TEXT: JOEL 2/MATTHEW 6/AMOS 1:1-2
THE LION’S ROAR CALLS TO REPENTANCE!
Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting

Nothing clearer than God’s roar on Ash Wednesday – “return to me with all your heart – rend your hearts and not your garments – Blow the trumpet in Zion – let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep and say, ‘Spare your people, O Lord…” (Joel 2).  Do not receive the grace of God in vain (2 Corinthians 5 & 6).  Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth…” (Matthew 6).

In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus makes it clear that we are not to try to get others to notice that we are the salt of the earth!  That would be our own seasoning – not God’s.  We are not to broadcast that we are brightly ablaze as the light of the world!  That would be our own light – not the light of Jesus Christ!  We are to give and to pray in incredible ways – we may benefit from fasting - but when we do any of these good things - we aren’t to make it obvious.






TEXT: JOEL 2/MATTHEW 6/AMOS 1:1-2
THE LION’S ROAR CALLS TO REPENTANCE!
Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting

Nothing clearer than God’s roar on Ash Wednesday – “return to me with all your heart – rend your hearts and not your garments – Blow the trumpet in Zion – let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep and say, ‘Spare your people, O Lord…” (Joel 2).  Do not receive the grace of God in vain (2 Corinthians 5 & 6).  Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth…” (Matthew 6).

In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus makes it clear that we are not to try to get others to notice that we are the salt of the earth!  That would be our own seasoning – not God’s.  We are not to broadcast that we are brightly ablaze as the light of the world!  That would be our own light – not the light of Jesus Christ!  We are to give and to pray in incredible ways – we may benefit from fasting - but when we do any of these good things - we aren’t to make it obvious.

That’s difficult for we were created to be noticed.  “Look at me mommy,” the little one invites.  It is part of our creation – to notice and to be noticed by the Holy Trinity!  Since the fall, however, the human heart notices itself way too much!  How we appear to others can determine actions.  The need to justify ourselves and our deeds can be the focus of our conversations.  Feelings can easily be hurt if slighted.  We want to make a difference – to matter – and to be seen doing so. 

Contrary to a surface reading of this text, Jesus doesn’t squash our desire to be noticed!  Rather, He elevates it!  He sets us free from the chains of making an impression on others.  There is no need to live life for the right look!  Why?  Because your Father who sees in secret will reward you!  So, when you fast – don’t look all gloomy and broadcast it with a disfigured face!  When you pray don’t announce it to others but shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret!  When you give to the needy – don’t sound a trumpet – don’t even let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.  Your Father who sees in secret will reward you! 

Nothing clearer than that!  Nothing clearer than God’s roar against our stubborn pride of heart – our desire to be seen and noticed doing good things - our hypocrisy!  Rend your hearts and not your garments!  Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth - not even treasures of recognition and praise, credit-taking! 

In the 8th century BC God roared against his people through the Prophet Amos.  They liked to be seen as religious folk – as favored folk – as people in control.  They were good at looking out for themselves and not so good at looking out for those who had not.  They were comfortable with their idle music and plentiful food and tasty wine!  They were religious too – with the observance of Old Testament feasts and solemn assemblies for daily sacrifice.  They would have come to an Ash Wednesday service of their day!  They brought offerings too, of grain and animals of tithes and free-will gifts. 

But God’s Prophet Amos said the Lord roars from Zion!   What a roar the Lion of Judah gave!  You see, God through Amos was seeking broken and contrite hearts among His people in the same way He is seeking broken and contrite hearts among us this Lenten season and through every season of life!  Dr. Martin Luther once expressed this truth in a unique way.  “May God in His mercy save me from a Christian Church where there are none but saints.  I want to be in the church where there are faint-hearted and weak people, the sick and those aware of their sin, misery, and wretchedness and who feel it, and who cry to God without ceasing and sigh unto Him for comfort and help” (Day by Day We Magnify Thee, p. 226). 

On His people of Old God roared out judgment through Amos.  Attempting to give them broken and contrite hearts, attempting to shake their false self-confidence and their religious self-esteem, God roared out judgment by fire; and judgment by drought; and judgment by famine.  That judgment of famine is lifted up in a powerful way in the very second verse of Amos.  Reading the first two verses - The words of Amos, who was among the shepherds of Tekoa, which he saw concerning Israel in the days of Uzziah king of Judah and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel, two years before the earthquake.  And he said: “The Lord roars from Zion and utters His voice from Jerusalem; the pastures of the shepherd mourn, and the top of Carmel withers.”  (Amos 1:1-2)

Yahweh’s roaring comes from Mount Zion which was in the southern tribe of Judah and in the city of Jerusalem.  The Northern Kingdom’s claim to faithfulness is thereby immediately put to the lie.  Judah also will receive God’s roar of judgment but pertaining to this verse, the Northern kingdom was the home of Mount Carmel. 

The pasture of shepherds mourn, and the top of Carmel withers is a Hebrew poetic device indicating the total devastation of all fertile places.  That pastureland mourned was tragic – indicating a rough time for grazing and sustaining the flocks.  But the withering of Mount Carmel signified a huge calamity of starvation and famine.  This is so because its slopes and hill country are famed for their olives and grain and vineyards.  It lies in close proximity to the Mediterranean Sea and is well-watered and fertile even when other areas suffer.  For Mount Carmel to wither is for creation to wither – it is devastating news of impending judgment!  The Lord roars from Zion…the pasture of the shepherds mourn, and the top of Carmel withers.” 

The Name “Amos” means burden and in the coming weeks we will see the magnitude of the burden of this prophet’s message.  Through him, God also roared out judgment by foreign armies and judgment by captivity.  He roared out judgment by a devouring Lion.  He even roared out judgment by a famine of hearing the word of the Lord (8:11).  Nothing clearer than God’s roar through the Prophet Amos!

I abhor the pride of Jacob (6:8).  You buy the poor for silver (8:5).  You afflict the righteous (5:12).  You put far away from yourselves the day of disaster (6:3).  I will bring sackcloth on every waist (8:10).  “Take away from me the noise of your songs.  Clearly God called His people to repent through the burden Amos proclaimed.

God also roared out judgment by earthquake.  As we heard, the words of Amos were spoken two years before “the earthquake” (1:1) during the reign of Uzziah.  Three centuries later, the prophet Zechariah also referenced this same earthquake during the reign of Uzziah (Zech 14:15).  It a region where quakes are common – “the earthquake” spoken of through hundreds of years was a devastating one.  Through Amos God roared a temple-shattering quake (9:1) of destruction.  And His roar had teeth in it! 

Friends in Christ – what actions will God bring to bear in your future.  More economic recession – even economic depression?  Increasing cultural decay and chaos?  Creation moaning in disasters such as earthquakes?  Increased persecution for confessing the faith?  (The President of the Lutheran Church in Canada last week told the district presidents of the LCMS of the increased pressure on a clear confession of the faith in Canada.  Homosexual rights are trumping religious rights.  Lutheran pastors may have to give up doing weddings for husbands and wives if they will not perform ceremonies for same gender couples.  America he said is not far behind.)  Loss of health?  Assault by terrorists?  Physical Famine?  Even a famine of the Word of the Lord?   Dust you are and to dust you shall return. 

God roars against His people of Old to shake them from idolatry!  He roars against His people today for the same reason!  There is nothing that can rescue us from the hand of God’s judgment except the hand of God’s mercy.  “The earthquake” with which Amos begins is echoed throughout His prophecy and throughout the ages.

On December 7th, 1988 an earthquake in Armenia killed 55,000 people.  Susanna Petroysan was buried by that quake in a basement beneath tons of collapsed concrete and steel.  Her daughter was buried with her.  Both had escaped immediate death-dealing injuries.  Hours passed in the dark and then a day.  “Mommy, I’m so thirsty her daughter cried.  I want a drink.”  Susanna had some movement and felt around in the black darkness.  She could find nothing to drink.  But she did find a shattered glass.  The hours continued – “Mommy – I’m so thirsty.

More hours passed.  In desperation Susanna used that glass to slash her left hand.  She then held it for her daughter to suck her blood.  More hours passed and more days passed.  Susanna had no idea how many times she cut her hand she only knew that if she stopped her daughter would die.  After more days, a mother and her daughter were pulled alive from the rubble.

Amos offered God’s people of old rescue from the rubble caused by their sin and God’s roar of judgment against them.  They didn’t want to hear of the rescue because they didn’t want to listen to the judgment.  They wanted to bring their goodness to God and to other idols of their choosing.  They were comfortable in their religiosity and in their goodness.  Amos is full of such “participial” people (Hebrew participles indicating continuing action) – people who planned to continue right on their merry, privileged, pleased-with-myself way.  

Nothing is clearer than God’s roar on Ash Wednesday against such comfortable religiosity to which none of us are immune – “return to me with all your heart – rend your hearts and not your garments – Blow the trumpet in Zion” - (Joel 2).  Now is the favorable time – now is the day of salvation…Do not receive the grace of God in vain (2 Corinthians 5 & 6).  Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth…” (Matthew 6) – not even treasures of your own perceived goodness.

We are so easily trapped in the rubble of a basement called bondage – bondage to pride (I’m really something) bondage to power (I’ve got the answers and I must control) – bondage to money (my pile and my children’s pile must grow but here Lord I have something left over for you) – bondage to people’s approval (I do so much after all) – bondage to worry (I must avoid suffering and struggle).  We are also easily crushed beneath tons of collapsed hopes and disappointed dreams.

Five days after the massive earthquake in central China in May of 2008, a group of rescue workers found the dead body of a young woman.  She was in a kneeling position.  Her back was hunched over supporting a crumbled ceiling; her arms stretched forward, her hands thrust firmly into the muddy earth.  As the rescue workers walked away, suddenly the team leader thought again.  He went back to the woman’s corpse and reached underneath her body.  There is the tiny shelter created by the protective shield of her body was a three month old baby, alive and sleeping soundly.  Inside the baby’s clothing was a cell phone.  On it was the message – “My dear child, remember I love you.”

When our world crumbles all around us, when our stubborn sins shatter our confidence, when our dreams become nightmares – Amos promises that God comes to rescue us in the rubble.  Ultimately God rescues us from the basement of our bondage through His sure and certain promises to the house of David, fulfilled in Jesus Christ.  He reaches into our wreckage to lift us out.  He does so with bloodied hands.

He didn’t cut them with glass – but allowed soldiers to pierce them with spikes!  In the last analysis – His blood was all He had!  But in God’s gracious judgment – His blood is all we need!  What can wash away your sin!  Nothing but the blood of Jesus!  What can make new our hearts rent by God’s roar?   Nothing but the blood of Jesus!

At His Table Jesus reaches into our rubble again tonight!  His blood rescues and redeems and restores everything that has been broken.  He comes to continue shielding us and lifting us up from the rubble.  He comes saying, “My dear child – I love you and I forgive you.”  In His Name, AMEN.  

Luther Memorial Chapel & University Student Center | 3833 N Maryland Ave | Shorewood, WI  53211
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