the Israelites in the Northern Kingdom to Amos’ warnings from God. They were wealthy, the wealthiest the nation had been since Solomon. By putting off or ignoring the fate of the neighbour nations they were bringing near the judgment Amos was warning them was near.
Amos describes their wealth and luxurious, lavish lifestyles. They had lots of leisure time to lounge on couches while servants did the work. Their extravagant beds were inlaid with ivory. Their meat was the very choicest to be had, tender lambs and fattened calves. Their leisure time included playing musical instruments and what we would describe today as engaging in jam sessions. They had lots to drink, wine by the bowlfuls.
And they were able to purchase the finest lotions to make themselves attractive and appealing!
But there was a big problem. Amon concludes this description of wealth and luxurious living with the words, “but you do not grieve over the ruin of Joseph”.
Amos uses the name Joseph as an acronym for the Northern Kingdom, Israel. The people were not grieving over the ruin of Joseph, or Israel, because they were living in luxury and wealth and did not see that their wealth and luxurious lifestyles were what brought about the ruin of Israel. They felt secure in their wealth. This same wealth blinded them to what happened to the neighbours who had gone into subjugation.
This same wealth had destroyed their relationship to God, and also blinded them to Amos’ warnings. About 30 years after the death of Jeroboam II, the Assyrians overrun Israel and carried the people off into exile.
Heeding and hearing God’s warnings is also paramount for Christians today. Amos’ warning is an example of what can happen when we ignore the examples God provides in His word of judgment that can come, come even on our society.
You see, what Amos described of the Northern Kingdom’s lavish lifestyles, wealth and what the book of Kings describes of their apostasy very accurately describes our society in North America today. We are wealthy, very wealthy. Canada is one of the most sought-after places to emigrate to in the world. Compared to most of the rest of the world we are also stinking rich.
And we have an enormous amount of leisure time to indulge our passions!
Are our lavish lifestyles making it so we cannot see the “ruin” of Joseph? Do we not see the apostasy of our day? Do we not see how far our society has drifted from God?
No, we do not burn our children in the fire, but we have aborted millions of them!
No, we do not worship golden calves or Baals or Asherah poles or the starry host, but we do worship wealth and fame and power and rock stars.
Divination and sorcery are openly practiced today along with worship of Satan. The Ten Commandments are ignored and the word of God is forsaken. In many other ways our society is drifting away from the Christian values of only a few decades ago. Homosexuality is accepted as an alternative lifestyle, marriage is no longer something that happens between one man and one woman. Sexual immorality is ramped, pornography is available everywhere. . .the list could go on and on.
What I want us to see is Amos’ woe applied to us also. “Woe to you who are complacent in Zion, and to you who feel secure on Mount Samaria.”
Well, we feel secure. We have never been threatened as a nation. We are complacent as our society disintegrates away from Christian values.
Yes, we may feel aghast at what is happening in our society, but what we doing about it? Signing a few petitions and arguing our points on social media changes nothing.
I firmly believe God is going to bring judgment on our society, the formerly Christian nations of North America and Europe. God did it again and again to the Hebrews when they turned from Him in the Old Testament. We need to heed the example provided in their history.
So what can little old you and I do about all this? We seem powerless to change the direction our society is taking. But we are only being complacent if we stand by and watch. We can make a difference to one individual at a time by witnessing our faith to the word around us. Not grabbing lapel collars and trying to ram some sense into them, but rather demonstrating the love of Christ in our lives. Let them know we have that love because Christ died for our sins and has promised us eternal life.
If we exhibit the fruit of the spirit the world around us will see that difference and be open to our witness. Witness involves action, both with the actions of our lives and with our mouths. It is the opposite of complacency.
An old, well-known story is told of an older gentleman sitting at an ocean beach where millions of starfish had washed up on the beach and were withering in the sun. He watched a young person walking toward him, picking up starfish as he walked and throwing them back into the ocean. The old man said to the youngster, “You are wasting your time and effort. You cannot possibly make a difference with the millions of starfish that are dying.”
“No, I cannot,” the young person replied, “But I can make a difference for this one!”
And to this one as he again threw one back, and to this one, and to this one.
It is doubtful if we can stem the tide of apostasy in our society individually, but we can make a difference for this one, and for this one, and for this one. That may not delay the judgment that God may bring on our society, but our witness of word and deed will make an eternal difference to those God uses us to grant eternal life to.