Sunday, July 30, 2017

the folly of finger pointing

(written by Pastor Joe)
The Word for Today: Amos 3 & 4
mark this: Amos 2:6
"This is what the LORD says: for three sins of Israel, for even four, I will not turn back my wrath..."
Schadenfreude. It's a complicated word to describe a very simple concept. I can't pronounce it correctly, but I was probably only three or four years old, watching Wile E. Coyote, when I understood it completely. You see, schadenfreude is basically experiencing amusement or delight in the pain or misfortune of others. You know, that great generator of laughs that's been with us from Punch & Judy and The Three Stooges, all the way to America's Funniest Videos and Wipeout. Other people are tripped, suckerpunched, bopped, poked or otherwise harmed, and our first response is to laugh. Not one of us can say we've never indulged in this type of pleasure.
The whole premise of schadenfreude is the maxim: better "him" than me, or better "them" than us. It only works until we become "them", and then it's no longer funny. As long as it is Curly who's getting poked in the eye, well that's comic genius. When its you or me, well that's not so funny. The first 18 verses of Amos start with talk against "them." All of Israel's hostile neighbors (Damascus, Gaza, Tyre, Edom, Ammon & Moab) are all called out for their sins, and they are warned of impending judgment.
Can you imagine the crowd around Amos, as he begins his message to the people of Israel. At first, they would be thrilled with God's announcement.  I picture them cheering as each of their enemies are brought under God's judgement. "Edom..... (boooo!)... will be consumed." (hooray!) It's a big celebration, that is until Israel itself is mentioned. Sudden the people at this pro-Israel rally would seek to silence the key note speaker.
This is certainly a lesson for us to be careful what we celebrate. The book of Proverbs warns us: "Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when they stumble, do not let your heart rejoice, or the LORD will see and disapprove.. (1)" Remember Jesus Himself said to us, "For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. (2)”
But even more than that, it's a clear demonstration of the character and consistency of God.
Notice, there is NO distinction between the formula that the prophet used for every other nation and the formula for Israel. Moab sinned and would be punished. Israel sinned and also would be punished. In a world that is ruled by favoritism, nepotism, insider connections; in a world where caste, or social class, or deep pocketbooks have all the say, it is so refreshing and just that all that means nothing to God. Israel would not be dealt with lightly just because they knew the judge.
Jesus Christ is the great equalizer. The Word is not just speaking platitudes when it proclaims "God does not show favoritism.(3)" Our message, therefore, is twofold and summed up in two consecutive verses: "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are all are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. (4)"
(1) Proverbs 24:17-18
(2) Luke 6:38
(3) Romans 2:11
(4) Romans 3:23 &24

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