I remember a fanciful story that illustrates today’s passage, and I know I've told it before in this blog, but please forgive me. Satan was having a board meeting in Hell with his demons. As always, the subject at hand was how to hinder the spread of the Message of Jesus. The demons were putting forward ideas on how to keep people from receiving Christ as Savior. One said, “Let’s tell them that the Bible isn’t true, that’s it’s a fairy tale or myth.” That was immediately rejected by another: “But there’s too much evidence that it’s historical. We have a pretty weak case there.” Another demon suggested “Let’s try to convince people that Jesus didn’t rise from the dead.” Another: “No, that won’t work. There’s too much evidence for it, too many witnesses.” A third one offered “Let’s tell people there’s no Hell, that everyone’ll eventually make it to Heaven.” The response: “Some people’ll buy it, but the Bible’s really clear that there's a Hell. We need something that’ll get the rest in.”
Then Satan raised his hand and all the demons were silent. He proclaimed, “All these are good suggestions. But that’s way too difficult. All we need to do is whisper in people’s ears that they can believe in Christ. . . tomorrow. Then we’ll have them.”
Complacency. Webster’s defines it as “self-satisfaction especially when accompanied by unawareness of actual dangers or deficiencies.” To paraphrase the singers in Israel, logical arguments against biblical truth have slain their thousands, but sheer complacency has slain its tens of thousands. It’s a far more deadly enemy of my soul simply because it’s much more insidious. I really don’t have a temptation to murder someone, and although I struggle with lust, at least I recognize how dangerous it is. But complacency sneaks up you like nothing else can.
Up until now, Amos addressed only Israel, the northern kingdom. But in vs. 1 he targets both Samaria (north) and Zion (the southern kingdom of Judah). Apparently this was a nigh-universal problem.
You don’t need a lot of background on the cities listed here. You can do some further research on them, but basically you need to know that they were cities conquered either by Judah or Israel. The dominant tribe in the north was Ephraim, which was a son of Joseph, so in this case “Joseph” is another name for Israel. In vs. 13, “Lo Debar” literally means “nothing,” so the prophet is mocking them for their pride in conquering nothing. In vs. 14, “Lebo Hamath” was on the northern border of Israel, and “the valley of the Arabah” was on the southern border. So his judgment on them was going to be total, from border to border.
Other than complacency (or perhaps linked to it), for what other sins was God judging Israel?
They loved luxury (vss. 4-6). They cared about pleasure and buying only the very best of the best of the best. Completely oblivious to the coming judgment on their nation, like Paul’s enemies their god was their stomach and their destiny was destruction. Like the proverbial fool who “puts all their eggs in one basket,” they were all about immediate gratification. And their party was about to come to a screeching halt.
Also there was the issue of pride—that’s what Amos is referring to in vs. 13, when he quotes them as saying “Did we not take Karnaim by our own strength?” Karnaim literally means “horns,” which symbolizes strength. In other words, they bragged about conquering all these cities (which would turn out to be “Lo Debar,” or nothing) and acted as if all these accomplishments are things they did on their own
Once again, I’m completely positive that I see absolutely no correlation between what God judged Israel for and our own nation today. Absolutely none at all. Love of luxury, pride in “our” accomplishments, complacency about a God who judges? Naaaaaah. No parallel at all.
Father God, I tremble when I look at my nation and know that you are just. As much as it depends on me, let me do my part to turn aside your judgment. And please deal with us according to your grace.