Passage: Amos 8:4–8:7
†††In the Name of Jesus†††
Text: Amos 8:4-7
Date: September 18th, 2016; Pentecost 18; Series C
Grace and peace to you, from God our Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
Maybe when you first heard our reading from Amos this morning you thought it was a strange and distant text.
Maybe you thought that it doesn’t really apply to us today – well, with this talk of “new moons” and such.
But we must always keep in mind what we hear in 2 Timothy 3:16, "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” All scripture. Not some scripture. Not only the scripture that we like. All scripture.
So the words, "Hear this!" are not only directed to the people being confronted by the prophet Amos, but are also directed to every one of us listening here today.
"Hear this, you who trample on the needy and bring the poor of the land to an end, saying, ‘When will the new moon be over, that we may sell grain? And the Sabbath, that we may offer wheat for sale, that we may make the ephah small and the shekel great and deal deceitfully with false balances, that we may buy the poor for silver and the needy for a pair of sandals and sell the chaff of the wheat?’ The Lord has sworn by the pride of Jacob: ‘Surely I will never forget any of their deeds.’"
That is some pretty heavy stuff. That is some heavy law.
Although when we look closely at this verse we see God convicting these people of breaking many of his commandments - the main commandment being broken is the first: "You shall have no other gods."
This means that "we should fear, love and trust God above all things."
Something these people were obviously not doing!
The people addressed by Amos had replaced God with greed and the love of money.
As a result of this, they were led to commit many other sins - including exploiting the poor and engaging in illegal business practices.
In the lives of these people, God had been replaced by the desire for wealth. God was no longer central to their lives.
Increasing their material possessions was.
We live in a country and province that has been blessed in so many different ways, including economically.
We have everything we need and so much more!
Unfortunately, at times we misuse these blessings.
Rather than using these gifts in a God pleasing manner, we can become greedy and we can become controlled by them. The love of money can control us.
We can forget to view ourselves in the context of being forgiven and redeemed children of God and so easily fall prey to using the measuring stick of the world: wealth.
According to the world, you are successful, worthwhile, if you have wealth.
If you have a nice house, a nice car, nice clothes, if you go on fancy vacations - well then you have really made it!
But our value, our worth, does not come from the possessions that we accumulate in this lifetime.
Our value comes from being created in God’s image. Our value comes from being claimed as his children when we were baptized into his family.
Wealth can give us a sense of false security - we work so hard to meet all of our earthly needs and desires that we forget about our spiritual.
This is exactly what had happened to the people in our Old Testament lesson: "When will the new moon be over, that we may sell grain? And the Sabbath, that we may offer wheat for sale…?" They asked.
"When will the Sabbath be over?" In other words, when can we stop with this God stuff and get on with what’s important!
We can have this view too. When Divine Service starts to run a little past an hour we start to get a little bit antsy don’t we?
Are we giving thought to the gifts we are receiving from God, or are we focused on when it's going to be over so that we can get on to the other things we have planned for the day?
And maybe that's why we struggle with it so much, because worship really has almost no association with doing. The Divine Service is about receiving.
It’s about receiving God’s forgiveness. It’s about his work of Salvation. His work of nurturing and strengthening your faith.
Instead of our “doing” we simply respond with thanks and praise for all that God has done for us.
Although texts like these can be difficult for us to face because they show us the sin in our lives that we try so hard to ignore and hide - they are crucial because they help realize that we have fallen short and that we desperately need God's forgiveness.
Our text ends with something that really throws us off guard: "The Lord has sworn by the pride of Jacob: 'Surely I will never forget any of their deeds.'”
This seems to contradict what we hear in Jeremiah 31:34 which reveals that "[God] will remember their sin no more."
But God doesn’t overlook our sins by sweeping them under the rug.
No, God dealt with our sin in the person of Jesus Christ. That’s what happened on the cross.
There, God the Father remembered all of our cheating ways, our greed, our failure to keep him central in our lives and laid the punishment we deserve on his Son.
Since Jesus paid for our sins at the cross, God can and does forget our sins.
Now by grace through faith, we are made new in Christ.
Our debts are paid for in full.
God the Father will never forget what his Son accomplished on our behalf through his perfect life, death on the cross, and resurrection.
Because of what Christ accomplished for you, you are forgiven and your sins are remembered no more.
Think of it this way. When you’re done paying your credit card bill, you don’t leave the credit card statement out on your desk for very long, do you?
You don’t put it up on the fridge for years so that you are constantly reminded of it.
No, you file it away or shred it and forget about it because that debt has been paid.
Well, in Christ, our sins are not just filed away - they are truly forgotten because they have been paid for in full.
Knowing that we no longer have the debt of our sin hanging over our heads is such a great feeling - it's not something that needs to be constantly on our minds, worrying us, tormenting us. We have been set free. We have been made new.
And being redeemed and forgiven children of God, we now live our lives according to his will.
The Holy Spirit works in us that we may be responsible with the many blessings that we have received from the hand of God - not putting them before him.
We can forgive and forget when others have sinned against us - the way that God has forgiven and forgotten our sins.
Jesus has taken care of your debt.
The payment was not "silver or gold," but the "precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect" (1 Peter 1:18-19). This was a price more valuable than all the money in the world.
We no longer need to be burdened by our sin. The heavy weight has been lifted off of our shoulders.
We are now free to live our lives the way that God created us to live.
Before God, we are debt free. Knowing this gives us strength and courage to face the future in the sure hope that because of the blood of the Lamb, we are forgiven and eternal life is ours. Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.
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