“When False Prophet Meets True Prophet”
(Amos 7:10-15 – Pentecost 8 – July 18, 2021)
Amos 7:10-15 – 10Then Amaziah the priest of Bethel sent to Jeroboam king of Israel, saying, “Amos has conspired against you in the midst of the house of Israel. The land is not able to bear all his words. 11For thus Amos has said: ‘Jeroboam shall die by the sword, And Israel shall surely be led away captive From their own land.'” 12Then Amaziah said to Amos: “Go, you seer! Flee to the land of Judah. There eat bread, and there prophesy. 13But never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king’s sanctuary, and it is the royal residence.” 14Then Amos answered, and said to Amaziah: “I was no prophet, nor was I a son of a prophet, but I was a sheepbreeder and a tender of sycamore fruit. 15Then the LORD took me as I followed the flock, and the LORD said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to My people Israel.'”
Dear Redeemed in Jesus Christ, the Savior of the whole world:
Occasionally, I see bumper stickers that say: “COEXIST.” Each letter in the word “COEXIST” uses a symbol representing a religious system or way of life. For the letter “C” a crescent moon represents Islam. For the letter “X” the Star of David representing Judaism. For the letter “T” a cross represents Christianity. The dot over the “I” is a pagan/Wiccan pentacle; and the “S” is a Taoist yin-yang symbol. For the letter “E” a male/female symbol appears; and sometimes the word “COEXIST” is written in the colors of the rainbow, symbolizing the LGBTQ movement. In addition, popular versions substitute for the letter “O” a peace symbol. The idea is that the world would be a more peaceful and loving place if we learned to accept all religious views and ways of life as equally valid, and no one claimed have the absolute truth. Under this worldview, it would seem that the only impediment to peace and love are those who remain narrow-minded in their beliefs, claiming absolute truth in areas of faith and morality.
As followers of Jesus, His Word teaches us to love our neighbor as ourselves, whoever it is; and to live at peace with everyone as far as it concerns us (Matthew 19:19; Romans 12:17-18). But this cannot mean giving up the truth of God in Christ, which alone saves sinners. Because we love our fellow sinners, we will continue to speak God’s truth in love (Ephesians 4:13).
Jesus Himself did so. As the loving Savior, He was willing to associate with those living sinful lives. Yet His love did not mean He tolerated sin. He called them to repentance and proclaimed forgiveness to the penitent, telling them: “Go and sin no more” (John 8:11). When it came to false religion, He condemned all that departed from the Word of God. For this, enemies of the truth hated Him. Seeking to silence the truth, they condemned Him to the cross. Yet even there, Jesus prayed: “Father forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34).
If Jesus was willing to speak the truth in love, even as He prayed that His enemies might know His forgiveness and salvation, how can we do any different? He puts us here to share His message of true love, that led Him to give His life to save the world of sinners; and to share His message of true peace for sinners, His blood-bought peace and reconciliation with God.
It is for this reason that God has always sent His prophets and apostles, pastors and teachers, and believers into the world to proclaim His truth for all people. As we read in 1 Timothy 2:3-6: “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.”
Yet, as this saving truth of God in Christ has been faithfully testified through time, it has not always been received as the message of true peace and love that it is. Rather, it has been labeled as a disruption to world peace and order, a message of hate and violence, a message that must be silenced. To this end Satan, who hates the truth of God, sends prophets of his lies.
In our text, we meet such a false prophet. His name is Amaziah, and he preached a message the world praised as peaceful and loving. But we also meet a true prophet of God. His name is Amos, and he preached a message the world condemned as peace-disrupting and unloving. Here we see what happens “When False Prophet Meets True Prophet”: 1) The false prophet will continue in his lies; but 2) The true prophet will continue to speak God’s truth in love.
1) The false prophet will continue in his lies
By this time in Israel, there had for some time existed a “COEXIST” mentality when it came to religion and morals. And God certainly was not for it. When the Lord had brought His people out of slavery in Egypt and into the promised land of Canaan, He commanded in Exodus 20:3: “You shall have no other gods before Me.” He told them to destroy the idols of the Canaanites who lived in the land before them. They were never to adopt their pagan religious practices or immorality; for if they did, God would bring judgment on the people for their sin.
But the people had done just that. Wicked prophets, priests, and kings had led the way into idolatry and sin. It says Amaziah was “the priest of Bethel.” Here at Bethel, 200 years earlier, the evil king Jeroboam had established a temple to replace true worship of God at Jerusalem. He set up golden calves as idols, telling the people: “It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem. Here are your gods, O Israel, which brought you up from the land of Egypt!” (1 Kings 12:28).
Amaziah, as priest at Bethel and prophet of the “COEXIST” movement in his day, led the way in insisting that not only one God should have the monopoly on truth. Under his watch, those who were supposed to be living holy lives to the Lord engaged in every kind of idolatry like the pagan nations around them. As a fruit of their idolatry, they engaged in every form of immorality and sinful lifestyle they chose to self-identify with. Yet they assured themselves that they were in God’s favor, or the favor of the gods, as long as they were sincere in their beliefs and trying to be good people. As their false prophet, Amaziah was there to validate their claims.
But along came the prophet Amos, whom God sent to speak His unchanging Word of truth to the people. “Repent! Return the one true God and listen to His Word alone!” he said. “Otherwise, you will fall into the righteous judgment of the living God and perish in your sins.”
Why did God send Amos to preach repentance? Was it not because even now, God loved those who had turned away from Him to lies and wickedness, and He did not want a single soul to perish? As God told the people through His prophet Ezekiel: “‘As I live,’ says the Lord GOD, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die, O house of Israel?'” (Ezekiel 33:11).
But Amaziah did not care for the truth of God. He cared only for protecting his position as priest at Bethel. He continued in his lies to try and silence the true prophet. He sent a message to the evil king, Jeroboam, saying: “Amos has conspired against you in the midst of the house of Israel. The land is not able to bear all his words. For thus Amos has said: ‘Jeroboam shall die by the sword, and Israel shall surely be led away captive from their own land.'”
Amos had spoken God’s truth in love, hoping to lead the people to repentance and faith. He was the one seeking the good of Israel, hoping that they might be preserved in God’s truth and saved forever. Yet He was accused of disrupting the peace of Israel by speaking lies hatefully. He was accused of being an enemy of the state, wishing the downfall of the king and people.
Today, true prophets of God continue to speak His truth in love. They warn against the same sins Amos warned against; and they preach repentance and forgiveness in the name of Jesus. They expose false beliefs for what they are; and lead people to the saving truth of God in Christ. But for this, they are accused of hate speech. They are portrayed as enemies of peace and love. Proponents of the “COEXIST” doctrine seek to make it illegal to counsel to those caught in sinful lifestyles and lead them to healing in Christ. Today’s cancel culture seeks to silence those who stand for the truth of God in Christ. Christians lose jobs and business because they follow their conscience. In some nations, faithful Christians are called enemies of the state and driven into exile, imprisoned, separated from family, and even put to death.
Jesus prepared us for all this with His words in Matthew 5:11-12: “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
Now Amaziah continued in his lies with an ad hominem attack against Amos: “Go, you seer! Flee to the land of Judah. There eat bread, and there prophesy. But never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king’s sanctuary, and it is the royal residence.” By this, Amaziah falsely accused Amos of preaching only for personal gain, and he belittled his ministry. At the same time, Amaziah dropped names to bolster his assumed authority: “This is Bethel, the House of God, the royal center of worship where only those sanctioned by the king can officiate.” And the false prophet told the true prophet to just be quiet and get lost.
2) The true prophet will continue to speak God’s truth in love
In the midst of lies and accusations, how does the true prophet respond? He continues to speak God’s truth. Amos answered Amaziah: “I was no prophet, nor was I a son of a prophet, but I was a sheepbreeder and a tender of sycamore fruit. Then the LORD took me as I followed the flock, and the LORD said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to My people Israel.'” Amos calmly refuted Amaziah’s false charge. He was not prophesying for the sake of worldly gain or glory, to say the least! As an ordinary man, he made no special claim for himself. Yet he had been properly called and sent by God as a prophet. And God had equipped him with His Word to preach.
Therefore, the true prophet would not change the Word of God even if a false prophet, an evil king, or an entire nation disliked his proclamations. He would continue to speak the truth of God in love. Amos preached the Law of God to condemn the most secure sinner, to warn him of the judgment of God and lead him to despair of saving himself. But Amos also preached the Gospel of God to comfort the penitent, to point them to Christ who was coming into the world to win forgiveness and bring reconciliation with God and true peace for sinners.
In the last chapter of the book of Amos, the prophet proclaimed that restoration and peace. There God spoke of raising up the fallen tabernacle of David and restoring Israel in His peace. Despite Israel’s unfaithfulness, God would still send His Messiah through the family line of David. He would bring God’s true peace to the remnant of God among the nations, to all who would gather to Him in faith. This is fulfilled in Christ, who according to the flesh is the Son of David, but according to His divine nature is the Son of God (Amos 9:11-15; Acts 15:16-17)
In Christ we see the love of God for a world of sinners, all who were lost and straying in sin. This includes every one of us. God so loved the world that He gave His only Son to die on a cross for us. In Christ crucified, God has judged and punished our sins. At the cross of Christ, God has forgiven every way we have strayed from His holy will and lived for ourselves.
Now Jesus has gathered us to Himself by His saving truth, and brought us into His Kingdom by faith. In His Kingdom, we have true peace which the world cannot give. It is the peace of His forgiveness and reconciliation with God. It is the peace of knowing that, despite the evil work of Satan and the world, Jesus is working all things together for our good in time and eternity. In His Church, the Communion of Saints, we have true unity which man cannot establish. It is the unity God’s Spirit has given us as members of the Body of Christ through faith in His truth. It is the unity in which we share the love of God in Christ with one another.
And this true peace, unity, and love of God in Christ will continue in His Kingdom of Glory, the Church Triumphant. There we will gather with all who have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb, Jesus. We will stand with the faithful from every nation, tribe, language, and people, as one family of God in Christ, to dwell in perfect peace forever.
Is this not why we want to speak God’s truth in love? In contrast to the counterfeit claims of a “COEXIST” culture, we proclaim the true love, peace, and unity God alone gives us in Christ. We join Amos and all the faithful through the ages, in proclaiming God’s truth for all nations. We pray that many more people may come to know His saving forgiveness and love in Christ. We join our Savior in praying even for our enemies, that they may be brought to repentance and faith in the only name under heaven that saves. We pray that by the grace of God, they too may become citizens of His everlasting Kingdom, and join us in singing His praises without end:
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was the beginning, is now, and ever shall be. Amen.