“Proclaim in the palaces at Ashdod, and in the palaces in the land of Egypt, and say:
‘Assemble on the mountains of Samaria; see great tumults in her midst, and the oppressed within her. For they do not know to do right,’ Says the LORD, who store up violence and robbery in their palaces.'”
Therefore thus says the Lord GOD:
“An adversary shall be all around the land; he shall sap your strength from you, and your palaces shall be plundered.”
Thus says the LORD
“As a shepherd takes from the mouth of a lion two legs or a piece of an ear, so shall the children of Israel be taken out who dwell in Samaria — In the corner of a bed and on the edge of a couch! Hear and testify against the house of Jacob,”
Says the Lord GOD, the God of hosts,
That in the day I punish Israel for their transgressions, I will also visit destruction on the altars of Bethel; and the horns of the altar shall be cut off and fall to the ground. I will destroy the winter house along with the summer house; the houses of ivory shall perish, and the great houses shall have an end,”
Says the LORD.
Lutheran scholar John Warwick Montgomery wrote in his 1970 publication, Damned Through the Church:
“I’ve heard people say very often, ‘It’s better to go to church than not to go; it can’t hurt you.’ Well, my friend, it can hurt you! The church can be a place of accelerated salvation; but it can also be a place of accelerated damnation.”
In the days of Amos, Israel took comfort from the fact that she was God’s elect. They felt that, having been chosen by God as His special people (Amos 3:2a), Israel must therefore be the recipient of His favor. She was counting on the fact that she was the church and that she went to church and maintained a religious life, while at the same time, she was violating conscience, disregarding love, and falling into spiritual complacency and unbelief.
As the prophet Amos will remind us, the congregation that was delivered from bondage in Egypt, the company that Stephen calls in Acts 7:38, “the church in the wilderness,” died in the wilderness under God’s hand of judgment because of their unbelief and disobedience; they failed to and even refused to enter the rest of God (Heb. 4:1-6). God had in every way been their enemy and not their friend, their election as a nation, notwithstanding. They were in the church but not of the church.
In reality, Amos is describing the church throughout its history, as it has always been in part. To this very day, we find a church filled with unbelievers who think God must be their friend when in fact He is their enemy. There are multitudes today which go to church, supposing, at least in the deeper recesses of their mind, that being a part of a church will keep them from the judgment of God. Surely, they think, “being in church must put God on my side. God must be pleased with my going to church.” They might not state it quite that way, but they will freely talk about how church-going makes them better people, how it reminds them of higher things and makes them feel more connected with God. The truth is that many go to church for, what are in the end, selfish reasons. They do not belong to a church because it is the family of God, whose Father is God, or because they desire to hear from and follow the Lord Jesus Christ, or to bow their knee to the Savior in worship, or even because they consider salvation and living for Christ to be among the highest concerns of their existence. Church is a part of many people’s lives because it makes them feel better about themselves, appeases their conscience, and gives them a place to display their good works before other men.
To ignore or deny the certainty that many will say, “Lord, Lord,” while damned through the church, or the fact that large numbers of people through the ages have perished in the church having left this world only to encounter the Lord as an enemy and not a friend, is to show contempt for the message of Holy Scripture. When Jesus says that it will be better in the day of judgment for Sodom and Gomorrah than for the Jews of his day he is surely saying that Sodom and Gomorrah will be punished in the judgment for their sins; but he is also very clearly saying that the church who heave much of Christ, but in the end refuse to follow Him, will be judged even more severely.
Read Christ’s indictment to the church at Laodicea in Revelation 3:14-22. What are some attitudes and behaviors that this church has in common with Amos’ Israel of the eighth century B.C.? Identify similar attitudes in your own life and be zealous and repent.
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