Old Testament: Amos 6:1-7 (Pentecost 16: Series C)

Reading Time: 5 mins

God did what we could never do. He made a promise that endures forever and is eternally significant.

Amos’ preaching in Chapter 6 is the second of two chapters in a row where he calls Israel to repent. The hope is that if the people repent of their sins and turn to God, God might still turn away from His just judgment. He demonstrates to Amos’ that He is willing to be faithful to turn from His wrath in his first two visions (7:1–3 and 7:4–6).

This text is a great opportunity for Law and Gospel preaching. God is serious about sin and judgment while He is also sincere about His mercy and grace. The text may look unpreachable at first, but you have a great opportunity with this prophetic work. The initial problem present in the context is that Israel has a habit of refusing to repent (4:6–11) and habitually they do not heed the warnings God is giving in chapters 5 and 6. This is why God has sent Amos to His people (7:15). But, again, they do not listen. Therefore, the nation would experience “ruin” (6:6) and the leading citizens would lead the way into exile (6:7). This would happen some four decades after the ministry of Amos, when northern Israel would fall to Assyria in 722 BC. Dr. Reed Lessing quotes Andersen and Freedman in his Concordia Commentary: “That judgment did not materialize without warning, but only after a long, agonizing effort to warn and exhort and encourage the people to repentance. Only when all efforts had failed and further attempts were effectively prevented did the gears shift and the period of grace end.”[1] That is, until the time where God revealed His grace in Christ. Christ is the one who turns us when we would never turn around. As Lamentations 5:21 says: “Turn us to yourself, O Lord, that we may be turned!”

The real opportunity for Gospel in this text comes by way of the time treasured and homiletically useful “Gospel Handle.” The most useful Gospel handle for us in our task is in verse 1 “to whom the house of Israel came.” [2]Or rather with a turning of the phrase to “the one who came from the house of Israel.” In fact, Jesus didn’t just come from the house of Israel He is all of Israel in one person! Here using Paul Scott Wilson’s four pages model as a structure might be useful:

Trouble in the text: The people were coming to the leaders of Israel, whom they look up to for advice and hope which they were never going to receive.

Trouble in the world: We often look to people and leaders to help us fix things in our family or in our nation or in our world. However, we have learned that they can’t fix the problems we have.

The Solution in the world: As we turn to God, we see that He has graciously turned us and turned to us in mercy. In the Gospel He tells you of another who has done it all for you: Jesus Christ.

This leads to a Solution in the text which is conspicuously missing from this pericope in Amos. It is an ironic “four pages” structure because there is no explicit Gospel in the assigned text. We only have Gospel in this text by way of the “Gospel Handle” in verse 1.

In fact, Jesus didn’t just come from the house of Israel He is all of Israel in one person.

The promised one who came from the house of Israel came for the whole of God’s people! To make the connection that Jesus is all of Israel in one man we need to make the connection with David and the promise made in 2 Samuel 7. When David told Nathan that he wanted to build a house for God, Nathan told him to do what was in his heart (without turning to God). Nathan then goes away quite content that he had given David “good advice.” However, God turns Nathan right back around and commands him to Prophesy to David that he is not look to his own plans but instead to look to God’s great plans for Israel. Through Nathan the prophet God turns the whole situation around. David wants to build a “house” for God, but God proclaims that he himself will build a “house” for David. In fact, God would do it all without David’s help at all.

It is true that the word house can of course refer to a building, but it can also refer to a household and even to a dynasty. Much like the “House of Windsor” we keep hearing about in the news recently. David hopes to build a “house” for God in the literal brick and mortar sense; but God tells David he is building a “house” for him in the dynastic and messianic sense. Solomon, David’s son, will build a “house” for God in the literal sense. However, that can and was destroyed. So, God himself, builds a “house” stronger than Solomon’s Temple. In fact, one that can be destroyed and built back up again in three days (John 2:19 and Luke 24:46). This is the key turn in the “Gospel Handle” from Amos 6:1. This House of God’s building came in Christ for you and I. “The LORD declares to you that the LORD himself will establish a house for you” (1 Samuel 7:11).

The specifics of this promise apply to David and his line through history may be too much to go in to for the sermon, but it is critical to emphasize that God takes the long view of history in this promise: “Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever” (1 Samuel 7:16). In time, the prophecies about the coming “David” or “son of David” contain a much greater Gospel promise which needs to be unpacked in this sermon. Isaiah foresees someone who “will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom,” who is called “Mighty God” and “Everlasting Father” and “Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6-7). Here is a house and heir to David who maintains the Davidic dynasty not by passing it on, but by his own eternal reign and appointment by God the Father Himself (Daniel 7:13-14).

This gospel turn to Jesus causes us to appropriately celebrate and thank God that He has taken the long view of history. Clearly because it means salvation for you and for me. If God had cut us off at David’s immediate house and lineage which failed (Solomon and Rehoboam et al.) we would be lost. If God had cut us off at Amos’ time we would be doomed. But God did what we could never do. He made a promise that endures forever and is eternally significant. Only Jesus can bring forgiveness and healing for the sins that Amos mentions (sinful pride; opulent selfish living; lack of concern about human needs and love of one’s neighbor) and for our sins as well.

This gospel turn to Jesus causes us to appropriately celebrate and thank God that He has taken the long view of history.

One of my favorite stories that actor Kevin Bacon tells is of a time he recounted a conversation with his 6-year-old son. His son had just seen the iconic movie Footloose for the first time: He turns to his father and says: “Hey, Dad, you know that thing you did in the movie where you swing from the rafters of that building? That was so cool, I want to do that, how did you do that?” Kevin Bacon said, “Well, I didn’t do that part… it was someone else who did it for me… it’s called a stunt man.” “What’s a stunt man?” he asked. “That’s someone who dresses like me and does things I cannot do.” “Oh,” replied his son not a little confused and surprised to hear that. To say that Kevin Bacon lost some credit there would not be an understatement. A little later he turns back to his father and says, “Hey, Dad, you know that thing in the movie where you spin around on that gym bar and land on your feet? How did you do that?” He replied, “Well, again I didn’t do that. It was someone else… called a gymnastics double.” “What’s a gymnastics double?” he asked. “That’s a guy who dresses in my clothes and does things I can’t do.” There was a silence from his son, then he turns and asks in a concerned voice, “Dad, what did you do?” “Nothing,” Kevin said, “I just got all the credit.” [3]

In our surprise that there is no clear Gospel in this text we can turn to God the Father and see, not a stunt or a clever trick, but a turn around that surprises us all. Jesus Christ, in coming from and for the house of Israel, would do what no other person or leader or king or even ourselves could do. He did it all to turn us back to God and save us from our sins.


Additional Resources:

Craft of Preaching-Check out our previous articles on Amos 6:1-7.

Concordia Theology- Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in preaching Amos 6:1-7.

Text Week-A treasury of resources from various traditions to help you preach Amos 6:1-7.

[1] R. Reed Lessing, Amos, Concordia Commentary (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2009), 398.

[2] Francis C. Rossow, Gospel Handles Finding New Connections: Old Testament Lessons (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2014), 200.

[3] Edward K. Rowell and Joel Sarrault, Fresh Illustrations for Preaching and Teaching from Leadership Journal (Grand Rapids MI: Baker Books, 1997), 98.

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