Sometimes I think that lawyers have taken over the world.
It seems like everything we do today has some type of terms we have to agree to. Just listen and watch the TV commercials that lawyers seem to continuously present. All over the ad in big 2-inch letters tell me about all the money they’re going to give me when I’m in an accident. Of course, you have to squint your eyes or use a magnifying glass to read the fine print below all the money I’,m going to receive. The only reason they put the terms on the TV ad is that they’re lawyers! But they still try to hide them as best as they can.
But you can’t hide the fact that nearly everything in life has terms attached to it. Whether you’re buying anything on time, getting a job, or entering a contract–TERMS HAVE TO BE AGREED TO IT!
Did you know that God has “terms” as well?
Except God is no lawyer–He sets His terms up front!
SCRIPTURE STUDY – Amos 4:1-13
The problem comes, when we try to meet God on our own terms instead of His.
That’s what ISRAEL did.
Ever since God called up Abraham and promised to make him a nation, He had laid out His terms to them. And in turn, they constantly refused God’s terms. They wanted a relationship with God but on their terms.
In this passage of scripture, God speaks through Amos to review His case against Israel.
He reviews the way Israel tried to meet God on their own terms in spite of His continual persuasiveness. Even though times have changed over the centuries, human nature has not, Neither has God’s character.
There are still two ways we can prepare to meet God, and that fact is undeniable!
We can try to do it on our own terms or His. And in order to do that, I want to look at some specific things found in this chapter of Amos.
- We will see how Israel tried to meet God on their terms,
- We will see how God persuaded Israel to meet Him on His terms.
And with the Holy Spirit’s assistance, we will take a look at how it all turned out.
FIRST, let’s see how Israel tried to meet God on their terms.
Verse 1: “Hear this word, you cows of Bashan on Mount Samaria, you women who oppress the poor and crush the needy and say to your husbands, “Bring us some drinks!”
In this picture, God uses the word “cows” to describe the Israelite women.
BASHAN was a hilly area overlooking Samaria and known for its cattle. If Burger King fast-food restaurants had been around back then, they would have marketed Bashan Burgers instead of Balck Angus.
Throughout history, in every society, women are the main stabilizing forces. You’ve probably heard the song, The Hand that Rocks the Cradle Rules the World. Well, it may not rule the world, but it certainly makes it stable.
The decline of any society can be seen in the way women act. They are typically more stable, more moral, more obedient to the laws. They are more kind and merciful to the poor and needy.
But when they begin to turn from those natural ways, society inevitably declines. That’s what was happening in Israel. The WOMEN had turned from their natural roles. They had lost their mercy and kindness to the poor and needy. They had usurped their roles in the home while demanding to be waited on. This isn’t just a judgment on women, it’s a judgment on Israel as a whole. Because women acting that way is an effect. It’s not the cause.
The cause is from men and society, in general, turning away from God.
Now fast forward to today.
Women in America are no longer valued for their kindness and mercy. We lift up cutthroat, catty corporate executives and political figures as role models. From an early age, girls are encouraged to be tough and aggressive instead of kind and merciful.
Just like ancient Israel, just one of the final symptoms of the DISEASE that has been spreading throughout the ages.
The disease is called wanting to behave on our own terms. We all want to meet God, but we don’t want to behave on His terms. Just like Israel, we want to behave on our own terms.
But not only did Israel behave on their own terms, but they worshipped on their own terms,
THEY WORSHIPPED ON THEIR OWN TERMS.
Both Bethel and Gilgal had originally been wonderful places to worship for God. But over the years, the people corrupted it. That’s where Jeroboam set up the golden calf. That marked the beginning of a long history of idolatry and false worship there. Gilgal was the original base-camp of Israel as they conquered much of the promised land. That’s also where Samuel anointed David King. Both places had historically been places of worship. But over the years, WORSHIP had become empty, even repulsive to God. They seemed to be going through all the right motions, even over and above what was expected. They brought sacrifices much more often than expected. They tithed much more often than was requested. That should all be good things, right? Well, not if their hearts were in the condition theirs was. It all became a show. The freewill offering was proclaimed and published as mandatory. They were no longer “free.” They were an obligation. They were “worshipping,” but they were doing it on their own terms. They didn’t worship with a changed heart. They didn’t do it out of free love for God, they did it for SHOW! They did it out of obligation!
Could this be Church today?
We want to meet God, but we want to WORSHIP Him on our own terms. We want to come to church to make us feel good or get our batteries recharged.
Or we come to church out of some sort of obligation. And if the music, the pastor’s message, doesn’t meet our expectations, our needs, our terms, we leave.
When we have that attitude, is that worship on God’s terms, or is it worship on our terms?
God doesn’t force is to change or to do anything. Just like He didn’t force Israel to change. He didn’t force them, but He persuaded them.
We’ve seen how Israel tried to meet God on their terms. Now let’s take a look at how God persuaded Israel to meet Him on His terms.
God gives Israel a WARNING…warning them of His terms.
BACK TO VERSES 2-3 (AMP):
 The Lord God has sworn by His holiness that behold, the days shall come upon you when they shall take you away with hooks and the last of you with fishhooks. [Ps. 89:35.]
 And you shall go out through the breaches [made in the city’s wall], every [woman] straight before her, and you shall be cast forth into Harmon [an unknown place of exile], says the Lord.
WHAT OUR GOD’S TERMS?
Well, He tells us in verse 2:
His terms are HOLINESS.
His holiness is the terms He swears by.
Jesus summed up God’s terms on the Sermon on the Mount when He says,
That’s God’s terms. That’s what He demands. And Israel didn’t even come close.
But God in His GRACE warned them every step along the way.
Disobedience would bring JUDGMENT.
He changes His picture here. He goes from picturing women of Israel as fat and happy cows to picturing them as fish on a hook.
God’s warning was literally fulfilled when the Assyrian armies led Israel into captivity just a few years later.
Archaeologists discovered Assyrian carvings showing how their captives were led away by ropes. Ropes passed through hooks placed in their captives’ noses or lips.
Has God given us WARNINGS as well?
His terms of perfection are the same as they’ve always been.
But along with His terms of HOLINESS (Perfection), He has given us His provision of GRACE! Grace that our imperfection is covered by the blood of His Son Jesus Christ. He takes away our sin and gives us His perfection–His Holiness–His righteousness. But He only does that when we trust Him as our Lord and Savior.
And the Bible is full of WARNINGS when we refuse His righteousness.
- WARNINGS of weeping and gnashing (‘grinding’) of teeth.
- WARNINGS of fire and brimstone.
- WARNINGS of eternal punishment as God’s wrath is poured out on mankind.
These warnings are far worse than being dragged around with a hook in our lips. When we behave on our terms, God warns on His terms. When we worship on our terms, God warns on His terms.
But not only does God warn on His terms, but He also persuades on His terms.
When Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast in August of 2005, I began to hear statements that really bothered me. Statements that the hurricane was God’s judgment on New Orleans.
Now New Orleans’ reputation of being one of the most wicked city’s in America to visit, but just as many churches in the area were destroyed by Katrina as were “wicked places.” As a matter of fact, Bourbon Street was virtually untouched.
God’s time of JUDGMENT will come!
And Katrina wasn’t it. Just like 9/11 wasn’t it. Or World War II wasn’t it. Or the Civil War wasn’t it. Or the great Chicago fire wasn’t it. Or the Great Depression wasn’t it. Or Sodom and Gomorrah weren’t it. Or everything since the flood wasn’t it.
God judged the world in a flood and He will judge the world again with fire.
Everything in between is His persuasion.
Many of the things we consider as trials are given by God to persuade us to return to Him. Look at our nation. After the Civil War, there was national renewal. After the Great Depression, national renewal followed. After most great times of trouble and trial in America, there have been periods of return to the Lord.
Even after 9/11, Bible sales skyrocketed! Every marquee in every town said something like “God bless America.” But there was a shift after 9/11 and Katrina. When Katrina happened, there was a tremendous outpouring of support from churches. But the people weren’t looking for God. They were looking for the government.
God persuaded America to turn to Him through the awful tragedy of Katrina. And as a whole, we didn’t. Instead of falling on our knees and crying out to God to save us, we turned to FEMA.
We saw the same pattern on a smaller scale at Virginia Tech. Instead of seeing the tragedy as an indictment on our sinful culture, we saw it as a political opportunity to either ban or support gun ownership. Psychologists were looked to for answers rather than the Lord.
God is persuading us just like He persuaded Israel.
But are we listening? Or are we like Israel? Are we too busy with our comfortable lifestyle to pay attention? Israel tried to meet God on their terms. They behaved on their terms and they worshipped on their terms.
But God didn’t just let go. He warned them on His terms, And He persuaded them on His terms.
Finally, I want you to see what happened.
FIRST, look at the result of Israel’s terms.
Skimming through the above verses, zero in on the last phrase of each verse. In each of the attempts that God made to get Israel to return to Him, the answer was the same:
“Yet you have not returned to Me,” Says the LORD.
Isreal had set their terms. They were going to come to God on their terms. They want to be FAT and comfortable. And they didn’t want their service to God to get in the way of their lifestyle. They wanted to put on “I Love Jesus” T-shirts and claim to be God’s children. They wanted to worship Him in a way that pleased them. They wanted to get the charge from going to church without the commitment.
Through all of that outward devotion, God laid down the same charge: “you didn’t return to Me.”
Israel’s terms we selfish and insufficient to meet God in a relationship. And because of that, they had to meet Him on His terms.
Amos 4:12-13 (Holman Christian Standard Bible)
PREPARE TO MEET THE LORD!
Israel wasn’t prepared to meet God. They rejected every offer of GRACE God had given them along the way.
When God persuaded them with tragedy and disaster, the rejected Him!
When God persuaded them with His only begotten Son, they crucified Him!
The question today for all is… what are you doing with the GRACE that God has extended to you? He has offered His Son as a sacrifice for your sin. He has offered His Holy Spirit to you like comfort and power to live like Jesus.
What are you doing with that GRACE? Are you rejecting it by behaving on your own terms? Are you rejecting it by worshipping on your own terms? Or are you going to accept it?
Make no mistake about it. Each one of us will one day meet God face to face.
Are you going to do it on your terms or His?
If you do it on your own terms Hebrews 10:31 says, “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”
But if you meet Him on His terms, through the blood of His Son Jesus Christ, we have the promise given by the Word of God:
How then, do you intend to meet God?
On your terms, or His?
Bible translations used: BibleStudyTools.com – Holman Standard Bible; The New International Version (NIV); The Amplidied Bible (AMP); The English Standard Version (ESV). And others referenced in Google Images.
Photo/Images: Google Image Search.
Dictionary: Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words by W.E. Vine, Merril Unger, William White Jr.
Video: Youtube – Big Truck Lawyer TV Ads.