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Author:Rev. A Veldman
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Southern River
 West Kelmscott
 www.frcsr.com
 
Title:The comfort that God in control
Text:Amos 3:1-8 (View)
Occasion:Pandemic
Topic:Comfort in a World of Pain
 
Preached:2021-01
Added:2021-02-02
Updated:2021-02-03
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Liturgy:

Reading : Amos 4, 6-13

Text       : Amos 3, 1-8

Ps.    46 : 1,2

Ps.    78 : 3

Hy.   12 : 1,2 (after the reading of God’s Word)

Ps.    43 : 3,5 (in response to the sermon)

Hy.   78 : 1,2,3,4,5 (closing song)

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. A Veldman, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ,

With LD 10 HC, we confess, whatever happens to us in this life comes to us not by chance, but by God’s fatherly hand. Likewise, we confess in Art. 13 BC, God so rules and governs all things in this world – and in a similar way in our personal lives – that nothing happens without His divine direction. The prophet Amos says the same when on behalf of the LORD, he puts this rhetorical question to God’s people, “If there is calamity in a city, will not the LORD have done it?”

Many people struggle with this question, and at times, we do as well. No, there is no doubt in our minds that all that is happening at present is from God’s hand. It is God’s hand ruling the Covid19 pandemic, including the new strains. It is God’s hand that ruled the outcome of the American election with all the turmoil around it. No one would have any difficulty confessing this. We all believe it. Yet, what do we do with this knowledge? It comforts, but at the same time anxiety still can get hold of us. What does the future hold? How long will this pandemic last with all that is involved?

Jobs, income, the economic outlook, church services still some restrictions. Will it ever go back to normal? We can meet every Sunday and are allowed to sing. Yet, there are also countries where they can not meet. And in case they are allowed to meet, singing is not permitted. When taking all of this in and thinking about it, who would not struggle at times?

As such, there is nothing wrong with this. Nothing wrong – as long as we keep seeing God’s hand in all of this. And also, even more importantly – that throughout all these trials, we may grow closer to God and so find that inward peace only God can give. Inner peace amid all the unrest and anxiety we see around us. Beloved, pray to God that He will grant you this peace, this rest. Above all, pray daily that amid these trying times, God may help us to live our faith, to live our faith in bringing glory to God, who is in total control of all that is happening at present not only in Australia but also worldwide.

“If there is calamity in a city, will not the LORD have done it?” Will not the LORD have done it? Let us go to the passage of Scripture, chosen for this morning’s sermon, to see what the Lord wants to teach us, not only to receive comfort but also – even more importantly – to see how the Lord is busy in all these things to bring us closer to Him.

So let us turn to Amos 3. In the previous two chapters, Amos had spoken about God’s judgments, not only upon the Gentile nations surrounding Israel and Judah, but also about God’s judgment upon His chosen nation, His own children. On behalf of the LORD, Amos rings the alarm.

Yet the people don’t want to hear this. Life is good, materially they are well of, so what is there to be afraid of? God’s people had become hard at hearing.  For this reason, Amos wants to shake God’s people awake, so that they no longer close their eyes to what was going on. On behalf of the LORD, Amos blows the trumpet. I have summarized the message of the text as follows,

 

AMOS URGES GOD’S PEOPLE TO SEE GOD AT WORK IN ALL THAT IS HAPPENING

For

  1. if there is a calamity, will not the LORD have done it
  2. also, when the LORD does something, did He not reveal it beforehand
  3. therefore only when we shelter with Him, we will be safe

 

I        Amos, Br. & Sr., did not have such a good name among God’s people living in the Northern Kingdom, and somehow one can understand this. The man only spoke about judgment. Of course, the people did not mind where it concerned God’s judgment upon the heathen nations, but when it was proclaimed with the same ruthlessness even to God’s own people, it did not go down so well. How could Amos say all this? After all, had God Himself not chosen Israel out of all the families of the earth? Therefore, how could God now all of a sudden be against them? Somehow, this seemed to be wrong.

However, beloved, listen to how Amos responds to these complaints. You are right, he says, on behalf of the LORD. Vs. 2a, “You only have I known of all the families of the earth. You are my precious people, the apple of my eye. However, it is precisely for this reason that I am going to punish you for all your iniquities. Just because I love you so much, your sins hurt me, and therefore I can no longer tolerate them.”

From this we learn, Br. & Sr., being elected by God, being covenant children, should never cause us to become proud. Being blessed by God should never cause us to think that we are better than others. Instead, it should make us humble – LORD, despite the many sins there are also in my life, who am I that Thou wilt still regard me as a child of Thine. LORD, this is totally underserved.

Beloved, that’s the attitude God wants from us. We too can only plead with God’s mercy. How otherwise could we come in the presence of Holy God? Because of our sins, we too don’t deserve anything.

 

Yet, in Amos’ day, this attitude was utterly lacking among God’s people. While the poor had hardly anything to eat, the rich bathed themselves in wealth. Also, people served God in a way that suited them, but meanwhile contrary to what God had commanded.

It was a self-willed serving of the LORD, as we see it also today among many who still call themselves Christians, a serving of the LORD, where no longer God stands in the center, but man instead. In serving God this way, the question no longer is, what does the LORD require, but instead central becomes more and more: how does serving the LORD make me happy. Hence – by way of example – we have to find a more man-friendly liturgy in the church, no longer those dry traditional worship services we are used to, but happier, more welcoming. However, it’s all directed at the feeling of man. Instead of God, it all has to serve man, serving man’s personal feelings. It must feel good.

It was because of this, beloved, that in Amos’ day, God’s people had become almost immune to the faithful preaching of God’s Word, even resistant to all that Amos had to say to them on behalf of the LORD. That’s why he addresses God’s people of old in a similar way as the Lord Jesus once spoke to the crowds about the law of cause and result – I now think what we read in Luke 12, 54 – 56, “…”

 

Likewise, in our text, by putting some rhetorical questions, Amos wants God’s people to open their eyes to see God’s hand in all that was happening, both around them as well as in their personal life. In vs. 3, he says, “…” Indeed, if you walk together on a planned route, it must be by appointment. Likewise, when the lion roars, the cause must be that there is prey to seize, and so the argument goes on, with the questions posed so, as to demand an answer, vs. 5, “…” Repeatedly, the answer to these rhetorical questions is, “Of course not!” It’s unthinkable, vs. 6a, that when the trumpet is blown, people would not react.

Well, so Amos says, likewise, vs. 6b, “…” However, as far as this last instance is concerned – so Amos is implicitly saying here – as far as this latest instance is concerned, you don’t seem to understand.

When the trumpet is blown, no one carries on with his regular duties. You don’t keep feasting, as if you didn’t hear anything. Instead, you will take action. That’s how it was in those days. The blow of the trumpet meant the city is in danger. Everyone knew this, and everyone would take action accordingly. Yet now the LORD blows the trumpet, people don’t want to listen. They carry on with their life as if there was nothing to be feared. Do you not understand, O Israelites, all that you see happening around you, the rumbling of the thunder – it does not occur just by chance.

You, who in other instances have no difficulties in drawing conclusions from what you see around you, in this case, you seem to be as blind as a bat. See, beloved, that’s the context of the text chosen for this morning’s sermon, the meaning of that question, “If there is a calamity in the city, will not the LORD have done it.”  

Also today, many people have difficulty acknowledging God’s hand in all the misery we are confronted with. About a year ago – COVID had just started – I read about a principal of an Anglican School who had written a letter to all parents to say that we should not forget that God’s hand is in all of what we experience at this moment. By the worldly press, this was mocked at straightaway. You are not allowed to say this, let alone that in this same context, you would speak about God’s judgment upon the sins of a nation.  Even many modern Christians have difficulty with this. And so they start looking at other things, often also blaming the government that they have not acted rightly or not quickly enough, joining in with everyone else’s complaints.

 

Beloved, let us be careful, that we live our faith to the glory of God’s Name, also now. Live our faith, even by what we put on Facebook or other social media. Ask whether you are correct in what you are posting, whether it is God honouring, also in this time of a pandemic. So how should we act and respond to all the unrest and hype we see around us?

Some might say, one should acknowledge God’s hand in the hurt and pain we suffer, accepting it without murmuring, believing – even though this is beyond our comprehension – that God works in everything for good for those who love Him. Isn’t this what Scripture teaches. In other words, we must learn to say, “Thy will be done!” No questions! In faith, we must learn to carry whatever God places on our path and ask for daily strength, full stop, no grumbling. Live your faith!

This sounds very scriptural. Yet, beloved, I wonder whether this is actually what Scripture teaches, simple acceptance no more. Is that really what God wants.  

Think of what is going on elsewhere, especially in Europe at present: lockdown and curfews. In that regard, we have been very blessed here in Australia, and in Western Australia in particular. We have hardly experienced any of these restrictions. Although thing back of the beginning of the last year. Do you still remember it: parents and grandparents no longer able to visit their children, their grandchildren. Husbands, wives, no longer allowed to see their loved ones in a nursing home—funerals with only ten people permitted to attend. Would that not hurt? Would that not make one crying? Who would not struggle with all the emotions involved? Is that wrong? And even now. We still cannot visit loved ones overseas or attend funerals of family members who have died in Canada, South Africa, and The Netherlands. All of this hurts. We struggle. Is that wrong? Must we just say, without any inwards struggle: Lord, Thy will be done. Full stop?

The Lord Jesus Himself cried at Lazarus’ tomb. Why? It’s our Savior’s reaction to the destructive power of sin and death and its effect on life. It caused Him to cry. That’s why the Lord Jesus struggled so much also in the Garden of Gethsemane. In His eyes, death was evil, and He did not merely acquiesce.

So, what then should our reaction be? That’s not so easy to say. For a start, we should hold on to what we confess in Art. 13 BC, namely that the LORD is in control. Yet Art. 13 also states, God is not the author of sin.

Instead, God uses the hurt and pain, which even His own children suffer – God uses all this to bring His purpose about. Believing this, we must open our eyes to see God at work. To see God at work in all that’s happening in the past and at present. Again, then we have not always the ready answers for the ‘why’ of all this. However, this is not needed either. As long as we acknowledge that God is busy in all this, busy also with us personally.

See, beloved, it was this eye of faith that was lacking in Amos’s day. I may refer here to what we read in Ch. 4. The LORD gave lack of bread, Ch. 4, 6, He withheld rain, vs. 7, He blasted with blight and mildew – blight: a scorching Eastern wind; mildew: a product of parasitic worms.

These were all calamities, through which the LORD ringed the alarm, with the aim that His people would turn back to Him. Yet repeatedly, the refrain is, “Yet you have not returned, says the LORD.” In these words, we hear the hurt of a loving God, a loving Father. So many signs through which I wanted to teach you, trying to win you back. Yet you did not understand. You just carried on with your life, as if nothing had happened.

You explained it merely as the course of nature, not acknowledging My hand in all this. Yet, if there is a calamity in the city, will not the LORD have done it?”

This is the context of the words chosen as text for this morning’s sermon. The LORD says to His children: open your eyes to see My hand, and repent from your evil. Turn back to Me! If you know the answers to all the previous rhetorical questions so well, why not the answer to this last question. When the branch of the fig tree becomes tender, you know that summer is near. Whenever you see clouds in the sky, you know rain is coming. Why then, when calamities occur, you ignore it and act dumb. Behold, I stand at the door and knock.

Does this now mean, beloved, whenever these things occur, God will teach His people a lesson? In a certain way, the answer to this question is ‘yes’. Through calamities, pain, and hurt, God is always busy with us. Yet, we have to be careful with our reasoning. For example, when a person becomes seriously ill or gets into an accident. Is this because of his or her sins? That’s what the friends of Job thought, and that’s what they also told him. Admit your guilt, now all this is happening to you.

Beloved, we should be cautious with comments like these. In general, it is always a pitfall, when we try to find out for someone else why certain things happen to him or her. We better keep silent, asking ourselves what the LORD wants to teach us personally through it, also in what is happening in the lives of others.

It is not true that there is always a direct relation between sorrow, illness, disappointment, and the sin, from which one has to repent. The LORD can also be busy with us in other ways. The main thing is that we see God at work, being busy with us in one way or another.

Thus entrusting ourselves to God, we will find peace, rest, also amid the pandemic of the coronavirus. When life goes through deep valleys, it might take time to find this peace. Refer to the example of Job …  (end of the the book: the greatness of God!)

It might take time to come to such a confession. Yet the LORD allows for that. We don’t have to come ready with these things overnight. At times, we struggle, like many an author of the psalms struggled. Yet in faith, we keep clinging to God, who is near also in these struggles. When clinging to Him, He will keep us in His care and help us persevere. What a great comfort this is.

 

 

II       On behalf of the LORD, Amos admonishes God’s people that it always knows how to draw conclusions, yet not when God strikes with calamities. Yet, beloved, as regards these calamities, there was even less reason not to know what they meant, since, vs. 7, “…” This makes the question in verse 6b even more pointed. God’s people in Amos’ day didn’t want to hear about judgment. Hence Amos should stop prophesying. They did not want to listen to him.  However, the end would be that God Himself would take His Word away from them.  We read about this in Ch. 8, 11 + 12, “…” Thus, the great privilege as God’s people to have the compass of God’s Word is put at risk here.

Amos underlines this in Ch. 3, 8a, “…” Therefore, O Israelites, listen. Acknowledge God’s grace that He is still speaking to you, warning you. For, the LORD does nothing, unless He reveals it beforehand.

Beloved, God indeed always forewarns His people of what is coming. Scripture makes this quite clear. In Paradise, God warned Adam and Eve of the consequences, in case they would eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Yet they did not listen. God forewarned that He would strike the earth with a flood unless the people repented. Yet they did not listen.

This is indeed a recurring theme in Scripture. God sent out prophets to call His people to repentance, having the salvation of His people at heart. Also in  Amos’ day, He forewarned them: unless you repent, exile is imminent. Yet God’s people did not want to listen. Well, beloved, that’s how also today God’s Word goes out into this world, goes out also to us. We have the compass of God’s Word. For us, it is to use this compass.

In this context, I like to draw your attention to a close parallel between Amos 3, 7, and Rev. 1, 1. In Amos 3, 7, we read, “…” In Rev. 1, 1, it reads, “…” In Amos’ day, the LORD called His people to open their eyes for His hand in history, pointing to what was happening in the world around them, the judgments prophecies of Ch. 2. Likewise, the LORD has made known to His NT church what will take place. God revealed it to John, who passed it on to the churches, and through Scripture it is passed on also to us today. From the last book of the Bible in particular, we know that God is at work in wars and rumors of war, earthquakes, and other calamities, like the current pandemic with all the economic consequences involved.

We too have been forewarned, so that nothing strange would be happening to us. Thus, we should always follow the news we are confronted with daily, with the Bible open. It’s our compass. In His love, the LORD has made known what to expect in the last days. Open your Bible. Read in particular the Book of Revelation. God has made it crystal clear what will happen when the seals of the scroll will be opened. There are no surprises.

 

III      We have the light of God’s Word as a lamp to our feet and a light on our path to clear the darkness of the world we live in. The apostle Peter writes in his second letter, Ch. 1, 19, “…” For us, it is now to rejoice in this light. Only then will we find safety, real safety and peace.

With the compass of Scripture, we will see God at work in all that’s happening in the world. In all that is happening also in the church as well as in our personal life. Using this compass, we learn that we will meet with difficulties, hardship, sorrow, pain, and hurt due to the consequences of sin. Life is broken, and this causes tears, hardship, struggles, even in the lives of sincere children of God. One only has to read the book of Psalms, which shows us how children of God struggled in faith. At times, they felt as if God had forsaken them. We should not say, that was a lack of faith. Instead, it portrays the struggle of faith and how in those struggles, the LORD is near. Our tears are precious in God’s eyes. We don’t have to hide them.

Once, I read: pray to God that He will turn your tears into rainbows, meaning when amid the tears you cling to God’s promises, you will stand firm. Then through the tears, you see the sun of God’s grace, which causes these tears to become rainbows: God’s promise that He will never leave us nor forsake us.

I summarized the message of this morning’s text as follows, Amos urges God’s people to see God at work in all that’s is happening. Beloved, do we see God’s hand? Do we see that God is busy with us as a congregation, but also with us personally? Let us pray daily that the LORD may open our eyes that we may see it. See, not in the first place what others do wrong. Don’t look first at others. Generally, we are very good at this. Instead, let us start by examining ourselves.

We follow the news – yet how? As always – also now – we should do so with our Bibles open. Then we will learn that also concerning this coronavirus, God has told us beforehand, Rev. 6 : 7, “…” Revealed beforehand. And now it does happen, as it has happened in the past. Think of the Babunic plague, also called Black Death in the 14th century, that killed 200 million people in Europe and the Near East.

Think of the Spanish Flu, 100 years ago, 1918, and the following years, which killed 50 million people worldwide. God was busy calling people to repentance, urging people to come to Him to find true peace and rest. Well, likewise, God is active today. Active not only with this world and with people who have turned their backs upon God.  God is also busy with us.

Therefore, beloved, the question this morning is, as God is busy with us, what is our response to it? Can you say that what is happening at the moment is bringing you closer to God? Maybe serving God needs a greater priority in your life. Perhaps, you need to learn again, what it means to put your trust in God alone, and let go of all anxiety. Probably for all of us, it means that we should live our faith more clearly. We are all very good at explaining our doctrine, also concerning God’s providence. But to live it? Just to let go, solely in childlike faith living out of Father’s hand and so have peace, rest, and then also radiating this to everyone who crosses our path.

 

  • How often do we speak about the Lord, when talking about COVID19?

We like to stay up to date with the news: how many cases today in Victoria, New South Wales, or Queensland, up to date with border restrictions and lockdowns. Yet, at times it might also be good to turn off the news. Making time to meditate, quiet time in the inner room as Christ spoke about it in the Sermon on the Mount. Quiet time, busy with God’s Word and in prayer. Not just a quick prayer, but making time for it. That brings peace, true inward peace.

Let us be busy this way, also as a family. Remember, all this unrest and anxiety can so quickly affect also our children, especially their mental health. Try to give them rest and peace by pointing them to the gospel, which tells us Father is in control and He will provide whatever the future may hold. We may shelter with Him.

I realize an attitude like this does not end all the struggles we may face. Yet the comfort we have is that in these struggles, we may cling to God. It’s His fatherly hand that leads us also through the valleys of life. There we may find our strength in this often so broken life. There is not one step in life we have to do without the LORD. 

That knowledge will guide us and give us the strength to cope, no matter what may lay ahead. Yes, when in the valley struggling in faith, remember the words of the author of Psalm 42 and 43,

 

“My soul, why are you sad and grieving,

Why so oppressed with anxious care?

Hope yet in God, His word believing;

For light and joy from Him receiving.,

I’ll praise His name again and laud,

My Saviour and my God.”

 

What a beautiful comfort this is, beloved!

God is with us. He will lead us. It is His hand that rules this world, rules also our personal lives. Father’s hand and to that hand we may cling, then we are safe. Safe always, sheltering with Father. More we don’t need.

 

Amen.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. A Veldman, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2021, Rev. A Veldman

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