If parents come into the kitchen to find the plate of cookies for supper have one less cookie they want evidence of who did it. A chair pushed up against the cabinets points to someone little. A crumb trail leading right to the child’s bedroom is suspect. The closed door not muffling the chewing sounds. Topping it off the child comes out asking for a glass of milk. Case closed. The evidence has spoken.
The evidence the Word of God works is not always easy to spot. Sometimes that’s because we’re not expecting the kind of evidence we see. The trail of crumbs as to whether the Word of God works leads us to examine our own lives even as we look to God’s Word this morning. In the first lesson, a somewhat neglected book of the Bible, we get from God even more …
Evidence the Word works
Opposition to it
Fruit coming from it
Amos was a prophet of the true God. He was probably born into a family of shepherds or herdsmen. He had no prophet training and his father wasn’t a prophet. Amaziah was a priest stationed in Bethel, in Israel. At this time Israel was separated into two kingdoms, a northern called Israel and a southern called Judah. The split was largely over where and how to worship. In the north, they thought they worshiped the true God, but they didn’t want to journey to Jerusalem in the south to do it. To make it easy, the king set up a temple with a golden calf representing God in Bethel. This was against God’s first commandment. The festivals and worship patterns surrounding that calf were controlled by priests like Amaziah. This was false worship of a false god. Amos was sent by God to call the people of the northern kingdom on this.
That didn’t go over well. 95% of the book of Amos is that difficult message. It’s basically Amos telling Israel time was up. “Many times I struck your gardens and vineyards, I struck them with blight and mildew. Locusts devoured your fig and olive trees, yet you have not returned to me, declares the Lord … Therefore I will send you into exile beyond Damascus, says the Lord.” That’s not a nice tone Amos had to take. Israel and Israel’s king were sick of it.
Amaziah wanted Amos to leave. “Amaziah priest of Bethel sent a message to Jeroboam king of Israel: Amos is raising a conspiracy against you in the very heart of Israel. Jeroboam will die by the sword, and Israel will surely go into exile…Get out, you seer!” Amaziah summarized Amos’ message pretty spot on. This wasn’t a fight about the truth. That didn’t matter to someone who had rejected the truth. Amaziah and the northern kingdom no longer wanted to hear the message at all. Depressing news of exile and punishment was out. Amos could leave.
Ever say a truth to someone they didn’t want to hear? That can go a couple of ways. We speak the truth, but do it in such a soft gentle way they don’t mind hearing it. Or we yell it, demand our truth be believed, and leave the person stunned in silence. What’s not in question is the truth. Christians have a true message not up for debate. It’s supposed to be powerful. But then that message is laughed at by a teacher in front of the class. People shake their heads when a simple invitation is offered like they can’t believe you’re even asking them to go to church. A family member ridicules our beliefs and says something in opposition to Christianity and our faith that leaves us staggering. We didn’t train for this. We didn’t sign up to be laughed at or rejected. We want to lash out. Tell off anyone who dares challenge us. Condemn them to hell for how they’re treating us. Or we want to turn inside. Close off. Don’t say anything. Shield ourselves, hide our faith, just don’t speak at all.
Now here’s some hard Amos’ like truth for you. Opposition is exactly what you signed up for. Well maybe not intentionally, but opposition is part of Christianity. Jesus said it would happen to his disciples in the gospel. “If any place will not welcome you or listen to you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave, as a testimony against them.” The Word they proclaimed in the towns and villages would be opposed. Peoples’ sinful nature wouldn’t want to hear about sin. But opposition is evidence the Word works. Your sinful nature doesn’t want to change or hear about sin. But the Word works. Christ Jesus sends the Holy Spirit flowing into your life through the Word. It’s proclaimed, and faith is created and strengthened. You get close to Christ. That Word tells of a Savior who himself was opposed. Crowds attacked him. Just last week we talked about his own hometown rejecting him. But in grace, in love, he kept proclaiming the Word. Kept going till he reached the cross. Against unimaginable opposition Christ Jesus gives you good news. Evidence the Word works is your faith. Faith even in the midst of opposition to the powerful Word.
First his message, then his character were attacked. Amos responded. Not with thunder, not screaming, or defending his honor. Rather he pointed to his God. “I was neither a prophet, nor a prophet’s son, but I was a shepherd…But the Lord took me from tending the flock…” Amos would have rather tended to the flocks than be under attack by Amaziah. No, the Word worked in his heart. The evidence was big. Fruit came from the working of the Word, fruit in the form of Amos’ prophecy.
We do these new mover visits. Take a brochure welcoming someone new to Navarre, a magnet, and a postcard inviting them to try out our church family to their door. Welcome them and offer them the material. It takes a lot for me to work up courage to do it. Actually ring someone’s doorbell and talk. I have to give myself a pep talk each time. Convince myself this is good. Motivate myself by remembering Christ’s love and the love he had for all people who didn’t know of that love. Then go out with that message of the Savior. After that much getting pumped, I’d love nothing more than to see some fruit. Someone say they’ll come. A discussion leading to sharing Jesus and them coming to learn more about the Savior. Big scary actions demand validation to do them. It’s discouraging when no one I talked to during the week comes on Sunday. When no one wants to learn more. No fruit.
If you’ve put yourself out there in some way you know the feeling. Shared your faith with a friend at work. Mentioned Jesus to someone on the baseball team. Put the Word of God out there in a scary way, hoping to see some fruit. If there was none I have no doubt it was deflating. Look at all this ministry we do as a church and nothing. No huge crowds. People find reasons not to be here. Lots of time wasted, energy for no purpose, money expended that won’t result in a growing church, no real fruit. So we want to give up, stop the work, quit putting the Word out there.
You want evidence the Word works? Look closely for fruit. God’s grace moved the heart of Amos to go, even when it would be hard. “Go, prophecy to my people Israel Now then, hear the Word of the Lord.” The disciples went too because God’s grace was moving in their hearts. That was fruit. “Calling the twelve to him, he sent them out two by two.” Jesus kept proclaiming the Word and he multiplied that Word by sending out his disciples. The Word went out and it worked. The fruit was Amos and disciples. The fruit was those who accepted the Word and provided for their needs.
You are fruit. God’s grace moves in you making you fruit. God’s Word promises Jesus has removed any sins you may wrestle with. Forgiven are feelings of wanting to stop ministry because of lack of response. Forgiven are you wanting to withhold grace from someone who you feel won’t respond kindly to it. Sins like thinking it’s all a waste of time and the Word of God isn’t really as powerful as it claims, those too are taken away by the Savior. Jesus loves you and forgives you all your sins. He moves in your heart. You produce fruit.
This Savior and his love moves you to ring that doorbell and deliver a new mover packet even when it’s scary. He motivates your mouth to speak of a Savior whose eternal promises give comfort in pain. His love becomes your love in action talking with that friend again about Jesus even though they’ve said no in the past. Talking with that spouse who hasn’t shown interest in church before. The fruit might be small. The person on the other side of the doorbell might invite a short conversation wanting to know where the church is located. The person in pain might welcome your offers of prayer. The friend might listen, the spouse might indicate a willingness to come. Sometimes the fruit is small, but it’s fruit. When your faith grows by stepping out and doing these things, that’s fruit too. You are evidence the Word works.
Amos is challenging as a book because he was challenged as a prophet. Evidence the Word works is opposition and almost no fruit. Then the challenge is ours. See past that to the promises. The Word of God works. It’s worked in your hearts and in mine. You are fruit! Your reward is in being faithful to Christ. As you and I continue to grow in that Word, we’ll continue to see evidence the Word works.