18 Pentecost 2019

Israel was on the edge of a total and complete disaster. In 930 BC, King Solomon dies, and Israel is divided into the Northern Kingdom – Israel, and the Southern Kingdom – Judah. Jeroboam becomes King of the Northern Kingdom, Israel, in 930 BC. He built 2 temples, one in the far North of his kingdom, and one in the Southern part of his kingdom. King Jeroboam built these temples so that his people could worship without going all the way to Jerusalem. The problem was, these were pagan temples where many gods were worshipped.

For the next 180 years, God sends prophet after prophet condemning the idolatry that was being practiced in these temples, calling the people to repentance, and threatening destruction if they refuse. 

In the year 750, it was the Prophet Amos who saw the death and destruction that was coming. He pleaded with Israel, ‘If you repent and turn away from your idolatry, God will relent and turn away from His anger and wrath.If you do not, you will be destroyed’ 

People today have the same problem the people of Israel and Judah had –trusting their wealth and success more than they trust God. Israel had reached the very pinnacle of its power and influence under the reign of kings David and Solomon. With the blessings of God, the people found success in everything they did. They grew strong and prosperous.

But instead of seeing their success and prosperity as blessings from God’s love, they viewed their wealth as proof that they were God’s special people. And since their wealth was evidence of God’s favor, then poverty was evidence of God’s rejection. The Israelites, therefore, felt no guilt from abusing the poor and taking advantage of them at every opportunity. Poor families who needed to borrow money were forced to sell their land, land that had been in their family for generations. Those who had no land to sell were forced into slavery. The wealthy became wealthier, and the poor became poorer.

Amos said, “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 but 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.’” (Amos 8:4-7)

In Luke chapter 16 Jesus said, “No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” Luther once said, “Money is the most common idol in the world.” We trust wealth, believing that it makes us safe and secure. But greed breaks the very 1st Commandment: “You shall have no other gods.”

God is angry about such sin – He was angry with Israel in the 8th Century BC, and He’s angry with America today. This is what God’s anger did to ancient Israel, when they would not listen to Amos and the other prophets: in the 8th Century BC, God raised-up the nation of Assyria, giving them a great and powerful army. In 722 BC, the Assyrian Army invaded the Northern Kingdom of Israel and completely destroyed them. All of the wealth was looted, their homes and businesses were burned, the men were killed in the streets, the women and children captured and taken back to Assyria to live the rest of their lives as slaves.

God had given the people of Israel all the wealth and success they ever dreamed of. Yet the more God gave them, the farther away from God their hearts were. And when they would not repent and bring their hearts back to God, God took everything away from them. Their forefathers had once been slaves in Egypt.  God delivered them from the Egyptians and gave them a land flowing with milk and honey. God gave it all to them. But rather than showing gratitude to God, they turned away from Him and worshipped other gods. And when they would not repent, God took it all away from them and made them slaves once again. This time they would be slaves in Assyria.

God’s wrath and anger seem so far away from us today, giving America a false sense of invulnerability. Its easy for Americans to think there are no consequences for their sin and unbelief. Today, America as a whole doesn’t even acknowledge God’s existence, and we have no fear of God’s punishment. And that, fellow believers, is the single greatest mistake America has ever made. God blessed this country as no other nation on earth has experienced, except for Israel and Judah. But just like them, we have turned our backs on God, and handed our country, our hearts, and our minds over to false gods and idols. The evil that is at work in this country today is unimaginable.

God didn’t want to destroy Israel, but they gave Him no choice. They presented sins and evils that God could not and would not tolerate. What will God do if we give Him no choice, if we continue to present Him with sins and evils that He cannot and will not tolerate.

We’ve seen the terrible wrath of God- the flood, Sodom and Gomorrah, the destruction of Israel in 722 BC , the destruction of Judah in 586 BC, and, the destruction of Jesus by the Jews.

But by that destruction of Jesus on the cross, God’s wrath toward you and I has been set aside. As we repent of our sins and turn our hearts to God, God forgives us all our sins and cleanses us from all unrighteousness. Because God poured-out His wrath toward us on Jesus, His anger is turned away from us and we know only His mercy, grace, and love. We can worship, praise, and give thanks to God, keeping our hearts and minds ever turned toward Him and away from the idols and false gods of 21 Century America. This morning you and I worship together because God’s anger has been turned away from us. You are God’s greatest delight, the recipient of His blessings, and His people whom He loves. Amen.