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GOD HAS SET BEFORE US A BLESSING AND A CURSE, AND WE CAN CHOOSE WHICHEVER WE WANT

A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS

16 JULY 1995

By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor

SCRIPTURAL REFERENCES:

Deuteronomy 30:9-20
1 Kings 12:26-33
Amos 7:7-17

For the past several weeks, we have been talking about conditions of the heart.

We've talked about those who are hard of heart, and about those who are filled to overflowing with love and compassion.

Today we're going to take a look at an entire nation that made the wrong choice; a nation that chose the curse rather than the blessing, the ten northern tribes known as Israel.

Let's begin by reading about what happened when Amos brought the word of God to the people in the hope that they would turn from their evil ways and receive a blessing, rather than the curse that awaited them.

Let's begin with Amos 7:7-17.

7. Thus He showed me, and behold, the Lord was standing by a vertical wall, with a plumb line in His hand.

8. And the Lord said to me, "What do you see, Amos?" And I said, "A plumb line." Then the Lord said,

"Behold I am about to put a plumb line

In the midst of My people Israel.

I will spare them no longer.

9. "The high places of Isaac will be desolated

And the sanctuaries of Israel laid waste.

Then shall I rise up against the house of Jeroboam with the sword."

Surely, the people would hear the voice of the prophet, but even if they didn't, surely the high priest of the land would realize that these words were from the Lord.

But he didn't, or didn't want to.

Listen to how the priest responds.

10. Then Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, sent word to Jeroboam, king of Israel, saying, "Amos has conspired against you in the midst of the house of Israel; the land is unable to endure all his words.

11. "For thus Amos says, ‘Jeroboam will die by the sword and Israel will certainly go from its land into exile.’ ”

From his initial reaction, it is evident that Amaziah, the priest, knows the truth; but listen to his reply to Amos.

12. Then Amaziah said to Amos, "Go, you seer, flee away to the land of Judah, and there eat bread and there do your prophesying!

13. "But no longer prophesy at Bethel, for it is a sanctuary of the king and a royal residence."

Amaziah is like all too many people; he doesn't want to hear the truth.

I speak the truth about unconditional love and compassion for the whole of creation, but few people want to hear it or change their ways, that they would move closer to God.

But not wanting to hear the truth doesn't make it any less the truth.

And from the looks of things, Amos was the only one in the land telling the truth, but no one wanted to listen or hear.

14. Then Amos answered and said to Amaziah, "I am not a prophet, nor am I the son of a prophet; for I am a herdsman and a grower of sycamore figs.

15. "But the Lord took me from following the flock and the Lord said to me, 'Go prophesy to My people Israel.'

16. "And now hear the word of the Lord: you are saying, 'You shall not prophesy against Israel nor shall you speak against the house of Isaac.'

17. "Therefore, thus says the Lord, 'Your wife will become a harlot in the city, your sons and your daughters will fall by the sword, your land will be parceled up by a measuring line, and you yourself will die upon unclean soil. Moreover, Israel will certainly go from its land into exile."'

What happened to Israel, that they went so far wrong?

Listen to what we are told in 1 Kings 12:26-33, at the beginning of the divided kingdom.

26. And Jeroboam said in his heart, "Now the kingdom will return to the house of David.

27. "If this people go up to offer sacrifices in the house of the Lord at Jerusalem, then the heart of this people will return to their lord, even to Rehoboam king of Judah; and they will kill me and return to Rehoboam king of Judah."

Do you sense the fear and jealousy in Jeroboam's heart?

He would rather turn the people away from God than have them return to following Rehoboam, the king of Judah.

28. So the king consulted, and made two golden calves, and he said to them, "It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem; behold your gods, O Israel, that brought you up from the land of Egypt."

29. And he set one in Bethel, and the other he put in Dan.

Now, one would think that the people would have to be pretty stupid to fall for this.

They knew what God had done for them in the past, or did they?

Did they fall into the trap of believing that all these accounts of God's mighty deeds were but myths and fairy tales?

I'm afraid so!

And the same thing is happening today. Christians are becoming hard of heart, seeking “cheap” salvation. But there isn’t any such thing as cheap salvation.

30. Now this thing became a sin, for the people went to worship before the one as far as Dan.

31. And he made houses on high places, and made priests from among all the people who were not of the sons of Levi.

32. And Jeroboam instituted a feast in the eighth month on the fifteenth day of the month, like the feast which is in Judah, and he went up to the altar; thus he did in Bethel, sacrificing to the calves which he had made. And he stationed in Bethel the priests of the high places which he had made.

33. Then he went up to the altar which he had made in Bethel on the fifteenth day in the eighth month, even in the month which he had devised in his own heart; and he instituted a feast for the sons of Israel, and went up to the altar to burn incense.

Can you see how easily false teaching can pervade a whole culture?

Can you see how the offering of sacrifices and religious rituals of this type can become an abomination before God, even though they appear similar to those instituted by the Lord?

They don't want to hear the truth from the lone prophet crying out in the wilderness of their lives.

Because of their hardness of heart, they don't even see themselves as being in the wilderness.

They had a choice.

God gave them a choice before they ever entered the promise land, and this same choice has been given to us.

Listen to what Moses told them for the Lord in Deuteronomy 30:9-20.

9. "Then the Lord your God will prosper you abundantly in all the work of your hand, in the offspring of your body and in the offspring of your cattle and in the produce of your ground, for the Lord will again rejoice over you for good, just as He rejoiced over your fathers;

10. if you obey the Lord your God to keep His commandments and His statutes which are written in this book of the law, if you turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and soul.

The blessings are there for the faithful, but not for the unfaithful.

11. "For this commandment which I command you today is not too difficult for you, nor is it out of reach.

12. "It is not in heaven, that you should say, 'Who will go up to heaven for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?'

13. "Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, 'Who will cross the sea for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?'

14. "But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may observe it.

What God and Moses are saying is that we really know the truth, even when we reject it.

15. "See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, and death and adversity;

16. in that I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His judgments, that you may live and multiply, and that the Lord your God may bless you in the land where you are entering to possess it.

I don't think that this is too difficult to understand, do you?

Yet, the Lord wanted to make sure, so He has Moses remind them of the alternatives.

17. "But if your heart turns away and you will not obey, but are drawn away and worship other gods and serve them,

18. I declare to you today that you shall surely perish. You shall not prolong your days in the land where you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess it.

19. "I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants,

20. by loving the Lord your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him; for this is your life and the length of your days, that you may live in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them."

And today, we are faced with the same alternatives.

We, as a community, as a nation, and, even more so, as the world, are doing what ancient Israel did; and yet, the vast majority of us fail to recognize what we are doing and how far we have drifted away from God.

Most people don't even follow the rituals.

They do their own thing.

Even most of the people, who are ritually religious, don't really know the Lord or have true love and compassion.

And even if they do have some love and compassion it is mostly limited to a small sphere around them.

They have no concern for those who are "different", or for the billions of tortured and suffering animals that die every year.

They are following the Rush Limbaughs of this world.

They are following the pathway of the curse.

As true believing Christians, it's time to wake up.

It's time to stand up and be counted.

It's time to start living a life of unconditional love and compassion.

And by doing so, we will not only fulfill all of God's laws and commandments, but we will receive His blessings and all of heaven.

But don't get too cocky, for we must ask ourselves, honestly, "Am I doing everything the Lord desires of me, or am I falling short in some area of my life?"

Then we must work to correct our shortcomings, and thus not fall short of God's blessings.

And then, by both our word and example we spread God's message of love for the whole of creation (for humans, for non-humans, and for the environment).

Even if people don't want to listen, they will know that we believe and live by the words we speak.

Amen?

Amen.

Your Comments are welcome

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